What are your questions about content marketing? The following is from an interview with business expert James Gooch.
James: You started as a Technical Writer, when did you start seeing value in your work (content) as a marketing tool?
Steve: I used to be the Manager of Engineering Editorial Content at GlobalSpec, which is now part of an $8-billion company called IHS. When I wasn’t writing technical descriptions for industrial products, I helped build an on-line community called CR4: The Engineer’s Place for News and Discussion. My job was to find content that would interest, inform, and engage a technical audience.
Periodically, marketers would find CR4, too, and start discussions. Often, their exchanges with engineers were painful to watch. Like other audiences, technical people don’t want to hear shopworn phrases such as “state-of-the-art” or “cutting edge”. As a marketer, if that’s all you that have to say, it would be better just to listen.
Content marketing is about conveying meaningful, actionable information. You need to prove that you understand your audience, and that you can appreciate their challenges. Do you need to have all the answers? No. So show what you know, do your best to learn more, and treat your readers as people rather than prospects. It’s also critical to show something of yourself. Speak in your own voice and be yourself.
James: How do you find your customers?
Steve: No one wants to be sold to anymore, so this is important question for marketers in all industries – not just the industrial space. I’ve never done any cold calling or hard selling. Given the line of work I’m in – content marketing – those tactics would undermine my basic value proposition.
After I left GlobalSpec and started my own business, I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn. There are plenty of social media sites, but LinkedIn is where people are who they say they are, and usually have some decision-making authority, too. Compare that to Twitter or Facebook, where you’re probably talking to an intern rather than the VP of Sales.
On LinkedIn, I apply the same principles that I learned on CR4. My strategy is to interest, inform, and engage the audience, not just in manufacturing but also in defense and security. So I share this type of content, often materials I’ve created for my own customers. I also don’t say no to opportunities like this one. Your readers may have guess this by now, James, but you and I didn’t know each other until we connected on LinkedIn.
James: As far as social marketing goes which platform seems to work best for your organization?
Steve: In addition to LinkedIn, I’m a huge fan of Google+. That’s not to say that businesses don’t have to be engaged across all social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook. YouTube is also critical, but the barrier to video production is high. It’s not that small companies can’t afford video. All you really need is a video-capable cell phone, a USB cable, and Windows Movie Maker. The issue is the amount of time it takes to create and edit a video – and the anxiety that being on screen can induce.
Getting back to Google+, on-line marketers must know this: “If you love Google, Google will love you.” So stop trying to game the system. Worry less about what this or that algorithmic change means. Incorporate Google+ both as part of your social media strategy and as part of your SEO plan. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on a business that has both a website and a Google+ page. Look for the big Google+ block on Page 1 of the search results.
James: For me it makes sense that to produce a lot of content you need to take in a lot of content. Do you read a lot on current events, watch the tube, or am I dead off on this?
Steve: You need to scan – not read – lots of relevant content yourself, and also build a network of “content curators” who can help you digest even more. Trying to consume all of this content yourself is like being thirsty and trying to drink from a fire hose. It hurts, you get wet, and you’re still unsatisfied. So find some expert curators in your field – people who also review lots of content, but who can also see connections between things. It’s not enough to just repeat what’s out there. You need to say something original, too.
Some of your readers may be unfamiliar with the term “content curation”. Others have heard of it before, but may have a mental image of a museum rather than a marketing department. For those who would like to learn more, here’s something I’ve written that can help.
James: What’s the golden rule of content creation?
Steve: Write unto others what you would want to read yourself – and share generously.