Although the term “content marketing” is a hot topic among marketers, it isn’t really a new concept.
Companies throughout history have always used “content” to sell their products and services. For instance, in 1895 John Deere started a magazine called The Furrow. It wasn’t just enough to send a salesman out to a farm to talk about tractors. In order to help farmers be more productive, John Deere realized it had to educate them. It’s a great example of content marketing and The Furrow still exists today.
When the Genesee Pure Food Company tried to market a new dessert product by placing advertisements in The Ladies Home Journal magazine in 1902, they didn’t get many takers.
But in 1904, when they sent salesmen door-to-door to offer a free cookbook using the product, it became a hit. Housewives across the country discovered Jell-O and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first simple truth for great content marketing
The secret to content marketing is one marketers back then understood.
Buyers want value.
They want to know how a product or service is going to improve their lives. Very simple.
Buyers are interested in saving time, saving money, being successful, healthy, and happy.
Companies are also very interested in value. They want products and services that will also save time, save money, and make their customers happy.
When you take the time to educate your buyer, you’re answering their internal questions. Your content should give them something new to think about. It should explain a problem well or shed light on a nagging concern.
If you can think of the Pied Piper, that’s what content marketing is: the flute.
A smart company will play that flute well enough to attract followers. As long as you’re giving your buyers value, they will follow. And when you give them cost-effective solutions, they’ll certainly pay close attention.
The second simple truth for great content marketing
Just recently, I read an article from a popular social media website that was annoying. The headline promised a specific benefit but it turned out it was just a ploy to catch attention.
The headline: “The Big Secret To …. That Nobody Is Talking About.”
Now, even though the sub-head said, “To be perfectly honest, there isn’t one,” I felt a bit shafted. It was still a weak attempt to hook the reader.
If your headline doesn’t make good on its promise, you’re going to lose the trust (and interest) of your reader. Especially if they’re visiting your website for the first time.
Claude Hopkins, in his classic book, Scientific Advertising, had this to say:
Whatever claim you use to gain attention, the advertisement should tell a story reasonably complete. If you watch returns, you will find that certain claims appeal far more than others. But in usual lines a number of claims appeal to a large percentage. Then present those claims in every ad for their effect on that percentage. Some advertisers, for sake of brevity, present one claim at a time. Or they write a serial ad, continued in another issue. There is no greater folly. Those serials almost never connect.
When you once get a person’s attention, then is the time to accomplish all you can ever hope with him. Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another. Omit any one and a certain percentage will lose the fact which might convince.
People are not apt to read successive advertisements on any single line. No more than you read a news item twice, or a story. In one reading of an advertisement one decides for or against a proposition. And that operates against a second reading. So present to the reader, when once you get him, every important claim you have. The best advertisers do that. They learn their appealing claims by tests -by comparing results from various headlines. Gradually they accumulate a list of claims important enough to use. All those claims appear in every ad thereafter.
In other words, Hopkins is advocating taking advantage of the time you have with someone to connect with them and engage their interest. This is at the heart of long sales copy and long form content.
Whatever you’re doing with content marketing, you need to provide value first and then earn the trust of your audience by being honest with the information you’re bringing to them.
Do this and you’ll be “planting seeds” for future sales, just like John Deere.