Running a business blog is not easy. Not only does blogging require time and discipline to produce content, but it also feels far less tangible compared to conversion-driven sales strategies such as digital advertising or social media. Conversions from content marketing are difficult to track and have significant lag time. Why then, do companies like Airtable, Trello, Mejuri, and Slack take the time to produce content and maintain traffic driven to their company blogs?
The key to understanding the value of content marketing is to distinguish marketing from sales. While paid Facebook advertisements, bids in Google AdWords, and Mailchimp campaigns are direct actions with clear measurements like revenue conversion and click-through rates, content marketing is a step (or several) removed from the act of selling. But just because content marketing hard to quantify doesn't mean you should neglect it. In the long run, creating and distributing content is a great way to own a direct relationship with your customer.
You’ve probably heard the saying: “People love to buy, but hate to be sold.” Author and “King of Sales” Jeffrey Gitomer dives into the statement in his own blog post. The key takeaway is that businesses should focus on eliciting an emotional need from customers to spend money on your company’s product or service. Good content marketing speaks directly to the hopes and dreams of your customers through the language of storytelling, like I'm (hopefully) doing right now. This makes it possible to broadcast to both existing customers and potential new ones by building an emotional context around why your product will make their lives better.
To illustrate the advantages content marketing can have over advertising, let me tell you the story of my recent interaction with TurboTax. Moments after I finally finished filing my 2018 tax returns, I flopped down on my couch and opened the Facebook app on my phone. The first posted that popped up on my screen was a TurboTax ad. I was instantly turned off: how dare TurboTax hound after me like that (ok, maybe paying taxes had put me in a sensitive mood!). What’s funny is that I had already purchased a TurboTax license to file my taxes and was pretty happy with their service. However, I disliked the thought of being manipulated, and sold to in an inelegant, indiscreet way.
Like most people, I like to think I am above digital sales tactics, and that I can make my own informed decisions on what products to buy. While my impulse online shopping habits continue to suggest that I am as much of a puppet as advertisers hope, I increasingly finding myself subtracting points from companies that seem to explicitly try to trap me in their sales shenanigans. And as sponsored posts continue to proliferate across all corners of our lives, this sentiment is becoming true for most consumers: a recent survey showed that 70% of all consumers distrust advertising.
Compare my encounter with TurboTax to a recent article they posted on their blog: 6 Tips to Help Side Hustlers and Self-Employed Bosses Stay On Top of Their Taxes. The author lays out a couple of useful tips for how self-employed people can file their taxes and at the end gives a quick plug for how Turbotax can help people implement those tips. While this article may not be relevant to you, it’s hard to feel offended by it like I did by the advertisement. I deliberately sought out this article to read on their blog, and it gave some useful, actionable advice, while at the same time marketing how Turbotax can help with that. This is a much better customer experience than having my Facebook browsing experience be hijacked by an ad.
This trend towards owned content over paid distribution is sweeping over all industries. Whether your company is B2C or B2B, provides a product or a service, has a stacked sales team or just a single, heavily-caffeinated employee, your company’s brand will benefit from writing and owning truly engaging content. Running your blog will help build trust and recognition towards your business and help alleviate the turnoff when you do hit customers with those paid marketing campaigns.
In the next section, we’ll discuss some of the specific reasons why maintaining a blog will help your company’s sales in the long run.