create-everlasting-brandIf you want to attract more business and grow your existing relationships, I suggest you pay close attention to this month’s issue. While we are going to cover a lot of great strategies, the one you should be paying closest attention to, “Content Marketing” (CM), is perhaps the biggest needle mover for your business and market position.

If you are familiar with Content Marketing and think you can skip this part, don’t (because it’s too important). If you’re not familiar with CM or think it’s a fad, it’s NOT. The overall concept has been around for decades (if not centuries) and has been proven to be effective. In the past few years we have tracked thousands of campaigns, and the most successful ones all had an element of content marketing.

Perhaps the most infamous CM story in U.S. history dates back to 1895, when John Deere made a bold move to start their own magazine for farmers, where they provided valuable content and promoted their revolutionary tractors. Through the articles and content, they taught farmers how to be better farmers, so they could yield more crops and ultimately need more equipment. It also taught them how to best use and care for their farm equipment, which made them better educated on John Deere’s product line and, in turn, more avid customers.

Last year, I spoke in front of a room of industry marketing organizations and carriers and asked them if anyone in the audience was using content marketing in their organization. Only a few hands went up.  Most of the audience looked confused, but as soon as I asked them to start raising their hands if they used webinars, newsletters, reports or articles in their marketing, nearly every hand went up.

I have found in this industry that most of us are using content marketing to some extent. Unfortunately, most don’t realize it and are operating without a clear-cut strategy or plan, which leads to wasted time and opportunity. I can’t tell you how many pieces I’ve seen this year from Carriers, Marketing Organizations and BGAs that clearly have no strategy, provide little to no value, do not establish thought leadership or position the brand, and, most importantly, have no clear next steps.

How Can Content Help You Generate More Leads, Inquiries and Sales?

If you want more people to respond to your ads and create a meaningful relationship, try offering a meaningful report, sales tip or idea that your ideal producer or advisor could use to sell more or increase their knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, our most successful advertisers use content to lift response, get more leads, engagement and lead to better conversions.

Don’t get caught in the paralysis of analysis over content. Content doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate to be effective.

The key is offering valuable information that your audience wants, needs or desires in exchange for their contact info. By forcing them to sign up to receive the information, you’ll capture their information so you can follow up and communicate with them long after they’ve read the report or received access to an amazing idea. I see a lot of companies out there creating great content, putting it on their website or social media (without protecting it with a registration or password) and hoping that someone reads it and responds. What is worse is often there are no next steps, no call to action, no branding, no mission and no reason to respond.

Use direct response tactics to sell and attract people to your report or content.  Remember, you aren’t in the free training business. Your content should steer readers down a path that leads to you as the solution provider and the thought leader.

Content Marketing Mind Blocks

Providing valuable content doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything you know, wrapped up perfectly. I’ve heard a few FMOs and BGAs grumble over the years about “giving away all their secrets,” but those secrets aren’t doing you much good if no one knows about them. If you are concerned about giving away the actual secret sauce, hold it back in the report. Get them to request more and to take more action than filling out a form online.

Don’t get caught in the paralysis of analysis over content. Content doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate to be effective.  It could just be one idea or concept that leads people down the path of wanting more. The only rule is that content must educate and should deliver on the promises of the promotion. The worst thing you can do with content marketing is just talk about yourself and/or your products. It won’t inspire anyone to take action and no one will read it.

Got Good Content?  Now What?

Start with a strategy. In an interview I conducted with Joe Pulizzi, the founder of The Content Marketing Institute, he said, “Over 90 percent of companies out there, no matter what the size, are doing some content marketing. But less than 10 percent of those companies have any kind of strategy. You’ve got millions of companies out there creating content and filling all kinds of buckets: Twitter, Facebook, email, webinars, blogs and all that stuff, and they have no documented strategy.”

If you don’t have a strategy, you won’t be able to measure your success and know if it is working. Content marketing isn’t about locking yourself in a room for a week and writing a bunch of articles on different subjects. Decide up front the purpose of your content, who you are speaking to, how your content will help, what your purpose is, what action you want people to take after reading your content and, most importantly, how you are going to attract people to see the message.

Contrary to popular belief, if you build it, they will not necessarily come. When it comes to content marketing, you have to be proactive with advertising and promote your content everywhere – in social media, direct mail, newsletters, your website, banner ads, magazine ads, email blasts, etc.

Stick to the plan and don’t give up if you don’t succeed at first. Getting content marketing right takes dedication and time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and few if any content marketing strategies will instantly take off.