Successful Content Marketing Isn't Bait — It's Helpful
“Oh I get it. [ Content marketing is ] bait to get the leads.”
I was on the phone with a client recently and I heard the above words. For some context, he was a client of MECLABS Conversion Marketing Services and that was the main thrust of the engagement — I was just helping out with a content marketing strategy. So in fairness to him, content marketing was not his main focus.
We all have our own version of the marketer’s blind spot. So it’s easy for us to overlook when we’re treating the customer this way. And because it's an election season, this interaction is a good prompt for me to get on my soapbox and shout my platform: Your content marketing better have a lot of #&$^@ value!
Let’s look at that analogy — bait. If you offered any person you know (or any fish for that matter) “bait,” would they want it? No! They would be offended and throw it back in your face.
So why treat a prospective customer that way?
I understand where this client was coming from. He was running a consulting business and if he was putting some of his process out there for “free,” he wanted to make sure he was reeling in those leads.
The problem is, content isn’t really free. You have to sell so-called “free” content. Potential customers might not be paying with their money; they are paying with their time, and their trust, and their information.
So successful content marketing is not bait, it’s helpful. Don’t bait your customers, serve them. When you use a term like "bait" as a business owner or marketing leader, it sets the wrong mindset for your team, your agency, and even yourself.
And a key part of leadership is setting the right tone for your team. For example, you can take the same exact employee or vendor and passionately read to them either:
- The Alec Baldwin speech from "Glengarry Glen Ross": " … Because only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted ..."
- The Ritz-Carlton Motto: "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen."
It will affect how they act. Toward the customer as well as to their peers.
And don’t think just because you’re a business leader your mindset doesn’t have an impact on your marketing either. It’s why some people start their day with what The Wall Street Journal’s Bruce Daisly dubs ‘Monk Mode’ Morning — distraction-free time to get in the right mental flow.
In fact, the most difficult and important work you might ever do in your marketing career likely won’t involve analytics or data or technology. It involves shifting your mindset, and that of your internal and external team.
Because there is a fundamental flaw in the human operating system that hinders every business owner, marketer, designer, and copywriter. We struggle to see things the way our customers do. We are blinded by our own self-interest.
Intelligent, highly skilled business owners I’ve met have this challenge. I struggle with it every day.
Chumming the waters with content bait? That just won’t cut it.
So what does? Again, I’ve got the elections on my mind. And I think Bernie Sanders motto could be a good description of content marketing: Not Me. Us.
It’s not about your brand and your content marketing. It’s about how your brand and your content marketing help others. What can they do with your content that will help improve their lives in some small way?
For example, content marketing helped HCSS increase revenue by 53%. The path to that success, according to VP of Marketing Dan Briscoe, was that the company and its marketing team had to “get over” themselves and truly put the customer first. They did so by building a content-based community around a customer pain point — attracting employees to the construction software — instead of building a community around their software.
That’s a pretty big case study. But this mindset shines through in small ways as well.
I recently interviewed WebBabyShower.com owner Kurt Perschke for the article "Six Specific Examples of Incentives That Worked."
He knew instantly that he needed to get in the right mindset, because he is so different from his ideal customer: His customer base is 95% women.
So he observed his wife. He discovered that she considered writing thank you notes by hand a totally non-digital activity, and interacting with a digital device would spoil the experience. After verifying this discovery with other potential customers, he created a PDF that was a swipe file filled with thank you card wording examples. The PDF was designed to be printed, so you didn’t need your laptop open or digital device on to use it to help you write thank you cards.
By providing value to the customer — not bait to lure them into only what he cared about — Kurt was able to increase lead capture 113%.
And before I step off my soapbox, I just want to say — this isn’t just advice I’m providing you. It’s how I’ve lived my career. Before I wrote this article — or anything else I write — I always try to develop a customer theory. Who is the intended recipient of the message? And how can they be helped by it?
To that end, if you have ideas about how you can be helped with my articles for Target Marketing, I’m always open to future topic suggestions. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m actually quite friendly. Well, once I’ve gotten down off my soapbox, that is.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.