Content marketing is a great way to connect with your audience and establish yourself as a trusted thought leader in your industry. A solid content marketing plan will help build your business’s reputation and credibility.
However, a poorly conceived content strategy that doesn’t deliver authentic value to your target audience can come across as nothing more than self-promotion. And content that seems to make an indirect sales pitch is typically a major turnoff for consumers.
The members of Forbes Agency Council know what it takes to plan and execute an effective content strategy for a brand. Below, 14 of them share ways to ensure your content is viewed as useful advice and not a veiled sales pitch.
1. Address Commonly Asked Questions
A great way to approach content is to think about questions customers ask and problems they need to solve, and then create content to fill those needs. An example of this could be a bank providing an educational homebuying checklist to first-time homebuyers, or a manufacturing company producing a white paper on fraud and its repercussions. Both examples help their customers without a sales pitch. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group
2. Consider Different Ways Of Providing Value
Content is communication at scale, and within this scale, different types of content are valuable depending on the level of interest the user has in your brand. Providing value should be top of mind for every bit of content produced by any brand. This can come in many forms, such as videos, blogs, infographics, podcasts or interviews. Giving value can be about more than education. – Stefan Katanic, Veza Digital
3. Offer More Than A Great Headline
I’ve always focused on providing immense value. I see a lot of other companies make great headlines and ads, but when you get to the information, it looks as if it was created in five minutes. When this happens, the company loses all credibility, as it feels like a sales trap rather than valuable advice being offered to the user. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
4. Focus On Solving Your Buyers’ Problems
Keep the focus on solving your buyers’ problems, and be transparent and detailed about how you’ve achieved these solutions. Remember that you’re not just trying to make a sale; you’re also telling a story about your company and how well it performs in similar situations. Authenticity, understanding and real results will always help you elevate the conversation from pitch to valuable advice. – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR
5. Be A Curator Of Knowledge
Be a curator. Provide a collaborative platform where outside content, solutions and partners can be shared alongside the brand’s content to empower the consumer or customer through knowledge. – Hamutal Schieber, Schieber Research
6. Talk More About Ideas Than Products
Don’t talk about your product or company at all in the early stages. Sharing interesting and helpful information with those who come across your brand online is one of the best ways to build trust. It shows you have more to offer the world than a widget to sell. For top-of-the-funnel audiences, the key is to talk about your ideas more and your product less. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
7. Provide Insight And A Path To Follow
If you approach it as an expert thought leader providing insight and a path for others to follow and ultimately benefit from, then you’re selling yourself without selling yourself. Bringing other brands into the fold that reinforce your thinking expands your credibility, as well, while taking the sole attention off of you. Remember: You’re as good as the company you keep, so share the stage. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller
8. Showcase Real-World Solutions In Case Studies
Use thought leadership content that takes a deep dive into best practices and offers real-world solutions that address the challenges customers face. In addition, we find that customer case studies are very valuable for showcasing authentic scenarios that our prospects can relate to. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.
9. Focus On Ideation
Content marketing succeeds or fails in ideation. The topics you choose to address will determine whether or not ideal prospects lean into your firm. If you offer how-to advice on topics that matter to ideal prospects, they’ll come to see you as a trusted advisor. But if you talk about why you’re great, that’s a turnoff. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
10. Design Authentic And Honest Content
Be genuine in providing them something they need. Content designed to be authentic and honest from the start will resonate far more than something created simply to move products and services. Understanding what the brand is about, what you are selling and why consumers need it is an important part of creating content that will truly connect. – Lisa Montenegro, Digital Marketing Experts – DMX
11. Make Sure Content Is Story-Driven
If you keep your content story-driven instead of authoritative, it will naturally act as a compass to keep you from being promotional. It helps to think in terms of problems solved and lessons learned. – Danielle Sabrina, Tribe Builder Media
12. Identify And Solve Pain Points
Identify your target audience’s pain points and provide solutions on behalf of your brand through your content marketing efforts. This will help you create a base of relevant prospects in your readers. Ultimately, they can become your buyers at some point in their journey. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team
13. Outline Standards For Each Type Of Content
If the content is on a product page, people expect to see a sales pitch. If they’re reading a blog, they expect to learn new information and get free insights. Outline standards for your various content types and stay consistent. Never bait and switch with your content. It will diminish trust and tarnish brand perception faster than a tactless or untimely tweet. – Bernard May, National Positions
14. Ensure That Every Piece Of Content Is On-Brand
Align every aspect of your content output with your brand’s values, vision and mission. Sure, riding the latest hashtag or viral trend might give you a short-term boost; but when your new visitors see that a post is off-brand, it will come across as a sales push. Beyond that, make sure your content adds value by answering relevant questions the audience would have about your industry. – Christoph Kastenholz, Pulse Advertising