This is an installment in the Content Marketing 101 series.
Maybe you think “content marketing” means having a blog that makes money. Or that it’s about producing content for sites like ezinearticles and Squidoo. Or having an email autoresponder.
Content marketing is bigger than that.
The whole idea behind content marketing is that you can use your creativity and know-how to make something cool, then take that cool thing and use it to market a product. It’s often associated with Seth Godin’s notion of permission marketing, but content marketing can be a part of any promotion or selling you might do.
To jog your creativity, I’ve come up with 49 content marketing tactics you can start using right away. Some of these are ideas about making any form of content more interesting, some are attention-getting strategies, some will be useful for lead generation, some for prospect conversion.
1. “Content” isn’t just about being online. I had a conversation with Bill Glazer recently (he’s Dan Kennedy’s business partner), and he believes passionately that every business needs to send a paper newsletter to existing customers, to build loyalty and better repeat business.
I don’t know about “every,” but I think he’s on to something for many businesses. Incidentally, businesses usually find that customer newsletters work better when they don’t get too fancy in their format or printing. Four-color printing on glossy paper looks like an ad. A simple photocopy on plain paper looks like valuable inside information.
2. You’d be surprised at some of the well-known internet marketing gurus who are experimenting with direct mail, especially as pay-per-click gets more and more expensive. The same techniques that make your online content marketing work will do beautifully offline.
3. Write a special report or white paper that addresses a thorny problem in an interesting way.
4. Create a free course delivered by email autoresponder. I’ve used this quite a bit in my own business and for clients, and it’s a great way to build trust and rapport. (In fact, here’s a free e-course on how to do it.)
5. Write an educational series of blog posts designed to attract traffic for a competitive keyword phrase. (Like this one on the fundamentals of copywriting, for example.)
6. Offer a free teleclass to build interest in your business. You can do all the talking yourself, or work with a partner in an interview format. Remember to record the class—the recording will also be valuable content that you can use in future marketing.
7. Offer a paid teleclass that takes your content further and provides additional value. Again, the call can be recorded and sold as a product for as long as the content remains relevant.
8. Build a membership web site that is a profitable business in and of itself.
9. Put together one or more Squidoo lenses to attract and focus Google traffic.
10. Create a wiki on a free site like WetPaint to allow your audience to collaborate and contribute to your vision.
11. Build a Facebook page (separate from your personal profile) that gives you another platform for interaction with your customers.
12. Compile your best 100 blog posts into a physical book. It worked for Godin, and it can work for you.
13. When you contribute to an online forum in your topic, remember that your answers are content. Make sure this content reflects well on you.
14. Take your most popular blog post, add some really good images and translate it into PowerPoint, then record it with Camtasia for a YouTube video.
15. Use WordPress to efficiently create mini niche sites. Since you’re a student of quality content, your sites will tower above the usual fare. Use these niche sites to sell products from affiliate marketplaces like Commission Junction.
(Commission Junction offers “real world” products as well as digital ones. So if you want to sell coffee, movie posters or collectible figurines on your niche site, you can.)
16. Most of us know that Twitter is an exceptional tool for building relationships with prospects and customers. To use Twitter most effectively, make your tweets entertaining, funny, and/or personal. The right balance on Twitter is generally 95% relationship-building, 5% selling.
17. Use any content vehicle to talk about how you’ve overcome a difficult problem related to your topic. Don’t try to be an infallible guru. Instead, be a smart, real person who has solved problems that your readers will find relevant.
18. Write a yellow pages ad that looks like a blog post. Make it interesting, informative, funny, and compelling.
For bonus points, in addition to the usual contact information, provide information in your yellow pages ad about how to sign up for your email autoresponder or get your free white paper.
19. Take your 10-15 best podcasts, get them transcribed and edited, and sell them as an ebook.
20. Bring 5 or 6 of the strongest people in your topic together and create a virtual conference, with each presenter giving an audio or video workshop. This is a relatively simple way to create a very marketable product. Again, the recordings can be sold as long as the content remains relevant.
21. Hold a Tweetathon for your favorite charity. Consider creating a piece of valuable content (a special report, etc.) as a reward for donations over some specified amount.
22. Create a treasure hunt with some blogging friends. Each person hides a clue somewhere in the content on their blog, and readers are invited to find all the clues and put them together for a prize. (The prize, of course, is another piece of valuable content.)
23. Your comments on other people’s blogs are content. Treat them that way. Be original, relevant and interesting.
24. Use your own content to sing the praises of others in your topic. Partnerships, both formal and informal, can exponentially multiply your success in the content world.
25. Create a buyer’s guide. Use it to frame purchasing questions on your terms. Let buyers know what to look for and what to watch out for. Tell them what questions they should be asking.
Don’t make this too self-serving. If you make it real (and let other vendors win some of the business, especially for customers who aren’t truly suited to you), it will get used.
26. Write an editorial for a dead-tree newspaper or magazine. Yes, lots and lots of people still read these.
27. If the newspaper/magazine doesn’t print your editorial, buy ad space and run it as an advertorial instead.
28. Collect weird stories from sources your readers don’t usually see. If your audience is made of particle physicists, gets stories from The Enquirer. Sift through and find the metaphors and analogies in these stories that will relate back to your topic.
Quirky, oddball stories make any content more compelling. And you can’t get results from content that doesn’t get read.
29. Write an industry report on a hot topic. You’ll be surprised at how many high-profile folks will agree to a recorded Skype/phone interview for an industry report.
30. If you’ve got a piece of content that is too weird, rude, vanilla, sentimental. rated-R, rated-G, etc. for your own site, run it as a guest post on someone else’s. Be true to yourself, but show your different facets too.
31. You don’t have to call it a blog just because you created it in WordPress. Maybe it’s an Online Coffee Shop, a Web-Based Self-Coaching Site, a Virtual Concierge, a Tutorial, an E-School, a Directory or a Dictionary. Use a label that resonates with your readers.
32. Build a collection of Squidoo lenses that are optimized to sell goods around a particular holiday, like Halloween costumes or Christmas lights. There are a good number of these now, so find an underserved niche within those broader subjects.
33. Have a good ranting voice and something interesting to say? Write a manifesto! Send readers to your blog or email list if they want to know more. These tend to work better if you don’t require an email opt-in to receive them—the idea is to spread your ideas (and name) far and wide.
34. Review everything. Books, blogs, newsletters, tools, physical products, information products.
35. Take a topic that’s subject to information overload (maybe it’s “the coolest apps for your iPhone”) and make it manageable. Create a “10 Best” post that’s simple, user-friendly and gets the reader out of information fog.
36. Compare your product or service to the weirdest celebrity story that people are currently talking about. Look hard enough and you’ll find 7 things your business has in common with Paris Hilton’s addiction to World of Warcraft.
37. If you’re stuck for content ideas, find a story on the Digg front page that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Then rewrite the story so it does. (You might keep nothing other than the headline. That’s fine. In fact, it’s probably ideal.)
38. Use headlines swiped from popular magazines. I’ve found Cosmo to be the most effective, but anything will work if it’s designed to jump off the newsstands. Like the previous tip, this works best when the magazine has nothing to do with your topic. I wrote one of my most enduringly popular posts using this technique.
39. Use your content to address every objection you’ve ever faced when trying to sell your product. Write interesting articles that show your product or service getting around these objections.
40. Record a session with a client (with their permission, of course) and offer it as a “test drive” to people who are thinking about working with you.
41. Create a useful tool (a checklist, spreadsheet-based calculator, cheat sheet, planning worksheet, etc.) that can be distributed to your blog subscribers or email list. These make great “thank yous” for subscribing to your site or autoresponder.
42. Create special “gratitude content” for subscribers. For example, I send special subscriber-only content on both Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving, to thank my readers for their attention and business. I try to take it beyond a simple message of thanks, and make the content itself a small gift for my readers.
43. Use a blog post series or an email autoresponder to create a sideways sales letter.
44. Write a series or a regular column “authored” by your two-year-old, your dog, your cat, your parrot, or your guinea pig. Think it’s too cutesy to work with your audience? Try it and see.
45. Make an absurd comparison. The farther you have to reach, the better it will work. “101 Ways LOLCats Can Improve Your Arc Welding” is just about guaranteed to capture some attention. Among arc welders, anyway.
46. Create a monthly paid newsletter, delivered electronically or by physical mail, in addition to your free content. Include more detailed how-to and reference information than you would on your free site.
You don’t have to sell all that many subscriptions, and they don’t have to be very pricy, to add up to significant income.
47. Make a monthly recording, either audio or using a Flip camera for video. Keep it casual, like a standing date with a friend to grab coffee together. Each month, discuss a single pressing issue facing your audience, and give three or four techniques that will let your audience thrive in whatever the current environment might be.
This makes a nice add-on to a paid newsletter.
48. If your customers aren’t particular web savvy (or sometimes even if they are), think about producing your content on CDs and DVDs. There are many businesses that can handle this for you inexpensively, and the perceived value is much higher than purely online content.
49. To come up with your own ideas, combine your most generous self with your most creative self. Think about how to create content that makes your customers’ lives better, and dream up exciting new ways to get that content in front of them.
This isn’t meant to be the last word on the subject—it’s really just the beginning. If you don’t see your favorite technique on this list, let us know about it in the comments!