I’m pretty sure you’re sick of folks like me telling you that content is king and that you must produce reams of it in order to compete these days, so I won’t put you through any more of that kind of silly talk.

What I will say is that people today have come to expect to find information about any product, service, company, individual, cause or challenge they face by simply turning to the search engine of their choice. So, if they’re not finding content that you’ve produced that provides them that information, even if someone referred them directly to you, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be worthy of their trust.

I guess I am going to tell you that you’ve got to commit to content production, but you’ve got to make it a part of your overall strategy and you’ve got to produce content with an eye on doing two things – educating and building trust.

These two categories of your content strategy must be delivered through the creation of very specific forms of content and not simply through sheer volume. Every business is now a publishing business, so you’ve got to start to think like one.

Content that builds trust

  • Blog – Yes, I think a blog is the absolute starting point for your content strategy because it makes content production, syndication and sharing so easy. The search engines love blog content as well and this is the place where you can organize a great deal of your editorial thinking. Content produced on a blog can easily be expanded and adapted to become content for articles, workshops and ebooks.
  • Social media – The first step in the social media content game is to claim all the free opportunities to create social media profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, but also in Business Week, Entrepreneur and Inc magazine communities. Building rich profiles, and optimizing links, images and videos that point back to your main site is an important part of the content as strategy play.
  • Reviews – Ratings and reviews sites such as Yelp!, MerchantCircle and CitySearch have become mainstream user generated content hubs. Throw in the fact that Google, Yahoo and Bing all allow folks to rate and review businesses and you’ve got an increasingly important category of content that you must participate in. You’ll never have total control over this category, but ignore it and it may be one of the most damaging to your brand. Get proactive and monitor this channel aggressively.
  • Testimonials – Customer testimonials are a powerful form of content. Every business today should seek customer content in multiple forms – written, audio and video. This content adds important trust building endorsements and makes for great brand building assets out there on Google and YouTube.

Content that educates

  • The Point of View White Paper – Every business should have a well developed core story that’s documented in the form of a white paper of eBook. This content must dive deeply into what makes your firm different, what your secret sauce is, how you approach customer service, and why you do what you do. I wrote extensively about this idea in The Referral Engine. This is the primer for your educational content push.
  • Seminars – Today, people want information packaged in ways that will help them get what they want. Presentations, workshop and seminars (online and off) are tremendous ways to provide education with the added punch of engagement. Turning your point of view white paper into a 45 minute value packed session is one of the most effective ways to generate, nurture, and convert leads.
  • FAQs – There are those that want to know one very specific thing about your company or approach and these learners get the most value out of the traditional frequently asked questions approach. There’s no denying the value of information packaged in this format, but go beyond the questions that routinely get asked and include those that should get asked but don’t. Particularly the ones that help position you favorably against your competition.
  • Success stories – Building rich examples of actual clients succeeding through the use of your product or service offerings is a tremendous way to help people learn from other individuals and business just like them. When prospects see themselves in a success story we can more easily transport them to a place where they can imagine getting those same results. This is another form of content that begs to be produced in video.

All of the above elements should be built into your marketing plan with a process to create, update and curate each.

So, what’s your content game plan look like?

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • David Jehlen

    Great stuff John that I will share with my clients. I love the simple idea of repurposing your white paper into a 45 minute presentation. Thanks!

    • Hey David – repurposing is a big part of the overall content strategy in my view. I often create my presentations right from blog posts.

  • John,
    I agree that educating and building trust are key elements of a content strategy. But I’d argue those things have always been the goal of good marketing. What’s different today is the voracious appetite for fresh online information, and the need to post frequently to keep up with it. It turns marketing communications into a publishing entity — and forces efficiencies like content repurposing in order to keep up. Without a clear content strategy (which starts, in my opinion, by defining your valuable keywords), too many marketing folks are flailing and just producing content for the purpose of…having content.

  • peter

    Great article thanks! I’ve been writing some content on Burlington VT HVAC contractors and you are spot on with the importance of education.

  • davelutz

    John, great post! Two things that I would add:

    1) Transparency – The more you can portray this, the more trust you build. Yes, it’s risky, but only if you have something to hide.

    2) You need and Army – You show your thought leadership best, when you are able to enlist the help of many. I see lots of companies that have content coming from partners or other sources. That’s all well and good, but the majority needs to come from the employees of the company or their customers.

    Love your blog!

    • Thanks Dave – transparency is one of those words with lots of meanings these days but for the small business it might really mean humanness or personality. Be who you are, let people see it’s real people, flawed and all, behind the curtain.

  • When I started my blog, I began to get sick of folks saying content is king. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until recently. Let me tell you why:

    1) I knew they were right.
    2) I wasn’t hearing anybody clearly explain how to market quality content.

    So I suppose I’m hear to upset the apple-cart a bit.

    Yes, quality content is clearly very, very important.

    But it doesn’t mean as much as most people thing without a strategy to market it. I think this step is under-sold.

    In terms of learning strategies to market quality content, “Inbound Marketing” by the guys at HubSpot was a turning point for me.

    • Hey Nick, I don’t think you’re even wobbling the apple cart with that statement. While I guess I didn’t state it as obvious that’s the reason for producing the content indeed. Many of the points I make about trust and education only occur when you then use all of your ad dollars to create awareness about the content – that’s the new way to advertise to educate and build trust rather than simply sell.

  • John, thank you for the excellent article. For me, it is timely and encouraging.

    As a young marketer who’s new to the game and working with a start-up, I’ve had to learn quick that quality content must be the foundation that I build the marketing program of this company upon. That being said, the production of quality content is much more difficult than it would seem.

    As clavoie said in her comment: “too many marketing folks are flailing and just producing content for the purpose of…having content.” It is both tempting and easy to fall into this trap.

    Thanks again!

  • Danielle

    Speaking of helpful content, your blog is a great example! With so much information available on the web today, content is an opportunity to rise above the noise and establish ourselves as reliable, knowledgeable and, as you point out John, trustworthy resources. I also agree with Dave L.’s comment about transparency.

    Thanks John, great blog!

    • Thanks Danielle – I think transparency is so hard to fake over the long haul that it usually sorts itself out pretty quickly in the trust category.