This article will not be “logical.” It will not fit in that little box that’s so requisite to get anything “approved” in most organizations. Nor will it be for conservative-minded marketers and business owners that would rather imagine 1000 ways “it might go wrong” instead of dreaming of the unlimited reasons “it might go right.”
In other words, what I’m about to tell you takes guts, imagination, and the magic of thinking big.
So if you fall in the latter, please continue to read on.
Oh, and it’s long too, as well it needs to be, so you’ve now been warned.
12 Months to Do Magical Things
Whether you’ve been embracing content marketing for some time now or are just starting to jump on the train that has already left the station, over the next year you have the ability to do unbelievable things in the digital world to help your business. In 2012, I worked literally with dozens of companies on their content marketing efforts. Some took the advice they received, made it their own, and then shot off like a rocket within their industry. Others threw up barricades, looked for excuses, and stumbled badly out of the gate.
Based on these experiences, as well as the constant set of content marketing “experiments” I’m running at “The Sales Lion Center for Advanced Content Marketing Studies” (wink), I’ve come up with 8 innovative and outside-the-box steps your business can take to build your brand and achieve outrageously successful results.
1. Show it like it has never been shown before:
A while back I was working with a manufacturing company and one day, when I was touring their manufacturing facility, I decided to start recording a video of what I was seeing. Within seconds of realizing what I was doing, the management team became extremely nervous, and told me that I would not be able to record inside their facility because they didn’t want their competitors to see their processes, equipment, and methodologies.
In other words, instead of worrying about the consumer, they were worried about the competition—which truly is the death of great marketing in the digital age.
Luckily for this business though, after spending some time helping them understand their “secret sauce” was no secret, they embraced a transparent marketing approach that helped brand them as one of the top in their field within a year’s time. And speaking of “secret sauce,” have you ever wondered why McDonalds food looks so much better on camera than in person? Instead of ignoring the question, McD’s shows how this is made possible in this incredibly transparent video.
Lesson: If you do it, show it. Video is a magical medium. Just pull out your phone and record the dang thing. Make it accessible to the masses. Invite the world in to see how you do what you do. And if you need the ultimate example, just see what McDonalds is doing to take transparency and trust to the next level, which is just another reason why every fast food company will always be second place in that industry.
2. Reward Your Competitors
I’ve spoken about this subject more and more over the last 6 months—much to the chagrin of many traditionalist marketers that can’t seem to grasp the principle of transparency and influence in the digital realm. But considering I’ve personally applied what I’m getting ready to tell you, hopefully that will help influence your decision and thought process here.
I first started experimenting with this in 2010 with my swimming pool company when I gave out awards to manufacturers in the industry, many of which were competitors of mine. Not only was that article a major anomaly to the industry at that time, but it also generated tremendous discussion, confusion, and curiosity—from industry peers as well as potential customers. Today, that article has hundreds of inbound links, ranks for a multiplicity of major keywords, and has generated dozens upon dozens of leads that have turned into customers.
In 2011 and 2012, I further experimented with this by writing “best of” posts with respect to my local competitors in the Virginia and Maryland areas. These posts struck a chord with real people and search engines alike, and again, like the previous “competitor” articles, generated trust, traffic, and sales.
I’ve also had many clients experience tremendous success by prolifically reviewing and comparing products, brands and services. One such client, Yale Appliance, has garnered national attention in the kitchen appliance industry by creating a mountain of “vs” related posts, therefore addressing core subjects and issues their customers want to know.
Lesson: Stop pretending your competitors don’t exist. Your customers already know they exist, so find a way to deal with it, to your advantage.
3. Review Your Competitors
In every industry there is good and bad. There are good products and bad products. There are good services and bad services. There are legit and non-legit companies. The list goes on and on.
But if you want to be known as a trusted voice and source of consumer information, this is the type of content that needs to be on your website, blog, and other marketing platforms.
I first started experimenting with digital reviews in 2008 with my swimming pool eBook, “How to buy a fiberglass pool the right way from the right company at the right price.” After that, I took it a step further by giving my honest opinion of manufacturers on my company blog, seeing huge success with each article written.
Within a year’s time of doing these things, my personal and professional brand in the fiberglass pool industry became such that I was receiving multiple emails every single day from consumers around the world asking me what pool they should buy, who they should buy it from, and how they should go about doing it. Because of this, the information on our blog had an incredible influence, for good and bad, on manufacturers within the swimming pool industry.
As my friend Jay Baer would say, the River Pools and Spas brand had become a “Youtility” within the industry—the go-to place (utility) for honest and useful consumer information.
The same occurred after months writing with The Sales Lion. As a HubSpot partner, I created content that was open in discussing the software’s problems, benefits, competitors, etc. By so doing, I’ve become known by many as a trustworthy voice on all things HubSpot, and have a very large foundation of HubSpot clients to show for it.
Lesson: Consumers are reviewing you. They’re also reviewing your competitors. It’s your choice where that conversation takes place.
4. Use platforms and methods that have not previously been used in your industry
As someone that consults with businesses about digital marketing on a consistent basis, one of the first questions clients like to ask is the following:
Who else in our industry is having success doing it this way?
Although this isn’t necessarily a bad question, it can be a sign of negative things to come. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter what other companies have done in terms of digital marketing and what platforms they’ve been on.
- So what if no one has a blog in your industry?
- So what if no one uses video effectively?
- So what if no one has found a way to utilize Facebook and get returns?
- So what if no one has a podcast in your realm?
Lesson: What other businesses have and have not achieved from a marketing standpoint doesn’t mean squat to you. Their methods and their vision aren’t yours. Forget’em and start your own trend, regardless of the actions of others.
5. Be Everywhere
Although Pat Flynn can certainly speak to this better than I can, this is a trend that really started to pick up greatly in 2012 for individual brands and companies alike. Essentially, the principle of “be everywhere” comes down to our ability to communicate with our audiences in as many forms/platforms as possible, as consistently as possible.
Granted, I’ll always be a firm believer that spreading ourselves too thin is not a good thing, but if there are ways to find greater reach without sacrificing quality, then we should do it. To give you an example as to what I’m talking about, no brand and businesses exploded more than CMI (Content Marketing Institute) did last year. Let’s take a moment to analyze their strategic growth and “be everywhere” methodology:
- They took the CMI blog to new heights by posting beefy, quality content on a daily basis– leveraging the knowledge of industry experts and other businesses around the globe to form a very sound, guest post driven blog.
- They came out with the premier traditional magazine in the content marketing industry—CCO (Chief Content Officer) Magazine
- They grew Content Marketing World into a massive conference for marketing professionals on a global level.
- They started offering smaller Content Marketing World conferences and workshops around the world.
These are just a few examples of what Joe Pulizzi and the CMI gang did this past year, but without question, they were literally everywhere preaching the word of content marketing, establishing themselves as the clear leader in a growing industry.
Lesson: Whether you’re a mom and pop business or a massive corporation, finding more ways to communicate, teach, and reach others in your industry could provide major brand and business benefits in 2013.
6. Challenge the Status-Quo at Every Corner
Let me just be very frank for a second and say that most industries lack guts. I openly say this because every field has major problems, issues, and inefficiencies that no one wants to talk about. (Note: When was the last time you saw anyone that worked for the IRS talk about their terrible waste issues? Answer: Never)
To give you an example of what I’m talking about, for years fiberglass swimming pools were installed on top of sand. My swimming pool company, having been taught this method, installed our first 300 pools on top of sand.
But, over time, we started to see issues popping up—issues we knew could have been prevented had there been a better base for these pools.
So despite the fact that we were in a major minority and got attacked for it, we wrote extensively about the need to install fiberglass pools on top of gravel when they’re in the ground. And because of this educational push, today, 4 years later, the majority of fiberglass pools built in the US are built on gravel.
The same applies to The Sales Lion. All over the web, I see lots of things being taught about inbound marketing, content marketing , and social media. I feel much of the information being taught out there is exceptional. But there are also times I feel bad advice is being given, at which point I’ll write articles that openly disagree with the opinions and sentiments of others (respectfully).
Although this may open me up for attacks, it also shows that I’m my own man with my own opinions and experiences—something that businesses are often looking for when they seek to hire any type of consultant.
Lesson: Great companies and brands don’t just “accept” everything as it is. Neither should you. Develop a sound opinion and share it to the world.
7. Become the Wikipedia of Your Industry
This is another area where I philosophically disagree with a few others in the social media realm. Based on every content marketing campaign I’ve seen achieve huge success for businesses, there is one over-riding principle that makes all the difference: They Ask, You Answer
In other words, if a prospect or customer has ever asked you a question, the answer to that question should be found on your company website. By doing this, a company will be viewed as the ultimate teacher and voice of their industry, and gain the respect of the 2 parties that dictate everything when it comes to success—search engines and real people.
Lesson: Make the choice to control the conversation. It can either happen at your house (your website and other platforms) or someone else’s place. Why not choose yours?
8. Dance with the Influencers
In every industry and in every realm, there are influencers. Some might be bloggers, some might be media outfits, others might be buying groups—the list goes on and on. But if you’re looking to have incredible brand recognition in your industry, it’s important to establish relationships with these groups. Sometimes you may want to write about them, mention them, or simply drive business their way. But make no doubt, attaining success is much easier when it’s a team effort.
On a personal level, I know I never would have attained nearly the success I’ve been able to manage in this industry if it wasn’t for the likes of great people like Michael Stelzner, Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, Mitch Joel, Gini Dietrich, and others. If it weren’t for these folks, much of the stuff I’ve said or written would have fallen by the wayside and been read by few people.
Lesson: Like it or not, influencers exist in every field. If you sincerely embrace and help them, they just may help you as well.
Question? Comments? What else would you add to the list? Is there anything here you don’t agree with? Tell us about it.