The voice on the phone gave me all the proof I’ll ever need that content marketing really works:
“I know we’ve never met,” she said, “but I’ve been reading your online articles for a while and I feel like I already know you.”
What followed was easily one of the most relaxed and effortless conversations I’ve ever had with a new client. Before we hung up she said “send me a contract.”
In short, a perfect client had practically fallen into my lap merely because I made a commitment a while back to write a free article once a month. No cold calling. No elevator speech. No sales pitch. And I didn’t spend anything but a bit of time writing.
Ultimately, all I had to do was close the sale…because 95 percent of my marketing work had been done for me. She was already familiar with my samples, my writing style, and my offbeat sense of humor. A colleague she trusted had recommended me. And she matched one of my “preferred client” profiles so closely that I could have written it simply by using the cut-and-paste command to copy her life story.
The call validated five key truths that apply to any content marketing strategy:
- Content marketing takes time to get results. Don’t start a newsletter, blog, or podcast and expect the phone to start ringing overnight. Soft-selling vehicles like these build trust slowly, wearing away resistance like water eroding stone. Think of the content you publish today as opening the door to the work you’ll do in six months to a year.
- Be yourself. If the personality you put out there isn’t authentic, the people who eventually respond will be attracted to a “you” that isn’t you. This is especially true for freelancers who try to play the “pseudofirm” game or any organization trying to sell an image it doesn’t really embrace.
- Write for your ideal customer. My mother reads this newsletter faithfully (love ya mom!), but I don’t write it for her. I have three carefully-researched customer profiles that I’ve developed by interviewing my best clients and other people I’d like to work for. The topics I cover in my free columns are selected to address their needs and interests. Some of my readers don’t match these profiles, but they have friends and colleagues who do and I’ve received some valuable referrals as a result. (Want to develop customer profiles for your own business? One of the best resources out there is Mark O’Brien’s book A Website That Works. While you’re at it, read the whole book.)
- Publish on schedule. No matter how great your material is, you’ll be forgotten if you disappear before your perfect buyer is ready. Show up in their inbox at least once a month, preferably at about the same time.
- It’s totally worth the effort. You may have to stand firm against the impatience of your boss, your colleagues, your spouse, and even yourself. But if you’re doing it right, all of these objections will be silenced when true believers who’ve already done your selling for you start calling.