How to Use Content Marketing to Promote Your Creative Work
Is Content REALLY King?
Back in 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay for Microsoft insiders stating that Content was King – meaning that as the internet advances, it will be imperative to deliver timely, useful content in whatever form the platform demands. It was a statement so general that it easily became a meme for CEO's across the globe, and still lingers to this day as a key reminder that what you have to share better matter to the people consuming it.
Fast forward 30 years, and Gary Vaynerchuk offers this addendum: "Content is king, but context is God." He invites his audience to consider the medium and the platform as much as the content itself. Make sure that what you're saying and sharing makes sense in the context of how the audience is showing up. Don't start singing “Figaro” at the top of your lungs during a dramatic reading of Hamlet, for example. Don't sell tickets to your event at someone else's grand opening.
And yet, that's exactly what so many marketing messages do today. They interrupt us. They try to “grab” our attention. There's nothing subtle about them – which makes us feel slimy, smarmy, and out of integrity if we feel like that's the only way people will buy from us.
"Hey! Buy my stuff! It's on sale for hella cheap!"
"You'd be crazy not to buy this RIGHT NOW!"
"We interrupt your Facebook feed to bring you this useless advertisement..."
But there's a better way. One that keeps us in integrity with our values and still invites our audience to invest with us. One that still puts money in our pockets, pays our bills, and let's us be a force for good in the world. You can use it on any social media platform, in your email, and any other place where you might find yourself using marketing messaging on a regular basis (during the merch pitch at your concert, perhaps?)
By paying attention to the context of your audience – and providing content that meets them where they are at – you can draw them in – lead them through an experience that makes them eager to say yes to your offers without feeling like they've been marketed to.
Your content calendar
There's a difference between an editorial/content calendar and a marketing calendar. Editorial calendars support your marketing efforts. So once you know what you're promoting at different times of the year (your marketing calendar), you can set themes and develop content that supports your promotional efforts. If you're not developing content, you probably don't need an editorial calendar.
That said, most of my readers ARE creating content – shows, videos, blog posts, sales presentations, classes, etc. And you're not just creating content for the sake of producing more stuff. I believe that you're hoping that content will ultimately lead to more sales of your stuff.
Not every piece of content needs to be for marketing purposes.
I recognize that there are times when content creation isn't about a set agenda – we post pictures on instagram about our recent trip because we're excited to share our adventure, not necessarily to sell our latest offering. But when you are creating content for marketing purposes, it's important to remember the journey your customer takes in order to decide to buy from you.
How buyers decide to buy
Most collegiate business textbooks outline the stages of the consumer buying process. It looks something like this:
Search for information
Choosing and purchasing
This means that, you can use this process to generate your content.
For example, if you sell coaching, chances are good potential clients might not know they even need coaching. So trying to offer a coaching service to the uninitiated might not land well. You may have created an amazing offering, but if your audience doesn't recognize they have a need for coaching, they simply won't buy.
How to use content to attract buyers to your creative business
Educating the buyer around the problem has to come first. This is email-level and blog post-type content. This is awareness-building content. It's early stage content for your launch sequence. People have to know they need what you offer before they're going to buy, and your emails, newsletters, and social media posts can go a long way toward building awareness for your solution.
But you can't stop there.
Because even after they recognize they need coaching, why should they choose you? After all, there are plenty of options out there, right? So now, they're going to start investigating options – unless you've already laid the ground work for them that YOU are the only game in town. Quality content helps position you above other options.
Positioning yourself as the go-to choice is the early to mid-stage launch content, your opt-in content, and the opening of your sales and marketing materials. This is where you get to remind people that "yes, there may be lots of options out there, but this content I'm sharing with you now illustrates why I'm the best choice." And if they're still not convinced? That's where you take things deeper.
The more you personalize the content, the more they feel like you get them. Webinars, live streams, teleclasses or one-on-one sessions - any ways you can interact directly with your potential buyers are going to not only position you as the go-to person, it's going to elevate your stature with your client. They've invested time with you, so there's a greater likelihood that they'll choose you when it comes time to buy. There are no guarantees, however.
Because once they've narrowed their choices, they've got to be ready and able to buy.My husband has known for years that he wants a Cooper Mini, but he's not in a position to buy. He's done the research, he's evaluated his options, he's even made a choice, but he's not buying. He's not ready. He's not financially able or willing to make the commitment to buy yet.
You are NOT creating content for that guy. Sure, you want to make a compelling case for buying with you, but your content at this stage should assume the sale. Assume your clients want to buy from you. At this stage, you're mostly re-assuring them that buying with you is a great value. This is sales-page level content, or evaluative consultations, where you make the recommendation at the end of the consult to buy from you. This is your call-to-action content.
That's four distinct tiers of content and if you're launching 3 or 4 offers in a given year, that's 12-16 pieces of quality content that you can craft that directly tie back to your offers, leaving plenty of room in your editorial calendar for lots of other content that isn't marketing a specific offer.
And what if you don't "solve a problem"?
Every "problem" has a core solution of making someone's situation even better. So if you're a musician or a painter, it's the same story. How does your work make their life even better? Why do they need what you're creating? Why should they consider your offer over the offers of other artists or musicians? Macklemore still hosts an annual appreciation pizza party for his fans. What are you doing to create a community around you and your Great Work? Your content calendar can help with that.
Go back to the 4-step framework:
Establish the need - use your content to show them how what you're doing has helped or inspired your other fans. Show and tell them how their lives could be even better when they buy your painting (or download your song). You could do this with a short fan video or an instagram photo of a piece of art you're shipping off to a client.
Show them options - let them know that you're aware they have choices (maybe even share a few with them), and begin to explain how what you do is unlike anything else out there. They're going to do some of this on their own, but if you help, you become like Santa in Miracle on 34th Street, who helps people find what they need (even if they can't get it from his department store). A simple way to show options is to share what you're listening to on Spotify, or links to other artists you admire (and tell people why you like it!)
Reaffirm your difference - keep showing your awesomeness and illustrating why your offer is still the best choice. This is you, sharing content from your shows, your portfolio, or your studio, and letting people see how you make magic happen. Do a livestream and connect individually with your fans. Give them a chance to connect more deeply with you.
Ask them to buy - this is the place where most creatives fall short, failing to ask and just assuming people will choose them. Assuming people want to buy from you is one thing, but it's meaningless if you don't offer the call to action to buy from you. It's not just saying "HEY! Buy my stuff because it's awesome!" It's reminding your fans that tickets go on sale next week, in three days, tomorrow, TODAY! - and sharing your enthusiasm about what it means for them (as much as what it means for you). It's inviting them to tell their friends, or bring a friend, or make new friends! Remind them why they want to be part of your community and invite them to invest in you.
There's nothing slimy or icky about reaching out with an average of 1-2 marketing messages per month, especially when they don't feel like marketing messages! And while you may condense your timeline to 1-2 messages per week during a marketing launch, you're still not making your audience feel icky because the content you're creating is actually helping them make progress toward their goal.
Want to know more?
I'm leading a call for my Accountability Club members and current subscribers at 1pm Eastern tomorrow. I'll share specific examples of content for marketing, and there's a Q&A session at the end. If you're already on my list, look for an email with details. The call is free to listen live, but only A-club members get access to the recordings. Learn more about Accountability Club and get access to all of last year's training too.
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