Content marketing for boring industries can work as well, or better, than advertising for glamorous industries. There are three keys to making even the most boring business-to-business content interesting. This article is going to explain what they are.
One of the most fascinating pieces of content I’ve seen recently was a video of a conference speech. That sounds boring already, doesn’t it?
More specifically, it was a video of a conference speech about an assumed ranking element that some people think is happening as a result of machine-learning applied to search engine algorithms.
Have I lost you yet?
When I was telling my wife about it, she got so bored she walked out of the room. She had tuned out to such an extent she didn’t realise I was still talking. (I’d like to believe that hardly ever happens.)
But I found it gripping. And the important point about that is I’m the target market for that speaker’s product.
Conversion rates for content vs advertising
Content marketing rarely has the reach of above-the-line brand ads. But it does a lot better job of qualifying leads. Brand advertising tries to qualify leads quickly with images of beautiful people and beautiful product shots. Content marketing qualifies them through a variety of different types of content—emotional, educational, and informative content. As they interact with it, leads get a step closer to becoming customers.
As a result, conversion rates (from leads to customers) tends to be higher with content. So you don’t need the type of reach you need with brand advertising. You can get the same results from reaching a smaller number of people.
That’s good news if what you do is not that interesting. It means you can focus your efforts on producing content for the small group of potential customers who will buy your products or services. Those people who are genuinely interested in, say, interpreting an algorithm because it has an impact on their day-to-day work.
Once you’ve sorted out your content strategy, so you know who the people are you’re targeting, you can set about developing three types of content that will always be interesting for them.
Content is interesting if it solves problems for customers
Any content you produce that solves a potential customer’s problems is going to be interesting to that customer.
Many people respond to that by saying, “Well, my products solve the problem, so I’ll write about my products”. But if you do that, you are ignoring the first step in solving a problem. Which is acknowledging and defining what the problem actually is.
There are a number of ways you can figure out the problems your customers are having. One is to develop marketing personas, and use a combination of research and empathy. But another way is just to ask your customers directly.
One of the great success stories of content marketing is Marcus Sheridan and River Pools and Spas. The installation of fiberglass pools is not a subject that excites a large number of people. But when his business nearly went broke during the Global Financial Crisis, Sheridan started a blog which had one aim: to be the most educational swimming pool blog in the country.
The content of his blog was based on answering any and every question you would ever have about the installation of swimming pools. Anyone who was even vaguely interested in buying a pool could do all their research on his blog without ever having to buy anything.
Sheridan’s philosophy and approach is spelt out in his book They Ask, You Answer. It shows that whether you think you’re interesting or not isn’t really the issue—it’s what your potential customers want to know that counts.
Content is interesting if it’s about people
There are lots of things about restaurants that are fascinating. We all love food. We all love watching the kitchen alchemy on MasterChef. But what do you do if you have a restaurant magazine that talks about everything except food?
We produce a magazine for the Restaurant Association. The readers, who are members of the Association, all own restaurants, but not all of them are chefs. So we had a very clear brief to write about all other aspects of running a restaurant—the technology, human resources, management issues and so on—but not the food.
Sounds pretty dry, doesn’t it? But an independent survey found the people who got the magazine loved it. It had a pass-on rate of 3.5 people per customer, and customers spent an average of 40 minutes reading each issue.
The way we made it work as a piece of content marketing was by focusing on people. We profiled the people who ran restaurants. We shared their wisdom and tips for what they’ve learnt about all aspects of running a restaurant. And we put photos of those people on the cover of the magazine.
People respond to people. Your customers will always find a person interesting if that person has the same problems as them—but appears to have solved them.
Content is interesting if it tells you something you didn’t know before
I’ve recently found myself fascinated by chickens. It’s just professional, of course. The fascination started when I received my first issue of Chook Chat, the email newsletter of the Chicken Industry Association.
If they were a client, I would probably have a few words about cleaning out their email list, because I am definitely not the target market for them. I don’t buy chickens wholesale, and we don’t cook much chicken at home. But I didn’t unsubscribe because I was really taken by the quality of the content.
In the newsletter, general chicken industry related stories are mixed with interesting pieces on proper cooking techniques, health and food safety pieces, and stuff about chickens.
When I was confronted with questions about cooking chicken, Chook Chat was my first port of call. It’s a wonderful source of chicken-related information that I would never have thought about before.
How to do content marketing for boring industries
Successful content marketing for boring industries works because, even if the industry is boring, the content doesn’t have to be. Especially if that content does one or more of the following three things:
- Solves your customers problems
- Talks about people, not products
- Tells your audience something they didn’t know before.
Are you noticing a common theme here? The key to successful content marketing is customer focus, not product focus. If you show people solving problems, or you solve problems, then customers will seek out your products and services.
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