The value of a content marketing runway
I want to ask you a question. How much busier are you today than you were five years ago? Does the pace of business just seem to be picking up? Does it seem as if you have more tasks to accomplish than you have hours in the day? If you are like so many busy professionals today, the answer to all of these questions is yes.
I believe the same thing is true for everyone that you want to connect with. In today’s crazy busy world, getting mindshare with the right people can be very difficult. Herein lies the challenge for service-based professionals. Mindshare is a critical precursor to revenue. If you can’t get mindshare and buy-in, it’s nearly impossible to get a deal. But getting mind-share with busy people is tough.
However, there are a select group of service professionals who have figured out not only how to get mindshare, but how to convert that mindshare into meaningful dialogue, deals and new revenue. I’d like to share with you what’s working today for attracting great prospects and pulling them into dialogue.
Lessons learned from air traffic controllers
Have you ever been inside an air traffic control tower? It’s a really fascinating place to spend an afternoon if you ever get the chance. Air traffic controllers have a host of technologies at their disposal as they help planes land. But the two I find most interesting are their radar screens and their radios.
At any given moment on their radar screens they might have several dozen little blinking lights. Each little light represents a plane in their air space, some of which will be inbound to their airport. Each inbound plane has a signifier, which is usually the name of the airline and the flight number. This is how the air traffic controller identifies each unique plane.
But here’s the interesting pat. Let’s assume that air traffic control station is in San Francisco. When a plane is bound from Chicago to San Francisco, the air traffic controller will have minimal chatter on the radio with the pilot until the flight approaches San Francisco air space. The flight will be on the air traffic controller’s radar screen, but they won’t be talking all that much.
As soon as the plane starts to get close, the dialogue will increase. The air traffic controller will advise about weather conditions on the ground and the state of traffic at the airport. They will also recommend speed, altitude and heading. All of this information helps the pilot land the plane safely and successfully.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with getting mindshare with busy people, let me explain. I believe that today’s busy service buyer is an awful lot like those planes overhead. They can keep flying by and never seem to land at your airport where you can serve them.
To get your hangar stocked up with a bunch of great planes, to continue the metaphor, you need to think like an air traffic controller. You need to put out the signals that guide people right into your air space and then talk them down, right into your runway. Let me explain how you do this.
LinkedIn as an example
Just to make this practical and real, I’d like to offer LinkedIn as an example of what I mean by air space. Right now, it is highly likely that the people you want to do business with are on LinkedIn. What’s more, these people need your services, have budget and might be active in the LinkedIn community. They are flying around LinkedIn right now.
But they’re not planning to land their plane on your runway. They are not planning to do business with you. Why?
Because they’re busy. They don’t get what you can do for them. They already have ideas about how to achieve their goals. They are busily going about the task of implementing their ideas and they don’t have time for distractions.
But guess what? Their ideas are probably not all that great. Their strategies may not work, in fact probably won’ work. Why is this? Because they are not an expert in the area where you are the expert. They don’t have your years or experience, your wisdom and insights about what to do, and what not to do, to achieve their goals.
They need you. But they don’t know they need you. They’re not convinced they need you.
LinkedIn is just like the radar screen for an air traffic controller. You can easily conduct an advanced search on LinkedIn and probably finds hundreds, if not thousands, of people you could do business with.
But to get them to do business with you, you’ll have to engage them in meaningful dialogue, just the way an air traffic controller engages in dialogue with a pilot. How can you do this?
The value of ideal clients, market research and organic language
I’ve developed another post about how to create insights for ideal clients. If you haven’t had a chance to view this, it’s called: How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In. I’ll quickly touch on a couple of key points I made in that post.
To get busy prospects to give you mindshare, you have to do three things very well:
- You need to build a great ideal client profile.
- You need to articulate meaningful insights that will help ideal clients do the three things that matter to them: achieve their goals, realize their opportunities and overcome their challenges.
- You have to use organic language that is meaningful to your prospects so they easily get why they should pay attention to you.
I want to explain what I mean by organic language.
If you are using content marketing today, you might notice an interesting phenomenon. Some types of content seem to do really well while other content does not do as well. If you are like me, you sometimes feel like the content that did not do all that well is just as good, if not better, than the content that did really well. Like I said, it’s a weird phenomenon. Why does this happen?
Well here is what we’ve come to realize at my firm. The content that does really well is often based on a headline that attracts people. We’ve come to realize that headlines matter almost as much as the core of the content itself. Why? Because people won’t engage the body of the content if the headline doesn’t catch their attention. They’re just too busy.
Here is something else we’ve discovered. When we use headlines that sound just like the organic language we’ve discovered from interviews with our ideal clients, the content pieces do really well. So here’s the lesson learned.
The more your language sounds like the language that your ideal clients use, the easier it will be for them to recognize it and find it intriguing. The more you use headlines that draw upon the organic language of your ideal clients, the more their curiosity will be piqued and the harder it will be for them to resist taking a peak.
Build a content runway
To get busy people to give you mindshare and to achieve trusted advisor status with them, you need to build an effective content marketing runway, to extend the air traffic controller metaphor. You need to make it easy and clear for them to see how to land their plane at your airport.
There is a really simple plan here that works incredibly well and it goes like this:
- You build thoughtful short-form content marketing pieces and provision them into the digital ecosystem.
- The content pieces should point toward a long-form content asset that has even more insights. This is usually a gated asset on your website.
- Your content marketing pieces attract the right people from the digital ecosystem to your website.
- When people register for your gated content assets and consume them, they are sending you a signal that says I’m interested and I’m willing to commit the time to explore your ideas. They become a lead.
- If your counsel is really good, a select few will choose to enter dialogue with you. They then become a serious prospect.
- If you deliver a great discovery process and define how you can help those prospects in a scope of services, they become a client.
This is how you get crazy busy prospects to give you mindshare and eventually a deal. This process works for us and for our clients everyday, but there are a few caveats I should add here.
First, your ideal client profile needs to be very specific to the demographics and psychographics that are unique to your ideal client. I recommend that you build a list of your ideal clients’ top goals, opportunities and challenges.
Second, your content needs to address a specific topic that matters to your ideal client. You cannot simply talk shop about who you are and what you do. That won’t work. I also recommend that you make that topic so distinct and unique that only people who fit your ideal client profile would be interested in it. This is where organic language really helps.
Third, you need to provision your content such that the time commitment that is required from people is appropriate to their position in your airspace. For instance, an air traffic controller wouldn’t start talking to a pilot who is a thousand miles away about weather, wind speeds and visibility. The air traffic controller would wait until the pilot is nearing their airport to deliver that kind of information.
In the same way, I often find that service professionals seem to want to talk about things that are simply not appropriate for where a prospect is on their inbound journey. Let me explain.
When we build content for our ideal clients, we typically tell them how to achieve their goals. We do not tell them how we achieve their goals, the specifics of the way we handle our engagements. Why? Because we find that this is typically the last thing that prospects want to know. It will be important to them, but only after they’ve bought into our approach and methodology for achieving a goal that matters to them.
If we tried to explain how our engagements work when they are still trying to figure out whether or not they buy into our approach, it would seem like we’re pitching our company. In this day and age, busy decision-makers don’t have time for a pitch and typically don’t like them.
If you want to get mindshare from busy people who fit your ideal client profile, you have to give them great ideas that matter to them and organize those ideas so that they start with short-form content and move toward long-form content.
How time is an indicator of sales readiness
Once a lead is consuming your ideas through long-form content, they are giving you their time. This is an indicator that you are building the all-important buy-in you need to get a deal. Let me give you a specific example.
Let’s assume that you’ve built a 1,500 word blog-post, a 5,000 word white paper and a 10,000 word e-book, all on the same topic. Let’s also assume that your blog-post concludes with a call to register for the white paper and the white paper concludes with a call to register for the e-book.
Let’s assume that a prospect follows this path all the way through: blog, white paper, e-book. What has their digital behavior communicated? They are giving you an ever increasing amount of their time. No one is going to do this unless the content, the ideas, matter to them. They are telling you, in so many words, that they like your ideas and that you are building trust with them.
This is one reason that you need a marketing automation tool that shows you every click on the inbound journey. Just like an air traffic controller has a radar screen that contains the unique signifier of each plane, a marketing automation platform will show you the unique digital footprint of everyone in your digital air space.
As soon as you can see who is spending time with your content, you can understand who is buying-in to your ideas and approach. This is the best way we know of today to get mindshare with busy people.
Where to go from here
I think it’s important to walk our talk. So I have a great resource for you to help you go even deeper. I’ve developed an E-Book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. It goes into much greater detail on many of the concepts I’ve outlined in this blog-post. If you want to get mindshare with busy people, I know this E-Book will really help you.
About the author
Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive, marketing automation guru and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms.
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