Marketers, let’s take a breather from our “heads down” work at the computer to confront a tough reality: our jobs are difficult. If there were a magic customer acquisition and retention switch we could turn on, we absolutely would. In fact, if this technology were to exist, we would have very little to do. Robots would undoubtedly outperform humans.
Good thing that according to Time Magazine and McKinsey, marketers are going to be around for the long haul. The reason? The heart of what we do involves studying fellow human beings and appealing to decision makers (sidebar: test out McKinsey’s “Find Out if a Robot Will Take Your Job” tool, here).
What we’ve learned from our study of fellow people in decision-oriented moments is that we’re likely to ignore anything that looks like an ad. Put your consumer hat on and think about it. Envision yourself at home, curled up on the couch. You’re reading your favorite blog on your tablet, and you’re engulfed in a story. All of a sudden, an advertisement pops up and distracts you from your browsing experience. Maybe the ad is relevant. Maybe it isn’t. Regardless, you likely don’t enjoy feeling interrupted.
What marketers should aim to do instead is to help readers enjoy the moment. Create content that educates and inspires—that empowers target audiences to naturally build a closer relationship with your company. Here are some non-traditional content marketing ideas to try:
1. Create a Course
Does your brand have something valuable to teach? Have you developed resources that make your target customers’ lives easier? If so, consider packaging this information into a course that you can teach both online and in person as a workshop. You’ve probably noticed that technology is moving quickly—sometimes too quickly for “knowledge workers,” people who specialize in sharing resources, to keep up. Education is a pull mechanism. Teach something of value, help your target audience become better at work, and be a pull mechanism. For inspiration, take a look at HootSuite Academy and this free course from Lean Startup Company. You can use these these courses as compelling calls-to-action from your other marketing streams, too.
2. Offer Up Interactive Content
Instead of hyper-focusing on your industry and product, offer up content that’s fun. Give your readers a behind-the-scenes peek into your business. Share tutorials about how to tackle a specific but common challenge. This content can take many forms: write an eBook, put some videos up on YouTube, or publish a quick blog post on Medium. You can also share templates for an extra layer of interaction. For inspiration, take a look at this developer-focused tutorial series from Hologram, an Internet of Things hardware and software startup. Also browse Ryan Hoover’s story about how he created popular online community Product Hunt.
3. Start a Community
You can launch a company-sponsored group on Facebook in under a minute. Groups on established social media communities are valuable because they naturally facilitate dialogue. To ensure engagement, create a theme for your group. Help your members solve a pain point. For instance, Thinkific—a company that helps content creators make courses—hosts a Facebook community that lets members ask questions and collaborate in tackling their business challenges.
As the examples above reveal, content can succeed across any medium and budget. What you need to do is put yourself in your audience’s shoes and create something that solves a problem. Make your content a pull mechanism by positioning what you create as a necessary product. Thinkific Studio, Hologram’s developer resources, HootSuite Academy, and Hoover’s Medium posts are all educational resources that help readers learn. Learn from them and find a way to provide value and cultivate relationships with customers. Why interrupt when you can build a rapport instead?