Connect with consumers through content

Lynn Manternach/Tree Full of Owls

When you need to make a purchase decision, where do you usually start?

If you’re like most people, your big purchase decisions start with an online search. Consumers are looking for insight and information to guide their decision-making process and to solve problems.

Is your brand positioned to connect with consumers when they start that buying process?

Content marketing is the creation and sharing of compelling and relevant content to build your brand. It’s the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer smarter and more informed.

Although the focus of the content may not be specifically about your company or products, content marketing provides an opportunity to demonstrate your category or industry expertise and highlight your company’s unique strengths and services. People don’t want to know why they should buy from your business. They want “how to” information, success stories and expert interviews. They want free guidance and assistance.

The idea behind content marketing is that if businesses deliver consistently valuable information to buyers, they will reward companies with their business, along with their loyalty and trust. They will “opt in” to allow you to communicate with them regularly over time. That means there is a long-term opportunity for conversation, relationship-building and ultimately, trust.

To build that trust, you need to remember that content marketing is not a sales pitch disguised as useful information. Content marketing is relevant, valuable information that inspires and excites.

Here are six rules for content marketing, from lead generation company Marketo:

1. It is not promotional. Content marketing must be interesting. That means it’s not about you. It’s about the consumer. This is not an opportunity to promote your new product or service; it’s an opportunity to provide consumers with the information they need to make a good decision about a product or service like yours.

2. It is relevant. Generic materials that are not highly relevant to a reader will not generate success. The content has to be useful to the reader. It’s hard to avoid being generic if you’re trying to talk to everyone. Choose a niche and focus – and be relevant.

3. It closes a gap. Content marketing should address a question or problem. Figure out what kind of information decision-makers are seeking, and find ways to provide the useful information they need.

4. It is well-written. This is about your brand. Make sure your content reflects well on you with quality writing that is interesting and free of errors.

5. It is relevant to your company. Make sure all of the content you produce is relevant to your overall brand and your business objectives.

6. It gives proof. The content you develop is created to support your brand and business goals. Despite that, you need a fair and balanced approach to make sure your content doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. Include proof through quotes, testimonials, metrics and statistics.

Once you’ve generated great content, you need to make sure it can be easily found by your targeted consumers. Content marketing can be deployed in the form of print or online newsletters, web sites, micro sites, white papers, videos, webinars, podcasts, custom magazines, in-person events, e-mail and more.

Distribute your content on multiple channels, and look for ways to get people to talk about it. Fortunately, great content is very sharable. And when people share your content with others who might be interested, qualified traffic is pushed back to you.

You may need to experiment a bit to figure out what resonates most effectively with consumers. Create the content, measure your results, refine your approach and do it again.  Content marketing is about creating the right message for the right audience. Be prepared to adjust and fine tune until you figure out where the sweet spot is.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. ( in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at