How many times have you wished that someone would create a textbook filled with why’s and how to’s of digital marketing? If you’re like me, the answer to that is “Too many times to count!”.
Let’s face it, the work that we do and how we do it evolves so quickly it can be hard to keep up. Unfortunately, that leaves room for us to get swept up in “shiny object syndrome” and lose sight of what is really important; creating quality content that resonates with your audience and helps solve a business problem.
Dr. Jim Barry’s new book, “Social Content Marketing for Entrepreneurs” helps marketers realign their focus to some of the most impactful inbound marketing strategies.
The textbook approach that this book follows makes a complex topic, seemingly simple. Dr. Barry has done a fantastic job of creating actionable tips in a book about forming meaningful and mutually beneficial long-term relationships with your audience. As you can see from the picture above, I marked a significant number of pages that I plan on referencing for my own work.
Making the Leap From Sales to Content Marketing
Many years ago, I spent quite a bit of time in various sales roles. I sold everything from home mortgages to more complex SaaS sales. One thing all sales managers are laser focused on is the sales funnel. Based on the stage of the sales funnel that your prospects are in, there are different tactics that you deploy in order to best increase their likelihood of closing.
As someone with a sales history, I really appreciated the comparison that Dr. Barry made of a Traditional Sales Funnel, to a Content Marketing funnel. The stages in Dr. Barry’s funnels include:
- Awareness of Need
- Information Search
- Evaluation of Alternatives
While the stages are the same, that is where the similarities end. When looking at the Content Marketing Funnel, we find that marketing plays a much larger role in the process than your traditional sales team. Why? Simply put, much more time has to be spent on education, offering value, providing data and third party validation. As marketers we have to take our best guess at determining what problems our customers need help with, and creating content that helps, without seeming like we are pushing our own agenda. TopRank Marketing has long been an advocate for optimizing for the buyer experience, so it was great to see that concept reiterated in this book.
Dr. Barry goes on to provide actual examples of “content progression” that can be used to move prospects through the sales cycle. This information is incredibly valuable to salespeople and marketers of all levels.
The 13 E’s of Inbound Marketing
According to Dr. Barry, the foundation for relationship marketing is based on exactly “13 E’s of Inbound Marketing”:
- Educating Targets with Trusted Content
- Escorting Prospects through Frame-of-Mind Connections
- Emotionalizing Content with Entertainment, Inspiration, and Visuals
- Earning Readership with Content Mastery
- Evangelizing with Employee Advocates
- Enchanting Influencers through Outreach
- Enlisting Followers with a Stamp
- Exposing Content that will “Runlaps”
- Empowering Brand Ambassadors to Resonate
- Engaging Fan Communities through Conversation
- E-mail Engaging and Perpetuating Proprietary Audiences
- Enabling Mobile Customer Experiences
- Enrolling Trial Users with Freemiums
What You’ll Learn From Social Content Marketing for Entrepreneurs:
- How to create content that is meaningful, encourages sharing and is optimized for increased visibility.
- What types of content are most appropriate based on your customer’s stage in the buying cycle.
- How to take an intentional approach to marketing that encourages meaningful results.
- Ways to create content as a social mechanism to connect with your audience.
The Interview: Additional Insight into Relationship Marketing From Dr. Jim Barry
I was able to ask Dr. Barry some of the questions that were burning in my mind after reading his book. Below are his responses:
What do you think your experience in academia can teach today’s digital marketers about taking a more formulaic approach to their marketing strategies?
MBA students are accustomed to receiving instruction that is guided by strategic frameworks and backed by theory and evidence wherever possible. The challenge for many digital marketers is to appreciate this mindset by thinking more holistically across an enterprise’s decision making processes. MBA students also need more formulas and concepts than tools and tips. Learning objectives for social media and content marketing should be approached much like those used in tackling brand management, customer relationship building and even sales management challenges.
The goal in MBA education is for students to intuitively grasp how social content marketing will impact their organizational strategies. Consequently, courses on the subject should help students connect the dots of social business development from their surrounding social eco-systems, an understanding of relationship marketing constructs and a clear vision of social content trends. With the right formulas and models, digital marketers stand a better chance of connecting with MBAs accustomed to this more systems oriented approach to critical thinking.
Moreover, the more digital marketers consider instructional approaches that follow well-established relationship marketing theories, the more students will retain principles and proven concepts rather than the latest in clever tactics or digital technology techniques. Knowing that the latter changes overnight, an emphasis on theory and concepts will leave a more lasting learning experience while earning the respect of academia. For example, the greater the consistency of digital and social media marketing concepts with relationship marketing theories, the more this maturing field will be embraced by marketing scholars as a discipline and not simply a digital makeover of traditional marketing.
Building and maintaining trust with your audience is a major theme throughout your book. What is one thing marketers can begin doing TODAY to begin building a relationship with their audience?
Create a trail of trustworthy content to invite audiences to consume and search for your content. The more your target audience recognizes your expertise and its relevance to their problems, the more they trust that your advice is worth their attention. Then add credible journalism with full transparency to a voice that sounds like them; and you begin to strike a chord.
Finally, the more you provide the content free of charge while backing off from your brand pitch, the more they see you generally care about their success. This goal of getting audiences to know, like and trust you resonates with relationship marketing theories. And it can be done without intrusive sales calls and advertising messages.
One of your observations is that many companies are using blogs as a cornerstone for conversation. What can companies be doing to spread that conversation across many different platforms in a meaningful way that engages their audience?
Companies should first start with a clear understanding of what it takes for its blog readers to share content. In our courses, we discuss what it takes to create content that is talk-worthy for engagement and share-worthy for cross-platform conversations. Talk-worthiness deals with how your blog posts invite response. For example, the more debatable and even controversial your subject matter, the more readers are invited to contribute.
Share-worthiness, on the other hand, has more to do with allowing audiences to earn their bragging rights often with a “you saw it here first” news piece or compelling visuals that create an emotional connection with audiences. This is often accomplished with content that is humorous, heartfelt, inspiring or told as a personal story.
Once the content itself is amplified with an emotional twist, the task of a social media marketer is to repurpose the content to suit the nuances of several platforms. This takes more than casting widgets for social sharing. It takes an understanding of the visual appeal, content tone and brevity, and the community engagement style of each platform.
Perhaps even more important today is the ability of marketers to scale their content to a new arena of eco-systems. Digital marketers will have their hands full, for example, trying to adapt content to live-streaming, mobile native advertising, chat apps and the social network of things.
What are three short tips you can share with marketers that want to take the first step towards starting conversations with influencers?
- Let them shine
- Support their claims
- Extend their audience reach
By offering empirically backed or even exploratory research, industry influencers can offer proof to their own claims. Few have the time to conduct research to support their editorial claims. This is why so many marketing research companies have links to their sites. In effect, research adds credibility to the podcaster or blogger whose audience reach stems from having a unique perspective.
Now imagine doing this while acknowledging their leadership in the process. Offering top influencer accolades works well in boosting their credibility provided that the acknowledgement is legitimate.
Finally, demonstrate to the influencer that you can grow their audience perhaps with your contributions to a podcast episode or guest blog piece that, a minimum, invites your own followers to visit.
If you’re in the market for an insightful read, I recommend you order your copy of “Social Content Marketing for Entrepreneurs” today on Amazon.
About the Author: Dr. Jim Barry (@JimBarryJr) has served as Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University since August, 2003 where he has instructed MBA classes on social media marketing. He joined NSU after a 25 year career in executive marketing positions with AT&T, BFGoodrich Aerospace, GE Aerospace, Rockwell Collins and two start-up firms.