Using Content to Sell Yourself (and your brand!)

March 30, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

No matter what your business, your background, your goals, or how big or small your tax return will be this year, there’s one thing that holds true for nearly every business on the entire planet – you’d rather remove your own kidney than have to write content. Even if you had to do it blindfolded, without anesthesia, and with one hand behind, the kidney would still be your first choice.

Seriously. Look how far you’ll go:

  • You’ll take time out of your day by forcing customers to call you with questions.
  • You’ll miss out on new customers by not conveying a point of difference for your brand.
  • You’ll sacrifice rankings by using the manufacturer’s description for your products.
  • You fly 3,000 miles to go speak at a conference instead of engaging with people in your virtual
  • backyard.

I mean, I haven’t taken an official poll, but I’m pretty sure if presented with two options: Be killed or write an obituary for the person killed, 99.8 percent of people would tie their noose themselves.

Unless you’re part of that .2 percent (holla!), you’re missing one very important point: Content doesn’t have to be scary.

The content opportunities for your brand are everywhere and they’re your best sales tool in a sea full of noise and clutter. In today’s economy, people have reached information overload. The in-your-face marketing messages of yesteryear don’t work today because people have been trained to ignore them. If you want to get sell yourself, it has to be done through content. It’s through those simple points of contact that you’ll reap the biggest brand and conversion rewards. While I was liveblogging last week, Duct Tape Marketing had a fantastic article on how Content is the Most Trusted Form of Advertising. And if I could, I would hand deliver a copy of that post to each and every one of you. Because by being afraid of content, you’re hurting your brand.

The simple truth is this: The value of content and its ability to sell your company your audience is huge*. So why aren’t you using it?

Content builds trust. The more reliable information out there about your brand, the more people are going to trust that you’ll still be there in the morning. And the more they trust you, they more they’re going to want to do business with you. Content leads to conversions.

So where should you be using content to build awareness (and to eventually sell yourself)? I’ll use the Outspoken Web site as an example.

Your home page

This is a no-brainer. Of course your home page needs content. You know this. But are you giving it the right kind of content? Are you using your home page to establish a point of difference or are you using it to see how many buzzwords you can fit into 400 words of text? If you’re doing the latter, knock it off. The content on your home page should immediately show your unique value. It should illustrate why you’re better than your top five competitors. I want to know not only what you do, but how and why you do it. That’s something we really tried to portray on the Outspoken Media home page. We’re not just another SEO company. We do things differently and our home page is your first introduction to that. It’s your first introduction to us. And we hope our personality and values run through.

Your product/services pages

These are typically some of the most overlooked and least respected pages on a company’s Web site. Which is said, since like, they also have the potential to be the most powerful. Yet for some reason, businesses barely put any time in explaining their services and the product pages are nothing more than rip off of the manufacturer’s descriptions. Fail. These pages present some of your biggest opportunities for rankings. Start loading them with content. On the Outspoken Media site, our individual Internet marketing services pages are jam packed with information. They may not be perfect (yet. We’re new.), but they help break down what we offer. Besides explaining the individual services, there’s also video there to help you learn more about us. There’s a value-added testimonial to help further sell us and show you that we’re not here to rip you off. The page is filled with subtle cues that (a) we mean business, (b) you can trust us, and (c) Outspoken Media kicks some serious ass.

On Twitter

All those tweets OutspokenMedia, Rae, Rhea and myself throw out a day? Yeah, that’s content. It’s building awareness. Its being where your audience is, where your competitor’s audience is, and building mind share. You know that we’re around. You know how to reach us. We’re out there providing value and interacting and being helpful whenever we can. You saw this in full force during SES New York. We weren’t just blogging the sessions, we were tweeting from the floor, talking about all the other coverage, passing on links and stories, etc. It makes sure that you know that we’re there at the event, covering everything and working our butts off. We’re a new SEO company. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle, but we made it hard to miss us last week. You were reading our coverage, as well as coverage from the other liveblogging big dogs like Bruce Clay, Inc and AimClear. You knew we were there because we kept throwing out more and more content telling you that we were. In a world where businesses are building content to gain awareness and mindshare, Twitter is King.

On YouTube

Content is more than just text. Its images, it’s sound and it’s definitely video. YouTube is one of those places that is really horribly used by most businesses from a content standpoint. You don’t have to use the site to upload embarrassing videos. It can be used as a sales tool. Use YouTube to answer customer service questions and put a human face on things. Use it to demo expensive electronics. Use it for How To’s. Use it touch on the story of the day and then link back to your blog from YouTube and take advantage of the site’s crazy traffic. We’re still experimenting with video on our site, but even in its current form we hope that the videos located on each of our Services pages help people to get a feel for the people behind Outspoken Media and to help learn about us. If anything else, we hope you’ll walk away remembering how awesome Rhea’s bookshelf is. ;)

Where else should you be leaving content:

  • Flickr
  • Delicious
  • In blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • Friendfeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Social media sites
  • Review sites
  • Absolutely everywhere on the Web that your audience or potential audience is lurking.

If content is the key to building awareness and driving sales, where are you leaving it? What other sites am I missing? What techniques work best for you? Sound off.

[I apologize for linking to that horrible commercial. If you live in the Albany area, you’re more than familiar with the “huge” Billy Fuccillo. He’s melted my brain.]

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