An Intro To Content Marketing

By Mark Kakkuri

If you’ve ever entered your email address on a website to gain access to a useful piece of information such as a white paper or case study, you’ve been on the receiving end of a content marketing campaign. More than likely, an email was sent immediately thanking you for the download and for providing additional info about the website or resource. It’s also likely you received several follow-up emails — that is, until you unsubscribed. This is the basic formula for a content marketing campaign and it’s something you should consider for your marketing mix.

The Basics

A content marketing campaign has a few basic components: a website housing the opportunity for a reader to gain access to a piece of content in exchange for his or her contact info — usually an email address and permission to receive additional communications from the website. There’s nothing too earth shattering about the marketing concepts contained here. Simply: Give people what they want. However, in today’s day and age marketers can’t just spam potential customers and, perhaps more importantly, they want potential customers to take a legitimate interest in what they have to offer. Again, content marketing creates the opportunity for an exchange: a piece of content for some contact info.

The piece of content offered is the most important part of the campaign. You have to offer something of value to the potential customer — which they may not be able to get anywhere else — and something that’s not an overt piece of marketing collateral (most of this would already be offered on your website, anyway). No, what you want to offer are practical resources for gun owners. A one-pager on a basic shooting activity, like best cleaning practices for shotguns or a tip sheet on how to maintain an AR-15, or insights on how to address the challenges that may come with storing firearms in safes are three useful examples. When developing content, any entry-level but necessary info all shooters need to know at some point in order to better enjoy this sport are excellent places to start.

A Starting Point

As a dealer, you probably won’t attract a lot of potential customers or get their contact info by posting a flyer about a particular gun. Offering a coupon code might generate some interest but the better offer would be a simple PDF on, say, the top five tips on how to purchase a used handgun, rifle or shotgun. A gun-store manager can probably come up with the content right off the top of his or her head, without too much effort. And this kind of info is gold to a customer. So put those tips in document form and offer it to your website readers in exchange for their contact info.

Content marketing creates the opportunity for an
exchange: a piece of content for some contact info.

If your store offers training, you may be enjoying quite a bit of customer interest already. But if the interest slows, you could offer a document on something like how to practice self-defense tactics at home — perhaps prior to or after a training event. Similar to the gun-store manager offering tips on buying used guns, a trainer can probably come up with some what-to-do-at-home content right off the top of his or her head. Again, offer this to your potential customers in a document in exchange for their contact info.

Guidelines To Consider

Here’s the tough part: not being overtly “salesy” in marketing content. To avoid this, provide pertinent information for the customer and avoid the part about how you and your business are the best whatever around. Just give the customer relevant information and provide contact details in case they have any questions. Then, minding a persistent (but not obnoxious) schedule, follow up with the customer via email to see if they have any questions.

Get Customers To The Content … Which Gets Them To You

The way to get potential customers to even know your content exists is to put links to it on your website and to promote it online. The promotion can take a number of paths: pay-per-click campaigns, social media and so on. Some of it can be by referral. But you’ll need to do some research into search engine optimization (SEO) and think through what kind of content potential customers want. Some of this will be research based; some of it will be your own insight. Whatever you do, try it out for a decent amount of time — several months — and watch the data for trends.

Additional Content Ideas

Still not sure what to offer in terms of content? Consider those times when you’re interacting with a customer and you’re being asked for advice … or you’re just shooting the breeze with friends, but talking business. What are the topics of those conversations? Likely, they fall along these lines: why you chose a particular product or service (and thus, how it was researched); the top three things you’d never do in a particular situation; the first things you do when you arrive home with a new product or service; changes in particular products or services over the years; the pros and cons of buying from a local store; the pros and cons of buying online; what you wish every customer knew about [whatever topic]. Each of these could be developed into a piece of content customized to the shooting industry in order to benefit a potential customer.

Remember The Follow Up

It’ll be gratifying when you receive a notification the customer has downloaded available content. You might wonder if it’s being read right away and may be tempted to call them two hours later to see if they have any questions and if they’re ready to buy. Don’t act on those impulses; give the person time to enjoy and benefit from the content and let them reach out when they’re ready. After a week or so, send a follow-up email (if it’s the contact info provided) simply asking what they thought of the content and if they need further info. If there’s no response, follow up with an email maybe another week later to check in. After that, reach out to them only about once a month. Let the campaign do its thing. You now have an excuse and permission to email a potential customer regularly (but not obnoxiously) to see how they’re doing. Remember, prior to them downloading content, you didn’t have this “follow-up privilege.” Use it wisely.

Learn From Other Content Marketers

Your inbox probably has its share of emails from websites where you signed up for something in exchange for your email address. Think through the communications you receive. Which ones are the best and why? When do email follow ups get annoying? What keeps you reading those emails versus clicking the “Unsubscribe” link? What are some of the content ideas you see offered? If the techniques worked on you, they may work on your potential customers, as well.

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