It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

I’ve gone on record AGAINST content marketing…

At various times, I’ve claimed:

Content Marketing is Stupid, and…

Content Marketing is Bull—!

And yet, for the most perceptive of my readers, you might notice these daily essays themselves are a form of content marketing.

What gives?

Well, for those who read carefully, you’d find that I seldom trash content marketing outright — despite the titles designed explicitly to get the click.

Instead, I provide practical suggestions for how to do content marketing in a way that fits with a greater goal of creating only response-accountable marketing and advertising.

That is, how do you do content marketing in a way that generates measurable response?

Well, for today’s Mailbox Monday, that’s where we’re headed…  It’s a 3-part question on content marketing, with a 3-part answer.

NEW: If you’d like to have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday, I’ve created a quick 2-minute questionnaire.  Click here to submit your Mailbox Monday question.

Here’s today’s question:

Can you use Mailbox Monday to help me out with some questions on getting started in content marketing?

  1. What do I talk about?
  2. How do I create the content — blog posts structures and underlying objectives to achieve persuasion of leads?
  3. How do I know what to talk about from day 1 to day 100 such that it drives traffic, engagement, sales and enthusiasts?

Thank you.

– V

A well-formatted question deserves a well-formatted answer.  So I’ll go ahead and address the questions above, to speak to the question.

What do I talk about?

I forget where I heard about it, but I once got a really good tip.

This assumes that you are doing content marketing for a business with an established prospect flow, sales team, or some other source of regular customer communications.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re working with a company that has a catch-all inbox for the sales team that’s at [email protected].

That email address gets an average of 10 emails per day, from prospective customers.

Most of those emails have one or more questions.  Some are about the product or service.  Some are trying to understand options better.  Some are looking for features.  Some want to know if the product or service will provide a specific result or benefit.  Others want to know about the offer.  Or the guarantee.  Or payment terms.  Or if you help them with their purchasing process.

Dig into those emails.  You can create a mind map.  Create a node or item for every general question.  You can group the questions if it makes it easier, depending on the volume you’re dealing with.  Then as you’re going through those emails, add a tally to each question for every similar question.

So if sells kettlebells, for example, and you get a bunch of questions about shipping kettlebells, every time there’s a question that mentions shipping you add a tally to that.

Go through 100 emails and you’ll have a decently-representative sample.  Go through 1,000 and your data will be much better.  But ultimately, work with what you have.

Once you’ve worked through a bunch of emails, and tallied the questions asked, you sort them by the number of tallies, from highest to lowest.

Now, you have a list of things to write about, sorted roughly in order of what people ask about.

In pure market awareness terms, this list is probably an okay representation of what people are searching for.  (Although it may be skewed toward answers not easily found on your website, as well as questions asked by people who found your site in the first place.)

Alternative approaches to coming up with a list of topics include…

— Doing a Deep Dive Survey following Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method.

— Typing a bunch of offer-related terms into Google and watching its suggested searches.

— Digging into forums related to your topic, and looking at questions asked there.

Really any other method you can use to try to get as unvarnished of a take as possible on what people are looking for and the questions they ask in your market.

How do I create the content — blog posts structures and underlying objectives to achieve persuasion of leads?

You can work from two directions when it comes time to structure your content.

Bottom-up, and top-down.

A bottom-up approach would be to know you want to make an offer at the end of the post, and write the post with that finish line in mind.  So, for example, if you’re neck-deep in a product launch and all content needs to be about that product, you might run your content in a very bottom-up way.

A top-down approach would start with the topic, and then find the most relevant offer to make sure you get to before the end.  So, for example, I didn’t plan the topic of today’s post in order to pitch a specific product.  Because that’s not how Mailbox Monday works.  However, I do know that The Value-First Funnel Strategy is my most relevant training related to response-accountable content marketing.  So I probably want to pitch it at the end, and may even mention it earlier in the post where relevant.  (See what I did there?  Sneaky, huh?)

Either way, the most important structural consideration for content marketing is to base it around an idea people care about, and to have a call-to-action on the end to give the reader a clear next action.

Aside from that, there are a TON of ways to structure content.

Lists are great.  In fact, lists are probably the most reliable format for cranking out a lot of good, interesting, valuable content, fast.

You can also do a simple Q&A format, especially if you followed my advice from above.  It’s remarkably easy to write good content by asking great questions.

Study the content you engage with, especially in your market, or in other markets that your buyers also shop in.  What gets your attention?  What seems to be popular in your market?  What shows up over and over again?  The best content is the content that you create and hit “publish” on.

Here’s a hack to use.  Block off time in your schedule, and make it happen.  This is a Pinnacle Performance Habit.  By simply setting aside the time and giving yourself a deadline by which you MUST hit publish, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.  I started this at 3 PM, and have to publish by 4 PM.  It’s 3:45 as I type this, and I’m on the downhill stretch.

Make it a HABIT and you’ll get really good.

How do I know what to talk about from day 1 to day 100 such that it drives traffic, engagement, sales and enthusiasts?

Remember the market awareness spectrum.  I’ve written about this many times.

In order for someone to make a buying decision, they have to move from unaware, to problem aware, to solution aware, to you aware, to ready for a deal.

There are some people in your market who are close to the fully-aware end of that.  Maybe they heard about you from a friend or other trusted source, are interested, and just need a deal to buy.  These are warm-to-hot leads, and creating some content very early for these people is typically high payoff.

Then, work through the spectrum, spending time making sure you answer those questions you did in your earlier research.

So, there are some people in your market comparing solutions that are out there.  You can create content comparing the solutions, and helping them establish buying criteria.  And ultimately, make sure you point the right buyers toward your solution, which, based on a certain subset of buying criteria should answer the USP question:

“Why should I, your perfect prospect, choose to do business with you over every other option available to me, including buying from a competitor, doing it myself, or doing nothing at all?”

Others are really just becoming problem aware, and need to know that there are solutions out there.  The first thing you need to do in this case is to help them understand the problem clearly, and how generically to solve it.  Only then would you point them toward your specific solution.

And then you can also go after the more unaware buyers, who may need a little nudge to understand the problem.  This is the realm of really top marketers and far deeper in scope than I can cover here, but a really good content marketing program will include pieces of content to capture people at this level, and help them define the problem so they become ready to look into solutions, you, and the deals you offer.

Depending on how or where you’re publishing this content, how you structure it may change.  For example, if you’re just doing blog posts to answer questions, you may jump around.  But if you’re creating an email welcome sequence, you may want to have very early emails give an easy way for hot leads to buy right away, but then quickly transition to the other end of the awareness spectrum.  You could also use more sophisticated segmenting and behavior-based triggers to deliver content based on market awareness.

But when it all comes down to it…  Take action.

Create the content.

Hit publish.

It’s far too easy to get all caught up in doing it right, when really you just need to do it.

Want to go deeper?

Insert obligatory tongue-in-cheek call-to-action, to demonstrate my commitment to the principles laid out above:

The Value-First Funnel Strategy is my best recommendation for how to integrate value-driven content into a direct response, results-accountable marketing system.

It’s got a ton of additional ideas around how to use it for both lead generation for sales team support and making sales directly through your marketing.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr