A couple of years ago, we got a consultant in to help us win new business. It was the depths of the recession and it was tough. There was no magic wand but one thing really stuck: he said ‘you should be earning passive income’.
This was a completely new phrase to me. He defined it as ‘income while you sleep’.
In essence this is content marketing or information marketing – the buzzwords of 2013 which will only continue in importance for 2014 and beyond. Here we look at what content marketing is, where you find ‘content’ and how you make money from it.
What is content marketing?
‘Content’ is useful information and knowledge from your business that you package in different ways to build relationships with customers and potential clients.
Content can be information that you put on the internet, either free or selling it. People find it by doing by doing a Google search. Google loves websites which have ‘rich content’. This can be tips, video demonstrations, curated guides – pulling together information from the internet and putting it together in an easily digested format.
Where do you find ‘content’ in your business?
Your customers and clients come to you because of your expertise in a particular field. You have insider knowledge and content everywhere in your business.
The best way to capture this is to jot down all the questions that your clients ask you. Let’s look at some examples
Lawyers – what are the different ways that lawyers charge for their services?
Banks – when does interest get added to a savings account and how is it calculated?
Teashop – where doesAssam tea come from? How is it different fromChina tea?
Leadership training – what tends to hold managers back from reaching the top?
Printer – why is intaglio printing more expensive than litho?
Video production company – what are the best clothes to wear in front of the camera?
I just imagined possible questions for each of these businesses. But then I’ve done a Google search on the first one – and hey presto, the lawyers’ question is certainly a phrase that people are searching for on Google. There are 186m results for the search, see below.
If you get the questions right, you can then write content to help your clients and potential customers – and this will help you to be found on Google. It should be part of your strategy if you want to come top of Google searches, known as search engine optimisation.
I listed some of the ways that Nigel Botterill does content marketing, in this blog – I have learnt a lot from Nigel. He does
- Books and ebooks
- Conference speaking
- Emarketing campaigns – sending out emails with snippets of information and offers
- Printed newsletters
And of course, the thing that I rate for B2B businesses above all else, is a really good blog. Earlier this year, a client emailed and asked for my view on where internal comms should sit – with marketing or HR? I wrote a blog on this – and if you type that phrase into Google, we come up top globally, as you can see in this screengrab. This blog has helped us to win business from completely new clients, who searched on Google for ‘internal communications’.
If you want to find out more about how blogs work, our ebook, ‘How to Write a Top-ranked Business Blog’ will show you how to find good topics and then how to write a blog. All of this will help you to think of ideas for your enewsletters and other content marketing as well.
How do businesses make money from information marketing?
Nicholas Lovell wrote a really excellent article in the Guardian which explains how you make money from content.
The key is not to think ‘I’ll sell a guide on the internet for £5 and make £10k’. Our first attempt at earning passive income was our ebook for students on how to get a job with social media. We sold it for just £1 and I did think, students will love this, thousands will buy it! Yes, we’ve sold quite a few but honestly it’s never going to make us rich.
You may get lucky – and we’d love to know if you do! – but very few people make much money from the guide itself. What you have to do is use the guide to capture email addresses and start building relationships with those people. We have won thousands of pounds of business from our student ebook – not from sales but from consultancy on social media for universities. And the ebook helped us find new contacts and demonstrated our skills and credibility to those universities.
Michael Ellsberg writes about the dangers of ‘passive income’ fantasies on the Forbes website and confirms that few will get rich on the content alone, you must make it part of a bigger marketing strategy.
In the B2B market, I’ve not yet come across anyone who is making a fortune from ‘selling information’ – but there are a lot in consumer markets. We are still learning and refining all of this for ourselves, but it is absolutely certain that really good information marketing will create new relationships, strengthen existing relationships and give you credibility to win new business.
We’d love to hear what you are doing in the way of content marketing – and how successful you’ve found it. Do you recommend it? What tips do you have?
Victoria TomlinsonChief executive, Northern Lights PR
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Ben PindarCommunications director, Northern Lights PR
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Helen RobinsonAssociate, Northern Lights PR
Jonny RossAssociate, Northern Lights PR
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