49 Creative Ways You Can Profit From Content Marketing

Content Marketing 101

This is an installment in the Content Marketing 101 series.

Maybe you think “content marketing” means having a blog that makes money. Or that it’s about producing content for sites like ezinearticles and Squidoo. Or having an email autoresponder.

Content marketing is bigger than that.

The whole idea behind content marketing is that you can use your creativity and know-how to make something cool, then take that cool thing and use it to market a product. It’s often associated with Seth Godin’s notion of permission marketing, but content marketing can be a part of any promotion or selling you might do.

To jog your creativity, I’ve come up with 49 content marketing tactics you can start using right away. Some of these are ideas about making any form of content more interesting, some are attention-getting strategies, some will be useful for lead generation, some for prospect conversion.

1. “Content” isn’t just about being online. I had a conversation with Bill Glazer recently (he’s Dan Kennedy’s business partner), and he believes passionately that every business needs to send a paper newsletter to existing customers, to build loyalty and better repeat business.

I don’t know about “every,” but I think he’s on to something for many businesses. Incidentally, businesses usually find that customer newsletters work better when they don’t get too fancy in their format or printing. Four-color printing on glossy paper looks like an ad. A simple photocopy on plain paper looks like valuable inside information.

2. You’d be surprised at some of the well-known internet marketing gurus who are experimenting with direct mail, especially as pay-per-click gets more and more expensive. The same techniques that make your online content marketing work will do beautifully offline.

3. Write a special report or white paper that addresses a thorny problem in an interesting way.

4. Create a free course delivered by email autoresponder. I’ve used this quite a bit in my own business and for clients, and it’s a great way to build trust and rapport. (In fact, here’s a free e-course on how to do it.)

5. Write an educational series of blog posts designed to attract traffic for a competitive keyword phrase. (Like this one on the fundamentals of copywriting, for example.)

6. Offer a free teleclass to build interest in your business. You can do all the talking yourself, or work with a partner in an interview format. Remember to record the class—the recording will also be valuable content that you can use in future marketing.

7. Offer a paid teleclass that takes your content further and provides additional value. Again, the call can be recorded and sold as a product for as long as the content remains relevant.

8. Build a membership web site that is a profitable business in and of itself.

9. Put together one or more Squidoo lenses to attract and focus Google traffic.

10. Create a wiki on a free site like WetPaint to allow your audience to collaborate and contribute to your vision.

11. Build a Facebook page (separate from your personal profile) that gives you another platform for interaction with your customers.

12. Compile your best 100 blog posts into a physical book. It worked for Godin, and it can work for you.

13. When you contribute to an online forum in your topic, remember that your answers are content. Make sure this content reflects well on you.

14. Take your most popular blog post, add some really good images and translate it into PowerPoint, then record it with Camtasia for a YouTube video.

15. Use WordPress to efficiently create mini niche sites. Since you’re a student of quality content, your sites will tower above the usual fare. Use these niche sites to sell products from affiliate marketplaces like Commission Junction.

(Commission Junction offers “real world” products as well as digital ones. So if you want to sell coffee, movie posters or collectible figurines on your niche site, you can.)

16. Most of us know that Twitter is an exceptional tool for building relationships with prospects and customers. To use Twitter most effectively, make your tweets entertaining, funny, and/or personal. The right balance on Twitter is generally 95% relationship-building, 5% selling.

17. Use any content vehicle to talk about how you’ve overcome a difficult problem related to your topic. Don’t try to be an infallible guru. Instead, be a smart, real person who has solved problems that your readers will find relevant.

18. Write a yellow pages ad that looks like a blog post. Make it interesting, informative, funny, and compelling.

For bonus points, in addition to the usual contact information, provide information in your yellow pages ad about how to sign up for your email autoresponder or get your free white paper.

19. Take your 10-15 best podcasts, get them transcribed and edited, and sell them as an ebook.

20. Bring 5 or 6 of the strongest people in your topic together and create a virtual conference, with each presenter giving an audio or video workshop. This is a relatively simple way to create a very marketable product. Again, the recordings can be sold as long as the content remains relevant.

21. Hold a Tweetathon for your favorite charity. Consider creating a piece of valuable content (a special report, etc.) as a reward for donations over some specified amount.

22. Create a treasure hunt with some blogging friends. Each person hides a clue somewhere in the content on their blog, and readers are invited to find all the clues and put them together for a prize. (The prize, of course, is another piece of valuable content.)

23. Your comments on other people’s blogs are content. Treat them that way. Be original, relevant and interesting.

24. Use your own content to sing the praises of others in your topic. Partnerships, both formal and informal, can exponentially multiply your success in the content world.

25. Create a buyer’s guide. Use it to frame purchasing questions on your terms. Let buyers know what to look for and what to watch out for. Tell them what questions they should be asking.

Don’t make this too self-serving. If you make it real (and let other vendors win some of the business, especially for customers who aren’t truly suited to you), it will get used.

26. Write an editorial for a dead-tree newspaper or magazine. Yes, lots and lots of people still read these.

27. If the newspaper/magazine doesn’t print your editorial, buy ad space and run it as an advertorial instead.

28. Collect weird stories from sources your readers don’t usually see. If your audience is made of particle physicists, gets stories from The Enquirer. Sift through and find the metaphors and analogies in these stories that will relate back to your topic.

Quirky, oddball stories make any content more compelling. And you can’t get results from content that doesn’t get read.

29. Write an industry report on a hot topic. You’ll be surprised at how many high-profile folks will agree to a recorded Skype/phone interview for an industry report.

30. If you’ve got a piece of content that is too weird, rude, vanilla, sentimental. rated-R, rated-G, etc. for your own site, run it as a guest post on someone else’s. Be true to yourself, but show your different facets too.

31. You don’t have to call it a blog just because you created it in WordPress. Maybe it’s an Online Coffee Shop, a Web-Based Self-Coaching Site, a Virtual Concierge, a Tutorial, an E-School, a Directory or a Dictionary. Use a label that resonates with your readers.

32. Build a collection of Squidoo lenses that are optimized to sell goods around a particular holiday, like Halloween costumes or Christmas lights. There are a good number of these now, so find an underserved niche within those broader subjects.

33. Have a good ranting voice and something interesting to say? Write a manifesto! Send readers to your blog or email list if they want to know more. These tend to work better if you don’t require an email opt-in to receive them—the idea is to spread your ideas (and name) far and wide.

34. Review everything. Books, blogs, newsletters, tools, physical products, information products.

35. Take a topic that’s subject to information overload (maybe it’s “the coolest apps for your iPhone”) and make it manageable. Create a “10 Best” post that’s simple, user-friendly and gets the reader out of information fog.

36. Compare your product or service to the weirdest celebrity story that people are currently talking about. Look hard enough and you’ll find 7 things your business has in common with Paris Hilton’s addiction to World of Warcraft.

37. If you’re stuck for content ideas, find a story on the Digg front page that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Then rewrite the story so it does. (You might keep nothing other than the headline. That’s fine. In fact, it’s probably ideal.)

38. Use headlines swiped from popular magazines. I’ve found Cosmo to be the most effective, but anything will work if it’s designed to jump off the newsstands. Like the previous tip, this works best when the magazine has nothing to do with your topic. I wrote one of my most enduringly popular posts using this technique.

39. Use your content to address every objection you’ve ever faced when trying to sell your product. Write interesting articles that show your product or service getting around these objections.

40. Record a session with a client (with their permission, of course) and offer it as a “test drive” to people who are thinking about working with you.

41. Create a useful tool (a checklist, spreadsheet-based calculator, cheat sheet, planning worksheet, etc.) that can be distributed to your blog subscribers or email list. These make great “thank yous” for subscribing to your site or autoresponder.

42. Create special “gratitude content” for subscribers. For example, I send special subscriber-only content on both Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving, to thank my readers for their attention and business. I try to take it beyond a simple message of thanks, and make the content itself a small gift for my readers.

43. Use a blog post series or an email autoresponder to create a sideways sales letter.

44. Write a series or a regular column “authored” by your two-year-old, your dog, your cat, your parrot, or your guinea pig. Think it’s too cutesy to work with your audience? Try it and see.

45. Make an absurd comparison. The farther you have to reach, the better it will work. “101 Ways LOLCats Can Improve Your Arc Welding” is just about guaranteed to capture some attention. Among arc welders, anyway.

46. Create a monthly paid newsletter, delivered electronically or by physical mail, in addition to your free content. Include more detailed how-to and reference information than you would on your free site.

You don’t have to sell all that many subscriptions, and they don’t have to be very pricy, to add up to significant income.

47. Make a monthly recording, either audio or using a Flip camera for video. Keep it casual, like a standing date with a friend to grab coffee together. Each month, discuss a single pressing issue facing your audience, and give three or four techniques that will let your audience thrive in whatever the current environment might be.

This makes a nice add-on to a paid newsletter.

48. If your customers aren’t particular web savvy (or sometimes even if they are), think about producing your content on CDs and DVDs. There are many businesses that can handle this for you inexpensively, and the perceived value is much higher than purely online content.

49. To come up with your own ideas, combine your most generous self with your most creative self. Think about how to create content that makes your customers’ lives better, and dream up exciting new ways to get that content in front of them.

This isn’t meant to be the last word on the subject—it’s really just the beginning. If you don’t see your favorite technique on this list, let us know about it in the comments!

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Reader Comments (132)

  1. says

    Solid ideas for sure, however…

    Marketing often seems to concentrate on many things rather than a few. Actionable (is that really a word?) items are the most valuable things, but still people (including me) are attracted to many things, rather than fewer (perhaps more powerful) things.

    I’m an info junkie though so I’m always looking for a fix.

    • says

      Solid ideas indeed.

      About the paper newsletter, I remember getting one from aweber. I dont get their nwsletter, however I got one personal mail even though I was from India. That makes me feel great. As a customer, you need to be pampered. Well, that’s what most people want to feel. They need to be treated specially. they need to be given importance. They need to be given priority.

      Direct mail is very effective. I think it might be most effective while recruiting JV partners or to get A listers to notice you. I remmeber reading somewhere that sending a personal handwritten mail along with an invitation for JV did wonders for the person after trying to contact the a listers through the electronic media (mail, twitter, facebook, etc etc).

      Membership websites are great. Even better is the micro membership sites where you charge 5$ or less per month. You get access to a large number of users who are ready to buy. You can later sell them some expensive course, if you need more profits. But from what I have heard, micro memberships are hot.

      I wouldnt bother too much with squidoo lenses. Not at least with the Google panda update. I used to spend a lot of time on ezinearticles and they were hit bad. Squidoo doesnt drive the kind of traffic it used to. So I dont focus on building a lot of squidoo lenses. One or two might be good.

      Wetpaint and other web 2.0 sites may fade away quickly. You never know what can happen. Ning went paid only. So you lose what you built up tp that point. Using it is good. But never let it use you.

      My point is that, focus on what works for others in your niche. Then duplicate that. Worked? Great, repeat. Didnt work? Try something else!!!

  2. says

    Bill Glazer is, of course, 100% right about the paper newsletters thing. I have clients who have built strong relationships with customers and with people in their community through paper newsletters. Nothing beats that physical touch.

    And yes, *every* business should have a newsletter. Even undertakers! (If I were an undertaker I would produce one for my community, with lots of news of community events, people who are doing interesting things in the community, ways to succeed and live life better. Yes, he’s a guy who works in the death business – but his newsletter will be about life! He’ll make himself the hub of the community – and the natural choice when his services are – sadly – required.)

  3. says

    Excellent article and list, Sonia! You gave me lots of great ideas. (My LOLCat especially likes #45. :-)

    Re: #1, I’m surprised, with everyone (not just certain audiences) so “green” these days, that Glazer is still suggesting paper newsletters.

    Anyway, thanks for the awesome content!

  4. says

    @Bonnie A lot of people don’t want to do a paper newsletter, for green or other reasons, but they do increase engagement. Digital always beats physical for environmental correctness, but just like sometimes we’d rather have a real book than a file for the Kindle, there’s something special about a paper newsletter.

    @Tom, I’m guessing there might be one or two you could act on!

  5. says

    Amazing list!

    My personal favorite is #38 – Simple idea, yet extremely creative and useful. Wonder what the original title was 😉

  6. says

    Re #1: At a former job, I wrote a quarterly loyalty newsletter for Lowe’s Home Improvement premium credit card holders. It was so much fun! I got to research (via the then-fairly new Web) all kinds of fascinating stuff, from how to install outdoor lighting to how to build your own koi pond, from the latest trends in house paint colors to everything you ever wanted to know about retaining walls. LOL, it was a hoot! Wish I could still do stuff like that. I love writing for the Web, but there’s something special about print, especially print projects that require fun research.

  7. says

    @Kate, the original title was “50 Things Guys Wish You Knew.” I like my version better. :)

    @Diane, I know what you mean, a lot of my favorite stuff has been the print work. Paper is just special. (Esp. when we put the work in to make it special.) That sounds like a great resource! I bet people saved those and referred back to them often.

  8. says

    Oh, MY. If I look in Webster to find “Overdeliver” I would find your photo!

    I eagerly await your messages each day, for they all contain such wisdom and your ideas are so pragmatic.

    Thank you SO MUCH for all your ideas and instruction.

    Wishing You Well,
    Connie Baum

  9. says

    Great post … thanks for sharing.

    I strongly agree with the concept of more simplistic newsletters. Flashy newsletters with colorful designs, etc. are often confusing, misleading and can discourage the reader.

    At a previous internship position, I encouraged the organization to keep its simple newsletter design. The copy was in black & white with some purple accents (the organizations logo color). The layout resembled that of a newspaper, which made the color scheme and design appropriate. They were contemplating switching to a more colorful magazine layout, which would have been more expensive.

    When I see flashy newsletters I wonder how effectively that organization is balancing its budget – especially non-profits. I believe the same priciples should apply for annual reports. If your company lost money, your annual report better not appear to be wasteful spending.

    Just some thoughts. Oh, and I like the blog treasure hunt idea – very creative.


  10. says

    Hi Sonia, I liked #39, the list of objections and overcoming them, so far the biggest resistance for some of my customers is shopping online in general, the biggest fear being identity theft. Right now I am trying to market offline so that I can have a chance to address these objections in person and hopefully win a sale at the same time. I am working on getting referrals as well.

  11. says

    WOW, Sonia. 49?!? I’d say I’m super impressed and that’s really amazing, but you were so closed to 50 you probably should’ve just kept on going. I mean, 50 is ten times 5 and 5 times 10, plus it’s half way to a hundred. : > )

    Seriously, Sonia that’s a cool list perfect to bookmark. Thanks.

  12. says

    You’ve been both generous and creative here — thanks!

    What I like best about this post is not necessarily the great ideas but the way you’re showing (not telling) us to act like editor-marketers.

    It’s not enough to be just a writer or just a marketer — we need to more innovative with the way we find and channel content. Editors rule!

  13. says

    I work for a tech company that sends out a monthly direct mail newsletter that is very well received. In our last issue we advertised that we now have a green option to the newsletter if anyone would prefer. Not a single taker. There is just something about having the paper in your hands that people love and you should cater to that. Thanks for the list, lots of great ideas.

  14. says

    I am a new follower of your blog and I must say I am a huge fan. Every post I have read has been applicable to my work and has offered points of value that I can incorporate into my marketing. Thanks for the 49 new tips! I’m not sure how I’m going to narrow it down to select the ones that I need to implement now there are just so many good ones.

  15. says

    Wonder why the notion of paper in hand and books doesn’t go away? Is it familiarity, ease of handling, or just love of certain artifacts.

    FYI: the old research suggests that some kind of newsletter (in print) was highly important, but that color, design, etc., were irrelevant. If that research hasn’t been completely outmoded, it does suggest that content remains king.

    Thanks for your list (how long have you been adding to it?)


  16. says

    You are right on the mark with this post as it is both practical and creative, plus there are many ideas which can be implemented without much trouble.

  17. says

    That is a huge list out there. But an easy one. Guys don’t jump into doing all the 49 today. Do one well and they go ahead.

  18. says

    Interesting that of all 49 recommendations, the idea of returning to paper generated so much discussion. One of my clients is a classical music ensemble, and we send a gorgeous postcard for every concert. It’s like a visual preview of the music to come. I’m torn because I’m truly committed to green marketing and try to do my part for the environment, but there are times, as others have said above, when paper has no equal.

  19. says

    Sonia, each point is worth to generate remarkable amount of revenue. Some of them I have already used just with a couple of my clients and the result was wonderful.

    Thank You SOOOO much for this WORTHY CONTENTS.

    Bless You,

  20. says

    Excellent piece Sonia.
    Thank you and keep up the great work!
    All I need is a twit this or extended share this button on copyblogger and I can share it with more friends.

  21. says

    @Writer Dad, ha, Brian told me someone would tweak me about that. I just told him that I didn’t want to pad it with fluff to get to the even number. :)

    Thanks, everyone, for such kind responses. Now go out and try some of this stuff!

    Sneaky bonus for those who read comments: #25 is a ruthlessly powerful secret weapon when it’s done well. Don’t use it for evil!

  22. says

    great advice! content is king and now more than ever the best approach is on-line and off-line (of course on-line is the current growing trend) especially now as businesses try to get into social media and social networking. Good insight-
    justinrfrench on twitter

  23. says

    Last time i heard about continuity membership program that content was delivered by email autoresponder, but the subscriber pay for the membership payment.

  24. says

    I love blogs like this because they are short concise and every point is relevant. It is also relevant to write blogs such as these in numbered points because it easier to share ideas without being boring.

    Excellent post. I look forward to the next :)

  25. says

    Sonia, I loved the list! Got me kick-started in a few different directions. (I use The Star and National Enquirer as headline starters along with Cosmo and Men’s Health.)

  26. says

    Thanks a lot for sharing these very useful tips!
    I will test some of those ideas. Apart from that, i’m happy to have discovered this blog!


  27. says

    Great post. A lot of “content marketing” is really just good old-fashioned PR that has worked to build audiences and conversions for years (decades actually). It’s amazing what simple educational information can do in building authority, trust, readerships, subscriptions, and even ultimately sales.

  28. says

    @Roberta, cool stuff! I must add Men’s Health to my roster.

    @Jenn, it does have a lot in common with PR in that it’s really about value and relationships.

  29. Nicole Hicks says

    I found this to be quite interesting. I have always felt that there should be a good mix of marketing tactics and often advise my clients to continue with the direct mail and/or use it as a follow-up to an email campaign. This list gives some great ideas and is very useful. We all too often get caught up in doldrums. This reminds me that creativity is the essence that breathes life into the world.

  30. says

    Simone, this is full of great ideas.

    14. is really true.

    I created a voiceover for a presentation I had given in Keynote and exported it to Quicktime and then uploaded it to YouTube. It was one of the best calls-to-action I didn’t know I’d written!

  31. says

    I enjoyed this post! I particularly liked your first remark about the simplicity of a newsletter. When I tried to get fancy I really had less response to my weekly special offers. Now that I write a simple paragraph, which saves more time in the first place, I make more money.

  32. says

    Outstanding e-marketing tips! I really like most of your 49 points, In fact I am starting to test some of them, I’ll get back to you to tell you how much I sucked at it, and then How good I did when I finally got right! xD

  33. says

    I absolutely love this post–makes you think, “wow. There’s so much out there I haven’t even thought of yet–how will i get to it all.”

    I’m making this article one of my favorites in my reader.


  34. says

    Posts like this are why I keep coming back. Bookmarked on Delicious. Great tips -now if only someone could force me to do half of them I’d be golden.

  35. says

    So many good tips here I’m going to have to read this many times just to digest and learn to apply them.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  36. says

    Excellent tips, Sonia. I just finished writing an article for a trade magazine on a similar topic and then found a link to this article in my Inbox. I tweaked my article slightly & adapted a couple of your tips.

  37. says

    Best solution tips, for my grow business internet although with started zero percent or no invest (free). I copywritter some free articles and I did know to respect author then I wrote source by the name. Thanks for you tips.

  38. says

    Wonderful, and useful advice for a marketing professional. I created a wetpaint website that has given my company more visibilty and it supports my philosophy which relies on community and relationships to build business and provide services . BRAVO!

  39. says

    Wow this is a huge list of ides. I thought your idea on taking someones content and rewriting it was interesting…is it unethical or just creative? I suppose it depends on how far you distance yourself with the rewriting. Overall a nice list, I learned something but I wont say what my GEM was…Thanks!

  40. says

    People pay big money to read a list like this. My deepest thanks to you Sonia for sharing this information with us =) Great job!

  41. says

    This is a really great article I actually found myself jotting down little notes… then I remembered I should just bookmark it haha. I’ve been thinking about expanding my sites content a little more with a podcast, but as my site is in the musical niche I’m busy researching whether or not the industry could come at me for releasing a free podcast to people.

  42. says

    This is a really great article I actually found myself jotting down little notes… then I remembered I should just bookmark it haha. I’ve been thinking about expanding my sites content a little more with a podcast, but as my site is in the musical niche I’m busy researching whether or not the industry could come at me for releasing a free podcast to people.

  43. says

    This is an outstanding list, Sonia, thank you! There’s so much in it that I’m going to have to read it 48 times. And I’m sharing it with a bunch of people.

  44. says

    This is a fantastic article. I didn’t know of a lot of these ideas. As for a newsletter, I can’t actually remember the last time I received one and it’s something that I would read while waiting for the kettle to boil. It’s definitely an idea for me to consider as well as a few others you have mentioned. Thanks for the inspiration.

  45. says

    Really great post. I’m just finding it from a link on a post today. Copyblogger is one of the four blogs I read every day. Thank you for your knowledge. I’m taking away at least 7 more things to go do…

  46. says

    Fantastic post. But I have a complaint. There’s so many incredibly useful ideas on Copyblogger that I’m suffering from “idea overwhelm”. :)
    Yesterday I took your advice from your headline writing series and instantly got 4 times more traffic than I have with any other post. Thank you!

  47. says

    Wow, excellent article and still getting comments almost two years later!
    BTW is Squidoo still considered relevant in the world of social media? I understand it’s great for SEO and backlinks for your own site, but how does it rank for popularity, traffic, usefulness compared to FB and T
    witter (realizing they are all unique with their own set of advantages). Basically, should Squidoo still be in the bloggers/emarketers arsenal?
    Thanks for the post, I shall be creating a series written by my wireless laser mouse…

  48. says

    I think you missed the RSS to email campaign – yours pulled me in and I am doing the same with my subscriber list. I am hoping my attempts hook them in just as yours have me.

  49. says

    This is the best content marketing guide I have ever read in a long time. I agree that content marketing is not just about creating content. It is about getting the word out through various means, i.e email marketing, ebooks, books, audio, visual and the whole spectrum of content promotion. The best way to be good at this is to focus on one and be the best in doing it.

  50. says

    Very good content in this article, i have to rethink some of my advertising efforts.
    Site is bookmarked for future references.
    Thank you.

  51. says

    This blog is gold
    I like this post any thing that gets me to think outside the marketing box is great – do keep it comming

  52. says

    This is some really good info. Tons of gold nuggets anyone can steal and apply to become a pro at content marketing. This is definitely a must read. I’ll be tweeting this.

    Thanks for sharing.


  53. says

    Thanks for all these Sonia.

    The challenge is finding something that is immediately applicable for oneself and one’s situation.

  54. says

    If you hold a teleclass, offer listeners valuable information. I’ve attended many teleclasses/teleseminars and within a few minutes, I’d wonder, “What’s the point?” Most of them turned out to be sales presentation. The only thing I learned was the cost of the products/services and that if I acted now I would pay the special promotional price of (fill in the blank). It’s disappointing.

  55. says

    I was reading this post noting how detailed and comprehensive it was and then I noticed the dates on the comments.

    Here it is nearly 3 years later and the points are still valid and the premises still work.

    Content is what Google wants most.

    Content is what the clients want most.

    Why not give it to them?

    Gee, why didn’t I think of that.

    Great post.

  56. says

    Thanks. I am on my way to my blog to rename it Feel Better Faster Self-Coaching Site.
    Anyone can run a blog, but a Self-Coaching Site is an invitation to take action.

    I love picking up tips from Copyblogger.

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