The Copyblogger Media team returned from Austin last week, where (almost) all of us gathered for a company-wide meeting amidst the madness of SXSWi.
We flew in for three days — from all corners of the US and Canada — to talk company values, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
Our company works entirely remotely, so before this meeting, I hadn’t met most of my co-workers. During the course of those three days, I built relationships with our support team, I played poker (badly) with our developers, and I bonded with my editorial staff over eighties music and movies.
Our management team thinks long term. They know that the long-game value of getting all of us together to bond, plan, laugh, and dream far exceeds the cost of plane tickets, hotel rooms, catered meals, and private viewings of the late, great Patrick Swayze’s Road House (ask Tony Clark).
And, whether you know it or not, you’re playing a long game with content.
Let’s take a look at just a few ways to improve your online strategy.
It’s time to start looking sideways …
We know that the long-form sales letter still works in some contexts.
Copywriters use them when they should because they work. But instead of writing a 4,000-word sales page, smart content marketers are using what’s been called a “sideways sales letter.”
Instead of gambling everything on a one-page, one-shot conversion possibility, we spread our message out over a period of months and years. We use lots of different kinds of blog posts, and publish content in chunks of around a thousand words.
You’re building relationships with this method, and you’re selling, you’re just doing it by playing the long game. You’re selling over the course of years, not minutes or hours.
All the articles you publish serve different functions on your blog, but your end goal is always in sight. It may take you two years to turn a prospect in a customer, and that’s okay. In the meantime, your readership is going to shift and change, and people are going to enter your content stream at different places.
If you structure your content plan well, your prospects will keep moving on the virtual conveyor belt toward your end goal — which is making the sale.
And all the while, you’re building a potentially very valuable asset (your content-rich website) … an asset that you own.
Let’s go through a couple of article examples from Copyblogger, and talk about why we publish different kinds of posts to our site (and how we keep our eye on the long game every day).
Build cornerstone content
Some posts — like Brian Clark’s legendary “Don’t Read This or the Kitty Gets It” — from our Copywriting 101 series — explain a basic foundation of the topic.
You can think of these pieces as FAQ posts — they answer the questions your clients and prospects ask you on a regular basis.
Sonia Simone’s 10-Step Content Marketing Checklist is another Copyblogger cornerstone piece. In that post, Sonia says,
The cornerstone of your platform comes from what interests and engages your audience. If you’re just starting out, you can start with what interests and engages you, then observe and adapt from there.
If your site is brand-new, start with about 10 posts that really encapsulate your fundamental beliefs and values about your topic. Think about what you would want every single reader of your site to know about.
Foundation articles are important to your long game, because new readers will often find your website from them.
Current readers will love them, too, because it never hurts to get a fresh look at the basics of your topic. Foundation content is a website owner’s bread and butter, because they consistently attract links and social sharing, 24/7, 365.
Make your readers go “hmmmmm”
This kind of content takes a step back from teaching the basics, and takes a 30,000-foot view of your topic. Robert Bruce’s content marketing fables, like his recent “The Great Chef and the Failing Restaurant” is an example of this kind of content.
Posts that make people think will help you build solid relationships with your audience members.
They prove you know your subject deeply, that you think about things at a level that most people don’t — and that you want to help your readers understand your topic on that level, too.
These articles are memorable and can be highly accessible (and shareable), too.
Master the soft (direct) sell
Brian Clark recently wrote a post about Site Sensor, our new website monitoring tool. It wasn’t a typical post for Copyblogger, meaning it wasn’t only straight-up useful content.
Brian had a goal in writing this post — he wanted to explain a problem, give some insight into how he himself had experienced the problem in the past, and then give you a great solution (one of our new products) to that problem.
This post doesn’t push a “hard sell” angle — it’s not a sales letter — but it has more of a direct sales slant than some of our other content.
It’s absolutely fine to strategically place articles like this … when it makes sense for your audience — you’re in business, after all, right?
The key is to make sure there’s real value present for readers, even if they don’t want to buy your product or service. Check out the introduction to Brian’s post for clues on how to do this.
Become a newsjacker
You’ve probably heard that Google Reader is going away. That announcement was major news in our industry, and a perfect opportunity for Copyblogger’s editorial team.
In last week’s post on Google Reader alternatives, Jerod Morris explained what Google Reader’s demise means for content providers.
Posts like this focus on trends, current events, or news in your industry. Trend pieces might not be evergreen pieces, like foundational posts, but they’re still really important.
Posts on current events support your content long game because they frame you as the go-to expert in your field — as the guy (or gal) your reader goes to when they need news and information in your industry. They allow prospects to get to know, like and trust you as a valued content provider.
For more on this type of writing, listen to Robert Bruce’s Newsjacking interview with David Meerman Scott.
Playing the content marketing long game
In our everyday lives as busy content marketers, it’s easy to lose track of what our end goal actually is.
Your best move is to consistently create interesting, highly sharable content that your readers can’t wait to read. And using these kinds of posts can help you do just that.
What other kinds of posts do you use for your blog, and how do they fit into your long-term content marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments …