It would be hard to miss the constant changes in content marketing since the term was first popularized about 10 years ago. In 2005, blogs were becoming mainstream. Facebook was open only to college students. Twitter was nonexistent.
Most real estate professionals think of content marketing as creating and publishing an occasional short article, a quick post on Facebook or a scheduled tweet.
This is technically content marketing, but do you think it is effective?
The revolution happened so fast, it was easy for busy professionals to fall further behind each year. The Content Marketing Institute, one of the leading voices in this industry, recently changed how it defines “content marketing” based on the current best practices of the most effective organizations.
In addition, its recent “2015 Benchmark, Budget and Trends Report” revealed one tactic that nearly doubled your chance at being effective.
Let’s take a look at the three key changes to the definition, and then we will return to that one tactic:
1. Content marketing requires a strategic and consistent marketing approach.
If you decide to make content marketing part of your overall strategy, it should be a formal business discipline. This includes a carefully designed plan to serve a particular purpose and to meet specific goals.
How you repurpose content should be part of that strategy. Repurposing is one of the most efficient uses of your time; however, it is more than just cross-posting on different platforms. The message and delivery need to match the audience and platform. If you ignore the context of the chosen platform, your marketing efforts will be in vain.
For example, to maximize the number of people who view your content on Facebook, that content must be interactive. If people do not like or share your content, then the number of users who see it will be limited. This is very different than other platform feeds (like Twitter), where you are shown all the content produced by every person you follow in chronological order on your feed.
Another important discovery was the exponential growth of content published. Nearly three-quarters of recent respondents indicated that they were creating more content this year than in the past year. I do not expect this to change for some time.
Without a strategy, it is easy to get sidetracked. When this happens, your content production and quality suffer.
Having a plan in place improves consistency. Most of us create content when we find the time to do it or when it is convenient. During the busy season, our flow of content runs dry and our audience moves on. It is amazing how quickly people forget about you when you do not stay in contact.
Why would you spend the time and effort to gain an audience only to lose them in prime time?
2. Content marketing requires relevance.
Content is relevant when it is closely connected to your audience. When considering relevancy, I often ask myself this question: Will this content help my audience solve problems and achieve their objectives?
Most people do not go to social media to learn about real estate. They go to connect with others and for amusement. Therefore, entertaining content is just as important as educational content. Finding a way to link these concepts together is golden.
But how do you make relevant content for the people who you do not know? Like those prospects who signed up at your website, or those friends of your current audience?
Not knowing what problems they have or what they value makes this a tough job. To be effective, it is best to define your audience clearly and develop content specifically for them.
3. Content marketing requires a clearly defined audience.
Online lead generation is a lot like creating an audience. You have two choices. First, you can create content that is designed to attract the masses. You will soon discover by attempting to attract everyone that your message will resonate with almost no one. Sure, some folks will appreciate your efforts and may do business with you, but the overall results will be less than you desired.
Your second choice is to define your ideal customer precisely and attract those who are similar to your ideal customer.
You may have heard the expression “cloning your customers.” This is a way to do that without all the risky medical experimentation.
In order to clearly define your customer, you need to have a full understanding of them. You need to know the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your ideal customer. You need to understand their pain and motivation. This takes some time and serious market research.
The good news for Realtors is that the National Association of Realtors has provided us a great start with the annual “buyer and seller profiles” report. This is generalized market research, so you need to take it a step further. You should take the time to ask questions like the following to yourself, your team and some of your best clients:
- Describe the specific buyers that you are targeting.
- What pain do they experience in the sales process?
- When do they experience the pain of not buying a home?
- Where else do they experience pain before they decide to buy?
- Why can they not buy property by themselves?
- How have they tried to buy without your help and failed?
- What would their life look like if they were able to buy with your help?
Do not be satisfied with the first answer that you get for each question. Drill down and continue to ask until you find the crux. Once your research is complete, you will have a clear picture of your ideal client, or a customer persona. You will better understand what they value and appreciate. Then you can design content based on what your ideal customer values, content that solves problems and provides solutions. When your content aligns with your defined audience, you will attract people who are most like your ideal customer because they feel a connection with you and your values.
Everywhere you attempt to connect with your defined audience, your content must speak to this persona. This consistency among platforms improves your connection to the audience. They will feel like you actually know and understand them, as though you are having a conversation with them.
It is also important to define the audience for each market you serve. Your ideal buyer is not the same as your ideal seller. This is also true for each niche you serve, such as luxury, investors and first-time homeowners.
The flip side to your customer persona is the selling avatar, or how you want to be viewed by your audience. A selling avatar helps you to consistently position yourself (or your team) in the best light possible to your clients. To develop a selling avatar, ask yourself (and your team) questions like the following:
- What makes you a uniquely qualified agent?
- What systems do you have in place to help buyers?
- When will their pain be resolved if they work with you to buy a home?
- Where else can you help them in the homebuying process?
- Why are your systems the best for buying homes?
- How does your homebuying system work?
- What will life be like if they do not use you and your systems?
Your opportunity for success is unlimited when your content resonates with your audience, when they see you as a trusted adviser and when they understand why you and your systems are the solution to their problem.
What was the one tactic?
The Content Marketing Institute found one tactic that drastically increased the effectiveness of content marketing. This tactic is so simple and obvious that most people just ignore it:
When you have a documented content marketing strategy, you are almost twice as likely to effective.
It is simply not enough to discuss your strategy with your teammates or keep it in your head. In order to be effective, it must be written.
Why does this work?
Your buy-in to the strategy is entrenched when your plans are put on paper. Educated clients make the best decisions.
Go back and look at the new areas of content marketing, writing down the answers to the questions we’ve uncovered. This will be the framework of your content marketing strategy.
Use the power of content marketing effectively. To attract customers, educate your clients, solve their problems and grow your business.
Steve Jolly is a broker at Benchmark Realty LLC.