The Value of Helpful Content

Being a helpful brand pays

We rarely turn to books for information these days.

Content is present in all methods and channels of marketing.

Think about what you see, read, or hear, when you visit a website, watch a video ad, read a brochure or blog post, browse a social feed, listen to a radio ad, arrive at a landing page, and so on. Those are all content, and they have different purposes.

They may be to inform, to evoke a certain emotion, action, or reaction, to promote, or to educate; they can be a combination of any of these; but the most important one I find is to help and provide a solution to a customer’s problem or need. Of course, your actual product (goods or service) should do that too, but I’m talking about help throughout your customer’s journey, from pre- to after sales, using content.

Now before we proceed, let me say for this story (for those who aren’t familiar with Medium, posts here are called stories), I’m not going to talk about any technical definition of content, content marketing, inbound marketing, and whatnot. Rather, let’s focus on the bottom line that helpful content, spread throughout your entire buyer’s journey, should be part of your strategy, because of the value it brings to both parties.

What is helpful content?

Helpful content is not a term I’m trying to coin nor is it a new, revolutionary concept. It’s simply, informational or educational content with immediate practical, useful, and concrete application. It comes in the form of video tutorials, how-to blog posts, step-by-step guides, and suchlike.

It’s the kind of content customers proactively seek in search engines, because they need it to solve a problem or need. These customers aren’t only those who are at the top-of-the-funnel (research or early buying stage), but also those who are close to buying, and even those who’ve already made a purchase. There should be both helpful content that does not mention your products, which for the purpose of this story, I’ll label non-product, and helpful content that does, which is product. You should provide resources on how to use your products, as interested customers who need them will be frustrated if you don’t have them. Likewise, if all your supposed helpful content always have reference, even subtle ones, to your products offered, your customers will be turned off.

Why is it valuable?

Helpful content can have a huge, positive influence on a customer’s purchasing behavior or decision, without being promotional or too promotional. It has a pull, instead of a push effect, because the customers or potential customers came to you. Moreover, it has a lower cost than some of the other marketing tactics, but with typically higher returns over the long term.

To show you what I mean, let me share some of my recent personal experiences, which I’m sure you can relate to at some point in your own buying journeys:

When I was working on a recent project, my personal website, which I built using Adobe Muse, a free-form website builder, I frequently searched the web for 1) how to use Muse (I’ve already completed a comprehensive tutorial by Muse’s own product manager before I started the project, but there were just too many functionalities and technicalities to cover in one sitting.); 2) the different and popular website design and behaviors, such as parallax scrolling, video background, pinning menu, etc., and how to do them; and 3) the technical aspects of building a website, such as device responsiveness, HTML attributes, metadata, website hosting, redirecting domains, etc.

I would get search results from Adobe itself, as well as from Muse’s dedicated community of unaffiliated developers, who offer both free and paid widgets, templates, and themes. From that community, there were two that stood out, among tens of other developer individuals and teams, by consistently showing up in my search results with non-product video tutorials, filled with quality and relevant helpful content, which aided me and enabled me to move forward with my project.

How does it affect customer behavior positively and benefit both sides?

After a while, I stopped making general searches and just went in straight to their YouTube channels for video tutorials and their websites for other resources — and this is exactly how you’d want your brand to be: the go-to resource and the top-of-mind brand. I benefited by getting the help I need, but their brands benefited even more because now I’m aware of their brands, they’ve become my preferred choices, I started browsing their offerings and viewing product tutorials, I’m now under their marketing radar, and I ended up subscribing to the YouTube channel of one and making a purchase from both (which I didn’t really use on my personal website, but I’m still happy I bought for future projects). Now if somebody asks me where to get Muse resources from, I’d definitely recommended those two, and there you go, word-of-mouth — another win for them.

Although I know, especially as a marketer, ultimately they’re doing all those efforts to be able to market and sell their products, the passion for what they do and that they care enough to craft both non-product and product helpful content, still shone through and that says positive about them. By doing those tutorials too, they’ve become accessible through the comments section, which allowed for interactivity, which in turn can translate to engagement, if managed properly. There were lots of other seemingly high-quality widgets and templates out there by other developers, but you’ll be surprised by the lack of tutorials on how to use them. How do they expect customers to pay for their products if they can’t even provide readily-available, basic support, in this age of instant?

What can helpful content do for your brand and business?

As demonstrated by my personal example, being a helpful brand pays (pun intended).

Done right, and in conjunction with other marketing tactics and content, or sometimes even just on its own, it can drive traffic to your site, build awareness of your brand and put it in a positive light, convert customers, and drive engagement and loyalty.

It’s important to note that it’s a long-term strategy and returns are not always immediate and monetary, but considering the positive chain of reaction it can trigger and the customers’ increasing demand and expectation for customer-centric brand initiatives, it is a must-have component of your strategy (though execution may vary slightly across different industries).

Savvy marketers are already doing this, and if you aren’t already or you’re unsure how to begin your content marketing strategy, understand your customer persona and buying journey and start with this.

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