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What should your content marketing say when no-one is buying?

What do you talk about in your marketing communications when nobody wants to buy your existing product? How do you do marketing in a crisis, when everyone seems to be shouting the same thing?

Take a quick look at your email inbox right now. In amongst all the requests for Zoom drinks and virtual quizzes, you’ll find an awful lot of messages from CEOs telling you why they’ve closed their shops, switched to making masks or how they’re protecting their staff and customers. Few of them are trying to sell you anything… other than the idea that they are the Good Guys.

The virtue signalling from all those CEOs is trying to tell you something about their brand at a time there’s no much point telling you about their product. And you may be in much the same position - no-one travelling to learn a language and while you may want to save some of your marketing budget (and you won’t be going to those trade fairs any time soon, so there’s big savings there), you don’t want to go completely silent.

Your best bet lies in content marketing - blogs, video, audio - on your own site, on Facebook, LinkedIn, other people’s sites, online trade publications…. Wherever your audience is, keep yourself in front of them. But what do you say?

If you’re creating a content marketing strategy, then you need to start by identifying your organisational goals. What are your short and medium terms priorities to get you through this pandemic and beyond? Are you looking to digital delivery? What’s your business looking like right now (digital only?) and what will it look like in a few months time as we (hopefully) emerge from the crisis?

You need to demonstrate leadership in your market to describe how your services have changed right now and what they will look like by the end of lockdown and by the end of this year and the next. And how will they remain resilient to the likelihood of uncertainty and the likely recurrence of coronavirus?

Your content marketing strategy can keep you in the mind of your peers, your industry and your customers to position you, variously, as an innovator, educator to your industry, thought leader, analyst and creator, and deliverer of new products and channels for their delivery.

It’s not about trying to show off or pretending you’re something you’re not (there has to be substance behind it all), but it is about keeping in the forefront of minds for suppliers, agents, and learners.

Effectively in all that, you’re talking about yourself. But don’t forget your audience, nor that that audience might have changed. If you’re going heavily on digital, for example, then your students may come from a different, wider set of geographies and demographics; your suppliers may be new, you may want to build relationships with other agents. So bear in mind what their priorities are and what they are worrying about. Ask for feedback too - either to what you write, or ask questions on social media to discern what topics you might pick up on.

Your editorial processes might need a tweak in the light of remote working practices but a Google doc here, a Slack channel there and the odd Zoom chat means all that’s not too tricky. But you may want to use this time to play around with formats, and experiment like you never have before (if not now, when?).

You may have worried about looking ‘professional’ on video in the past. But look at the news bulletins - packed with people contributing by video apps, in front of carefully curated bookshelves, but sounding echoey and slightly distracted.. The ‘professional’ bar has never been lower - so feel free to indulge in passing your wisdom by video. Podcasts remain voguish and you could drive thought leadership through conversation with industry leaders. Or 800 words here and there can drive a lot more punch than a quasi-academic report on the State Of The Industry. People’s concentration spans may not match your own.

Whatever you choose, try and deliver consistently. That is different to ‘often’. If you’re doing video - maybe one a week. A podcast? Try once a fortnight. An article - maybe two a week at most. Go easy on yourself with the editorial production, or else the danger is that you’ll run out of things to say but feel compelled to keep talking. And that won’t help at all. Whatever you do, make it manageable.

And make sure you measure whether it’s working. That is partly by readership/listens/views all of which should be pretty transparent, but set some calls to action in there too. Encourage your readers to react and comment (useful feedback too for what your customers want), and measure that. Get them to subscribe to newsletters and watch for a rise in numbers. Get them to talk to you for a free consultation and see if that works.

And seeing what works is key - madness lies in setting your heart on delivering something no-one cares about and carrying on doing it in the face of indifference. Let your audience decide. If one format and topic is driving audiences to get in touch, then keep mining that seam. Whatever feels like measurable success, chase that down.

And when we return to ‘normal’, make sure you keep content marketing as part of your marketing. Now is the time to find new channels and new topics that can sustain you in times to come.