Share what you know to attract new customers
By Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia Inc.
Should a home comfort company or energy marketer become a publisher of information for the benefit of its prospects and customers? Strangely, the answer is a resounding yes.
Publishing might seem like pretty much the farthest thing from what you do on a daily basis, but it has emerged as the secret weapon that helps many businesses connect with consumers and improve sales.
Why publishing? Check out the benefits and how they relate to your mission of growing the customer base and building deep, lasting relationships.
- Informational content is the killer tool for improving search performance. Google says in its webmaster guidelines that providing high-quality content is “the single most important thing to do.” The search giant has made a mission of creating great user experiences with its search engine, and so it puts informative websites at the top of its search results. That is exactly where you want to be when prospects come looking for a company like yours, so publishing offers you unmatched return on investment in search marketing.
- In addition to boosting your website’s search performance, high-value content creates new online paths to your door. If, for example, you post a unique, high-quality video or article on how to reduce winter heating costs, that page can perform well in search and connect you with potential customers who are doing online research. You can also promote it in pay-per-click advertising that is locally targeted. After all, the Internet is all about content: That’s what people are seeking when they go online. Build your informational resources, and your prospects will find you.
- High-quality content engages consumers and reflects well on the provider. When you are reaching out with a combination of newsletters, blogs, e-mail marketing and social media posts, it is vital to be informative and interesting so that those investments will bear fruit. When you deliver information that has real value, you are more likely to achieve the kind of engagement that will fire up consumers and improve your sales.
- When you provide information that consumers truly value, you give them a reason to feel passionate about your company. You answer questions that are important to them. You get them talking and make them want to share what they have learned from you. They mention your company to their friends. They help your posts go viral. There is little else you can do in the realm of marketing that offers such huge potential.
Be the Expert
This intersection of publishing and marketing is known as content marketing, and it is catching fire across the economic spectrum. One of the most prominent practitioners is Airbnb, an online service that helps travelers find non-traditional lodgings, such as apartments, homes and even rooms in people’s homes. The company began publishing a quarterly print magazine called Pineapple in 2014 to raise its profile and improve its authority with travelers.
Farmers Insurance Group is also engaging customers with an extensive library of helpful tips around home maintenance and repairs, budgeting, auto care and insurance. Similarly, Allstate publishes articles and videos designed to educate customers and prospects about planning and protecting their financial future.
When it comes to important, interesting information that truly matters to consumers, few if any industries have more to offer than ours does. The home is the largest purchase most people make, and many owners are passionate about their homes and deeply interested in improving comfort and value. A company that dispenses honest, meaningful information about home comfort and energy use will gain an audience, because people sincerely want to know.
The prospect of generating original content may seem daunting. You don’t have the deep pockets of a Farmers or an Allstate, and you might not even have anyone on staff that writes well or can produce a video. Don’t fear. You don’t represent yourself in court, you don’t do your own taxes, and you don’t have to write your own articles. Marketing and public relations firms such as PriMedia are just a phone call away, and we can help you bridge the gap and generate a regular flow of expert content that will deliver the many benefits of content marketing.
Whether you are ramping up an existing communications program or starting from scratch, you can get a lot done without a huge investment. The least expensive approach is to launch a blog and begin posting high-quality content one post at a time. If you are willing to invest more at startup, supplement the blog with standing resources on your website, such as a collection of articles and/or videos about important home comfort and energy conservation topics.
A company blog is an extremely versatile communications tool that can infuse all your communications channels with informational goodness. Here are some important things you can do with a blog.
- Create original posts that contain important advice for your target audience. By publishing or announcing the blog on your website, you satisfy Google’s hunger for fresh, high-quality content, which will improve search performance.
- Announce every blog post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. You will attract followers and fans, which will further boost your website’s search performance while also boosting your numbers of Likes and Followers. This, in turn, reinforces the notion that you are a respected authority in your field and improves your credibility.
- Announce each blog post to your e-mail list to draw more attention and strengthen your image as an expert.
- Promote the blog in all your marketing, including on the sides of your trucks. Wherever possible, drive home the notion that you are a respected authority in your field.
Create and Leverage
When you create great content, it can give you a lot of mileage. Say, for example, you create a series or articles on the theme of how to cut your energy bills in half. It could address HVAC upgrades, building shell improvements and integration of renewable energy. You can begin by creating written articles that are well researched and thoroughly sourced to authorities such as the U.S. Department of Energy. You’ll publish the articles on your website (with share buttons, so people can easily post to Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and announce them in your blog, your e-mails and on social media.
At this point, you have created a lot of value, and you then leverage the content in different channels to improve your return. You might create companion video pieces that feature some of your in-house experts and post them on your YouTube channel and embed them on your site. You can also adapt the articles for use in the company newsletter and as articles in a local newspaper. You can even host a public informational forum that draws on the same contents. Create once with quality, leverage repeatedly, and watch the new business roll in.
Publishing original content is a particularly good strategy in the comfort and energy niches because there is a wealth of potential topics as well as an immense appetite for good information among homeowners and commercial property owners. Your customers and prospects have a lot of options, and they want to make the right choices. Should they convert to a new fuel? How do the fuels compare in terms of cost and environmental impact? Do heat pumps really work in cold climates? How do you combine a heat pump with a fossil fuel system? How do you seal and insulate a building shell? How do you achieve even room temperatures throughout a home? How can new technology such as communicating thermostats improve convenience and save money? This list could go on and on, because people have lots of questions.
When you take the initiative to address questions like these thoroughly, you encourage customers and prospects alike to regard your company as a leading expert, and there is immense value in driving home that perception. Consumers are perpetually wary of choosing the wrong contractor, and your choice to dispense free information reflects well on your company’s character.
If you are struggling to get the kind of ratings you want on public review sites, content marketing could be a great choice for improving your image. Alternatively, if you are satisfied with your reviews, a steady regimen of informational content could cement your great reputation and make your company very hard to beat.
As you post new content, be sure to monitor the performance of each article or video so you know what’s working and what’s not. Don’t overreact to one high-performing or low-performing post, however, because there could be an unexpected explanation. Plan you topics in advance and stay the course until you see a clear pattern of reader response.
One final point: Be careful not to make your informational pieces promotional. You can connect an informational piece on your website to the sales channel by using a sidebar that includes “Contact Us” and “Subscribe” buttons and a link to your customer reviews page. You can also append a paragraph at the bottom that includes a sales pitch. For the most part, though, keep the informational articles strictly informational so as not to undercut your own good efforts. Think of newspapers and television news shows that have a clear divide between information and advertisement, and follow that model.