Where are you right now? I’m not referring to where you’re physically located, but rather what point you’re at in your life. Maybe you’re a successful executive at a Fortune 500 company. Or maybe you’re finishing up your undergraduate degree in a subject about which you are passionate. Whatever your answer to my question might be, it’s highly unlikely that you got there without developing a critical skill: relationship building.
At some point in time, someone helped you along the path to where you are now. Maybe it was a parent paying for your tuition. Or perhaps it was a mentor steering you away from some bad decision that you were about to make. Whatever the case may be, the help that you received is at least partly responsible for where you are right now.
The same goes for the success of companies’ content marketing strategies. Without the ability to build and strengthen relationships, a content marketing strategy will fall flat on its face. If you’re in a content marketing role within your company and you haven’t developed this ability yet, now is the time to start. Here are a few ways that relationship building can open up opportunities for your content to take off.
1. Keeping your enemies close
I realize that this may come across as being counterproductive, but working with the competition is not a bad thing. Chances are, they have resources that you don’t, and you have resources that they don’t. Put those resources together and you can develop some really great content that sees a significant level of consumption from your target audience.
For example, if market research is a core competency of your competitor, and your core competency is translation, perhaps you can come together to write a really detailed white paper about how multicultural content marketing can be done effectively by global companies. It would be backed by tons of great stats provided by your competitor, along with wonderfully illustrated examples from your own experience.
While your competition will share the credit, your name will be on the content as well. Since they have a vested interest in ensuring the success of said content, they will be sharing the content on a variety of their channels, like social media for instance. This puts your brand and your expertise on display for a whole new audience.
In order to avoid any bumps in the road, make sure that you have an agreement in place before entering into the project, so that both parties are aware of their responsibilities and expectations.
This agreement should include:
- Setting the workload for each party in stone
- Determining the specific channels on which you’ll distribute the content
- Specifying the release date, so that neither party gets a jump on the other
- Creating neutral messaging for promotions
If you have guidelines in place and you work together, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
2. Making new allies
Now that you’ve got a handle on the whereabouts of your enemies — and you’ve hopefully developed a productive truce — it’s time to start making some new allies. These could be with conferences, organizations, complementary companies, or any number of other entities. Alliances are available everywhere — you just need to seek them out.
For example, my company works with the MBA program at a local university to offer free social media training sessions during the lunch hour, once a month. We help them out by adding some extra value for their students, getting local professionals on campus so advisors can talk to them about the program and adding exposure with our promotions on our website and across our social media channels. In return, our team members get valuable presentation experience, we generate brand awareness, potential clients learn about our services, and we present ourselves as leading minds in the content marketing field. It’s a win-win situation all around.
You can do this same thing with others, as well. Connect with conferences in your industry and ask how you can help promote the event. Work closely with the leading associations within your industry, and maybe even join their boards. Work with local nonprofits by using your competencies to promote their causes. Whatever you choose to do, building mutually beneficial relationships with these new allies can really help your content marketing efforts to take off. By offering a hand to others, you create trust. Once you develop that trust, you can help each other to achieve your objectives.
3. Learning to share
There is no shortage of companies whose goal it is to get their content shared and otherwise generate engagement. So, it just makes sense to seek out those companies and learn to share. Hopefully your parents taught you about sharing when you were a little kid. If not, you might have trouble with this one.
Let’s say you sell shoes, and you make a connection with the head of marketing at a company that sells socks. You get where I’m going with this, right? Seems to me that you both are trying to reach a similar audience, or at least a similar body part. So why not agree to share each other’s content?
Sharing is one of the most accurate measurements of the success of a piece of content. The more it gets shared, the more your content is amplified. It reaches a larger and larger audience each time someone decides to share it. So if you share it on your channels and the sock guys share on it on their channels, that’s doubling up right there. And each time you add another buddy to share with, you increase the amplification of your content exponentially.
I just want to add a small caveat here: This probably goes without saying, but just in case, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that the content that you are sharing (or asking your sharing partner to share) has some level of relation to what you do. An article about types of socks on the blog of a company that sells shoes makes sense. An article about the types of trees indigenous to California does not, unless of course there’s some really creative spin. Who knows, maybe the sock company uses a material in their socks that is only found in trees indigenous to California?
4. Befriending your audience
Moving on from California trees. Let’s talk about your audience. You already know that you can’t push promotional content to your audience, or at least not too much of it. They will see right through it. So the goal becomes creating valuable content that adds something to the lives of your audience or solves a problem for them.
In order to do this, you need to shift your view of your audience to that of a community. Look at your audience as a group of friends. When you talk to your friends, do you think they want to hear you ramble on endlessly about how you did this or that, or how great you are at something? No, and the same goes for your audience.
You’d want to help your friends if they had a problem they were facing, right? So find out what problems your audience is facing and create content that helps them solve that problem. To find out what is ailing them, simply ask them. Send out a survey to your email list and ask what types of issues they’re dealing with that relate to what you offer. Ask them what types of content they want to see. Once you get some insight here, you can be a lot more effective at creating content that really resonates with your audience and serves to build trusting relationships.
The more your content resonates with your audience members, the more likely they are to engage with it. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful factors in influencing the decisions that your audience will make in regard to your product or service. Content that resonates with them will encourage them to leave positive comments. Respond to those comments and let them know their voice is being heard. When others that are unfamiliar with your company stumble upon these conversations, those positive comments direct from the consumers or clients themselves will go a long way in establishing a level of credibility with the newcomer.
If you build it they will come
These are four important relationships that you need to start building today. If you work hard at building them, the results will follow. You can’t go it alone and expect your content to just magically get picked up. It is possible, but it can take a much longer time to do it that way. By building and strengthening the relationships that I just discussed, you can truly take your content and your brand to a new level.
We’d love to hear other relationship building tips or success stories that you have in the comments below.
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