In a recent post on content marketing strategy, Britt Klontz described a common problem: Helpful content is often scattered across a website, getting posted in multiple locations (and in multiple formats) rather than in a structured, centralized place. The solution, she contends, is to create a resource center: “Essentially, a resource center is a site within a site, where all of your content is organized.”
“Without a resource center, all of this wonderful content can become buried on a blog’s archives or get dispersed across several sections of a company’s site. This makes it very difficult for consumers to find, and it essentially means that a piece of content’s usefulness will continually decline as it ages, as it simply won’t be findable over the long term.”
In addition, another regular CMI contributor, Manya Chylinski, outlined additional benefits that B2B content resource centers can provide.
But it’s not just B2B brands that can benefit from structuring your business’ content marketing in a centralized way. Resource centers can play an equally important role for retail businesses that create B2C content marketing.
For example, I encourage you to consider the examples of two highly successful content-driven retailers: Crutchfield Electronics and B&H Photo, Video & Pro Audio. Both have successfully stepped into the retail vacuum caused by the rise of internet ecommerce and almost-overnight disappearance of independent bricks-and-mortar audio/video retailers and photography stores.
Crutchfield and B&H have prospered by effectively using B2C content to target an engaged market segment — individuals looking for a more satisfying buying experience than what’s offered by Amazon.com or so-called “big box” retail chains like Best Buy. Both businesses are using resource center content to educate their prospects and retain customers by educating them and keeping them informed and enthusiastic about their purchases.
What distinguishes resource centers from FAQs?
- Scope refers to the range of topics available for reading or viewing.
- Depth describes the amount of detail covered in the resource center’s content.
- Tone refers to the credibility of the content; specifically, the empathy the content projects. For example, does the information sound like it was written by an advertising copywriter or does it sound like it’s coming from a knowledgeable expert who understands the audience’s needs and shares its enthusiasm for the product?
Granted, their decades of direct-marketing experience give both Crutchfield and B&H a head start on providing consumers with useful information. However, just about any B2C business can likely benefit from applying the following eight takeaways that I’ve gathered, based on what I think makes their content marketing resource centers so successful:
1. Visually brand your resource center
Your resource center needs to be more than just another drop-down menu item on your home page. Educational content should be visually distinct from your catalog or product pages, as well.
Both Crutchfield and B&H have visually branded their resource centers by creating a dedicated logo and header for them. For example, the Crutchfield Labs icon builds on the firm’s main logo, yet visually sets its educational content apart from product-oriented content.
B&H went even further: The company started with a unique (i.e., ownable) word —”explora” — which carries with it positive connotations of discovery and innovation. It then branded the term by turning it into a logo using a unique type treatment and colors. (Note how B&H changed the “x” in explora to make it more distinct.)
In addition, as you can see, above, Crutchfield and B&H then incorporated these logos into their resource centers as horizontal header graphics. B&H went even a little further by extending the explora color palette into a unique color scheme for the contents of its resource center.
2. Provide content that isn’t available anywhere else
Both Crutchfield and B&H have expanded the scope of their resource center content far beyond product descriptions and reviews. Both offer numerous “how to buy” articles and videos that educate prospects in each of the product categories they sell.
As a result, Crutchfield and B&H’s advantage is that their resource centers help them do an admirable job of serving their prospects’ and clients’ needs — sometimes even better than the content that’s provided by the vendors whose products they sell.
For example, vendor-supplied brochures can be filled with arcane jargon and technical specifications that can quickly become outdated. In addition, vendor-supplied information can often be myopic and overly focused on comparisons with the competition (i.e., the copy highlights isolated areas of product superiority, rather than speaking directly to prospective buyers about their needs).
Crutchfield and B&H both offer content from a user’s perspective, helping buyers address the basic questions they have as they try to make purchasing decisions. Only after providing educational content and helping buyers pre-qualify themselves, do these companies focus on moving those buyers toward a sale.
For example, Crutchfield has published numerous, detailed articles and videos in its resource center that help consumers build confidence in their ability to accomplish DIY installations of audio systems in their cars.
3. Focus on providing complete solutions
Another way Crutchfield’s and B&H’s resource center content differs from the typical vendor-supplied content is the focus on complete solutions. This is because they can focus on their customers’ “big picture” needs instead of messaging on their unique competitive advantages.
Here are some examples that illustrate this “big picture” approach:
- Crutchfield’s 2,500-word article on how to buy multi-room audio systems uses photographs, screenshots, and diagrams to provide an in-depth overview of a complex topic.
- Similarly, B&H provides “complete solutions” through content that helps professional photographers master the skills they need to achieve specialized business goals, like becoming a better wedding photographer, nature photographer, or low-light photographer.
4. Follow the long tail, and go deep
In addition to covering a broader spectrum of topics than available elsewhere, Crutchfield and B&H’s resource centers offer in-depth treatment of even the most long-tail (or rarely-purchased) product categories. Neither is afraid to get highly technical with their resource center content.
It’s one thing to offer helpful buying and user information about popular product categories (e.g., surround sound music systems), but it’s another to go deep into advanced product categories like power protection, studio lighting, professional recording mixers, and home security.
Here’s an example of an article that, by going deep into a relatively technical field, adds credibility to the product offerings from dozens of vendors. From a content and style point of view, note that the first sentence establishes the relevance of the article and reflects empathy with the readers: “Because most people, from surround sound novices to A/V experts, find new formats a little confusing, we’ve provided a quick description of how each format works.”
Going deep into a product category also provides an opportunity for astute retailers to be pioneers, creating markets in new categories where demand has not yet been crested.
Here are two examples:
- Power protection buying guide For TV and home theater. By simply explaining the relevance of this category, and how to evaluate different systems, this Crutchfield article creates demand where none previously existed.
- Likewise, B&H’s 2-hour video, Migration to Mirrorless Digital Cameras, is enough to turn curiosity into an entirely new profit category. It buys B&H “equity loyalty” from photographers who may be entirely happy with their current DSLR cameras.
5. Make resource center content easy to find
Content must be easy to find, no matter how broad in scope or deep in detail. Having a branded resource center is just the first step. The next step is to create a navigation system that breaks broad topics into narrower and narrower units. Both Crutchfield and B&H offer alternate routes to their resource center content.
Take a look at Crutchfield’s three-step resource center navigation system:
- Step 1: Choose the category of products you’re interested in browsing (as shown above).
- Step 2: Select the type of products within the category.
- Step 3. Narrow the category (see image below). At this point, you can select from numerous articles and videos.
Another technique that Crutchfield uses to keep prospects reading its educational and credibility-building resource center content is by suggesting additional related resource center topics.
For example, next to the Pro audio mixer buying guide, there are links to resource center topics likely to interest those who have just read the article.
Crutchfield goes one step further: Links to relevant articles and videos often show up on its product pages, leading interested consumers back to the resource center for further explorations on the topic that first drew their interest. For example, consumers who read the above article on sound formats might see links that lead to other resource center articles on home theater receivers and set-ups.
6. Emphasize staff credibility and enthusiasm
As Robert Cialdini pointed out in his Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, there’s a universal tendency to trust those with whom we can identify because they share our background or values. The bylines that accompany the articles in the Crutchfield resource center and the descriptions of the video presenters in the B&H resource center are powerful credibility builders.
In the image above, for example, there’s a comfort factor in mentioning that Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years and has been involved with car audio at Crutchfield since 1985. The Crutchfield and B&H bylines also tap into another influence factor: the power of authority. We trust those who have more experience and knowledge than we do.
You’ll also notice in the above example, that Steve shares his passion via community radio which also sends out powerful “trust vibes.” In an age of often impersonal clerks, the credibility of your content sources offers a powerful competitive advance — just as an author’s books help differentiate his advice from other service providers.
7. Add “star power” to your content creation
Live events that are associated with acknowledged experts in your field offer you a way to boost your firm’s credibility and add a sense of urgency that can motivate prospects to action. Live events also provide an easy way to create compelling video content that you can add to your resource center content.
B&H, for example, has a dedicated Event Space where it frequently hosts seminars that support its role as a professional resource. For example, B&H held a presentation entitled Baseball, White House, and War Photography, with renowned photographer David Hume Kennerly (see image below), which was later turned into a video for the B&H resource center.
Live events like this offer win-win opportunities for attendees, influencers, and B&H itself:
- Attendees get a chance to meet, learn from, and ask questions of world-class experts in their field — often those whose work has inspired them or who have expertise in areas they are currently struggling with. (After all, if you were a serious amateur photographer, wouldn’t you go out of your way to hear a National Geographic or White House photographer share the stories of their iconic photographs?)
- Influencers get an opportunity to speak to audiences in locations that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. This, of course, enhances their loyalty to B&H. And, like all presenters and teachers, they will probably gain new perspectives from their audience’s questions.
- B&H reinforces its reputation as a source for professional information, but also attracts qualified and enthusiastic floor traffic to the store. Most important, of course, B&H gains valuable video content that lasts for years.
Don’t forget your own customers can become an additional source of credible influencer content. In the image below, you can see how Crutchfield invites car stereo buyers — often non-professional “everyday people” — to share their installation tips and vie for a chance to become its next Custom Car Showroom Team Member. Again, it’s a win-win proposition for both Crutchfield and the people whose stories are featured. Installers can point to their featured stories and tips with pride, and Crutchfield gets premium resource center content that it can use to help overcome a prospect’s hesitation to replace or upgrade a factory-installed car stereo.
8. Keep customers informed and enthusiastic with timely, newsworthy content
B&H and Crutchfield clearly recognize the value of “fanning the fires of customer desire” with a constant flow of information about the latest products. Often, their blog posts and videos originate at conventions and trade shows in their industry, and frequently, they’re timed to appear in the resource center at the same time as formal product announcements.
This comes back to the idea of cultivating engaged customers or business professionals who aspire to the next level of pleasure or competitive edge.
- B&H’s resource center serves commercial photographers’ aspirations on becoming more skilled, and more profitable professionals. Their frequent articles and events focusing on photographer marketing or tips for selling profitable wedding photography helps fuel their readers’ passion for their profession.
- Likewise, Crutchfield’s resource center content helps homeowners upgrade from mismatched stereo components to integrated home theater systems, and helps car owners experience the pride of replacing their car’s factory-installed stereo with a far better unit on their own.
In addition to a continuing flow of new articles and videos, B&H and Crutchfield feature monthly blog post and video roundups that highlight the latest advances in each of the key product areas on their respective resource centers. These roundups direct prospects to articles and videos they might otherwise have overlooked.
What about you?
Clearly, as Britt Klontz and Manya Chylinski wrote in their articles, resource centers can make sense for both B2B and B2C marketers.
To help you evaluate the state of your firm’s current resource center offerings, and explore ways to build out your own resource center by incorporating some of the ideas in this article, I’ve created a downloadable B2C Resource Center Checklist for you.
Use the Comments section of the worksheet to insert ideas you’d like to implement as well as deadlines for upgrading your resource center.
Let me know how the checklist works for you, and any comments you might have about the B&H and Crutchfield implementation of the resource center idea. Share your favorite takeaway ideas and questions as you begin to create your own online content marketing resource center for your business.
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Cover image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay.com