Content Marketing - Think Like a Magazine

I want to begin with a story, but I have to confess up front that while I do recall the details of the story, I just cannot remember the individual’s name who deserves credit for this great idea.

Some time ago I read about the owner of a small magazine which targeted seniors who came upon a brilliant way to sell advertising.

Instead of direct attempts to sell ad space, he began getting speaking engagements to business groups in his city. His topic was “How to market to the senior market.”

His talks were full of ideas like. what seniors needed and wanted, what a business could do to establish trust with seniors, and what distinguishes senior consumers from other customers.

His talks were very well received and he got a lot of advertising business as a result of these speeches, but he did so by delivering information that focused on the needs of the business people he spoke to, not by talking about advertising.

Think for just a moment how most people might have approached the effort to sell advertising or, for that matter, any other product or service. Such a person might have put created talks on subjects like:
  • Effective advertising techniques,
  • Why advertising is necessary to promote a business,
  • Why advertising in a magazine devoted to seniors would be more effective an advertising with other medias,
  • Why his magazine was so much better than other similar magazines,

But fortunately, as I've already mentioned, instead of focusing on what he had to sell, this man focused on his audience (local business people) and their need to market to seniors. He gave them ideas and solutions to help them promote their business.

This came to mind last week after I spoke about content marketing and social media to the Southlake, (Texas) Chamber of Commerce. One of the questions I was asked afterwards came from a C.P.A. who wondered how her “boring” (her words) service, which had so many competitors, could make use of the ideas I had presented.

The short answer that I gave was to focus on her prospective clients, not on what she had to sell. I explained that she should create content about what her target clients want to know, what information they need, what problems they want to solve, what tips and ideas they would be receptive to.

It wasn’t until after the meeting, when I was driving home, that I thought of the gentleman in the story above and magazines in general.

I think more and more marketers are learning to think like magazine publishers. Magazines focus on an audience. Successful magazines take great pains to understand their targeted readers and what they want to learn about, and they write stories to fulfill these wants.

For example, magazines like Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies Home Journal all target women, but they each target a different niche within the broad readership of women. The present articles that specifically help the individual niches they serve.

Likewise, Sports Illustrated, Mens' Fitness and GQ are all magazines that target men, but they each focus on a unique niche and cater to the interests and needs of their niches. Here too, the articles (ie content) address the interests of their targeted readers.

GQ will not talk about LeBron James, Men's Fitness will not talk about how to select the right wine for an occasion, nor will Sports Illustrated have articles about nutrition.

Which all leads back to what I wish I had said to the C.P.A. yesterday. In her efforts to target her prospective clients and their needs, rather than the services she offered, I would have advised her to create content like a magazine would.

Blogs, for example, are the perfect platform to place such targeted content and also for your audience to find that content. But a truly effective blog, in my mind, is one that focuses on its readers in much the same way as a magazine would. Such a blog would deliver content that underplays what the blogger has to sell, and mostly on what information would help the readers improve critical areas of their lives.

I've begun to call this the "Bill Hurlbut Rule," after a good friend of mine who sells insurance by focusing on delivering content that interests his target clients. His newsletter contains all kinds of information about personal finances, how to network to get a job or to build a business, or how to increase the value of a home.

In other words, Bill delivers content that is not about insurance (although at the bottom of his newsletter, he gives a brief mention of his insurance business). Imagine for a moment if his content was just about how to buy insurance, or what is the right insurance for you, or which companies are more highly rated, etc.

He would quickly have a lot of people hit the "unsubscribe" button. But since he delivers content that solves his prospective clients' problems and needs, his subscriber list grows larger each month.

On Twitter, Bill follows the exact same practice. He seldom sends out information that is about insurance. But you know what? Bill sells a lot of insurance by focusing on his clients rather than on what he wants to sell to people.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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November 26, 2009 at 10:07 AM Jacob Stoller said...

Well spoken, Charles. This is exactly what I tell my clients. And today, there's a special reason to think like a magazine - the traditional ones are dying. Companies have a great window of opportunity to pick up the slack and establish themselves as reliable sources of information.