Screw Sexy, Be Helpful: Creating Compelling Content in a Snoozeworthy Industry

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Dan Moyle
Dan Moyle



boring-industry-contentMy name is Dan, and I’m addicted to inbound marketing. This works well for me because it happens to be my job. You see, I’m the marketing specialist for a mortgage bank based in southwest Michigan. Bored yet?

Yes, home financing itself is a snoozeworthy industry. However, the ideas surrounding home financing can be very exciting to those who want to know about buying a home.

Therein lies the key to turning boring industries into inbound marketing machines: Warm leads don’t find your content boring

Anyway, back to my inbound addiction. I’ll often think of companies that could benefit from inbound marketing. I used to work at a hearing aid center that carried very niche products, for example. I’ve pondered whether I should drop off Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah’s Inbound Marketing book to them to get on board. Whenever I see a billboard with an insurance agent or an attorney advertising their services, I think about calling them and introducing them to the inbound philosophy. This obsession lead me to become an inbound evangelist, recently presenting at INBOUND 2013 on the topic, "Making Boring Industry Content Work for Your Business."

The first point of that presentation? While your industry may seem boring to a large part of the world, it’s not boring to warm leads. Warm leads are where inbound marketing thrives. In fact, according to HubSpot, inbound marketing costs 61% less than traditional marketing. This means you can spend less on reaching an audience that has a much higher ROI than simply shouting at people that they need you and your product or service. We need to get over our objections that “I can’t do inbound marketing because my business is boring and no one will want to read my content.” It’s time to get beyond the boring.

Screw sexy. Be helpful.

One of my favorite moments of this experience was seeing “Screw Sexy. Be Helpful,” tweeted during Inbound. It’s a philosophy we adhere to at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage. While viral and creative and “sexy” are all great on occasion, the main strategy that works well with long term inbound marketing is usefulness. Jay Baer calls this Youtility. As Jay says, helping can replace selling, or at least reduce the friction in the sales process.

Instead of trying to be the next beer commercial, the next Geico camel, or a viral sensation like Psy, work on providing answers to the questions your potential customers are asking. When a consumer has a problem and your product or service solves the pain, you gain a fan.

One great example of how this works was shown by Marcus Sheridan at River Pools & Spas. Marcus took a pool business in Virginia that was on the verge of bankruptcy and turned it into a successful behemoth during a recession. Because Marcus answered every question a customer asked -- from “how much does this cost” to comparing competitor products -- customers found River Pools & Spas when they searched for the answers online. Helpful beats viral in the marketing long run.

Shift your marketing focus to journalism.

It’s not enough to simply answer questions in a blog article. Your marketing team must become a newsroom, telling engaging and helpful stories. Using the same principles as a journalist, an inbound marketer can craft a story using facts and figures, complete with a beginning, middle, and end.

Answering the 5 Ws -- who, what, where, when and why -- is a great place to start. Add in the “how” and you’ll have content that’s helpful and engaging. “How” do I solve my problem with your company? Of course, don’t use this opportunity to simply sell. Use the “how” to show your buyer persona where they fit in your story. Make them the hero in the “how.” 

Journalism can and should also include using current events to help maintain relevancy and interest. Use the current headlines to help tie your story into the lives of your buyer personas. If the MTV Video Music Awards garner a ton of headlines, your buyer personas are interested in celebrities, and your "boring" industry offers B2B solutions for accounting software, you might consider an article like “5 Ways the Miley Cyrus Fiasco Affects MTV’s Bottom Line.” Injecting a little personality through relevant current events can help get attention and show your visitors, leads, and customers that you are aware of the world around them.

3 Places to Find Content for Your Boring Industry

Ready to create content, but not sure where to begin? Here are three places you can look to get started with content creation:

1) Client Questions

Ask your sales team, the receptionist, or the clients themselves about the most popular questions asked in regards to your service or product. Every question a customer asks can be a piece of content. Simple questions can lead to blog articles. More complex questions can be turned into whitepapers or ebooks. You may even find yourself interviewing your sales team on camera, creating videos.

2) Current Events

Use current events to help spur new, fresh ideas. I make Google News my home page so every time I open my browser, I see the latest news. You can customize your feed with different categories of news to help narrow your focus. Twitter is another great place to find current or popular events.

3) Cross Relevancy

This one can be a lot of fun. It can also lead to some “misses” if you aren't aligning the content with your buyer personas. For example, if a buyer persona of yours is the C-level executive of a business, then you might deduce they’re interested in golf and time management. If your persona is a younger “social media manager” type, then you might get away with tying pop culture references into your marketing.

Successful cross relevancy was best explained in a HubSpot webinar where Dan Zarrella talked about his interests in marketing and zombies. Dan knows that anything to do with those two subjects will end up in his inbox from his friends. So if you can combine two seemingly unrelated subjects that your buyer persona loves, you can create cross-relevancy and a shareable piece of content. For example, if Dan were my company's buyer persona, we could create a guide for zombie first time home buyers. It's okay to have a little fun in addition to the helpful marketing -- just make sure you never abandon useful for viral.

The bottom line is that your industry isn’t boring to the warm leads you want to come your way. Using a journalistic approach with engaging, helpful stories will help turn your boring marketing into a successful inbound campaign.

Dan Moyle is the marketing & communications specialist at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Marketing, family, and motorcycles take up most of his time. You can find him hanging out on Twitter, too, @danmoyle.

Image credit: gi

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