As a company, we’re pretty successful sales and marketing specialists (if I do say so myself). As part of our everyday offering we:
- plan the sales and marketing for many large and small companies globally
- contribute to a part of the marketing for a handful of large companies – also globally
- do (almost all of) the marketing for around 50 smaller Australian businesses.
But at the same time, our own marketing often suffers. We don’t have enough time, worry that we don’t have enough worthy ideas, and sometimes struggle with a consistent brand voice. We work super hard on behalf of our clients to remove those problems for them – that’s what they pay us for. But for ourselves, we struggle.
And, if I were being totally transparent, I’d also say that when it comes to content marketing specifically, we face similar struggles to those of our clients (albeit noble struggles). One of these struggles is how assertive to be in a call to action at the end of a blog article.
Brands and their marketers share content to earn and retain a position in a chosen category, not (usually) to create demand. It’s a very transparent trade that we invite our readers to agree to: I will invest in writing something worth sharing with you, and you will read that article even though you know that I have a service or product to sell and might hint at that in my article.
The struggle then is not whether brands should create content but how assertive to be in the call to action. Should we simply share good ideas and let the link between the insight and the offering be discovered over time, or should we lead to a big crescendo with the reader dying to know how we can help with that now-clear issue?
The topic I want to explore with you today though is not to answer that question directly, but one that comes from thinking more broadly about calls to action in blog articles. That topic is authenticity.
What does authentic marketing content look like?
If a marketer – in-house or outsourced – is thinking about content that has to be useful + be search optimised + lead to a hard or soft call to action, it is perhaps easy for that marketer to work backwards: to build a story around their product rather than an insight. Being authentically useful (I am deliberately tying those together) is about solving a problem.
Let me leave that thought about solving problems hanging for a bit and use a few examples as I attempt to tie authenticity to the question that I led with about calls to action:
- In Should you outsource your B2B marketing? (Yes, probably – here’s why), our head of copy, Bella Newton, argues that outsourcing is mostly a good idea and explains why. You could argue that’s a self-serving argument given that our clients outsource their marketing to us. But her conclusions are clearly valid. Even If you’re action is to outsource to someone other than align.me, I’d still argue that her advice is solid. Bella’s chosen a soft call to action (CTA) that I feel is not out of place at the end of that article.
- In Why getting sh*t done doesn’t have to mean busting your chops, I shared a message first written for a team member because I thought our audience (you) would get value from it. It essentially argues for doing the right things and doing them efficiently rather than burning the midnight oil. The CTA is similarly soft (Bella added it to my article when she edited it) and, although not really tied to the content, doesn’t feel out of place. Not to me, anyway. The article’s content, though, is an accurate expression of a view that I hold strongly: we are wickedly efficient, but we don’t work late (often).
- In The absolute basic sales & marketing must-do’s for DIY B2B digital marketing, Marketing Associate Callum Youla argues what a business should do for itself if it can’t (yet) afford to outsource its marketing. More on this in a moment, but to stick to the point of these examples, Callum is arguing that if you can’t yet afford to outsource your marketing, do only a few high-impact tactics (which he names) and avoid a few that sound like good ideas, but can be challenging. His call to action is a little stronger but begins with “When you’re ready…” to be consistent with the audience he was writing for – those who are not yet ready.
- In my final example from 2018 – Evolve your approach to outsourced marketing, I’ve argued that what you outsource should change as you grow. Outsource nothing when you are in scrappy start-up mode, everything when growing to $20m, and selectively thereafter. My call to action was super-soft, leading only to our YouTube channel.
Now, back to being authentically useful.
A simple test of any article we might publish could be whether we believe it. Applying that same test to the selections I shared above, we could ask: Do we really believe this? Should we really be saying all of this? Or are we just trying to build a case for marketing outsourcing?
The answer is both. We believe it, and we want to create a case for smart outsourcing of marketing. Even if you read it, agree with our conclusions and then outsource to somebody else.
Make sure you’re asking the right question
Let me now return to the comment about solving problems as a key to being authentically useful. I posed a question earlier that I consider to be the wrong question. I ought not to ask, “do I believe this?” referring to something that I have already written. Nor should I make ‘belief’ a simple rule when writing. That’s not (quite) enough.
- What problem does my market face? Maybe many, but what one problem do I want to solve today?
- What unique insight do I have that might help them solve that problem?
- How can I offer that insight in a way that solves the problem but also positions my business with that part of the market for whom 1000 words won’t be enough?
If I start my writing pursuit with that question in mind, I will be authentically useful. And perhaps, just perhaps, I might also earn the right to help you solve it with my products or services.