As content marketing further solidifies itself as an effective promotional tool, brands across all industries are adopting content marketing strategies to help gain more traffic, more leads and more sales. Unfortunately, many companies understand the importance of publishing content but are still using their blog as an extension of their product pages – just another place to talk about themselves.

Stop Selling and Start Helping

The key to driving content marketing success through blogging is by turning your blog into a learning center instead of using it as a depository for additional information about purchasing your products or services. Much of content marketing is about building trust with your audience and establishing yourself as a leader within the industry. In order to effectively reach your audience and build trust, you must break through the noise and help your audience by publishing high-quality educational and useful content.

How to Tune a GuitarThink about this common scenario: When you have a question or problem, what is the first thing you do? For many of us, we go online to a search engine and enter a query. In today’s world filled with instant-results, we expect search engines to lead us to the answer in some way, shape or form. When your audience searches for help, you need to be the one to provide it, or else your competitors will.

When you help a potential customer solve a simple problem without asking for anything in return, you give them a reason to think of you the next time they have a similar issue – perhaps one they can’t fix on their own. As a result, turning your blog into a learning center can be more advantageous than publishing posts full of self-promotion.

Creating a Learning Center

To get started with turning your blog into a learning center, you must find out what your audience needs help with.

Identify Pain Points

The first step in providing your audience with helpful information is finding out what it is that they actually want to know. What are the pain points of potential customers? There are many ways to find out:

  • Ask your employees: Ask your sales team what problems or frustrations often come up in customer discussions. What questions are asked over and over? What is confusing to customers that you could explain better?
  • Analyze your website: Many websites have a search bar, where visitors can manually search for something if they can’t find it on their own. Look at the queries that are being entered. What are the most entered searches? Is there anything that visitors search for that you don’t address on your site at all?
  • Ask the audience directly: Come right out and ask your audience. If possible, create a survey, or post something less formal on your social profiles. It couldn’t be any more straightforward; simply ask your audience what their biggest pain point is, or what information they would like to see featured on your blog.

Be Transparent

When you’re researching a purchase decision and are wavering between two companies, what is the most useful piece of information you could have? For many people, that would be a candid comparison between the two companies up for consideration.

Though this type of content is incredibly useful, many businesses shy away from directly equating themselves to their competitors, afraid of drawing attention to what their product or service doesn’t do. But, if it truly is a product or service you don’t offer, that will become apparent to the visitor anyway – be it on other pages of your website or on a call with a salesperson.

With comparison content, you have an opportunity to be helpful and build trust through transparency. Don’t be afraid to compare yourself to your competitors and provide unbiased analysis on your blog; your audience will thank you for it.

Publish Quality Content

With the above in mind, begin crafting quality content for your blog.

Graphic by Vertical Measures

Though you may be thinking about your content and how you present it with a focus on educational material, many traditional blogging best practices still apply, including:

  • Format: Consider the type of content you are going to create. What is the most helpful way to display the information?
  • Organization: Be sure your blog is organized in a way that makes sense to the user, through categories and tagging.
  • Titles: As always, blog post titles are extremely important. Think about how a prospective customer would search.
  • Images: When publishing helpful content, images can be very powerful. Skip the stock photos and include charts, graphs and diagrams that provide color to the post, while still being useful.

Though businesses continue to adopt content marketing through blogging, many utilize blog posts as another place to sell and self-promote. However, as people have embraced online research to fuel purchase decisions, businesses would be better off using their blog as a learning center to help educate and provide unbiased information to their audience.