I’ve worked on a lot of business websites over the years. And all too often, “content loading” appears as a line item in the project scope. More time and attention gets paid to the site design, features, and functionality.

Yes, those are all important aspects of a site. But without content, a website is nothing more than an attractive box.

Content is hard work.

It was a challenge when I was working for  small businesses. It was a challenge when I was working with startups. It was a challenge when I was working with web development agencies. And it’s a challenge that I face every day as a member of the content team at GoDaddy.

To overcome the challenge, I’ve started to develop a framework for creating content. It covers seven steps in total, but for today, I’d like to focus on the first half of it: Reach, Teach, and Sell.

Before we get into that, though, we need to do some prep work. We need to set some goals around who we’re going after, and how we’re going to get to them.

Who are your ideal customers?

Think of your ideal customers. The customers you love working with. What do they all have in common? How would you describe them as a group?

Do they all have similar jobs? Are they all in a certain geographic area? Do they share particular interests?

You also need to know where they spend their time. What websites do they visit? What do they watch? What do they read? What events do they attend? Who do they follow on social media?

You’ll have an easier time if you know exactly who your ideal customers are and what they pay attention to.

Have empathy.

Once you understand who they are as a group, you need to put yourself in their shoes.

  • What are their goals? What are they trying to achieve?
  • What are their challenges? What do they need to overcome?
  • What can you do to help? How can you help them overcome their challenges and reach their goals?

 

You may not be able to help them with everything. But even if you can address a couple challenges, you’re still valuable.

So that lays the groundwork for the framework. Know who you want to reach, and what challenges you can help them address through your content.

Reach them where they already are.

The first step of the framework is Reach. There’s the short-term method and the long-term method to it.

The short-term method is to buy attention through advertising. This will give you a short-term bump in visibility. When you stop advertising, though, the visibility disappears.

The long-term method is to build recognition and trust around your brand.

So how do you do that, exactly?

Take part in the communities where your target customers are already present. Look for Facebook groups, online forums, Twitter chats, Instagram hashtags, and in-person events.

There’s no special tactic here. You’re showing up and participating. Answer questions about things you can help with. Share useful advice. Start conversations. Your posts are your content.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to promote your business. There’s already an implicit connection between you and your business in your social media profile. When you’re new to a community, focus on participation and getting to know others first.

Community relationships are valuable. Look for opportunities to work with non-competing businesses who serve the same customers. For example, you could cross-promote and send each other referrals.

The bottom line? Always be helpful. Make this your mantra. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to lend a hand, share some insight, and pay it forward.

Teach them something useful.

The first step is to reach your ideal customers where they already are. The second step is to bring them back to where you are.

So how do you do that? By giving them a reason to come to you.

Build a library of helpful resources via posts or pages on your website. This helps you with SEO and brings in organic traffic over time. It’s a long-term investment, but the returns are worth it.

What things should you address in your helpful content? Think about:

  • What are the top twelve things that you wish every single one of your customers knew?
  • What are the twelve most common questions you get asked by new and existing customers?
  • What are twelve challenges you can help them overcome using a DIY method?
  • What are twelve tips, tricks, or tools that would be useful for them to know about?

 

Congratulations – you now have an editorial calendar of 48 weekly posts. (Write four quarterly update posts, one for each season, and you’ve got a full 52 weeks covered!)

If you’re stuck for ideas, pop into those communities you’re participating in and ask for suggestions. You should also keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas that pop up in community discussions.

Tip: Keep a list of questions to answer. That way, when you’re stuck for content ideas, go back to the list.

After publishing the content on your website, syndicate it out through other places. Publish a post on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter that links back to your content. You could even rework the content as a video or podcast, if you’re comfortable with it.

Sharing your content across platforms creates new opportunities for people to find you.

So that’s the second step. Give your ideal customers a reason to come to your website. Teach them something new, and help them overcome their challenges.

Sell them what they need, not what you want.

The first step was to reach your ideal customers where they already are. The second step was to give them a reason to come to your website.

The third step covers the things you’re trying to sell. You’re going to address three things for your potential customers:

  1. How do your products or services help customers achieve their goals? You want to get them thinking about what waits for them on the other side of a sale.
  1. How do your products or services overcome the challenges that your customers face? Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone. Think of all the “what about…?” questions that they’d likely ask. This is where you can talk about how product features address those challenges.
  1. Why should they trust you? Customer testimonials, product reviews, case studies show the successes that others have had. Guarantees, warranties, and FAQs address concern about “what if X happens?”

 

Include this content alongside your products and services on your website. You’ll make it easier for customers to identify the solution that best suits their needs.

A quick recap…

So let’s look at what we’ve covered so far:

Lay the groundwork for the framework. Start by having a clear understanding of who you want to reach, and what they pay attention to. Identify their goals and challenges, and what you can help them with.

Take part in the communities where your ideal customers are already present. Don’t go in with a hard sell. Go in with the intent to be as helpful as possible. (If you’re looking for a shorter-term win, you can also run advertisements.)

Give your ideal customers a reason to come to you. Build a library of helpful resources as posts or pages on your website. Share that content across other platforms.

Explain how your products and services help customers achieve goals and overcome challenges. Include examples of how well it’s worked for others. To overcome concerns about “what if X happens?”, include FAQs.

Connect the steps with calls-to-action.

What I haven’t touched on yet is how that content connects:

From REACH to TEACH: Has someone asked a question covered in your resources? Respond to their question. Include a summary. Link to the resource for further information.

From TEACH to SELL: Mention the products or services you provide that relate to the resource. Explain how that product or service improves on the advice your resource provides.

Reach, Teach, and Sell is half of the framework.

Think about the journey of a potential customer. Once they buy from you, what happens next? How do you continue to build and strengthen that relationship, now that they’re a customer?

If you’d like to learn more about the framework, and how you can put content to work for your business, give me a shout. I’m launching a new website all about it, and I’d love to hear your feedback.

By Andy McIlwain

Andy McIlwain wrangles content and community projects at GoDaddy. You can connect with Andy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and his personal blog.