Ever heard the one about the farmer who dumped a bunch of seeds on the ground, and instead of properly planting them, watering them, and caring for them, he returns to the store the next week to stock up on more seeds, repeating the same process?
Of course you haven’t.
Now, replace the “farmer” with your average content marketer and the seeds are potential customer. See where we’re going with this?
With this type of dump and dash approach, there won’t be much yield come harvest time — in either situation.
When it comes to content marketing, the “just in case the first batch doesn’t take” mentality isn’t going to cut it in the long run.
As John Webb wrote in his post, Startup Marketing -Learn to Farm As Well As Hunt, “Most startup marketing focuses on hunting for new customers, rather than trying to ‘farm’ customers to build sustainable long-term growth.”
Anyone can call themselves a “content marketer” if they create content used to promote events,products and services. But to be a great content marketer, the goal must be to nurture and cultivate a growing customer base. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Webb continues, “Farmers drive retention and build lifetime value through constant nurturing, fertilization, and re-sowing,”
So how does one approach content marketing with the wisdom of a great farmer? Here are 3 things to remember:
The Difference Between Soil and Dirt
We know it’s been said many times that doesn’t make it any less true: success starts with the foundation. In farming, that foundation is your soil. The way we see this metaphor, the value proposition is your marketing foundation. Is your offering weak, meek and empty when it needs to be strong, thoughtful and enriching? The health of your customer relationships will reflect your proposition, so choose wisely.
If your startup offers a service, are the elements in your packages well-developed, valuable, quantifiable and reflected in your price point? If you’re a product-based business, is it clear what problems you are trying to solve and what benefits can be gained with owning and using this product?
Taking the time to tend to the foundation of your customer acquisition strategy is the difference between planting your seeds in soil and sprinkling them in dirt. If you’re serious about marketing like a farmer, you have to be serious about the viability of your soil so your potential customers can flourish and eventually, multiply.
Farm the Field, Grow More
Let’s revisit the unfortunate farmer from the start of this post. He dumped every seed he had in one spot, rather than spreading them around. This would be a great way to waste all that time crafting your value proposition, non? Now is your chance to think bigger and creatively.
Sure, it’s great to focus on a target, niche market but that doesn’t mean there aren’t several different channels to reach them. You can put all your love in care into one potted tomato plant and grow some delicious tomatoes, but if you have the resources, why not play the field and see what great results you can cultivate.
For example, your business caters to teenagers. If you only bombard their Twitter timelines with repetitive “buy me” messaging, the results might be mediocre at best. Sure, millions of teens can be reached there, but they also go to school, read magazines, watch TV, and go to malls. Try reaching them through their teachers if you have a product or service that can be incorporated into a classroom lesson. Find a sponsorship opportunity with a young adult novel/movie or, look into setting up a kiosk at a high-traffic shopping center.
And don’t underestimate the power of indirect marketing either—targeting parents and grandparents, for instance, could also be a useful tool in this scenario. After all, they’re the ones with most of the actual money.
As you discover which methods work and which ones don’t, adjust your plans accordingly. Spreading those “seeds” is the only way they’ll ever have a chance to grow.
“It’s a constant, ongoing effort—and you’re never done,’” says Ryan Skinner in his post, The 10-Minute Content Marketing Buyer Guide. “For that reason, you’ll need to discipline yourself to create and stick to a good editorial calendar and develop regular routines (checking efforts against targets, adjusting, and repeating).”
It takes a little more legwork and elbow grease, but as a result, you should feel your efforts pay off with more and more customers sprouting from each channel.
Sunlight, Water & That Little Something Extra
Winning the attention of your potential customers is an important step, but it’s the TLC that turns leads into consumers, and better yet, loyal, brand advocates and repeat customers.
Lydia Di Francesco in her post, How Inbound Marketing is Like Farming, suggests “fertilizing” your customer leads with an email marketing plan.
“This step is one of the most essential ones. If you don’t care for your seeds, all you’re doing is basically planting seeds and then leaving them to die by not feeding them,” explains Di Francesco. “Without nurturing your leads, you’re just letting them collect and pile up. Sure, your database will look great at first glance, but there won’t be much else to show for it.”
These days, setting up an email campaign is easier than ever that there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t try this. How can you use email to strengthen your customer relationships? Try exclusive offers, early access to new features, gifts and even just a check-in. A “How are you? Can we do anything to help you?” can give you insight and cement that bond between your service team and your customers. Outreach that is thoughtful, surprising and awesome are the things worth sharing — another added bonus.
Beyond email, see where else your community gathers and foster those relationships as well. Whether on social media or in person, find ways to befriend your customers. Each time you do, you add more goodwill to your brand personality and increase your value proposition further. This sets up the soil for multiple harvests, so get ready to see customers return and bring their networks with them.
Metaphor Break, Time for Real Talk
Whether or not you identify with the farmer approach to marketing, the argument is clear: a long view attitude is why content marketing can and will continue to thrive in almost every business strategy. If you’re building a business for quick and cheap thrills, than this thoughtful and steady plan of attack is not for you. But as quick as you acquire a customer, it’s as quick to lose them.
We suggest this: roll up your sleeves, prepare to break a sweat, take the time, create systems, and set goals. It might take a little longer to bask in the fruits of your labor, but putting in the effort now will mean less labor down the road, and even more yield than you could have imagined. Now who wouldn’t want that?
How do you nourish your leads for a healthy and sustainable harvest? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @Onboardly! Don’t miss any of our blogs by subscribing to our email newsletter.