A ninja works from the shadows.
You never see them coming. They’re covert and they accomplish their task with razor-sharp perfection, precision, and they’re quick! By the time you realize something has happened, the ninja is already gone.
A content marker is much the same. Content marketers need to be covert because guess what? Nobody likes to be spoon-fed a sales pitch.
Funny how it works, isn’t it?
We’re consumers, and yet we hate being sold to.
And that’s why, a content marketer needs to be like a ninja, working from the shadows, in the most covert way possible, but with such expertise that the audience doesn’t even realize that they’re being sold to!
I’ll give you another example if that helps.
Have you seen the movie Inception (2010) by Christopher Nolan?
The idea of inception as it is explained in the context of this movie is something like this:
A person (or a team of people) invades another person’s dream while they’re asleep and without their knowledge, and then plants an idea into the person’s subconscious. When this person wakes up, they think that it was their own idea to begin with.
A good content marketer doesn’t scream about what they’re marketing. It’s a lot like a soft whisper. They do it in a way that makes you think you have always wanted the product (the one being marketed). And that is the art of content marketing.
And in this blog post, I will show you how to be a content marketing ninja so that your audience will buy whatever you’re selling, without even realizing that they’ve been sold to.
But don’t worry. I won’t teach you anything that requires selling your soul to the devil. I know that marketing gets a bad rap because there are so many people out there trying to scam us. But good marketing is different. Proper marketing is ethical and moral and done in the best interest of the consumer .
For example, when you know that your audience needs something, something that will make their life easier or will improve the quality of their life, and you have just the right thing for them, should you withhold that information? No!
So, moving forward, we will see how to do content marketing right, which is good for both parties — the marketer as well as the consumer. In our case, the blogger and the audience.
What’s the Difference Between Blogging and Content Marketing?
Often people wonder about the difference between blogging and content marketing. Sometimes people use the two terms interchangeably. It all comes down to what your end-goal is behind creating content.
There are plenty of technical definitions out there. I will give you mine; it makes more sense to me.
Both blogging and content marketing, at the end of the day, is about creating content. Before I tell you the difference between them, let me tell you first what each of them is.
What is Blogging?
Blogging is like writing a set of texts on a platform on a regular basis. So, all you need if you want to blog is pick a platform (WordPress or something else) and start writing.
Some people write their innermost thoughts on their blogs – almost like keeping a diary. These texts do not serve any purpose other than getting the writer’s thoughts out there. Some people may like that and follow said blogger simply because they like the blogger’s writing style and/or substance of the posts.
There are also bloggers who use their blogs to teach something. The Side Blogger falls under that category. I teach people how to blog. Some people have food blogs where they may teach how to cook. Others may teach about managing personal finance, while some others may teach magic tricks.
Another type of blog is an information blog. For example, review blogs are information blogs, such as book review blogs, movie review blogs, etc.
Often though, most bloggers switch roles between all these different types of blogging. A food blogger may teach how to make a dish, they may also, in the same blog (or even the same blog post) compare between using two different ingredients for a dish. So, the blogger here is simultaneously teaching and informing.
The Side Blogger is also a mishmash of different types of blogs. Some posts are dedicated to teaching full of tutorials and how-to guides. Some other posts may review a blogging related product. So, with The Side Blogger, I’m using this platform to teach and to share information, and then some more, such as selling products I’m an affiliate for.
Speaking of selling…
What is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing uses the content for a very specific purpose — to market and sell a product.
You cannot write a post about a bad day at work or how to deal with an awful boss and call that content marketing (unless it’s selling something at the same time).
The interchangeability of blogging and content marketing results because of the fact that you can very well use blogging to also market and sell.
For example, I have a blog post that informs my readers why I love SiteGround for my WordPress blog’s hosting solution. It is an information post, however, recall that I’m an affiliate of SiteGround, and therefore, while I’m informing my readers why I prefer SiteGround, I’m also using the blog post to convince people that SiteGround is indeed a great hosting company so that my readers may be intrigued to pick SiteGround as the hosting company for their blogs as well.
Now, recall our previous example of a post about how to deal with an awful boss. I said that it wasn’t content marketing but rather, just a plain blog post.
Now, let’s think about it a bit differently.
What if the blogger in question in this example is a freelance career coach? And what if this coach is trying to use her content (or blog) to establish her credibility and authority and in the process get some clients? In this scenario, a “how to deal with an awful boss” may very well be not just a blog post, but also content to market and sell a service — the blogger’s coaching services.
You see now why the difference between blogging and content marketing can sometimes get so convoluted?
At the end of the day, it’s not the content itself, but how you use the content you have created that determines whether a piece of content can be referred to as marketing material or just a piece of content with no end goal (a regular blog post).
Finally, if you must have a proper definition for content marketing, here’s what Demian Farnworth has to say on Copyblogger:
A content marketer is responsible for the planning, creating, and sharing of valuable content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers.
Why Do We Need to Learn About Content Marketing?
We like to call ourselves bloggers. But, I bet that most of us are not blogging just to get our thoughts out in the world. Most of us are in it to somehow monetize the content we create, which makes us not just another blogger, but also a content marketer.
Whether we are affiliate marketers or we’re trying to sell our own products and/or services, we’re using our content to set ourselves apart, establish ourselves as authority figures in our respective niches, so that our readers will buy from us.
And that’s precisely why it will serve us well to consider our blog posts as marketing material.
But remember what I said earlier? Content marketers are like ninjas. Just like being a ninja requires learning all kinds of skills and then practicing them over and over, being a good content marketer also requires learning some techniques and quite a bit of practice.
The Prerequisites of Being a Content Marketer as a Blogger
As you know, I do my fair share of research before I sit down to write a blog post. Even if I know a great deal about a topic, I feel the need to, let’s say, compare notes. So, after looking through some content marketing related posts out there, I found some pretty useful information. However, I feel that what’s mostly out there isn’t enough (or always applicable) for us bloggers who are also sometimes content marketers.
Here’s the thing. There is no one way to be a great content marketer. After all, there is no one way to market content! For example, some form of content marketing is simply creating content for social media. Other types of content may be creating videos only.
Some content marketing may target large companies or corporations. While others may target individuals.
Needless to say that there’s just no way for me to cover it all. Instead, I will tell you what I have learned, as a blogger, about content marketing. And since I know that most of you reading TSB are bloggers as well, I’m sure these tips I’m about to share with you will help you gain the next-level expertise in content marketing.
You Must Have a Winning Mindset
Trust me, nothing screams “failure” louder when you start a new blogging business (or any business, really) feeling depressed every day thinking who would ever read your blog when there are so many other people blogging about the exact same topics that you wish to blog about.
That kind of mindset limits you and your ambitions.
I’ll tell you a secret.
When I started The Side Blogger, I knew the competition was rough. Some of my most favorite bloggers were in the same sphere and when I looked at what they had built, I couldn’t help but feel that my own voice was so small and insignificant compared to them.
Now, there were a couple of ways to deal with what I was feeling. I could let the anxiety take over and not believe in myself and my abilities. Or, I could think of myself as lucky to have such great mentors to teach me how to do what I wanted to do. Even if these bloggers didn’t know it themselves.
Rest assured, every blogger, no matter how big and bold they are now, had to start from zero. Also, having competition is a good thing. It means that there is demand. You do not want to conduct business within a vacuum. That just makes your journey that much harder. learn from those who have made something of themselves in your field, and then put in your 110% to do all it takes to go where you want to go.
Be Ambitious about Your Goals
It’s not easy, especially when you’re just starting out, but it’s necessary. Unless you have big ambition, you cannot put in the effort that it takes to achieve even a fraction of the goals you set for yourself.
You won’t be able to create the best content out there unless you’re super ambitious.
I couldn’t have started in the same field as Pat Flynn, or Jon Morrow, or Melyssa Griffin unless I was ambitious.
When you look at a mega-successful blogger/content creator in your niche, do not let their success discourage you. Instead, let that fuel your desire to be even greater!
Set Up a Platform that Exudes Authority
You need to set yourself apart as an authority before you can even expect people to give you their money.
Authority comes with time, by consistent effort and value you put out there. However, one of the first things you need is a platform that looks like one that belongs to an authority figure.
And as a blogger, that platform is your blog itself.
If you want to be taken seriously, you need a serious platform. Do yourself a favor and set up your blog with self-hosted WordPress, get a really good theme (well coded and well designed), make sure your blog URL is custom (get a custom domain with your business name,) and set up your blog so that it is secure and fast-loading. Many newbie bloggers tend to overlook these things, but please, don’t!
If you need help with setting up your blog, I have a step by step tutorial for setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog with SiteGround that I suggest you check out.
Be the Voice of Reason and Expertise
A big part of content marketing as a blogger is establishing yourself as someone trustworthy and an authority figure in your niche. I’m assuming you’ve already picked your blogging niche. Remember that in order to set yourself apart in your niche, you have to really understand what you’re talking about, or be ready to do a lot of research in order to create super value-packed content on a regular basis.
Here are some tips to prove your expertise with your content:
- Give tons and tons of value for free before you attempt to sell anything; withholding information doesn’t help. The more you share, the more you teach, the more others will be helped by you. And when they have been helped by you, they’ll be more likely to want to repay in whatever form possible. Not because you’re asking, but because that’s just how psychology works.
- Write about the many aspects of your niche. For example, if you blog about weight loss, consider writing about all that goes into a healthy weight-loss plan. Don’t just write about the diet aspect of it. You should also consider writing about exercises to help you get into better shape, daily routines aside from diet and exercise that will help boost energy and productivity, mindset exercises, psychological care, etc. Basically, your blog should be a one-stop place for those out there trying to learn more about weight loss and overall, a good, healthy, balanced lifestyle.
- Show proof. Marketing is all about showing proof. As a blogger, you’re expected to be personally aware of what you’re blogging about. You can use yourself as an example, or, if you’re not there yet, do your due research and find some examples out there that you can use to prove your point.
- Write with authority. For example, try to avoid phrases with “I think”, “maybe”, “possibly” (and adverbs in general,) “likely”, and anything else that may show that you’re not entirely certain about what you’re preaching. If you, the marketer, lack certainly in your message, there’s no way your audience will feel certain about investing in whatever you’re selling.
The Exception When It Comes to Being a Covert Marketer
I have a confession to make.
I know I have been talking about being a ninja of a content marketer, and that’s absolutely correct! The more covert you are, the better it is.
However, depending on the type of product you sell, it may be necessary, from time to time, to be a bit less covert.
It all depends on your personal content marketing strategy, and to show you what I mean, I’ll once again use my SiteGround affiliate product as an example.
So, you know how I’m a SiteGround hosting company affiliate, yeah? I try to plug this product whenever I can, just like I did in the preceding sentence!
Sometimes, I feel more at ease being bold and not too covert about my marketing techniques when it comes to certain types of products.
What do I mean by that?
The products I shamelessly plug all the time are products most needed and used by my ideal audience. A blog hosting company, and an email marketing platform. These are two products all bloggers must have to run their blogging business smoothly, so I don’t shy away from plugging them whenever possible.
But then there are some other products where I am a lot less aggressive. Not that I’m not an aggressive seller (you can be aggressive AND a covert ninja at the same time, I mean, nobody’s ever accused a ninja of lacking aggressiveness! Watch the anime Naruto if you have doubts!) but that I do not come off as bold as I do with my SiteGround or ConvertKit plugs.
One of the reasons is that these (the products I’m more covert about) are not products that my readers absolutely MUST have. But that they are good to have, or they are must-have’s depending on a particular reader and their needs. These are not universal must-have items like a hosting company or an email marketing platform (universal for my particular audience; you shouldn’t be so bold about promoting a hosting company if your audience is comprised of those who’re looking to lose weight, or trying to learn dog training, for example).
So, when it is OK to be bold about selling a product?
If there is a product your audience needs — not wants — but needs, then it is OK to be a bit brazen about it.
However, do keep in mind that not all niche will have such a product. For example, if you’re a health and nutrition blogger, or a fitness blogger, you may not have one single product that your audience needs. Because when it comes to health or fitness, not every formula works for everyone.
Remember this: do not be brazen about marketing for the sake of making more sales and only making more sales. That’s how you lose your authority and trustworthiness because your readers aren’t stupid. They know when something is really good for them and when it isn’t. Good marketing isn’t about lying to your audience, it’s about giving them what they need, for real.
Content Strategies to Market Something Openly and Directly
Again, only be so open when the product you’re selling is a must-have for your audience. Not all bloggers have a product like that.
Also, if your niche doesn’t have something like a must-sell, or must-have for your audience, that’s totally fine. There are plenty of bloggers out there who don’t have such a product yet they’re killing it.
But in case you do, here are some tips:
- Even when you’re being very clear about selling, make sure to add value connected to the product you’re selling. If it’s an affiliate product, do a product review, or write a post comparing the product you’re selling, and another rival product, and make a solid point about why you’re promoting one over the other.
- Do not force a product plug. Let it happen naturally. If you’re writing about a topic that has nothing to do with the product you’re selling, don’t try to force it in. Even when you’re being brazen, be smart about it!
- Add as much social proof as possible for your product. If it’s an affiliate product you’re marketing, see if there are Facebook groups for that product or a relevant group that may talk about the product. Look for posts of praises and actual data showing the product works for its intended purposes.
- If you’re selling your own product or services, ask your customers or clients for testimonials and reviews, and then incorporate them into your posts.
Some of the More Covert Ways of Content Marketing
In the previous section, we saw tips for marketing your products in more obvious ways.
Now let us look at some of the ninja-style, covert ways of marketing products or services.
Do Something with Your Product
Here, instead of reviewing a product or comparing the product with other, similar products, you’re simply using the product to do something.
Here are some examples:
- I’ll start with some of my posts. I write extensive tutorials for creating certain types of digital products using Canva. And guess what? I happen to be an affiliate for Canva. So, even if I’m not necessarily singing the praises of Canva directly, by showing people how easy it is to create designs with Canva, in a way, I’m promoting this platform too.
- You will often see food bloggers share recipes where they use a certain brand for an ingredient, or a cooking pot, or other, relevant and related items. That’s also a way to promote and market that product. You’re not really telling people why they should use the product you’re using, but remember, you’re an authority figure, so naturally, if your audience trusts your judgment, they’ll want to do things how you have done them. And that sells!
Let me give you an example. Two of my favorite bloggers over at A Beautiful Mess — Elsie and Emma — often work with brands for sponsored posts. The goal is to sell certain products. But guess what? You’ll never see a straight-up review post on their blog. Instead, they do things or make things with their sponsor’s products and blog about the process. It makes their blog look more authentic (straight-up reviews of products make it so obvious that you’re selling, that it actually makes your blog look and feel cheap!), it’s more fun that way, and the content is straight-up their alley (it’s a arts and crafts blog, so the sponsored posts are almost always some kind of arts and crafts related tutorials.)
Create a Funnel
You may have heard of sales funnels.
In the world of bloggers, you associate the term with creating a lengthy process where you take your audience on a journey, and by the end of the journey, they are ready to make some kind of investment.
I, for example, have a free email course where I walk my readers through some steps to build and grow their email list. At the end of the free course, I suggest that if they wish to learn more, they have the option to purchase my paid course.
It’s a mix of covert marketing and direct marketing. First, the process is fairly covert where a user signs up for the free course. I do not promote my paid course or even mention it during the course.
It’s only after the users have gone through the entire free course that I send them a follow-up email about the paid course.
Do not think that content marketing is limited to promoting one product per piece of content.
Casual mentions, especially for affiliate products work pretty well too.
I did mention this method when I was talking about more brazen and direct ways of marketing a product.
But it can sometimes feel free covert too, depending on your usage.
In the end, if you think a piece of content will be enriched by having mentioned a certain product, then by all means, go for it.
Other Content Marketing Tips for Bloggers
- Always put your audience’s needs before your need to sell.
- Constantly add value to your blog, not just when you’re selling, but all the rest of the time as well. You know how most of my blog posts are super long? I don’t do it only when I’m selling something, I do it for all of my posts. I try my best to make each post as complete as possible. And while not every single post, taken separately, is for selling something, together they all serve one purpose — build and grow my reputation and authority. In turn, my overall sales increase too!
- Some people tend to think of selling as something bad. Guess what? If you do not believe in what you do, then nobody else will either. How do plan to make money if making money seems like a bad thing to you? In order to be successful, you have to believe in yourself, and whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re selling something, believe it in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. Believe in the product or service you’re marketing, and if you’re passionate about it, the energy will transfer to your audience as well, and your sales will increase.
- When you’re ready and if you have time, consider additional outlets for your marketing. For example, aside from writing blog posts, you can also create audio clips or video clips. You can easily take a tutorial type post, and record yourself doing it. Adding more outlets also increases your audience, and more audience can mean more sales!
- Always, always, always have a way to reach out to your most loyal audience — your email list subscribers. meaning, get on that email list ASAP. If you have a blog but you’re not collecting emails, you’re leaving money on the table. Just this past month during Black Friday and Cyber Monday I made close to a thousand bucks! Just over the weekend! You cannot count on complete strangers to give you money. if you want a sustainable business, an email list is a must!
Don’t know how to get started with an email list? Sign up for my email course below where I’ll teach you exactly how you can get started with building and growing a thriving email list! For FREE!
So, what do you think? Did you come up with any new ideas for content marketing in your own blog? And as always, if you have any question, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to get back to you with an answer 🙂