Marketing is crucial to the success of businesses – it educates people, builds trust, and turns casual interest into sales.
Wouldn’t it be ideal then if there was an underused marketing asset that does all those things in one package?
Step forward, guides.
You will be well accustomed to guides, but this may be the first you’re hearing of them in a marketing context. To help you successfully integrate them into your campaigns, in this article, I explain exactly what the value of guides in marketing is, along with giving you two excellent examples of companies that have used them effectively.
What are content marketing guides?
For people new to the idea, there are a lot of questions about using content marketing assets as a guide – three of which are of vital importance:
Before I answer these questions properly, I’ll start by saying this – simply asking questions is what content marketing guides are all about. They address concerns raised by your prospective customers and frame them in ways that ease their path down your sales funnel.
So, on to those questions.
Guides are pieces of content that tap into informational searches. The type of searches people perform when they have a question, want to learn something, and need advice.
Content marketing guides are designed to help these people. For this reason, they aren’t overt sales tools, but they are part of your marketing sales funnel – they sit at the top, in the stage where you’re educating your customers.
Used correctly, content marketing guides turn your target audience into customers. And now I’ll explain exactly how you do that.
Use guides to educate people & get them ready to buy
People that use guides are seeking advice and you can make your business the answer – all you need to do is understand their problems and give them materials they can use to educate themselves.
To get to this position you need to think like your target audience:
To give you an idea of how guides can address these things while acting as a nuanced (but targeted) sales tool, I’ll use the example of Bridgestone.
Bridgestone sells tyres, lots of tyres. In a competitive field, it’s important to understand your customers. Bridgestone has illustrated this by producing a guide on how to change a flat tyre – an obvious concern, motivation, and future requirements for its target audience.
The guide opens with a video of how to change a flat tyre in just three minutes.
This is perfect because it gives the target audience exactly what they want in the shortest amount of time possible.
This is followed up by listing the items you need to fix a tyre (including diagrams), a detailed checklist of what you need to do to change a tyre, and an estimate of how long it should take.
All of this is exactly what the audience wants and it’s done in a highly informational way.
But Bridgestone weaves in a sales element by including a link to its products at the bottom of this marketing asset – but only after the guide has provided the answers that the user is looking for.
You can find the guide here.
Use guides to build trust in your brand
As I’ve highlighted earlier in this article, guides need to be informational and adopt a soft sales approach. This is because people don’t look to guides to be sold, they look to them to be informed.
If you go for the hard sell, this means people will lose trust in your brand before you’ve built a relationship with them. And that’s the opposite of one of the key purposes of guides – to build trust.
Trust is established in a number of ways but I’m going to highlight two that are connected and absolutely vital – and both of which need to be used in your guides.
Firstly, you need to establish authority.
Secondly, you need to let your audience know that you get them.
Now, authority can be a tricky one for online guides. This is because a brand can have authority by name alone. Why does this matter? I’ll explain.
If Jaguar talks about cars, then it stands to reason that it knows what it’s talking about – the company has years of experience in the field, which means its reputation precedes and dictates. This is difficult (but not impossible) for smaller brands to contend with. How do you tackle this? By providing solutions clearly and confidently, using the right level of detail, and in the voice that your audience understands.
To demonstrate what authority and getting your audience looks like, I’ve picked a guide from iCompario that covers who is liable for accidents in company vehicles.
Fuel card aggregator site iCompario, like much of the industry, is innately sales-focused, making it tough to strike a chord with guide readers used to more engaging and less sales-focused content. The way iCompario deals with this is by offering guidance on a topic that its target audience worries about.
The guide on accident liability opens by explaining how many accidents occur on the roads each year – perfect for sharpening the focus of the audience. Why? Because it demonstrates an understanding of their concerns.
It then immediately addresses the issue of employee liability, before guiding the reading through all of the various liabilities and obligations, along with educating the audience on how to avoid the thing they’re afraid of – being liable for an accident in a company car.
Authority is secured from the level of detail used and by understanding the concerns of the target audience. Showing an understanding of their readers comes from simple language and relatable examples. Only once the reader has had their concerns eased does the guide go salesy – in the same way that Bridgestone did.
You can read the guide here.
Guides can be an important part of your content marketing strategy, so long as you understand how to use them. Now that I’ve explained and demonstrated how to use guides, all that’s left for you is to add them to your marketing efforts.