Chambers have limited resources and are often called upon to stretch their budgets with the kind of flexibility only a circus performer can appreciate. Chamber pros must also use their time wisely because it, too, is a valuable resource. So when it comes to marketing, that means–just like their member businesses–they’re looking for a good return on investment.
One of the best returns in the marketing arena is content marketing.
But what is content marketing and how do you get a return on investment? I sat down with Frank Kenny, chamber consultant, speaker, and author, to talk about what every chamber professional needs to know about content marketing.
If your chamber is struggling to get engagement and sales, it’s time to learn more about this fascinating topic.
What Is Content Marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Just create some valuable and relevant content and give it to your audience consistently and you’ll have more membership sales. That’s how it works, but let’s break down how you actually implement this strategy.
Frank Kenny is candid about what that means for chambers.
In order to be successful with content marketing, he advises “For chambers, the whole idea is to give, give, give and then get. Give value using social media, your website, email, and all the different channels at your disposal, not to try to get right away, but to give without expecting immediate payback.”
Content marketing is a long-run strategy. You will not (or at least cannot expect to) produce one blog post and bring in five sales the minute you hit publish.
With successful content marketing you are not keeping score or expecting immediate payback for your efforts. But when you give, you will (eventually) receive. It’s the Law of Reciprocity.
The Value Quotient
While content marketing is about giving away content to build know, like, and trust in order for someone to eventually buy from you, the kind of content you share and post must be valuable in the eyes of your ideal audience.
Last year, there was a clip that was popular on TikTok, so popular that it became part of the vernacular. It was simple and catchy. It was the phrase, “We do not care,” and it was used in a variety of clips.
Content marketing that doesn’t use valued content can have the same effect on your audience. If you don’t give them what they want, they will quickly turn you off with a nonchalant, “don’t care.” In order to be effective and successful, you must make them care.
You do this by creating content that is:
If you create this type of content, in the medium that your audience prefers and you do it consistently, you will eventually “receive.”
When you give someone something they deem as valuable, this builds know, like, and trust and they feel indebted to you and want to return the favor.
That’s the power behind content marketing.
When content marketing is done effectively, both parties feel good about it. As Frank explained, the chamber is creating needed content that helps people. The community is enjoying it, learning from it, and feeling encouraged by it.
In return, the audience (content consumers) will want to reciprocate by saying yes to your ask. That gives them additional benefits and allows them to give you the gift of reciprocity. This circle of giving leaves everyone feeling good and everyone gets what they need from the exchange.
The Easiest Ways to do Content Marketing
Chamber professionals often don’t have the bandwidth to consistently create high-value content.
When they don’t have time, the content is either shared in an inconsistent manner when they have the time, or its creation takes a back seat to other more pressing issues.
Valuable content takes creativity, which can be daunting, and requires time and energy. Busy chamber pros might be tempted to rush through it just to have something to post or they might put off posting because they either can’t think of ideas or don’t have the time to dedicate toward polishing those ideas up.
Consistent content is difficult…or at least it was.
The difficulty of creating content — and the burden it placed on chamber professionals — is what inspired the idea of the Content Marketing Bundle.
Every week, members of this chamber-specific subscription service receive five images designed to drive engagement, as well as a video aimed at helping to educate members on how to use technology, and a business article that can educate members on best practices. The bundle saves the chamber professional several hours of work.
With a Content Marketing Bundle membership, the chamber pro has content marketing checked off their list every week. It’s a handy, inexpensive solution that provides a great return on investment.
How Do You Use Social Media to Give?
Frank advises that you begin by building an audience on your chosen platforms (the ones where your ideal member hangs out) and you do this by sharing valuable/engaging content. But he also cautions that social media is “an audience-building platform. It’s rare to close a sale there.”
Building an audience is important because you’re helping people to know, like, and trust you but you’ll go to a different channel to develop your ask.
So where do you close that membership sale? How do you make it all come together?
The “reciprocate” component of content marketing (where you “get”) occurs in email.
Creating Lead Magnets as Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy
In order to convert interest to chamber memberships, you’ll need to “nurture” your contact. But first, you must get them to reveal themselves to you. This happens through a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a piece of content that your ideal audience will find so valuable that they will be willing to exchange their email address for it. The lead magnet/email exchange is the building block for creating a robust email list. The lead magnet will help grow the list and allow you to reach a larger group.
Create your chamber lead magnet and make it available to everyone who gives you an email address.
Frank cautions not to ask for too much information. “You want to collect the bare minimum of information. Chambers that ask for just an email, will have a much higher conversion rate than those that ask for more information. The more information you ask for, the lower the conversion rate. People don’t want to fill out long forms or give away a lot of personal information. Email and name are fine, but there is a big drop off in the conversion rate after the third information box/line.”
How Do You Find Topics for Lead Magnets?
That’s the million dollar question.
You want your lead magnet to be something your ideal audience is interested in. And the topic must be unique enough that they are willing to provide you with their email in order to receive it. If the information you’re gating with a lead magnet is common knowledge or easy to find on the internet without going through a lead magnet gate, they won’t provide their information.
For instance, a Business Event Checklist might be a valuable topic for your audience, but gating the address to city hall wouldn’t be. They can get the latter with a quick search. While the first topic may also be available on the internet, it’s likely the chamber has some unique insights into the topic and the audience will download to see.
If you’re stuck for ideas for lead magnets, here are 50 of them for you, but if you want to create your own, you can do that too.
First, figure out what your future members are talking about. What is your target market struggling with? Which tool or calculator would make their lives easier? What type of checklist or article could streamline their daily processes? Perhaps they need tips for in-person (or virtual) networking, information on changes to property taxes or applying for a certain exemption, or steps to starting a business in your area.
You Have the Lead Magnet, Now What?
You’ve created a valuable lead magnet, one that will be in demand as soon as it’s published but how do you get it out to your audience? These days, content marketing has become extremely streamlined. In fact, Frank points out that most chambers are probably already using software that can be used for distributing the lead magnet.
He says, “There are tons of tools chamber pros are already familiar with that can help chambers of any size to do content marketing.”
Well-known tools capable of content and email marketing with lead magnets and list building include:
- Constant Contact
- Chambermaster/Growth Zone
Frank uses ClickFunnels, which he describes as affordable and powerful “with all the capabilities you need under one roof.”
When posting your lead magnet with one of these programs (or others), ensure you make it clear that they will be receiving emails from you. Give them the opportunity to opt-out.
Once someone downloads your lead magnet, they become part of an e-mail nurture campaign from which you continue to give them valuable content and build a long-term relationship. And ask for the sale!
Give, give, give, and then get.