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Content marketing strategies that build an audience

Now that you’ve cleaned up your online profile and taken ownership of your personal brand, it’s time to make some noise in a very noisy world.

Perhaps more than what you’re selling, educated buyers want help and expertise. Having something compelling to say and then marketing those ideas is the best way to increase your credibility and build an audience that will listen to you.

It’s called content marketing. You’re on the receiving end every day. If you need examples, check out all those helpful tips and articles in your email box and social media designed to make you stop, click, read, and act.

Creating content is not as hard as you think. You don’t have to be blessed with the God-given talent of Mark Twain.

I’m living proof that you don’t have to have a creative bone in your body in order to find an audience and communicate what you know. You don’t need a column in a magazine to tell your story. You don’t even need to be a writer.

“Content” comes in many forms. The key is having a narrow, deep focus; keeping the selling to a minimum; and being a frequent and purposeful poster.

Once you know what you want to say, pick a content marketing strategy that you’re comfortable with. Here are some options.


White papers, webinars, e-books, surveys, and other original research are the Ferraris of content marketing. They are valuable and authoritative but also time consuming and expensive to produce.

Great research can build your brand but it’s probably not the best place to start unless you have support and funding from your employer. Tom Sawyer wasn’t Mark Twain’s first book!

Written Content

A blog or an industry newsletter are great ways to make some noise. Define your audience—in one sentence, describe your ideal reader—and start jotting down what you’d like to tell him. Be helpful. Be instructive. What advice do you have to make his life easier?

You’re not writing a novel or masters thesis. If you’re going to give writing a whirl, be consistent, keep your posts short (a few hundred words, tops), and write the way you speak.

Trying to impress your audience with Shakespearian flair is a huge mistake. Short sentences and one-syllable words will increase the readability of your work. Don’t use words like Shakespearian!

Online Conversations

Industry chat rooms and social media sites are my favorite ways to exchange ideas. Conversations count as content, too.

Just like any other conversation you have, online chats are a two-way street. Be a good listener. Don’t be overbearing. I learned that ending comments with a question is a simple way to keep a conversation going so you can really get to know your target.

Shared Content

It’s cool to share a link to something (I like sharing industry-related news items from mainstream publications like Fortune). But mindlessly hitting the “share” button on content that has no value to your audience makes you look lazy and inconsiderate. It hurts your brand.

Sending links via social media to articles that can only be opened by others who have paid for a subscription is also not cool!

Visual Content

Even when your written content is the perfect length and full of great ideas, not everyone will read everything you have to say. They’re too busy and are sick of getting pestered.

Maybe that 400-word blog post looks like a wall of text on the screen and there’s nothing inviting about it.

People remember what they see. Charts, graphs, pictures, videos, and funky visuals will draw their attention to your content. Sometimes it’s better to show than to tell!

Insider Content

It’s hard to put a price tag on being perceived as an insider. Exclusive content from trade shows, conferences, and association board meetings is coveted and an excellent way to build your brand.

Being active among industry rainmakers is the only way this is going to happen. Just don’t let your zeal to share a scoop betray the trust of your colleagues and business partners. You’ll be on the outside in no time.
Wacky Content

Push the “wacky” envelope and you will get noticed. Ask Mark Cuban! Just make sure you’re noticed in a positive light. Stay away from taboo topics like sex, race, and politics. Politically I’m right wing but wouldn’t dream of promoting an agenda through content marketing.

The last piece of the personal branding puzzle is distribution. It should be easy considering we all work in the distribution business. That’s for my next column.

Hopefully by then the U.S. will have approved the Keystone Pipeline!

Mike McCarron

Mike McCarron

Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in the “monetizing” of transportation companies. A 30-year industry veteran, he founded MSM Transportation which he sold in 2012. Mike can be reached at or at 416-931-7212. Follow him on Twitter: @AceMcC
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