Baling hay – like marketing with content – is easier with the right tools.
Over 100 years ago, the John Deere Company wanted to sell more tractors. They came up with a novel idea – produce a magazine for farmers. The stories would be about farming (what else!). It would also have helpful tips, and it would highlight John Deere tractors.
Thus The Furrow Magazine was born. It’s considered one of the first examples of content marketing. The Furrow Magazine started out as an advertorial. The editors tried different formats until they hit upon three key elements their audience wanted:
- Human interest stories.
- Detailed information that helped readers improve their own farming.
- Lots and lots of pictures.
This kind of content is content that your audience wants.
This kind of content proved to be successful in growing the tractor company. You can use this kind of content (now called content marketing) to grow your company as well.
Content Fertilized with Copywriting
The John Deere Company was one of the first companies to combine two forms of communication: content and copywriting. Content is a packet of seeds. Copywriting is fertilizer.
Content is material that informs. When your audience is looking for ways to solve a problem, he’s looking for healthy seeds of information that fill his curiosity and leave him “content.” (A play on the dual meaning of the word content.)
Copywriting is short for direct-response copywriting. As the term implies, it is writing to get a response. In other words, copywriting prompts the reader to take a specific action. It’s a persuasive sales technique. It fertilizes your content so when a reader is ready to buy, she picks your product.
Content marketing is using both content and copywriting to cultivate leads. It’s giving information and asking for an action.
The Furrow Magazine produced content that their readers valued. They also reminded their audience to try John Deere products. It takes both content and copywriting, together, for content marketing to grow an audience.
Note: content marketing is created in many forms:
- Written – case studies, articles, and blog posts
- Spoken – podcasts
- Viewed – YouTube videos, webinars, infographics, and memes
- In Person – seminars and discussions
Content Marketing is like Farming
Content without copywriting is like planting seeds in barren ground and not using any fertilizer. It’s inefficient. It wastes the effort content creation takes.
Copywriting without content is dumping a bunch of fertilizer on stripped soil – all you get is weeds. Weeds send buyers elsewhere for their products. You need both informational content and copywriting to grow healthy sales.
Copywriting is a sales technique. Content marketing is a lead generating tool. This distinction is important because copywriting can be tracked to individual sales. Content marketing is harder to track as usually the sales cycle is longer.
The Furrow Magazine started out as an experiment. And it worked. The magazine debuted in 1895. Five years later, sales for the John Deere company had grown to just over $2 million. The magazine also grew – to over four million subscribers in the early 1900’s. Currently, The Furrow Magazine is mailed to about 570,000 people.
The Furrow Magazine plants seeds of content. The calls to action for equipment fertilize it. Used together, machinery sales grow.
You can use The Furrow Magazine as a template for your own content marketing strategy:
- Provide interesting and useful information your customers want
- Include relevant graphics and pictures
- Show your audience how your product/service solves a problem
- Include tie-in information about your products/services
- Ask your audience to take action, such as:
- Sign up for our newsletter
- Contact us for more information
- Watch our video
- Join us at a seminar
Think of it this way:
Copywriting infuses content with:
- Attention-grabbing graphics
- Interesting headlines
- Persuasive words to help your audience understand the benefits of what you offer
- Call to Action
Content fills copywriting with:
- Problem-solving tips
- Helpful Information
- Trust and authority
- Human interest stories
Before the internet revolution, content creation and copywriting were two separate and distinct types of writing. Writers from one sector did not write in the other one. Now smart marketers combine the two.
Your buyers search for information before they buy
People search for everything on the internet. Especially before they buy. In the pre-internet days, your audience relied on sales people, brochures, and other marketing materials to get the information they wanted. They also asked their friends.
Now they ask Google for that same information. They still ask their friends – but now they also ask their friends’ friends – on social media.
Make it easy for your prospects to find content that fills their curiosity buckets. Give them the kind of content they want.
P.S. I found it interesting that one of the first examples of content marketing was aimed at a B2B audience. Think about it. The Furrow Magazine is written for farmers. Farming is a business. And the magazine’s not written to a conglomerate of farmers. It’s written for a one specific person – A Farmer. The best content is written to one specific person – not a company. (Photo by Peter Turvey on Flickr)