Content marketing is a method of communicating with your customers by distributing content on subjects that interest them. This form of communication introduces customers to your brand as a subject matter expert and educator. Content can build relationships with your customers that aren't focused on sales, meaning that customers can feel free to return to your site frequently. Additionally, content can create network effects as your customers share your content with their friends who share common interests. Networks are valuable because they create a significant number of impressions and brand familiarity without paid advertising.
Crossfit is a company built on content marketing. Crossfit had a valuation of $4 billion in 2015, and it is safe to assume that number has grown, but what is Crossfit? Why was it so successful, and what can you learn from this concept?
In the early days, perhaps the early 2000’s Crossfit offered online workouts to the public through their main website crossfit.com. The core business of Crossfit is certifications, training in their methodology, and licensing their brand name. But how did Crossfit grow, how did it catch on? The answer is in the content, which created their identity, and established them as a brand.
From the early days, Crossfit offered free workout planning, nutrition insights, coaching, technique advice, and a low costs subscription journal with qualified contributors. There is a brilliance in providing this type of content that may not be apparent at first.
Remember, people are not searching for your product; they are searching for their interest.
How many people do you know that are interested in fitness education, and nutrition advice? Almost everyone and that might include you too. So, Greg Glassman, the owner of Crossfit, in his infinite wisdom, preached his gospel of metabolic conditioning for free through the web.
People visited the site daily to see the next day’s workout. Followers built forums to discuss the exercises. Crossfitters became a noun. They invited their friends to workout. They loved the brand so much that they made gyms where they could workout with their friends and quit their day jobs. Crossfit used their content to build an experience and a community.
Crossfit has shown that you can build strong relationships that are communicating with your clients 24 hours a day, across the world, in meaningful ways. That is more than you can say for anyone on your sales team. So how can you do the same thing for your business?
Lesson one: Focus on interests, not on products or services
Crossfit’s revenue comes from certification and affiliation, but you don’t know this from their brand presence. Rather their website and the majority of their information are focused on their customer’s interests: fitness and nutrition.
Stop telling people about your offering and focus on having a discussion with your customers about their interests. If that conversation goes on long enough, they will trust you and see you as a community member as compared to a business. When this happens, purchases go beyond transactions, and your offerings are valued over their costs.
Lesson Two: Focus on building a community.
Crossfit’s success is built around their community of fanatics. If paid advertising is the core of your customer experience and the basis for your relationships, then you are vulnerable to your competitors. Anyone willing to outspend you will beat you in customer acquisition.
To build a community, make your content easily accessible to groups. Don’t build walls to access your content. When people have interests in common, and you can unite them with your shared content, a community will emerge.
Lastly, be accessible and responsive. Let your followers know that you hear their feedback and that you are part of the community.
Lesson Three: Remember to be a servant.
Regardless of the industry, our job is to use our products and services to improve the lives of our customers. Although the sale is a critical part of the relationship, it is only a part of the link.
This the lesson of Crossfit; although they are now a billion-dollar company, they began with a focus on sharing information and serving people by educating them for free.