Content Marketing Is Just Like Dating: Is Your Business Settle-Down-With Material?

I’ve spoken a lot about the need to ‘humanize’ how we do business. To see past charts, likes, website hits. To realize that every lead is a human and so is every client. Yes, even in B2B.

You’re not in business with a business. You’re in business with the humans behind a business name.

But given the pressure to make all the marketing metrics shine we tend to forget this. We celebrate every lead generated, we add it to our CRM or mailing list and hope it will convert.

The same goes for every like, comment or any other type of social media engagement.

We forget that there’s a human behind each of those actions. (Save for the engagement generated by bots, of course.)

But we don’t do that when it comes to our real life, do we?

Let’s say you decide to start dating because you want to find someone to settle down with. You know, just like you do content marketing to enter in a long-term relationship with (the right kind of) clients.

Here’s how content marketing is like dating and what you can learn from the former and apply to the latter.

Content Marketing Is Like Dating. Who Should Be Settling Down with You?

First things first: while I’m not a dating guru, I know that there are rules and phases to the dating game, just like there are to any game. Sure, some are lucky enough and can ‘rig’ the game without following a single rule. But that rarely happens.

Also, I know that there are different kinds of dating. And that some people don’t want to settle down. Ever. And that’s perfectly fine.

But when it comes to the other part of our analogy – business – settling down with the ideal client is the best thing that can happen to you. This is what our analogy is about: going from perfect strangers to a long-lasting relationship.

Now that we got this out of the way, let’s see how the phases of dating are identical to the content marketing buyer journey.

Step 1: Who’s Your Prince Charming/Cinderella?

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Dating life: Everyone has a list of things they look for in a prospective partner. Physical traits, psychological ones, socio-demographic ones, age and so on. Sure, some of these criteria are more important than others but you’d never give them ALL up, right?

For instance, you may prefer fair-haired people, but what if someone dark-haired says all the right things at all the right times?

In other words: You create your dating persona by carefully considering whom you’d like to date, to see every day, BUT also who might be attracted to you.

Content marketing: Before creating a website or even putting the final touches on your product or service, you think about whom you’d serve best.

You think about their age, socio-economic status, location and more. You create your buyer persona based on who might need your products/services BUT also based on whom you’d like to serve.

Key lesson: you wouldn’t date just anyone, right? Compromising on some of your criteria is one thing, but when it comes to strong ethical or moral differences you are more inclined to say ‘no, thanks.’

Even more, when you create a dating profile, you fill in all the details about whom you’d like to meet. Because you want to separate the wheat from the chaff early on and not waste time on chatting with the wrong people.

Do the same for your content marketing. Remember that if your content is for everyone, it’s really for no one. Be specific about who your ideal client is and whom you’d never serve. You can compromise on some things but you should never accept anyone on your client list just because you want their money.

Think about it: even Walmart escorts some people out.

Phase 2: Finding THE ONE

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Dating life: OK, you now know what your ideal partner looks like. Time to find them.

But how?

Where do they hang out – online and offline?

A bit of research helps a lot. Sure, since you are looking for someone with whom you already have something in common, you may already have a vague idea about where to find them. After all, you probably like the same type of club, pub or cultural activity.

However, for optimal results, you need to narrow things down a bit.

Let’s say your ideal partner loves contemporary visual arts, local food and indie rock.

Where are you more likely to find them on a Saturday afternoon? At the museum? The farmers’ market? Or chilling at home to save energy for tonight’s concert?

Your safest bet: take a look at the top events in your area for the weekend. Does anything stand out? A new band coming to town? A unique temporary exhibition at the museum? This is where you’ll most likely find them.

Content marketing: when you create your content marketing strategy, you have to choose from the myriad of channels available. You can’t be everywhere. Nor should you be.

Just like someone looking for the perfect date, you don’t have the time or the budget to be everywhere. So you make choices. When it comes to dating, you may call them educated guesses.

But when it comes to content marketing, you should have some research to back them up.

For example: which social media networks should you be on? Does your buyer persona spend time on LinkedIn or are they more likely to buy something from a Facebook ad? In other words: should you promote your newest content on LinkedIn or Facebook?

Remember what we talked about big local events when it comes to dating? The same goes for content marketing. Local events can be a gold mine, but so can global events – if your brand isn’t location-bound.

Event round-ups make great blog posts or podcasts. Writing about a subject that’s been debated at a global conference can help you steal some of the event’s spotlight.

Key lesson: be where your target audience is offline and online. Don’t create profiles on every social network just because you don’t want to miss out on any potential customer. Focus your efforts on those platforms where your audience hangs out and where they are open to be approached.

You wouldn’t go searching for the love of your life in a club that plays the music you hate, would you?

Phase Three: Getting the First Date/the Phone Number

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Dating world: Met someone you’d like to go out with? Great!

How do you get that date, though?

Are you going to scream it from the top of your lungs in a public place? Probably not.

Are you going to bully someone who doesn’t think you’re a great fit for them to go out with you anyway? Please don’t ever do that.

You’re most likely to send subtle (or not-so-subtle) signals that the other person can interpret as the go-ahead to ask you out or as reasons to say yes to your proposal.

You will probably start a conversation on a topic you’re both interested in and show that you are a great conversationalist, perhaps even someone they could learn from. You might even suggest a venue that they’d like based on where you met each other.

Whatever you do, the key here is to make the other feel comfortable around you and trust you.

Just like in…

Content marketing: the first date equivalent of content marketing is getting your prospect to download something, subscribe to your newsletter or email you asking for a quote.

This is a clear sign that the first time they saw you (aka visited your website or your social media profile) they were intrigued. They’d like to get to know you better and see if you’re a match for each other.

But how do you win that kind of trust?

You’re not the only one who wants to email them or sell them something. So why should they give you permission to email them?

Just as in dating, because you seem like someone they might like to spend time with. You may have interesting things to say on a topic that matters to them. In other words: if you care about the same things your target audience cares, you’re all set to get their contact info.

Key lesson: Your content marketing should reflect your understanding of the prospect’s pain points and needs. The topics you tackle should be of interest to them and help them solve their current issues or, at the very least, provide an interesting read.

Spend some time researching those topics and keywords. Learn about what they need before you create your editorial calendar. And, of course, when you start promoting your content, do it on the channels where your buyer persona hangs out.

Phase Four: The Actual Dating

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Dating world: during the first few dates, you are eager to discover new things about the person that piqued your interest. You will ask questions. You will listen carefully.

Similarly, you will also answer their questions and share a bit about yourself.

It may sound like getting the first date was the biggest hurdle, but this is where things start to get complicated. This is where you may figure out that you’re not the super-fit you thought you were. Or, ideally, that you are a better fit than you would have ever expected.

Either way, this is the phase where ‘getting serious’ first crosses your mind.

Content marketing: in content marketing, this is the phase where you are sending out offers. Or perhaps where your customer subscribes to your free trial.

They are looking to get serious with you and you probably want the same. However, just because the client likes what they’re getting so far, doesn’t mean you have to settle down with them too.

Making sure that they are an ideal fit for your brand is your journey and it’s just as important as theirs. What may seem like an acceptable compromise now can come back to haunt you in the long run. Choose your customers wisely.

However, if you, too, are sure that the prospect is the right fit for your business, you need to make sure they stay with you.

Content help a lot:

Similarly, make sure you listen to what they have to say. In the pre-sale phase, the prospect is most likely to share their issues and pain points with you. Listen carefully and try to offer tailor-made solutions to their actual pain points, not to pain points you think they might need help with (leave that for the upselling phase).

Key lesson: communication and honesty are paramount to both dating and content marketing. This is the only way you can tell if you are good fits for each other.

Your customer’s responsibility (towards both themselves and you) is to be honest about their current situation and needs. How else could you provide them with the right solution?

Your responsibility (towards yourself and your clients) is to be honest about the type of customer you can best serve and about the limits of your products and services.

Phase Five: Going the Distance

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Dating world: This is the time of cute pet names, staying in rather than going out, Netflix & chill and getting comfortable altogether.

What comes after the so-called ‘honeymoon phase’ may even be better than your first dates. However, it does require work. Perhaps even more than your first dates.

If you heed the words of psychotherapists like Esther Perel, you’re actually set for a lifetime of hard work. But, hey, nothing good ever comes without work, right?

Content marketing: personal relationships begin and end, sometimes even after decades. So you shouldn’t assume that just because your client chose your offer over all the other ones, they will never leave.

Rewarding your loyal customers is a must. Grandfathering their current plan for years to come, offering them access to content no one else sees or giving them a free extra-service are all great options.

Furthermore, even you have all the clients you need right now it doesn’t mean you should stop your content marketing efforts. Remember that one of the reasons (or the only reason) you acquired those customers in the first place is your great content.

Your current clients do read your blog. And they expect to find new content there regularly. Don’t disappoint them.

Key lesson: don’t take existing customers for granted. Or, as Esther Perel would put it, strive to rekindle passion every day.

Why Content Marketing Is Like Dating – Wrapping Things Up

Please don’t take any of the above as dating advice. I’m no Esther Perel.

But please take the content marketing advice. Especially the part about remembering that there’s a human behind every purchase, email, social media account, paid invoice and more.

Try to treat the people you interact with in your business life the same you’d like to be treated in your personal life: with candor and respect. Value their time, their input and their needs.

This is how you build strong relationships.

Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.