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Tangential content – my new favorite marketing term thanks to a Whiteboard Friday session a couple of weeks ago from Moz and Amanda Milligan. But you are probably saying “what is it” and “is it right for my company?”

As Amanda explains in her video, tangential content is content that is not directly related to your brand, product or service, but it is loosely connected. Amanda’s video takes a deep dive into the “why” and “how,” so I’m going to just briefly touch on that and then talk about the “who should be utilizing it?”

The short answer to “who should be utilizing tangential content?” is everyone. But for many small businesses, it’s a challenge just to produce enough content that is directly related to its brand, products or service offerings and it’s unimaginable to spend any time or resources on content that is not created with the direct purpose of increasing revenue.

– I know this is a long blog, so click here if you want to skip to the 120 word summary

As a small business owner myself, I understand and empathize with other small business owners when it comes to time and budget constraints. I understand that it’s a hard sell convincing you that producing extra content that doesn’t directly promote the sale of your products or services is valuable. So I’ll give some small business owners a “pass” on the tangential content proposition. But in order to get that “pass” you need to answer yes to the following questions:

  1. Do my customers shop us more than 12 times per year?
  2. Do my customers spend less than $50 each time the buy from me?
  3. Is our business profitable and am I comfortable with where we are?

If you answered yes to the first question, you may be able to maintain customer relationships through a once-a-month interaction. If you also answered yes to the second question, then your average transaction is $50 or less, so we’re not talking about huge loss if the shopping frequency of a few customers deviates from the norm. And if you answered yes to the third question, you’re not concerned about growing your business and probably not reading this blog anyway.

For those who didn’t answer yes to all three, thanks for hanging with me through that exercise and your company will benefit from sharing tangential content.

A lot of the clients we work with at OSO Digital are in industries where their customers may only need their service once every few years or maybe even just once in a lifetime. This means they have to capitalize on every opportunity to get in front of a customer and stay in front of them.

– view an example of tangential content from OSO Digital –

Let’s say you own ACME Deck Installers and, obviously, your company installs custom decks. You know that it’s likely you’re only going to work with a customer once – maybe twice if they relocate or decide to upgrade.  You also know that your service is at a price point that means a prospective customer is going to spend months or even years doing their homework before making a decision on who to hire.

So how do you stay in front of a customer for three, six, or even more than 12 months without becoming annoying? Most companies will put you on their email list or encourage to sign up to follow them on social media – and of course you’re going to have a sales person following up every so often. That content is likely to be filled with information about product specs, design options and special pricing offers. And all of that info is good, but there’s only so many times you can tell a prospect how awesome you are or educate them on your product before it becomes annoying and ultimately a turnoff. The answer to staying fresh, relevant and not becoming annoying is tangential content.

So let’s role play for a minute with you as the owner of ACME Deck Installers. Let’s assume you’ve been in business for a while and have a good presence on Facebook. You’ve also got a decent email marketing list and you send two or three marketing emails per month. How long do you think it takes before the prospect begins to ignore your communication because it’s all about you? Whether they start to ignore you intentionally or subliminally it’s not going to take too long.

Now let’s say ACME Deck Installers decides to produce and share tangential content. ACME is still posting about their specific products and services on Facebook and sending it out in emails, but in between those communications, they’re talking about something else. Maybe ACME writes a review of the top 5 TVs for outdoor use. Or maybe it’s a blog explaining the differences between a smoker and a pellet grill.

Neither of these examples are directly tied to the products or services that ACME Deck Installers provide, but they are connected. Now you’ve added a layer of value to your prospective customers. You’ve given them a new reason to click the linked article from Facebook or email that brings them back to your website. You’ve given them a reason to “like” or maybe even share your content with their neighbor who was just talking about getting a new smoker – a neighbor who very well may need a new deck soon too.

    In an effort to summarize the concept of tangential content as simply as possible, I’ll use a situation to which most of us can relate. Think of a time you got stuck talking to someone at a networking event or a company holiday party who only talked about himself or herself. This person wasn’t interested in learning about you. He or she didn’t offer you anything that you probably felt was worth sharing with others – at least not with a positive tone. And this person is probably not someone you would recommend other people seek out for conversation. As a company, don’t be that guy or gal. Give tangential content a try as part of your marketing and communications strategy.

    Jon Pickett is the owner and founder of OSO Digital. With over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications, Jon founded OSO Digital in 2018 with the mission to help businesses succeed online. Connect with Jon on LinkedIn or Twitter.


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