In 1895, John Deere launched a magazine called The Furrow. It was not a typical catalogue to sell tractors, but a publication to educate farmers on how to be better at farming. The magazine took off and became one of the leading information sources in the agricultural community. Today, The Furrow is still going strong, with over 1.5 million readers around the world. It has played a significant role in John Deere’s success.
Among content marketers, John Deere is often spoken of as the first example of a company marketing itself through publishing rather than advertising. Here are four lessons for B2B marketers from John Deere’s 120-year track record of content marketing:
Lesson 1: Talk about farming, not about tractors
One of the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make when they first start publishing content is focusing the conversation on their own products and services. It’s so tempting. You’re trying hard to pull in new leads. You have so much you want to communicate about your products. Yet, your prospects are like farmers. They don’t care about your products. They care about their crops … and the changing demand for corn versus wheat … and the problem they’re having with insects this year … and the weather patterns that might impact their harvest. Talk about their challenges, and you’ll get their attention.
Lesson 2: Get inside their head
To talk about what’s on your prospect’s mind, you have to know what’s on their mind. So, as you build buyer personas, get beyond all the standard demographic information and find out what they really care about. What excites them? What motivates them? What scares them? Before The Furrow launched, John Deere spent years working closely with farmers and listening to their problems. It’s a major reason why The Furrow was so successful. Who are you targeting? CFOs? Hospital administrators? Software sales managers? Go the extra mile to really get inside their heads before you write a single word. It will make a huge difference to your content.
Lesson 3: Always be educating and informing
This month’s edition of the The Furrow discusses the latest research on effective feed rates for heifers, new ways to fertilize soybeans, predictions on the future of wheat yields, and more. As you create content for your audience, look for ways to incorporate current, relevant research. This can take a variety of different forms – from conducting your own research and presenting the findings … to simply sharing your take on the latest industry report. Either way, it positions you as a forward thinker and provides helpful insights for your readers.
Lesson 4: Tell real-life stories
Storytelling is so simple, yet so powerful. It’s surprising how often it gets overlooked. Human stories connect with people on a much deeper level than facts and principles. The Furrow is full of interesting stories about real people dealing with real challenges – from farmer Steve in Iowa trying to find a better way to control rootworm … to Gary in Sierra Nevada applying South American greenhouse techniques to make the most of his two-month growing season. As you create content for your target buyers, don’t forget the power of real-life stories.
Stick with it
According to IBM research, 85% of corporate blogs have five posts or less. This means that many companies start blogs but few keep them going. It’s understandable. Producing a steady stream of meaningful, engaging content is hard work. But it pays off. That’s why John Deere has kept The Furrow going for 120 years.