You don’t have to start a religion to build a cult following

Building a cult following was once the preserve of rock stars, leaders of morally questionable religious groups or producers of particularly gory horror films.

But finding a loyal and dedicated audience can be within the grasp of anyone and any business.

The strategy is simple – create content your audience wants to read, then find ways to ensure they read it.

The foolproof formula was laid out at ‘Why You Need to Create a Cult, Not a Company’ – the title of a content marketing event organised by Octopus Group business partner Hubspot as part of Inbound Marketing Week.

The evening saw Hubspot’s VP of content, Joe Chernov, lead a panel of content marketing experts talking about content marketing  in what was effectively a grand exercise in content marketing for the software master.

But the audience of experienced content marketers was delighted to be involved. Why? Because the content delivered was of value.

And therein lies the key to content marketing and the theme of the evening. In a world becoming ever-more saturated with media messages, content of the highest value must be produced by businesses to differentiate and inspire loyalty among audiences.

From cult to sales

The rewards can be huge. Brands can form a persona, stand out from the crowd, position themselves as experts and create awareness of products and services. Audiences can end up looking forward to consuming a business’s content – then start spreading it themselves. People become interested in the brand and its products, then become comfortable buying.

Sadly, the strategy isn’t quite so straightforward to implement. The internet is littered with good content that has barely had any views. The solution, according to Mr Chernov – creator of the world-famous Man Bites Shark infographic – is to create good content AND spend money to distribute it. Use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A dash of PR expertise can also be crucial.

Amid the tidal wave of media messages, the trend is for content marketing strategies to become more granular and tailored to specialist audiences. Businesses must therefore know their followings, answer their questions and solve their problems.

In short, content must be valuable and compelling for a business’s identified audience.  Sometimes this might require taking a point of view and tackling subjects that seem controversial. This of course carries risks. But the job of content marketers is sometimes to persuade clients to be bold – while mitigating the risks and reassuring. PR expertise is crucial. A deep understanding of the relevant business sector is too.

So building a cult is less about proclaiming yourself as the new messiah, picking up a guitar or taking a video camera to a forest at night. It could be about hiring a specialist content marketing agency that can find you a following.