You may not think of auction houses when you think of content marketing, but the folks at Leland Little in Hillsborough, N.C., produce terrific branded content promoting the items they peddle.

The team writes helpful, well-written articles on relevant topics and specific items for auction to create context for why its experts felt the piece was worthy of sale and why you might find it worthy of purchase. The content is distributed via marketing emails and is easily discoverable in a content hub on the site.

I admit that I expect auction houses to be a little precious, but Leland Little's team manages to be both reverential and fun. They are genuinely excited to bring cool items to an appreciative public, and it shows in their content marketing.

A recent marketing email featured an facts round-up inspired by a bound edition of The Federalist Papers*. Detail of an explainer article from the Leland Little Auction House

Content marketing inspires trust and motivates action

Using content marketing / brand journalism to create context is important, especially for people who are interested, but not yet sure they want to buy. The article in our example:

  • Reinforces the reputations of the auction house and its documents expert. Even if the recipient isn't into this item, they see the Leland Little team's expertise and feel validated in their association with the company.
  • Gives collectors confidence in the house's responsible curation, helps them feel better informed and moves some buyers to click to learn more about the offering.

This single round-up supports multiple audiences and motivate a few of these already qualified leads to learn more about the item.

That's what the facts piece does, but how does it do all that?

Analyzing the elements of the piece helps us understand how it works and see what we need to do to create our own.

Traits of a strong facts round-up

Let's take a closer look at what makes the piece work using the 6 Traits rubric:

  1. Ideas & Details: The piece has a mix of details that appeal to collectors who are knowledgeable about the period and those who are less so. The balance keeps a wider audience's interest while making the case for why these volumes matter beyond their ancient (by American standards) provenance. The paragraphs and sections contain just enough information to whet interest without overwhelming.
  2. Organization: The familiar "X Things..." format is comfortable and inviting, and helps keep the piece from appearing unapproachable or getting TL;DR'd.
  3. Voice: It's easy to feel intimidated by smartypants period experts, but the author deftly avoids that here with a friendly tone, like your cool uncle who knows a ton of stuff but doesn't bore the pants off you sharing it. The tone, though less stuffy than many houses', doesn't feel too casual, and doesn't scare anybody off.
  4. Sentence Fluency: The author established that voice with skillful use of sentence patterns, to create a nice flow that floats us through the subject matter, and word choice that meets customers where they are.
  5. Word Choice: The language isn't too lofty. Small decisions like limiting the use of contractions, infuses just enough of a sense of authority and formality to convey knowledge and support reputation. There are more contractions at the top of the article, creating a friendly and inviting tone, and fewer as we get down to business.
  6. Conventions & Formatting: The bolded "things" make it easy to skim and scan to find a factoid that interests us. Images break up the text.

This week, think about how you can use content marketing articles to establish context for your customers as they move through the decision making process.

*Full disclosure: The edition for sale is from my mother's estate, which is how I got the email. That doesn't mean the article isn't a great example of content marketing. 

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