Content Marketing: What We Can Learn From Sherlock Holmes

Is there anything we can learn about content marketing from the great, albeit fictional, unofficial consulting detective? As it turns out there is.

The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who tells us little about Sherlock Holmes’ financial situation. We are, however, informed that his friend and colleague, Dr. John H. Watson, has a thin salary as a half-pay army surgeon and an even thinner bank account.

That Holmes and Watson share lodgings and kept no servants suggests they were living in what H.G. Wells called “shabby gentility”.

With Holmes’ permission and siestio editorial oversight, Dr. Watson is the chronicler of the adventures of the great detective. It was considered vulgar for late Nineteenth Century professional men to discuss payment of their fees and most professions were prohibited from advertising.

Given both (fictional) men needed an income, how then did they promote their services? The answer is that they used content marketing.

Dr. Watson’s chronicles of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes were serialized and published in newspapers and magazines of the day for which he received payment and Holmes received much-needed publicity.

Dr. Watson did not arrange to have his stories published in just any magazine or newspaper. They were published in the journals that Holmes’ target market read. Watson was publishing his content in the places his intended audience went to for information.

What was Sherlock Holmes’ target market?

Conan Doyle was very descriptive of his characters. From these descriptions we know that the typical client using the services of the World’s first unofficial consulting detective:

lived in or had a connection with London;
were from an upper middle class background; and
had the means to support themselves without having to resort to paid work or if they did work it was in an occupation considered suitable for a person of their class.
We also know that the target audience was educated to a higher level than was usual at that time. We know this because Holmes quoted Goethe in German.

Wir sind gewohnt dass die Menschen verhohnen was sie nicht verstehen.
From The Sign of Four

His audience would be familiar with the writings of Goether and understood what he meant when he said “Goethe is always pithy.”

Holmes was also in the habit of using sayings in French, such as nous verrons (we shall see). Again, his audience would have understood the meaning.

Holmes is also said to have referenced archives from the Times, which was, of course, the daily newspaper of choice for his target market.

In content marketing terms, what have Holmes and Watson done?

They have been quite clever:

They have clearly identified their target market and it would not be stretching the point to say they created at least two personas, one for men and one for women.;They created compelling content that helped build a relationship of trust and confidence with their prospective clients. Their story was told as a series of adventures that resonated with the target audience. The chronicles set out the problem and showed how Holmes was able to solve it;
The chronicles entertained and informed the reader, but they also pre-sold them on the idea of consulting Mr Holmes; and
They ensured their content was published in all the places their target audience went to for information.
Not only was Sherlock Holmes skilled in the science of deduction, he also knew a thing or two about content marketing.

Robert Reddin teaches content marketing from novice to expert content creator from his membership website []. Become a member of Top Article Marketing [] today, and step ahead of the competition.

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