All over the world, marketers agree – content marketing is hot! From my location in the Asia-Pacific market, I see companies increasingly exploring how they can adopt content marketing strategies into their marketing. And it makes sense. What better way to reach out to the huge number of potential customers who spend time online? No matter where you (or your customers) are located?
Modern buyers are constantly bombarded by ads: outdoors, on television, in newsprint, and through digital channels. They tend to, subconsciously, begin to ignore them. Everyone wants to buy, but most people don’t like being sold to. And yet we all like learning new and useful things regularly. That’s why content marketing may be the most reliable way to reach prospects – because they are growing smarter, and more informed. They trust only their own research. And by the time they reach out to a sales person, as much as 80% of their purchase decisions have already been made.
We can help that decision-making process by engaging, entertaining, and educating them with relevant information during their research. Let’s look at some guiding principles for developing a content marketing strategy that gets results.
Before We Begin
First, let’s define what content marketing really is. Content marketing should be:
- An ongoing initiative, not a one-time effort
- Focused on the customer’s pain points, not the company’s product offerings
- Not solely entertaining, but also educational
Content marketing does not begin with brainstorming what to say. It begins with thinking about why you are saying it and to whom you are saying it. Ideas for content come from balancing the things you want to tell consumers and the things consumers want to hear.
Before you initiate your content plan, it is essential to look at analytics in order to understand your website visitors – what they are looking for, which pages they visit, how much time they spend on a page, and so on. Also spend time reviewing data from past campaigns. You need all of this data, as well as insight of your existing customers, to plan your content strategy.
Here are a few questions marketers should have on top of mind when preparing a content piece.
- Who am I writing for?
- What kinds of content do they like to consume?
- Why should my prospects pay attention to this content?
- Does this content provide my customers information to do their jobs better?
- Is the content findable on the channels where my customers spend much of their time online?
- Is it inspiring enough to make the customer stop, think, and take action?
Now that we’ve defined what content marketing is, here are six steps to creating an engaging content plan to drive conversions.
1. Have a clear understanding of your target audience
Take a good look at whether you’re creating content that consistently keeps your target audience in mind. Many business owners make the mistake of writing for their peers instead to their customers. The value of content marketing is generating information, awareness, and engagement. This can only be done by focusing on the customer and talking to their interest areas.
Consider this scenario. Say you own a graphic design business and you write articles that are highly technical pieces related to UI design and tracking APIs. While the content may be well-written, it is more likely to appeal to other professional web designers rather than potential customers. Prospects are going to be looking for less technical posts like, “How to make your website stand out from competitors,” “What should you budget for your website design,” and “Criteria to keep in mind when choosing the right designer.”
Often, we draw inspiration for our content from popular industry blogs and publications. The things we read daily influence our thought process. So it’s important to take a step back sometimes and evaluate whether we are writing for the right audience.
2. Understand your buyer personas and identify their challenges
You’ve now decided to create content with your potential customers in mind. But do you know who your customers are, exactly? To understand your buyer persona, you need to go back to the demographics of your existing customers and run reports on their job titles, departments, and regions, along with company size. Apart from this demographic information, it is essential to ask questions like:
- What is their business background?
- What responsibilities do they have?
- What keeps them up all night?
- What challenges do they face, and what do they need in order to overcome them?
- How do they behave on your website? Are there particular page views that indicate sales-readiness?
You need to identify the challenges, pain points, interests, habit, and needs of your prospects to more effectively target your content messages. Collaborate with your sales and product teams – they have unique perspective of your buyer’s challenges as they interact with your buyers in a very different way. Identify how you can make your prospects lives easier by solving a common problem they face.
As you delve deeper into your buyer’s challenges, you can start to shape your content strategy. Effective content will address your buyer’s pain points and help them solve their problems.
3. Collaborate with sales and product teams for content creation
Content is available everywhere, so you need to identify the sources and capture that content. It takes an army to create – and find – compelling content. It’s not that the content does not exist in the organization, but it usually exists but in silos. As marketers, it is our job to not only create content, but also to be an orchestrator of content that resides in the silos with teams such as R&D, analytics, the social media team, events, and so on. Also, marketers need to look outside the organization for content.
As a marketer, it’s your job to find the content, surface it up, and package it in a way that resonates well with your buyer personas. It is very important to talk to other teams within the organisation to track that content down.
We all know how hard it can be to get a blog written from a senior decision-maker in an organization. But that same executive might also be speaking at an event. Capture that speech in a recording and turn it into different formats – from a podcast, a short article, and a blog post, to a series of tweets and LinkedIn posts.
4. Serve the right content at the right time.
What does your specific sales funnel look like? Start with the awareness or brand discovery phase and go beyond conversion and upselling. What types of content can you create to serve up along the funnel and help drive your prospects toward that critical decision to buy? The type of content you need depends on what stage of the sales cycle your buyer is in. If you deliver thought leadership, like best practices or educational videos, when the customer is actually looking for vendor comparisons, that content will not resonate.
What does resonate – and how you know when you know you have compelling content – is when you’re connecting with the persona at the right stage in their decision making process.
5. Establish your distribution strategy
How will your content reach your customers? What combination of media channels would best fit your target audience? From print to online, digital to video, there is a huge range of channels to choose from. Understanding which channels, platforms, and content formats they spend the most time looking at can help you create content that achieves your goals. There are different ways your buyers consume information and spend their time online, making it vital for your content to be available in various forms on multiple channels.
Developing the volume necessary to fuel a content program is a challenge. You can extend the life of your content by using it in multiple ways, offering it in multiple formats, and distributing it everywhere. Plan to break long content up into smaller pieces and different formats. If you have created a white paper, extract two main ideas and create short articles. Split out two more ideas and create blog posts. Promote them all through social media channels.
Maximize the visibility of your content by including social and share links in your various content pieces – papers, web pages, emails, blogs, etc. – whenever and wherever appropriate.
6. Close with the right call to action
Last but not least, you want to make sure that everything you create has a strong call to action.
For example, if you’re writing about a popular service that your business provides, you’ll want to end your piece with something like, “For more information about service packages, please get in touch with me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.” Or for an informative piece of content, you will need to link it to other relevant content for further information. That way, you can keep your prospects engaged with your brand, guiding them throughout their buying journey.
This single step alone will dramatically increase the ROI on content that you create.
Segment the target audience into personas and map content to them based on their pain points, relevant topics, appropriate channels for syndication, and the different stages of the buyers’ life cycle – awareness, research, conversion, engagement or beyond. Make your content available on all the channels your prospects use, and always include a strong call to action.
Speaking of which, if you’d like to learn more about developing an effective content marketing strategy, download this toolkit to get a clear methodology for developing a content marketing program that connects with your customers. And be sure to share your content marketing challenges – and solutions – in the comments.
Ready to learn more about content marketing? Discover 3 essential ways to use content marketing for generating top-of-funnel leads with our free eBook, “Attraction 101: Content Marketing.”