Content marketing, Content marketing, Content marketing, Content marketing, CONTENT MARKETING!!! There, that should be enough for the SEO, now we can get into the interesting stuff… OK, fine, now we can get to the stuff!
Content marketing is now a commonly-accepted method of attracting visitors and generating business. Various studies show that between 46% and 72% of for-profit companies currently have a content strategy in place; the importance of online exposure and sales have made content marketing an integral component of most marketing efforts. A lot of us can make strong content, take it from us we’ve got a few awards to prove it. But it can be more difficult to gain maximum exposure for that content and driving sales with content marketing is a very different matter: you can easily generate hundreds of thousands of views by posting well-produced, hashtagged videos featuring cute kittens – but those views don’t mean that anyone will buy anything from you. But take it from us, we know how to turn view into sales, just take a look at our 5 simple steps.
1. Understand Your Prospects’ Needs
Any marketer will tell you that the most difficult assignment they can be given is to convince an audience that they “need” a particular product or service.
Audiences have been conditioned over the years to tune out aggressive sales pitches, even if the pitch is for products they actually need. However, they will almost always focus on compelling content which addresses their personal situation or an important issue that they’re facing. For that reason, it’s much more effective to first understand the needs that prospects already have, and then explain how your product or service meets those needs. It’s easier if they’re actively searching for a solution to an existing problem, but the majority are likely to have just a vague awareness of the issue the product can solve for them. Once you understand that issue, you are able to highlight it for them in your videos or posts.
Attention-grabbing content which first defines a problem and then presents an easy-to-understand, effective solution – your product or service – will almost always generate more business than an in-your-face sales pitch. That’s because the content resonates with the audience, making them more receptive to a gentle call-to-action. This requires a simple reorientation in the content generation process. You undoubtedly have a good understanding of the target audience’s needs from product and market research, web analytics, customer feedback and personal experience. Use that knowledge to craft your content to bond with potential customers, demonstrating that you understand their problems and that you have a product which can help. Sales will soar as a result, when you follow up with a one-click solution.
2. Cast a Wider Net
Many companies focus their content marketing efforts on limited content forms or delivery methods. Some may be most comfortable creating a particular type of content, and others might not believe they have the necessary expertise to produce other forms of compelling material.
However, that approach drastically reduces exposure – and may even miss the desired target completely. It’s impossible to maximize sales when limiting the number of prospects who will view content and take action. For instance, it’s hard to reach an audience that spends most of its day on social media, when you only post to your blog. The more successful approach is to develop a comprehensive content marketing strategy, creating multiple forms of compelling content and distributing them across a variety of platforms. Here’s one reason for content diversification: research has shown that been proven that people researching a business subject prefer formats like white papers, webinars, case studies and blog posts, while the largest number of consumers gravitate to videos, short and easily-read written content, and social media.
Here’s the other reason: different types of content are most effective in different stages of the sales funnel. Entertaining videos, infographics and click-bait posts will attract viewers, but more detailed forms of content like blog posts, ebooks, white papers and video demonstrations are better at converting prospects. That leads to an important conclusion. The best way to drive sales with content marketing is to create surfer-friendly content like videos and shareable social posts. Viewers can then be driven through your sales funnel to more substantial content suitable for your target audience, whether that’s a consumer-oriented blog, a white paper or a targeted landing page.
Producing multiple forms of content is more time-consuming and expensive. It’s also worth the effort and cost.
3. Choose Distribution Channels Wisely
You’ll never reach large groups of teenagers by advertising on CBS or Fox News, or by posting white papers and holding webinars online. And you’ll be unlikely to sell to middle-aged business executives by advertising on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, or by posting “life hacks” on YouTube. The same discretionary choices should be made when deciding on content distribution channels. You will want to post your most important or core content on your website or other channels you control, such as your social media pages or accounts. In-depth written content should always be on “owned” media like your website, so there’s no danger of it ever being taken down by a third party. Other content promotion, in most cases, should lead traffic to this core material on your website.
But what platforms do you use for that “other” promotion? Detailed research into both your target audience and the user base of each platform is the best way to match your offerings to the most receptive user base. Here are a few simple examples, all based on available research.
- Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and putting the word “video” into an email subject increases click-throughs by nearly two-thirds.
- The average blog reader is 41 years old and male, and the optimal length of a sales-oriented blog post is 1600 words.
- 94% of business owners and executives use LinkedIn as an information source, by far the most popular channel for those users. 50% of LinkedIn users have college degrees, 61% are between the ages of 30 and 64, and the vast majority are in the United States.
- 81% of Pinterest users are female, with a median age of 40. 50% of all users have an income over $50K, with 10% earning more than $125K.
- Facebook remains most popular with millennials, despite many stories claiming that younger audiences are abandoning the platform. More than 75% of Facebook users earn $75K per year or more, and the service is more popular with Hispanic users than any other ethnic or racial group.
Insights like these allow you to carefully select the proper distribution channels for your content and will be extremely useful when you get to our next tip.
One other suggestion: if you plan on using social media for content marketing look into Sprout Social, which gives you a terrific overview of your social audience by age, gender and location. That will give you a good feel for the power of demographic social marketing.
4. Create Content With a Persona in Mind
Many broadcasters will tell you that they don’t speak to an audience; they imagine a single person to “talk to” when telling a story. Public speakers often describe the same approach, singling out just a few people in front of them and focusing on them while delivering a speech. And it’s easier to close a prospect one-on-one than to pitch a product to an entire room of potential buyers.
There’s a crucial lesson there for content marketers. Material created for a mass audience has to be broad in scope and appeal. However, videos, articles and other content will be much more personal and effective – and will result in more sales – when it’s written or created specifically for a subsection of the overall audience. When you imagine a person or executive who would be interested in your product, and target your content directly to him or her, you’re able to emphasize unique selling points and address possible objections in a concise and relatable manner. You can do that rigorously by constructing a “persona” at whom the content is aimed. Defining average age, education, personal interests, income and budget (plus their role in a company if the product is business-related) all help you craft content which will appeal directly to the persona most likely to be interested in buying.
5. Always Have a Call-To-Action
It’s a good idea to avoid a “hard sell” in your content, but that doesn’t mean that viewers or readers will automatically search you out to purchase your products if they like what they see or read. Every video, post, Tweet or email used in your content marketing should include a clear call-to-action, taking the prospect by the hand and guiding him to the next step in your sales funnel. It may be a compelling link to your website or landing page, an audio or video directly to the URL of a squeeze page, or even a “learn more about this subject” tag on a white paper.
But every good salesperson knows that you have to “ask for the sale.” A well-worded call-to-action, fitting in tone and approach with your content, will always boost conversion rates for a content marketing campaign.