In an information obsessed society, one of the best ways to reach your prospective clients and compel them to do business with you is to create a strong content marketing strategy. There is so much content out there – much of it just useless “noise” so when designing your content strategy, you need to figure out how to make yours stand out.
Some popular forms of content that should be included in your strategy:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Cheat sheets
- Large definitive guides
- Reference guides
- Slideshare presentations
- Visual content
Effective content should:
- Educate the consumer
- Establish your credibility and expert/authority status
- Influence purchase decisions
- Generate “Social Juice” (likes, shares, +1s, retweets etc)
- Feed SEO efforts
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate leads at various stages of the buying cycle
TIP: Keep in mind that even educational content should still have a call to action in it. Why? Because you worked really hard to educate your potential client and establish yourself as a credible resource for them. You are stopping a step short of the finish line if you don’t follow through with a call to action. For those that don’t know, a call to action (CTA) is a marketing message that is designed to guide your audience to take a specific action that benefits you (make a purchase, join a mailing list, share a social post etc).
Your call to action should always:
- Be clear, obvious and “idiot proof”
- Stand out visually
- Create urgency
What makes your content stand out?
Anyone can throw up some content. What makes yours stand out from the noise out there is the quality of the content, the ease of readership and the focus on the needs of the target audience. If you focus on their agenda (getting educated) and not yours (making a sale), then you have a better chance of producing content that will actually help accomplish your objective.
The key to creating this high quality content?
Strategy! It’s important to plan your content – first to ensure that you get maximum benefit out of it (by repurposing it for many sources) and to ensure that you create BOTH promotional content and educational/informative/leadership content.
Leadership content demonstrates a solid understanding of your prospects’ and customers’ pain points, and clearly and effectively outlines the solutions. This firmly plants you as a credible resource in their mind, making you more likely to earn their business.
I do create sales and promotional content – I don’t want to neglect that piece of the puzzle. But I also focus on creating strong, educational material that is designed to help those that want to either do it themselves or want to better understand what a company would do for them and why.
All of my marketing assets fall into clearly promotional or clearly educational and I ensure that I am creating a balance of this content and pushing it out strategically so one piece builds on another.
More on Strategy
Remember, you aren’t creating content just for the sake of creating content or seeing your name “in lights” online. Your goal is to engage prospective buyers. To ensure you are doing it effectively you need an action plan. Your plan should reflect your goals and objectives and should also reflect an understanding of your target audience.
An Editorial Calendar is a great way to ensure that you are factoring in relevant holidays, seasonal trends and cultural events. It also provides you an opportunity to map out content that address your audience’s concerns.
To start, the first thing you need is an intimate knowledge of your ideal buyer and your typical buyer. Develop a profile or persona that you can use in all areas of marketing going forward.
This profile or personal should be based on demographics, behavior and interests along with their motivators, challenges and ideal outcomes.
It may seem like a lot of work, but these profiles help you determine what kind of content you need, what tone and delivery style your content should have and it also helps you focus on the topics you need to cover. It will also help you figure out where they currently get their info and how they consume it. All of which helps you get much, much more out of your content.
How do you create your customer profiles?
- You can interview customers (which is more effective than interviewing prospects, who will likely give the answer they think you want to hear, whereas customers can give you accurate answers on what they have already done and why).
- You can also question your customer service staff to determine what questions, issues and concerns your customers usually have.
- You can review Analytics and search logs to see what language they use and what they search for and you can analyze data on content and social media posts to see what gets the most engagement.
You want to outline the following details:
- Background: Basic details about your ideal customer
- Job specifics: Responsibilities, likes and dislikes, position
- Main sources of information: Where does your customer do his or her research
- Goals: What are their primary and secondary goals?
- Challenges/pain points? Which emotional triggers will they respond to?
- Preferred content medium: Do they like text, audio, video, images?
- Objections: What are the core objections you (or your sales team) encountered or expect to encounter?
- What is their role in purchase process?
Next Up: Buying Cycle
Next you need to examine a typical Buying Cycle and see if your process/cycle has any differences. Then you need to map out the content that your ideal prospect will likely need in each phase.
One of the best ways to plan this step is to create a spreadsheet that has a tab for each stage in the buying cycle. On each tab, brainstorm the most common questions, problems/pain points and objections for each stage of the cycle. You also want to outline what action they are likely to take in each phase, where they are likely to look for info and how you can move them to the next phase.
You should also outline how you solve their problem/alleviate their pain.
Understanding The Buying Cycle:
In step one, the prospect becomes aware they have a need and they develop an interest in your product or service as the solution.
In step two, they are going to research various solutions (with your product or service being one of the options they are considering)
In step three, they are going to compare the various options they identified in step two. They may decide based on price, special offers, company reputation, convenience and various other factors.
In the fourth step, they decide who they are buying from and complete the purchase.
Revisit the brainstorming phase often. Things are constantly evolving in the world and in most businesses, so new questions and concerns will continually pop up.
Once you have this foundation in place, get a little creative and start considering what seasonal factors may impact the buying cycle. For example do people need your product or service more or less at certain times of the year? Craft content that creates some urgency by offering an unexpected reason why they need your product or service now, even if it’s not normally the time of year they would buy from you.
Additional Content Tips:
Visual content is vital to your success in content marketing. You don’t want your reader to hit “content overload” by reading too much. Use infographics, add strong design elements to reports and be very aware of the aesthetics of your content.
Don’t create more work for yourself than you have to. Don’t always create brand new content from scratch. Look at how you can repurpose content with visuals or by making an audio, video or slideshow.