89% of high-performing B2B companies say that they are “extremely” or “very” committed to content marketing. Why is content marketing so popular? It’s a method that converts over 5x more leads than traditional marketing alone.
If you want to join in and start converting more leads, you’re probably wondering where to begin. This post is designed to serve as a content marketing 101 mini-course, sharing what you need to know to get started.
A Definition of Content Marketing
First, let’s be clear on what we mean when we say “content marketing.” Content marketing uses free, helpful content to attract prospects in all stages of the buyer’s journey, and nurtures them with additional content until they convert to a customer or self-select out of the nurturing process.
Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action. (Content Marketing Institute)1. Start with Strategy
It’s tempting to jump right into creating content — writing articles, crafting case studies, publishing white papers, designing infographics, shooting video, posting on social media . . . . But without a strategy, your efforts won’t be as successful as you’d hoped. In the most recent research published by Content Marketing Institute, only 16% of the lowest-performing companies have a documented content strategy, while 62% of the highest-performing companies have one.
Clearly, strategy highly correlates with content marketing success. But what should your strategy be based on? The answer leads us to our next tip.
2. Base Your Strategy on Your Target Audience
Your content strategy should center around your target audience because that’s who you’re creating the content for. This seems obvious, but too often marketing teams get carried away creating content that promotes the company and showcases all of the products and services offered. But without focusing on your audience first, they’ll quickly hit the back button when presented with your content. You’ll need to make your content valuable to your audience — helpful, entertaining, or educational. That value may come in the form of content that showcases your solutions, such as case studies or how-to product videos, but content that converts always focuses on the audience’s needs and desires wherever they are in the buyer’s journey.
3. Create a Content Plan That Covers All Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
As we mentioned, you’ll need content that attracts prospects at each stage in the buyer’s journey — those just starting out, those in the middle of their buying research, and those who are actively looking for a vendor or service provider.
Start by mapping out your buyer’s journey. What steps do prospects go through from the time they first realize they have a need to the time they are hitting the Add to Cart button or signing the contract? Next, consider what questions prospects in each of these stages are asking. Think broad, and write down all the questions that prospects may be asking, regardless of whether you initially see how they relate to what you sell. You’ll later cull these questions down, but a free-flowing brainstorm will trigger valuable ideas that you may not have thought of otherwise.
Next, choose the questions that your audience is asking most often or that align most significantly with your product and/or service offerings. Be sure to talk with your sales team for on-the-ground insights. Online tools like Answer the Public can also be helpful in determining what questions are popularly asked, but dig deep to find out what questions are relevant to your specific audience.
Think through the biggest frustrations or roadblocks your audience encounters related to your product or service. Also consider the tangible problem your audience has to overcome in order to get what they want.
4. Plan Out Your Conversion Funnels
Now that you have a strategy for the topics your content should cover, it’s time to think about how you’ll move leads from the awareness stage to the consideration stage to the decision stage.
For example, if someone who is in the consideration stage has discovered one of your blog posts via Google, you’ll need to offer something of interest that 1) keeps the person engaged and 2) nudges him or her toward the next stage in the buyer’s journey. This could be accomplished with an opt-in offer for an eGuide that takes a deeper look at the original topic of interest (or a downloadable cheat sheet, or an online video course delivered via email, or a series of tip emails, etc.). At the end of the opt-in offer, you’ll share a call-to-action that prompts the prospect to move to the next stage in the journey, such as to download a case study or to watch a video of a customer sharing his or her story.
You’ll want to create a funnel for each type of prospect (each of your marketing personas) in each stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, one funnel would be built for Sally Salesperson who is in the awareness stage, another funnel for Sally Salesperson in the consideration stage, one funnel for Margaret Marketing Manager in the awareness stage, another funnel for Margaret Marketing Manager in the consideration stage, etc. You want to have a plan for each high-quality prospect who will encounter your content.
5. Decide What Types of Content Best Serve Your Funnels
Once you’ve designed your funnels, you’ll need to decide which types of content are required to build them out. This decision will be based on two factors: 1) your target audience and 2) the nature of the funnels.
First, consider the types of content that your prospects prefer. Preferences may differ by persona, so think this through carefully. Do your prospects tend to listen to podcasts more often than reading eBooks? Do they like in-depth reports or prefer cheat-sheets that summarize and bullet-point information? Do they engage with video more than text? Do they like to scan quickly rather than be forced to listen or watch the full content in order to gather the essentials?
Your audience will guide your choices, but also consider what types of content best serve the funnels you’ve designed. For example, people are sometimes hesitant to provide an email address just to watch a video — they’ve been conditioned by YouTube that videos should be free. If you want to use video and also capture prospects’ email addresses, you may want to use an email series to deliver a series of videos (or more accurately, graphical links to the videos).
These five steps will give you a firm footing for your new content marketing initiative. From here, you’ll continue to iterate and build more funnels and more content, converting more and more prospects to customers!
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