We’ve all heard the expression “content is king.” We know that one of the best ways to engage an audience and get them excited about what we have to offer is by creating “content marketing strategy” and promote it in various marketing channels. But that’s easier said than done.
In this article, I’ll show you how to create content that your target audience will want to engage with, so you can effectively promote your business online.
Content is a vital part of all your marketing channels:
- In social media, you’ll use content to engage with your audience and create attention in order to build brand awareness.
- In SEO, a lot of relevant content helps with search engine rankings.
- In PPC, great content will help convert ad traffic to sales.
Overall, content marketing is very important for inbound marketing. It helps to drive traffic and generate leads on your website.
Content Marketing is all about providing relevant and useful content that will attract the attention of your target audience through your marketing channels.
Content should teach customers about your products or services and how they can help them in their lives. It can also provide educational information about other things that are related to your niche.
Good content will help establish trust in your brand. You’ll set yourself apart from competitors by building good relationships with your customers or blog readers, who are real people looking for useful information.
Once you have quality content that your target audience will find helpful, you need to use it to generate leads.
Let’s take a look at the lead generation process.
- Discovery: visitors find your business through your marketing efforts: advertisements, articles, blog posts, video, email campaigns, social media, or search engine results.
- Call To Action: visitors follow your call to action links on social media, in an email, or elsehwere.
- lead Information capture: visitors are taken to a landing page where they can provide you with lead information in exchange for some benefit: additional information, a discount, etc.
Getting Started with Online Marketing
There are four basic steps for content marketing:
- Identify your ideal customer
- Produce great content
- Offer a lead magnet
- Promote your content
I’ll go over each of these steps in detail here. It’s a step-by-step process that will help you increase your lead generation and sales conversion. Let’s get started!
- Step 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
- Step 2: Produce Great Content
- Step 3: Offer a Lead Magnet
- Step 4: Promote Your Content
- More Tips for Great Content
Step 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
The first thing you need to do as you build your internet marketing plan is understand your target audience. So that’s where we’ll begin here.
You likely already have a general idea of who you want to target. The more specific, the better, though, so let’s go over how to do that.
A- Create your buyer persona
You’ll start by creating a buyer persona. This is a profile of an imaginary person that is based on research and real data about your customers.
This customer avatar will help you create smart content marketing strategies that are designed specifically for this customer.
Collect data about your customers from sales personnel, surveys, website analytics, or any other source of information, and then you can create a buyer persona or customer avatar.
- Demographics: include information like age, gender, income, housing, and other demographic information. Be specific—this is your ideal customer.
- Professional Role: include information about their job title and the general industry they work in. If your product or service is aimed at businesses, be more specific: what does their work entail?
- Challenges: include information about the challenges that your ideal customer faces in their daily work or life. What are their goals? Who do they report to and what does that person need?
- Online and In-Person Presence: include information about where this ideal customer hangs out. What online channels do they use? What events do they attend in person? What social media platforms do they prefer?
- Education: include information about how your ideal customer gets their information, whether it’s routine news or specific learning for their job or hobbies. Do they prefer blogs, online classes, videos, trade magazines?
When you have fully developed this buyer persona, it will help you craft your content to target your ideal audience. You’ll use this customer avatar when determining the following:
- key messages
- target audience
- types of content
- how the content is delivered
- how the lead is captured
- what happens after the visitor completes a form
B-Understand Your Target Audience’s Buyer Journey
Customers typically search for their problem rather than a branded solution. You need to understand your product from your ideal customer’s perspective so that you can create content that is relevant to them.
You’ve created your buyer persona. Now it’s time for that persona to discover your product or service.
The buyer journey is divided into 3 stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Let’s take a look at each of them.
In the awareness stage, the buyer identifies their problem, but they are not really sure how to solve it. This is when they will search Google for the issue and do some research.
Buyers can find you during this early phase if you target keywords relevant to the problem that your product or service solves.
Once your buyer has identified the solution they want for their problem, the next step on their journey is comparing options.
This is when they may start searching for more product-specific terms and looking for relevant content about the product or service that they have identified as solutions for their problem.
Finally, when the buyer is ready to make a purchase, they enter the decision phase. This is when content will help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product or service.
Step 2: Produce Great Content
Great content is how you effectively build your company in today’s digital world. A brand is a consistent story that sets customer expectations.
Every time I interact with your brand, I can expect X Y & Z.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, you can build your brand for them with content that addresses their needs.
Let’s take a look at what makes great content:
- well-written sentences
- use of correct grammar
- clear key messages
- connects your value proposition to your target audience’s needs
- leverages the buyer’s journey at each stage: awareness, consideration and decision
- optimized for SEO
- provides value to readers
- attracts attention
- entertaining and shareable
- includes pertinent visuals
Now that you have an idea of what goes into great content, it’s time to plan yours.
Content mapping will help ensure that you deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. This is where your buyer persona and the buyer journey come in.
You want to plan your content so that it is relevant to your target audience at each phase of their buyer journey.
In the awareness phase, your persona is looking for information about a specific problem or issue because they don’t know exactly who can solve their problem. They are trying to identify solutions.
In this phase, the kinds of content that are helpful include
- guides editorial
- expert content
- white papers
In the awareness phase, people tend to search for terms like
Using these terms along with keywords that are specific to the problem that your product or service can solve will lead them to your content. In this phase, you want to focus on the problem, because buyers aren’t aware of the solution yet.
In the consideration phase, they have already identified a problem and possible solutions. They are looking at a variety of options to decide what solution they want to use.
Types of content that are helpful for buyers in this phase include
- comparison white papers about different solutions
- expert guides
- podcasts or videos
In the consideration phase, people are looking for terms like
Content targeted at this phase of the buyer journey can explain the specifics of your product or service and why it is the best solution for the problem.
Finally, in the decision phase, a buyer has identified a solution, and they are making a short list of vendors. They’re now deciding on the specific vendor for the solution they’ve chosen.
Content that is relevant in the decision phase includes
- comparisons of products
- case studies
- trial downloads for software
- live demos
Once the buyer has identified specific vendors that have a solution, they are looking for:
- product VS product
- pros and cons
- product names
- brand names
Content for this phase should target your product specifically, and possibly your competition as well. You can include lots of specific details and incentives for customers to try your product.
If you have a website or any marketing materials, you already have some amount of content.
A thorough content audit will help you determine what you have to work with and what you still need to create.
Quite often we find out that companies that we work with actually have quite a lot of content.
Once you have collected all your existing content, you will map that content into the different stages in the buyer journey. You can do this with a simple Excel spreadsheet or with other tools.
If you have multiple buyer personas that you’re working with, you’ll want to set up content plans for each of them, from awareness to decision.
For each area, you’ll also identify which marketing actions to do at which times, as well as the keywords that the buyer will be searching for. You can also look for touch points when in-person events can be another point of connection.
Start by Answering Why
Why should someone listen to you? No one cares about you until you’ve grabbed their attention!
Make sure your content opens by answering the question “Why?” Tell them why they should listen to you.
What’s in it for them? What will they get out of listening to you?
Questions for Closing Prospects
There are three questions that potential customers have:
- Have you helped someone with my specific needs before?
- What makes you special? / Why should I hire you?
- How much?
The first two questions are marketing questions, and the third question is a sales question.
Once someone asks “how much?” you’ve already begun negotiations, but remember, you’ll never get there unless you’ve answered the first two questions satisfactorily.
Good answers to the first two questions do the selling, while the third question closes the decision phase of the buying journey.
Content such as case studies and press releases should specifically address the first two questions and move prospects down the sales funnel.
Get creative with your content
- Start by identifying what’s missing when you do your content audit, and then try to fill in the gaps.
- Target popular and trending topics, as long as they’re relevant to your niche.
- What are your competitors doing? Do it better!
Set goals and make a structured plan
Content marketing can feel overwhelming, but it’s easy if you plan it out in advance. Take the time to do a content audit and content mapping, and you’ll find that it’s easy to make sure you’re creating and releasing content that will work for you to generate leads and sales.
- Plan your content at least a month ahead.
- Be consistent: content marketing pays off if you stick to a long-term strategy.
- When you put in the effort, you’ll see a return on investment (ROI)
- Set SMART goals: make sure they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific. An example of a SMART goal could be “I would like to increase my Facebook followers to 500 people within 3 months.”
Step 3: Offer a Lead Magnet
An alluring lead magnet amoves prospects down the funnel by motivating people to provide their email addresses in exchange for enticing incentives.
Incentives should make sense for your target audience. Here are some factors to consider when developing incentives:
- Do they provide a solution to your prospect’s problem?
- Do they provide a clear benefit and value?
- Do they showcase your expertise and position you as an industry thought leader?
- Are they easy to understand?
One great lead magnet for content marketing is the content upgrade. This is a specific piece of bonus content that matches the topic that a visitor is interested in.
For example, if the purpose of your blog post is to educate by offering ways to build a social media content calendar, the bonus content could be a free social media calendar template.
Once you have the lead, be sure to continue to provide useful information through your email content marketing to keep them interested.
Step 4: Promote Your Content
The Internet is crowded, and some niches are especially packed. There’s lots of content out there. So how do you make yours stand out? Just publishing a blog article isn’t enough.
You need to promote your content so that it actually gets seen by your target audience.
Keep promotion in mind throughout the content creation process. Know how you’ll promote a piece of content before you even start making it, and follow through until it’s done its job.
One share, even from someone influential, rarely results in the cascade that you hope for. Effective promotion must be ongoing and utilize multiple channels for the best results.
Here are some of the advanced techniques that the most successful content marketers use.
These methods will help drive traffic to your landing pages from different sources.
When you use them strategically with great content, you’ll attract many new visitors to your site.
- Get a great quote from an influencer
- Create snippets from your content for easy sharing on social media
- Refer to your expert sources in sharing snippets
- Update your sources when your content is published so they can share it
- Message influencers on LinkedIn and other platforms
- Message people who regularly share similar content
- Repurpose the content in different forms (video, slide deck, PDF, etc.) to reach different audiences
- Link to new content from your popular and often-visited content
- Submit new content to relevant communities
- Promote on social media with shareable snippets
- Use Outbrain to create content ads
- Use Flipboard to create a visual magazine version of your content
- Publish related photos on Instagram and make sure your latest content is linked in your profile
- Share your content on Tumblr
- Share your content in relevant Facebook groups
Before you publish anything, make sure that it’s been optimized for SEO. Good search engine results can make a huge difference in traffic. SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of ensuring that search engine algorithms will recognize relevant keywords in your content, thus ranking your page higher in search results. There are many ways to improve the ranking of your pages.
More Tips for Great Content
- Post what your target audience wants to read, not what you want to say about your products.
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What are they looking for? What search terms led them to your content? Does it deliver what those keywords promised?
- Know your customer. We’ve already talked about building a buyer persona. Who is your customer? What are their values, interests and passions? How can you relate your brand to them?
- Identify key problems. What problem does your target customer have that you can solve? Don’t focus on what you’re trying to sell. Instead, focus on their problems and challenges. Once you’ve identified those, you can relate to your customer much better.
- Solve problems, don’t sell. Content should be designed to get people to your website with useful information. It’s not the place for a hard sell.
- Teach much, sell little.
Customers want to know that you understand their problem before they’ll trust you with a sale. Focus on the problem before you talk about the solution. Demonstrate your understanding of the problem that your product is designed to solve. If the first thing you do is launch into a sales pitch, you’ll lose people quickly. The goal of good content is to provide potential customers with useful information, whether they buy or not. It sets you up as a reliable source, and when they do decide to buy, you’ll be at the front of their mind.
- Sell ideas, not products.
In today’s environment, it’s not enough to have a good core product at a good price. People are looking for a brand that aligns with them and their lifestyle. When you post content, remember that you’re selling an idea of who you are as a brand, not a product. What is your ideal customer interested in? What do they struggle with? How can you relate to them?
If you talk less about your products, you will actually attract more customers!
- Keep images relevant; don’t use too many stock photos.
This can be hard sometimes, but nothing makes someone turn away faster than a generic stock photo.
Companies that use a lot of stock photos tend to get lower click-through rates on their content.
Real-life images that don’t feel generic keeps people interested. They’ll be more likely to engage with the content instead of breezing past it.
A Swedish lifestyle and accessory brand started using pictures from their customers in their Facebook ads. This change resulted in
- 20% better click-through rate: people were more likely to stop scrolling and click.
- 30 to 40 seconds increase in time outside—this means that their visitors spent more time on their site, which is always the goal of content marketing. The more time people spend on the site and the more they engage with your content, the more likely they are to convert to a sale.
- A 93% reduction in cost per image. Stock photos can be expensive, and with the right incentives, customers are often happy to share their photos. Obviously this is easier for a B2C organization.
This is just one example of how to keep images relevant. If you have to use stock images, find ones that are as specific as possible and suited to the type of content you’re making.
- Start utilizing user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is becoming an important tool in any content marketer’s toolbox. Research shows that 51% of Americans trust UGC more than what’s on a brand’s official website.
People like to hear what other customers have to say. Our studies also show that 73% of shoppers say that user-generated content, such as product reviews, increases their purchasing confidence. All this indicates that using real content from other customers will make people trust you more.
Of course, that’s one of the main goals of all content marketing. Establishing yourself as a trusted source of information is a good way to get people to purchase your products or services.
You can find lots of brand-generated content on YouTube, but there’s ten times more user-generated content and it gets much more attention, because people feel that other consumers are more trustworthy.
- Transparency is important for any brand.
Traditional marketing meant having very strict guidelines about what language, images, colors, and fonts to use. It was all about staying on message: here’s our product and here’s why you should buy it.
That doesn’t work in today’s environment. People want to see the human beings behind the brand. People buy from people. Be up front about who you are, what you stand for, and don’t be afraid to add a personal, human element to your content.
- build relationships: no one wants to follow a brand social media account that does nothing but post links to articles on the company website. Engage with your customers on a personal level.
- show off your staff: your staff keeps your business running. Let your customers see the people behind the product. They’ll connect with you and your company much better when they can see the faces of the people they’re interacting with online.
- write with more personality: don’t be afraid to let your personality through in your posts. Add in little bits of info from your daily life if it’s relevant.
- use interesting photos: these days, everyone is carrying around a great camera in their pocket or purse. Don’t hesitate to snap some photos to share and to use in your content. They’ll be much more engaging than a basic stock photo or a studio shot of your product.
Content marketing is a new form of advertising that doesn’t follow the traditional rules. It’s all about building your relationships with customers and prospective customers. Developing engagement with your target audience will lead to sales, and that relationship will be strong and long-lasting.
Finally, I’ll leave you to think about these three important dates:
- The day a potential customer heard about your brand
- The day they became an actual customer by making a purchase
- The day they became a repeat customer by returning to buy from you again
Each of those milestone dates is important, but content marketing is how you get from 1 to 2, and from 2 to 3. Every interaction between you and your customer between those milestone dates is relationship building. The better you are at building those relationships, the more people will pass through each of those milestones. In today’s digital world, online content marketing is the key to repeat business.