Archive for category Content Marketing
“Content” is the fuel of digital marketing. If you want to generate web traffic and generate sales leads online you need to provide information that your target customers will find interesting. In this post we look at why you need content, what kinds of content you need and how you can use it to promote your business and generate sales revenue.
Why do you need content?
So first things first. Why do you need content? Well, with digital marketing you are trying to bring people to a location on the web -usually your company website. The hope is that when your visitors arrive at your site they will take an action –subscribe or register for a service, purchase a product or submit some kind of sales enquiry.
You have four main options for driving people to your site – paid online advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing and email marketing/outbound marketing. All of these forms of online promotion are more effective if you have good content, and some of them won’t work without good content. Let me explain why.
You can think of online marketing as fishing and content as your ‘online bait’. In most cases, basic information about your product or service – e.g. company brochures – will not be sufficient to bring in your target customers. When people are thinking about a purchase they need additional information before they begin to narrow down on a particular vendor. This additional content – case studies, white papers, buyers guides, RoI calculators – is your bait. The companies that provide the best content will attract the most customers online. Conversely, if you don’t have compelling content you will find it hard to drive traffic to your site.
When deciding what content you need you start by thinking about who you are fishing for – your target customers. In a previous blog article I discussed buyer personas as a way to understand and describe your target customers. In business-to-business (B2B) it is likely you will have to sell to more than one type of buyer. For most complex technology sales you typically have to sell to end users, someone in the finance department, a technical gatekeeper and the executive who actually makes the purchase decision.
Also, each of these buyer types will require different information at different stages of their evaluation process. People generally start with an initial “learn about this product category” step – this is the ‘Awareness’ stage. Then they move to a research phase before narrowing down the list of potential suppliers (“evaluation”) and finally making a purchase decision. As they move through these stages the kind of information they need changes from high-level, educational material to more detailed product and pricing information as well as third party validation such as testimonials and analyst reports.
Planning Your Content Creation
Once you know who you are ‘fishing’ for and what kind of ‘bait’ those buyers need at each stage of their buying process you can set out a plan for the creation and use of that content. Draw up a simple matrix with your target buyers on the left-hand side and the buyer process stages at the top and then in each ‘cell’ of the table write down a list of documents and content you think would be useful at each point. (We wrote a previous blog entry on the kinds of content you can use for generating leads online – Creating Content that Generates Awareness and Demand). You will end up with a wish-list of content you’d like to use for your online marketing and lead generation campaigns.
Now comes the hard bit – creating that content. As a first step, check to see what you already have available (aka your ‘content audit’). Most companies will have some case studies and other sales support materials and you may already have written white papers and marketing presentations. One great source of content is recent sales proposals – sales staff typically keep their best material for major client bids so see if you can reuse some of that material. List all the material you have and identify where it sits on your content matrix.
Next, identify the gaps – what content on your matrix needs to be created from scratch? List this content and identify how and when you will create it. In some ways this is pretty simple – either you will write it yourself, get some staff to write it, or hire a 3rd party copy writer. If you need to pay for it then get some quotes and prepare a budget.
Next, decide when you will create the content – your ‘content schedule’. We are all busy people and money is a scarce resource so it is unlikely that you can create all of the content you require right away. So pick the most important content – material that can be used at multiple stages of the buyer process – and get it prepared as soon as you can. You can then schedule other material later in the year. Our recommendation is to start with case studies – they are the most useful pieces of content throughout the buyer process.
How do you use this content to drive traffic and generate sales leads?
So you have analyzed your buyers, prepared your content matrix, audited your existing content and set out a clear schedule for new content production. What do you do next?
Well, the advice here is to make it easy for your target buyers to find your content. You have to promote it, distribute it and share it as much as you can, across as many channels as you can. We normally start by placing the content on your website and ‘landing pages’ (see our previous blog post). For example, set up a Google ad promoting your new white paper or research report. Next, mention it on your blog, tweet about it on Twitter and share it on Google+ and Facebook. For some content that is high value you will require user registration i.e. you will ask users for their contact details before they can access the information – this is known as “gating” the content. In other cases, such as infographics, you will share it across the web without requiring any registration.
You will achieve results in two ways. The people who register for your high value content represent early stage contacts who may become real sales leads. To make that happen you will establish a regular flow of communications with them where you offer additional content over time and encourage them to move toward a purchase. This process is known as ‘lead nurturing’.
A proportion of the people who interact with other content without registering for it will also eventually become sales leads, e.g. when they return to download higher value content or otherwise ‘raise their hands’ to your marketing team.
Content is the fuel for digital marketing and online lead generation. If you understand your buyers and how they purchase your kind of product you can create compelling information that will persuade them you are their best choice. Start now and prepare your content strategy.