The phrase “Content Marketing” seems to be everywhere these days.
But why? What is it about content marketing that’s made it so popular? And more importantly, what can it do for your business?
In a sentence? Good a content marketing strategy helps you find new customers and sell more products.
To explain that a bit more: When done well content marketing helps bring new leads to your website. Once they’re there, it offers you a way to capture those leads, keep in touch with them and then convert leads into customers. And finally, it helps you keep those new buyers engaged and turn them into repeat buyers.
That may seem like an awful lot of stuff for content to do—but the trick is to choose content marketing goals for your content then create different types of content for each of those goals.
Step 1: How to Bring New Leads to Your Website
Lead generation is listed in IMN’s “2013 Content Marketing Survey Report” as the primary goal for 44% of marketing professionals. And one of the best ways to bring new leads to your website is with public content that can be found by Google and shared on social media.
For most companies, that means creating a blog.
Blogs can help you find new leads in two ways.
- Improving your SEO (search engine optimization) so people find you through search engines.
- Creating content people will share, making it possible for leads to find you on social media or when a friend shares your content.
Improving SEO with a Blog
Because one of the factors Google considers when ranking websites is how often the information a site shares is updated and how often it publishes new content, a blog can be a great tool to help search engines see your website as up-to-date and credible.
A blog also offers you a chance to target a wider variety of keywords—phrases people look for when using a search engine—in a legitimate way.
Google penalizes you if you overstuff keywords into any one piece of content; however, because a blog allows you to create many different pieces of content, by choosing a keyword for each blog post you can increase the total number of keywords your website has, which increases the number of ways for a new lead to find you.
Creating Sharable Content
Even more important, perhaps, than the SEO benefits is the potential for customers or leads to share your content with their friends. Marketers know nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.
Think about it. Don’t you give a product a bit more consideration if a trusted friend recommends it?
When someone reads your content then shares it with a friend, it comes with that person’s endorsement—making it even more likely that they will read your post.
Step 2: How to Capture Leads from Your Website
It’s true that when most people think of content marketing, they think blog. And while a blog can play an important part, creating a strong content marketing strategy is actually a lot more complex than putting together articles and posting them for free on your website.
That’s because while a blog is a great way to help potential customers discover your website, unless you can capture and convert those leads, having them find you is useless.
In other words, once they are there, you need them to buy.
But it’s rare for someone to make a purchase decision their very first time on your site—in fact, it’s generally believed that a shopper needs to hear from you 6-7 times or more before they’ll consider making a purchase. So you need a plan to keep them coming back and for making contact with them more than once.
And that’s where a newsletter comes in.
In order to sign up for your newsletter they need to give you their email address—which allows you to stay in touch with them and, eventually, sell to them.
In order to convince them to give you their email address, however, you need to offer something of value. That value can come in a number of forms: an info product, ebook, discounts and coupons or updates.
Some websites with extremely valuable blog content even use that content as the value for the newsletter—when you sign up they promise to let you know each time they publish new (valuable) blog posts.
Step 3: How to Convert Leads into Customers
Once you’ve captured a lead’s information, you can begin to work on converting them into a customer.
Just as with traditional sales, your content marketing should be tailored to leads in various stages of the sales funnel. You want information for those who have never heard of you, those who are ready to buy something from someone in your field but haven’t chosen a company yet, and for those who are in the final stages of their sales decision.
You also probably want content for those who have already purchased from you, with the aim of turning them into repeat buyers.
The exact process will vary from industry to industry, but there are a few key concepts to understand when it comes to converting newsletter subscribers into customers. The Center for Sales Strategy blog goes in depth here, listing 5 Steps for converting inbound marketing leads into customers, but here are a few key points.
- Just because someone has signed up for a newsletter doesn’t mean that they’re a qualified lead. While someone who has actively said, “I’m interested in content about <your area of expertise> is more likely to be a qualified lead than a random stranger, your sales team should still qualify those leads just like they would with any other lead.
- Despite that, remember: these are WARM leads. When following up on an inbound sales lead (one that you found through content marketing) you’re most likely to have success by approaching the lead and asking questions then offering expertise and only trying to sell as a final step. The Center for Sales Strategy site calls this using a “consultive” approach.
** TIP: Need help figuring out what to say? Hubspot has a great “how to” slide share on writing good emails that sales prospects will actually want to respond to, if you need a more detailed how-to.
- Use smart tracking and continue to follow up. The really cool thing about using the web for marketing is that almost everything is trackable—you can see which resources a lead was interested in by tracking which ad or piece of content he or she responded to; you can see which emails he or she opened; and you can segment your list and use really targeted content to help move prospects through the sales funnel.
Content marketing really CAN help generate, capture and convert leads, which means more money for your bottom line and more love for your business. It’s certainly not easy, but with the right tools—and killer strategy—in place, content marketing can help you Knock ’em Dead.