Content marketing today is a lot like the bulldozers about to knock down Arthur Dent’s house in chapter 1 of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
That is to say, something that’s been in the pipeline for a rather long time, but seems to only be receiving the proper recognition now that it’s right outside our windows (if you haven’t read Hitchhikers Guide, Amazon’s “look inside” Chapter 1 should help).
Despite how long content marketing has been around, very few marketers seem to understand what their options are for mapping content to the sales funnel.
How to Map Marketing to Sales: The Buyer Journey
Before you can map marketing to sales you need to understand how the buying process typically works. There are three different stages marketers need to consider within the buying process: awareness, consideration, and decision.
Your goal as a marketer should be to create content (in a variety of forms) for shoppers in each of these stages to help move them to the next stage of the process.
When I work with my clients we actually create a “content marketing grid.” The grid has these three stages across the top and the client’s buyer personas down the left hand side. Then we plot out content ideas for each of the boxes.
What would a persona A who is in the awareness stage want to read? What about persona B, who is in the consideration phase? Persona A who is ready to make a decision? Etc.
Once a company understands what the stages of the buying process are and has ideas for content that will help move shoppers from one phase to another, they need to figure out their actual content marketing strategy.
The Three Ways to Map Marketing to Sales: Which Choice(s) Make Sense for You?
There are three basic strategy choices to map marketing to sales once you’ve understood the buyer’s journey. The differences here are about how you plan to expose your clients to the content you put into your content marketing grid and where you’ll eventually ask for a sale.
The Hub & Spoke Model
Made popular by Hubspot, the idea behind the hub & spoke model (a name I made up), is to move customers from your website’s blog to a download (and they create many, many different downloads so that they can offer one that’s closely aligned with each article’s content) and then eventually to a sale.
Different types of content (“spokes”) are grouped around “hubs”—those hubs can be particular subject matters or audiences or buyer personas. The idea is that there are many different pieces of content and many different ways to enter into the sales funnel.
The Info-Services Model
Commonly used by experts looking to sell you a class or educational material, this model is similar to the hub & spokes model in that it seeks to get you to sign up for an email list.
However, since they are seeking mostly to sell themselves and their expertise, they tend to get you to sign up as a way of subscribing to their blog and then convince you to sign up for a FREE webinar…
…where they then try to sell you on a course or service that they offer.
This model is much more streamlined than the hub and spoke model. There’s typically one central idea, or one hub, rather than many different hubs, but it’s still based largely on on-site content through a blog and building an email list.
The Influencer Model
The influencer model is the one that tends to work best for companies who operate across a diverse number of verticals; it would be really hard to target all the different personas they work with and while it’s possible for these companies to develop a more generic content topic on their own site, that strategy is less effective because it’s not very “niche.”
Instead, the influencer model involves reaching out to key influencers within each of the niches the company is targeting. This allows them to talk to those audiences where they already are.
It may include guest blogging, giveaways on other bloggers websites, features in magazines, mentions by major players within those niche markets, etc.
The Answer to Life, The Universe & Everything
For most companies mapping marketing to a sales funnel will include a mix of these three different choices.
One company that does a downright AMAZING job of combining these techniques is Buffer. They do guest posts and work with niche influencers (often within marketing—so for example, they might write a guest post for a blog on web design) to help drive traffic to their blog.
On the blog they talk about productivity, social media (the core of what they do) and topics that would be of interest to most business owners and all marketing people.
More recently, they’ve broken that content up into “hubs” around social media, transparency, overflow/engineering, and happiness.
Each post encourages you to join their email list (which, admittedly, I’m not on, since I prefer to use an RSS reader and already use their product), where they’ll email you their latest blog posts. My guess would be that they’d also email you about any new features, special deals, or other promotions, but that the vast majority of their emails are just blog post excerpts.
Takeaway? Don’t be like Arthur Dent.
Don’t wait until the bulldozers are outside, ready to knock your house down, before you do something about your content marketing plan. Spent the time to map marketing to sales for your company, so that you can actually see a return on the content you’re creating.
Image Credit: By Jim Linwood, via Wikimedia Commons