You know you’re supposed to be generating content to nurture your leads through your sales funnel. It’s the only way to comply with the demands of your sales and marketing programs. By now, you have no doubt heard that content marketing is the future of demand generation, that all the cool kids are doing it, and that all other marketing methods are useless and old-fashioned in comparison. But what does “content is king” even mean? What is good content?
To be “good,” content must benefit both the consumer and the creator. The consumer interacts with the content because he wants to—it educates or entertains him. The creator gains increased brand awareness and (ideally) increased sales from the content. To satisfy both of these requirements, content needs to be available in a multitude of formats. Consumers need to be able to read, watch, fill out, print, play, pin, talk, share, and ask. Wherever a consumer interacts with your brand—that is content. And really well done content should feel nothing like marketing material.
Think about your favorite brands and publications—blogs or magazines you read, places you shop, restaurants you love. Now think about how you interact with them, aside from consuming their main products (reading, purchasing, and eating, respectively). Have you ever gone to the magazine’s website, or taken a quiz it offered? Have you ever shared a blog post on social media? Do you subscribe to your favorite store’s email list so that you can receive coupons or check out new arrivals? Have you tried your favorite restaurant’s limited-time specials, or visited its booth during a food festival? All of these interactions are content marketing, and they are all things that you chose to do because you benefited from them. You probably didn’t even realize you were being marketed to, or if you did realize, you didn’t care. Because the publication, store, or restaurant was giving you something that met your individual needs in the way you like to consume.
As you are reading/clicking/sharing/consuming, the organization that created the content is being cemented in your mind as one you like doing business with, because it satisfies your needs. You have engaged in a dialogue with a brand. So how do you create content that makes your own customers and prospects feel that way? How do you give your prospects and customers the kind of experience that you enjoy? Here are seven tips:
- Know who your audience is. Know their demographics, job titles, business goals, and the major obstacles they face.
- Know what your audience knows, and what they don’t know. What is their buying process? What business problem does your product or service help them solve? How do they progress from vague discomfort, to awareness of their problem, to the consideration of available solutions, to selecting and purchasing a solution (preferably yours, of course)? You should have resources at the ready to help them at each stage of this process.
- Position your company as a voice of reason and knowledge. Part of being that voice is having a voice. Avoid clichés and buzzwords—they don’t convey meaning, and they create a barrier between you and the consumer. Build content around your expertise, and you won’t have to rely on these editorial crutches. The goal is for prospects to want to come to you because you are reliable and easy to interact with.
- Give a lot of your content away for free. This advice may seem counterintuitive, but you can’t drum up interest if you require prospects to pay up front or jump through hoops. Make it easy for them to find you, and to find out how great your solution is.
- Just because you don’t charge money for your content doesn’t mean you can’t collect something else: information. Email addresses, job titles, locations… Start building profiles for the people who are seeking you out. Reward them with relevant content. Nurture them toward your solution. Learn more in our free download, Ditch the Pitch: How Marketing Automation Software Creates the Conversation that Drives Conversion.
- Make the most of social media. If your prospects and customers want to consume your content via LinkedIn, Google+, or any other network, let them become your spokespeople. Content can act as a currency here: reward customers who tweet, pin, and share your content by giving them free premium content.
- Load up your content with cross-references. There are many seamless and creative ways to do so. Have you read a magazine recently? Most magazines now have what amounts to analog linking: "Like this article? Here is the URL to a related piece on our website." Have you been shopping online? Then surely you are familiar with, "Users also bought..." Even blogs have become a tool for content cross-pollination: "In my earlier post..." Employing tricks like these will make it as easy as possible for consumers to access your content and to move through their buying process within your sales funnel—not your competitors'.
You have work to do. Profile your prospects, understand their buying process, and start putting stuff out there. If you can provide the resources they’re looking for, you will cement a relationship with them that will benefit you both.