Content Marketing and Sales
Content Marketing, like any business effort, must support sales. If it doesn’t, you are wasting valuable time and steering customers in a direction that will ultimately lead away from your core business.
Well-crafted content marketing should support sales either directly, indirectly, or by offering information that substantiates a purchase. Content marketing can increase sales by improving the customer experience and building customer trust, loyalty and social validation.
As you measure your content marketing initiatives, match them against these eight objectives from a sales perspective to determine their value to your company’s bottom line:
The earliest stage of any sales process is “awareness”, and it is the initial goal of marketing to generate awareness among customers who have yet to hear about your products. To generate awareness, your marketing content needs to appeal to the widest possible group of consumers with a general message that connects to your product with emotion.
My favorite example here is the car commercial: auto manufacturers know that they only have 30 seconds to connect, and the best way is with emotion; few details and lots of value proposition. Auto makers will invariably feature a flashy red car doing rooster-tails in an interesting landscape to hard-pounding music. The more they can get you thinking “Wow; I gotta have one of those!,” the more they know you will remember their name when it comes time to kick some tires. Content aimed at creating Awareness doesn’t need to focus on features or detail.
Generating awareness is most often considered “push” marketing, because you are delivering a message that consumers haven’t necessarily asked for. However, don’t discount the opportunity to use “pull” marketing to generate awareness…
You can generate awareness effectively by providing answers to general consumer questions and inquiry. This new content marketing tactic allows you to get in front of customers who are trying to solve a problem, but who don’t know that your product provides the solution. This method is emerging as a primary content marketing strategy for forward-thinking companies who see opportunity in a market where 87 percent of consumers are turning to the Internet to solve a problem, or research products, before they buy.
Customers can’t purchase your products unless they are aware of them, so content marketing for awareness is a critical component of your content marketing plan.
Information content is your chance to get technical with your prospects. There are two places where content marketing designed to inform prospects will help increase your sales. The first is when a prospect has a problem and wants to know how to solve it. The second is when a prospect knows parts of a solution; but may not know the whole solution.
When customers have a problem to solve, they are compelled to learn more about it. 55 percent of customers report that they spend more time researching products than they did in the past, primarily because the Internet provides a convenient opportunity to look around. Customers want to make informed decisions, and marketing with informative content is your chance to share details and expand their understanding of the problem. It’s a great opportunity to provide detail to a prospect, build credibility for your solution and establish yourself as an authority.
Informative content is also a good opportunity to break your solution into finer components to capture web search traffic. Customers with a problem will most often use keywords containing “How to,” and “How do I.” They know what their problem is but may not know the entire solution. For example, customers who purchase a Scentsy wax warmer may only be searching for “how to make a room smell nice,” or “how do make my room smell good without using a scented candle,” but ultimately purchase a ceramic lamp and a supply of scented waxes as the solution to their problem.
In either case, informing your customers will reinforce your leadership in your market and establish you as a respected source for the solution. 70 percent of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads.
Customers with a complex problem to solve will compare two or more solutions before they purchase. Owning this critical phase of the purchase cycle requires that you market with content that shows feature-based comparisons that favor your product. The more robust you can make the comparisons that you publish, the more likely you are to win over a customer, even if there are areas where your competitor outperforms you.
Customers are not always looking for a complete win, and will often favor a specific set of features. I recently purchased a specialized hub and compared the two leading contenders. The only difference was a trade off between an HDMI port on one, and a Firewire port on the other. My decision was solely based on my unique requirements where all else was equal; it came down to one specific feature.
When offering comparative content, be careful to represent your competitors honestly, and include explanations that highlight the features you feel make your product particularly outstanding. 78 percent of customers who search on the Web believe the publishers of informative content are interested in building good relationships, and good relationships convert to sales.
There are two scenarios when you can use educational content to increase sales; before a sale, when you are introducing a product to a new market category, and after a sale when you need to hold your customer’s hand through a complicated set up or usage application. In the first you are helping prospects become comfortable with your new product, and in the latter you are working to improve the usage experience for your existing customers.
With a new product, you are providing content that teaches a prospect why they might need it to solve a problem they might not even know they have. Effective ways to deliver educational content include advertorial content; stories that teach with an embedded solution to a new problem, and how-to content that gives step-by-step instructions. Educate your customers in clear and concise articles that get right to the point and solve a specific problem.
Bellroy wallets is a great example of a company who is using educational content to teach prospects how their product, a slimmer wallet, can help them solve a problem; organize better and reduce bulk. Each of their wallets is featured in a short video that describes the features and unique usage of each style.
70 percent of consumers say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, which is an important segment of your customers considering that most of them are getting to know you through the instructions you provide. Customers who have a good experience using a product are more likely to develop brand loyalty, and to share word-of-mouth endorsements with new prospects.
Many companies fail to consider “responding” as part of their content marketing strategy. Regardless, the 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Annual Report indicates that adopting an inbound strategy doubles the average website conversion rate, from 6 percent to 12 percent. That’s a significant sales advantage.
Inbound traffic is all about asking questions, and your ability to respond with concise and appropriate content is key to converting new prospects who are looking for answers and favoring corporate responders who are quick to the point. Responding is your first opportunity to build trust with your prospects and let them know that you are a relationship company.
Responding to customer inquiries is best done in a format that provides a succinct answer to a specific question, anticipates follow-on questions, and allows for easy reference and social sharing.
Conversion is the ultimate objective of your content marketing, and represents the most direct relationship to your sales initiative. Content specifically designed to convert requires a key element that is often left out: the call-to-action.
The conversion process encompasses one of two sub-objectives; you are either converting your prospect to the next phase of your sales funnel, or converting them to the ultimate sale or adoption of your product. Both are measurable, and measuring your conversion rates is essential to continuously fine-tune or test your ability to maximize whichever type of conversion you are hoping to achieve.
When converting your customers to the next phase of the sales funnel, you are delivering a 1-2 combination of assessment and challenge; qualify your prospect for the next phase with a question, and then challenge them with a call-to-action.
If you are converting to a purchase, be direct and assume they are ready; go directly to the challenge and deliver a compelling call-to-action that implies urgency.
Purchase validation is another key element of content marketing that is often left out of the mix, but that can have a lasting effect on sales in the long run. Once your customer buys your product, the ball is rolling and you have the ability to turn your customer into a raving fan, or let them go as a one-time affair.
Content designed to validate your customers’ purchase is written to support their choice with reinforcement of your value proposition. Validation content is usually in the form of customer testimonials, usage examples and lifestyle evidence that makes your customer feel good about their purchase.
Red Bull does an excellent job of creating content that continuously validates the value proposition of their product with short films and documentaries featuring their product in amazing adventures. You may not base jump off Fatima’s Hand in the sub-Sahara plains of Africa, but you will probably feel like you hang with people who do when you buy your next energy drink.
Validation inoculates against “buyer’s remorse,” and turns first-time customers into repeat customers who are not just happy they bought your product, but excited to come back again for another round.
Evangelizing was once the darling of content marketing, and although the term has lost some clout, the principle is still alive and well in the form of social media marketing.
Evangelizing content is the scaffolding of word-of-mouth marketing. In today’s terms it can be summed up as “viral marketing” or social sharing; it is the feel good discussion about your product or service that gets passed along because it is interesting, engaging, and builds social acceptance; it turns your customers into “fans.”
Evangelizing content is written to convince your prospects that your company or products are socially favorable. This can be accomplished with a wide range of content types including testimonials, lifestyle positioning, and discussions about your value proposition. Evangelizing is highly emotional, so stay away from the details and focus on “acceptance.”
Apple has been recognized as one of the world’s leading brands for the last decade or so, due in large part to their evangelistic approach to marketing and the tendency of their users to be enthusiastic fans. Microsoft discovered the strength of evangelistic entrenchment when they launched their Zune digital media player to compete with the iPod. Zune was every bit as capable as the iPod, but Apple had entrenched with hip ads and celebrity endorsements that created an evangelistic ripple through the entire marketplace. Zune never generated an evangelistic breakthrough and quietly disappeared.
Are you responsible for your company’s content marketing strategy? Would you like help in creating content for your customers that can meet these sales objectives and increase your bottom line? Steptap is a content marketing platform designed to help you communicate your solutions to new prospects and build lasting relationships with existing customers.
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-Cary Snowden, CEO, Steptap