Content Happens: Plan for Success
According to content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, “From the days of cavemen writing on the walls, brands have been creating stories to sell their product and form a connection.” One of the first brand-related forms of content marketing was John Deere’s ‘Furrow’ publication created in 1895 to educate their customers. Then came Jell-O’s free recipe book in 1904 which was said to contribute $1M in sales by 1906. Fast-forward to 2007 when Blendtec launched its wildly successful ‘Will It Blend’ video series.
In today’s web marketing 2.0 environment, you need to do everything you can to maximize your ‘face time’ with your ideal customers. In fact, they expect a steady stream of relevant, compelling content. It’s how they get to know you, like you and trust you. It’s how you educate them throughout the buying process–sort of a virtual sales rep.
While Google is constantly changing its ranking algorithm one thing has remained constant–their commitment to provide the highest quality content. Marketing guru Seth Godin says the best SEO is good content. It not only boosts your rankings but it makes sure you attract the right prospects and shortens your sales cycle.
Before we dive into what actually makes for good content, let’s back up and look at what we mean by content. These days you have a virtual smorgasbord of possibilities including web sites, micro-sites or landing pages, auto-responders, e-mails, press releases, newsletters, webinars, blog posts, articles, books, e-books, podcasts, videos, case studies, reviews, tweets–even mobile apps. Which ones are best for you? It really depends on where your customers hang out, how they consume information and where they’re at in the buying cycle.
So what exactly is ‘good content’? Here’s a litmus test to see if your content cuts the mustard. Content should be:
- Useful–Ditch the sales pitch and educate. Dive into your customer’s problems–what annoys them, frightens them, keeps them awake at night? Answer common questions. Give them ‘how to’ tips. Address reasons they don’t buy. For example, if price is a show-stopper show them the cost of not taking action. Leave room for questions that come in e-mail replies or blog comments–these can guide future content.
- Relevant (aka Valuable)–Share insights and advice on issues your ideal customers care most about. Survey your customers. Review blog comments. Check out Google questions. Look at what comes up in the top ten results for your main keywords–not only the topics but the formats (i.e. blog posts, videos) and see if you’re hitting the hot buttons.
- Well written–Use a conversational tone and fire up the spell check to make sure it’s free from errors. It’s always a good practice to have someone proofread it first.
- In sync with your business goals–Map out your entire sales process and identify what you want people to do at each touch point. Then provide them with the information they need to proceed to the next step. Give to get was a clear message at this week’s event. SEO is important but focus on creating content for your customers first and you’ll win, too.
- Compelling–People are more skeptical than ever. You need to paint the picture of life with your product, help them mentally try it out before they experience it for themselves. Storytelling and case studies work well. Also include solid proof points such as testimonials and statistics to support your claims. Bottom line–show, don’t tell.
- Consistent–You don’t have to peddle daily content on every social media site or article directory. Quality and consistency trump quantity every time. Set a schedule and stick to it so your customers learn firsthand that you’re someone who does that they say they’ll do. Find out which four or five places your ideal clients show up most often and set a goal to post something once a week on each platform. Plus, there are plenty of affordable online resources such as elance or fiverr that can ease the content burden.
- Diversified–Don’t be afraid to rally the troops (aka your employees) around the content cause to get different perspectives. Reach out to industry leaders and ask them to submit occasional articles and blog posts or interview them and share it. One other important point–to get as much mileage as you can from your content just re-purpose it. For example, compile a host of related blog posts into an e-book or whitepaper. Convert an article or video script into a pdf document, or a presentation into a podcast.
- Actionable– Seth Godin says you’ve gotta be remarkable. Give them something to talk about, something share-worthy, and make it easy for them to do so. Good content inspires people to link to you, share via social media and have online conversations about you.
- Purposeful–One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating generic content. Brad Martineau gave an eye-opening presentation at the Info Profits event that focused on the importance of really understanding your customers and outlining your sales funnel. Sure it takes some work on the front end but it makes it clear what content is needed and what the messages need to focus on at each step of the process to keep folks marching forward.
- Entertaining–One big insight shared at the Info Profits event was that people don’t want to be trained, they want to be entertained. Facts tell. Stories sell. Why? Stories are interesting, personal and connect with our emotions. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through!
From lead generation and conversion to upgrades and referrals, content is the fuel that attracts you ideal customers and engages them at every stage of the buying process. By following these guidelines you won’t be throwing random content on the walls hoping some of it will stick. You’ll be giving your clients exactly what they want so you can get what you want. Don’t you just love it when everybody wins?