The quality of your content is the quality of your inbound marketing.
The need to produce engaging content in marketing has become so fundamental that you can’t really get through a day without hearing about it, reading about it and perhaps getting stressed out about it.
Marketers are beginning to think and act more like publishers and are producing, curating and repurposing content like never before. Really smart marketers are snapping up journalists – many who’ve been cast-off from traditional marketing venues like newspapers - as key members of their marketing teams.
But, if content is to become the foundational element in your business marketing, you must view its production from a strategic perspective.
You may indeed need more content, but you certainly need content that addresses every one of your base business objectives and you need to view your editorial calendar in this same strategic light.
In other words, you need content for every aspect of the customer life-cycle and you need to stage that content in your lead funnel.
Your lead funnel acknowledges the fact that your job as a marketer is to get someone with a need-to-know, like and trust you and that you then need to plan to turn that know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat and refer – and that each of these stages must address a prospect’s evolving relationship with your organization.
In other words, you need to think about the process of walking with someone that comes to know about your business all the way down the path to where they become a fan and volunteer member of your sales team.
One of the best tools in the lead funnel toolbox is content.
The best way to use content in a strategic manner is to match different kinds of content with the stages of you lead funnel and customer life cycle.
So, your lead funnel might look something like this:
The primary element here is blog content created on a narrowly defined set of keyword phrases and topics. One of the best ways your business will become known for what it’s great at is through organic search. The Know-me phase also includes advertising that draws awareness to other, more premium forms of content such as eBooks and seminars.
In many businesses a referral introduction is the first point of contact that someone has with the organization. This type of engagement calls for content that is geared towards a prospect responding to a referral – Remember, they don’t yet know you, your jargon or the personality of your business - and specifically acknowledges your referral process.
An eNewsletter can be a tremendous content tool for nurturing during the Like and Trust building phases as it allows you to demonstrate expertise, knowledge, resources, and experience over time – without the negative pressures that can come from out-and-out selling.
A series of blog posts around a specific topic turned into an eBook or email series is another great content tactic that helps tell your story.
Once you’ve gained attention you must move towards that all-important next step. We will buy products we simply like, but we’ll rarely commit to organizations unless we trust them.
Customer-generated videos, case studies and stories make great content here. Your SEO efforts (others trusting and linking to your content) and Social Media participation comes into play in the trust phase.
You can see customer success videos here for businesses in many different markets using the inbound marketing approach. These are the type of testimonials, with real, customer specific data, that will help prospects for your product or service see themselves enjoying similar benefits when they become customers.
Getting your customers involved in the content creation game is an essential element and one that many are happy to be involved in.
The ability to tell why your organization does what it does in stories that illustrate purpose-in-action is perhaps the most powerful trust building content piece of the puzzle.
Try is a phase that many people skip, but for many businesses it’s the easiest way to move people to buy, particularly in highly competitive and highly priced markets.
Here content needs to represent a sample of the end result. This is where eBooks, online and offline seminars and evaluation type processes in the form of content really stand out.
Many content marketers miss this point, but this is an audition and it’s where you need to deliver more than anyone could possibly consider doing for a free or low cost version of what you sell. This is one of the first places where you plant the seed for a referral as well as a sale.
By producing content in the try phase that clearly demonstrates how much better your paid product or service is than most – and this is the amazing part - you can differentiate your business and create evangelists out of those that don’t ever buy.
How-to content in the form of videos, workbooks, examples, cheat sheets and checklists – the kind of stuff your competitors are charging real money for – is the stuff that the try-phase is built on.
Content that converts is based on proof – not hyperbole. You must be able to show real results in a way that transports your would-be-buyer into the future, receiving the promised results.
Many people miss the idea of content during and just after the buy phase because the thinking is that the person has already made a decision and the product or service will speak for itself.
The total customer experience is measured by the end result, not the build-up to the sale. In order to deliver a remarkable customer experience you’ve got to continue to educate with content. Not doing so would be like a major league baseball player stepping up to the plate and swinging the bat just the point it connects with the ball. What you get is a bunt, not a homerun.
Creating content that acts as a new customer kit or orientation to your business or product is the first step in following through with a new customer.
Most businesses should also consider quick start guides, in-depth user manuals and customer support communities. You can easily build this kind of content with your customers using services such as Get Satisfaction or Zendesk.
Don’t wait for your customer to call you when they need something, keep your business top-of-mind through content that educates at a higher level.
Use email and print to begin to share how others have gotten more advanced results with your products or services. Create customer events that have a content sharing component.
Create a results review process where you help your client measure the results they are actually getting by working with your firm and use this process to capture content in the form of success stories. Hubspot does this by aggregating information about the way all its customers use its inbound marketing platform and publishing the aggregated findings once a year in a “2011 State of Inbound Marketing” report.
Start this phase by documenting your referral process. Create tools that make it easy for you to teach your best customers and strategic partners how to refer you.
Create eBooks, videos and teaching events and offer them to your strategic partners to cobrand and present to their clients.
Work with a team of best-in-class providers (the people who can help your clients get everything they need) and create a team blog. Create and acquire content that makes it easy for you to introduce your partners and gives them plenty of incentive to do likewise.
You don’t have to do all of your content creation from scratch either – there are many ways to effectively use other people’s content as part of the overall picture.
Content creation is the most challenging job a marketer must be great at these days but when you plan your content with your lead funnel in mind it may well be the highest payoff work you do.
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