Unless you’ve been living under a particularly sound-proof rock, you’ve probably heard the term “content marketing” floating around the advertising space. Most people seem to be in favor of it, but just as many are unsure what exactly it is.
While the term content marketing can be defined a number of different ways, the most general definition is the use of content (photos, videos, blogs, etc.) to communicate with potential customers. What differentiates content marketing from advertising is that it typically does not start with the hard ask. Instead of coming straight out and laying the marketing messages on thick, strategic content marketing takes the approach of engaging consumers and businesses where they are in their buyer’s journey and aims to engage with them throughout a series of touchpoints.
So, what does that even mean?
Take, for example, an insurance company. Let’s say they’re selling home, auto, and life insurance to individuals. They could run an advertisement which would likely include some messaging about their low premiums, responsive customer service, or wide variety of available plans. The advertisement has a good chance of being effective with someone who is already in the market for insurance – they know what they need and are ready to buy.
But, what about the people who aren’t actively searching? What about the people that don’t even realize they need insurance or that they should have better insurance? These people aren’t yet ready to buy. They’re not even sure what they need, so they’re unlikely to respond to more direct advertising messages. But, they are great targets for content marketing – content designed to engage them where they are and answer the questions they have now, not just to sell them an end product.
How to Create a Strategic Content Marketing Campaign
So, where does a business begin once they’ve decided to give content marketing a try? Start by identifying the consumer’s pain points.
The best way to attract consumers into your content marketing journey is to help them solve whatever problem they’re facing right now. In our insurance example, a husband and father of two children might be worried about how his wife would pay the mortgage if he were to pass away. The college student might be wondering whether they need a safe for their laptop, or if they should change out the locks in their new apartment. Creating content that helps them solve these problems not only reels them in (to your website or other online space), but also helps you earn their trust – and consumers are more likely to buy from people they trust.
Once you’ve helped someone solve their current problem and hopefully, begun to earn their trust, that’s when you can start to softly sell the actual products or services you offer. For example, our fictional insurance company might write an article about the top 5 things every new renter should do as soon as they move in – change the locks, install a motion sensor light, purchase renter’s insurance, etc. Then, the company might use remarketing to reach out to those who read the article with a video comparing the various types of renters’ insurance and what they cost. Finally, they might direct the reader to a quote form to officially bring them in as a new customer.
Using this type of journey-based content marketing not only helps to attract and convert customers earlier in their purchasing journey, but also helps to weed out people who aren’t a good fit for your product or service.
How to Create Great Content
The goals of content marketing are threefold: engage consumers, build trust, and convert potential customers into qualified leads. If your content strategy isn’t achieving all three of those things, you’re probably wasting time and money. And we all know good content doesn’t come cheap. So, how do you create content that attracts new or retains existing customers?
Let’s break it down:
1. Engage Consumers and Businesses
In order to engage customers with your content, it first has to get their attention. Use headlines and images that are relevant to your audience and tap into their curiosity, concern, or emotions. For example – if you’re trying to reach college students, choose an image that reflects that age group, not a bunch of business executives. Same goes for the language and tone you use in your writing. Make sure it speaks to the audience you’re trying to reach. Certain types of content are more likely to resonate with various audiences, so consider the form your content takes as well – from images to blogs to memes, social media posts, or slideshares.
Whatever form your content takes, make sure it connects with your audience and is memorable
by making sure it is either funny, emotional, or informational. Always consider your content from your audience’s perspective – if all you do is talk about yourself or your business there isn’t much in it for them. Your content should also do something useful for your audience, whether it’s answering a question or just making them laugh.
2. Build Trust
In order to create content that attracts or retains customers, you not only need to engage your audience, you also need to earn their trust. This means providing useful information without a hard sell. For example, an auto repair shop might consider posting a tutorial on how to change your own oil or save money by ordering a part online. While this may seem like giving away business, it’s actually serving to build trust that will help them earn a bigger sale later on, when that customer’s transmission needs repair – something they won’t be able to do at home. Providing that type of useful information also helps to demonstrate expertise in an industry and establish a business as a knowledgeable, trustworthy source. Building that trust is the foundation you need to make a successful sale later on.
3. Generate Leads
Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention and built a solid foundation of trust – now you’re ready to start selling. You’ve given your potential customer the information they need to diagnose their problem and evaluate their options. Next, it’s time to introduce your particular solution, and convince them it’s time to act.
In order to make a successful sale, start by establishing common ground. Show that you understand your customer’s problem or pain point and can empathize with it.
Next you’ll need to convince them that the risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting. For example, if a customer is on the fence about buying renters’ insurance, you’ll need to convince them that the risk of having their possessions stolen or the value of peace of mind destroyed in a fire is greater than the low monthly cost of a renters’ insurance policy. Make sure that as you do this you are using linear, data-driven reasoning in your messaging (for example, statistics around the average number of break-ins per year), which has been shown to be the most persuasive.
Once you’ve established the risks, remind your customer that the time to act is now. Limited time offers are one way to do this, but you can also accomplish it by convincing the customer that every day they don’t act they are compounding risk or losing potential income.
And finally, now that you’ve laid out the stakes, it’s time to make the ask. Use authoritative, confident language – and make it as easy as possible for your customer to take the desired action. Using conversion buttons instead of text links and minimizing the number of clicks needed to convert are all ways to increase your online sales percentage.
Use Strategic Content Marketing to Attract Customers
While creating a content marketing campaign can be time and resource intensive, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Once you have your campaigns up and running, they can continue to generate leads for months or years to come. Just remember to keep your content relevant and up to date by making periodic updates to posts when new information becomes available.