How to do content marketing: Part Two - converting content into sales
Content marketing can have a whole host of purposes. For instance, it can drive subtle brand awareness to users as they research and gain insights via search, whereas other brands may be using this tactic primarily to drive sales.
There’s a route each consumer will take on their journey to parting with their cash, and you’ll need a content marketing strategy to guide them along as you win their trust and then their business.
Part one of this series established what content marketing is and why you need it. Now you need to get down to some serious research and planning.
To define a content strategy, first look at your target audience. Who is your audience? That’s both your current and future audiences, as your current customers won’t be there forever.
Look at your website’s analytics to understand who is visiting. What is your demographic? And are they the people your brand should be appealing to, people who switch from visitor to customer?
Identify the market you’re reaching
You can look at affinity audiences in Google Analytics. These are people like the customers you are reaching. They are higher up the sales funnel, but there are prospective buyers in there. They help you understand the type of people likely to get benefit from your website.
As a brand, you have to ask: “Is this audience appropriate for this service?” That can be used to inform your content strategy – give the ideal user what they want, but keep it relevant to your brand.
Then you have to find out where that audience hangs out online and how they engage with your content. Using the interests of your in-market segments – the people who have made, or are ready to make, a purchase – helps you do that. Are they Baby Boomers with their traditional channels such as newspapers, radio and television, or Gen X and Millennials, hanging out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat?
By defining the audiences and segmenting them and defining the social channels used by those segments, you start to have a clear understanding of the complexities of the content strategy you’re creating.
You can also get to know your target market using your sales information. For example, the data a man hands over when he books a cinema ticket online lets the cinema know he’s male, likely lives within driving distance of the cinema, and what kind of movies he likes.
From the number and type of tickets he buys, they can deduce whether he takes the family with him. They’ll have his email and either permission to contact him or not.
Anyone who checks the box for future marketing material is an engaged audience the cinema can interact with by letting them know about upcoming attractions, special offers, or even interviews with film stars on their website.
They can target customers with trailers for films similar to those they’ve bought tickets for before, demonstrating they know what each customer likes, improving the user experience. That is useful as people are more likely to hand over information willingly if their experiences are made more positive by doing so.
Content that works is content that the audience agrees with and that’s why segmentation and channel definition is so important.
Social media posts – both organic and paid for – to promote content can be easily targeted to get to specific markets, getting you to those audiences straight away.
What should you create?
Quite simply, every item of content you create has to be relevant and useful to the people you want to see it – your potential customers. It also has to be engaging, drawing them in.
It has to be honest about what it is: clickbait won’t build trust and trust is the commodity content marketing runs on.
And you want it to be so good that people can’t help talking about it – you want them to be sharing your posts on social media for all the right reasons.
Your research established what interests your audience. The medium you use to reach it can vary widely – video, podcast, infographic, blog, white paper, interactive quiz ... literally anything that would make people want to engage.
Stop people scrolling
Rich media such as video is of huge importance in digital marketing. Video will soon account for four-fifths of non-commercial web traffic. The appetite for the moving image is growing, and that flicker of movement on a Facebook or Instagram feed can be enough to stop people scrolling.
But it can’t be a case of making a film for its own sake. Whatever you create has to demonstrate real value to the user. Can they learn from it? Will it move them? Does it amuse them? Is the time they spent with your content worthwhile? Will they want to come back?
And you have to ask those questions about anything your produce, whether it’s an informative infographic about an aspect of your service, a podcast covering your area of expertise, a thought leadership article that points the way ahead for your industry, a “how to” guide or a blog from one of your experts.
How do we promote our content?
Social media is the oxygen that gives your content marketing messages life. Two billion people use Facebook, one billion have Instagram accounts. Hundreds of millions more use Twitter and LinkedIn. SEO keywords and related terms will help people find your website when they’re looking for you or your services – but it’s social media that gets you in front of people who know nothing of your brand.
When a friend tags you in something on social, it’s something you can relate to. That’s the thinking that must drive your social strategy – relevancy. You have to make sure that everything that goes out on social channels has a benefit for the user you want to see it. You have to understand your audience and directly engage with them.
Where you do that entirely depends on your brand, your audience, what your service is and what kind of content you’re outputting. If you’ve got a video that’s under 20 seconds, it would be more beneficial to get it out on social media than YouTube. But YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world so it’s a good idea to be there, with appropriate content.
That illustrates how different content works better in different places. You have to target the market you’re after on the channels they use in the medium they want to see.
Different strokes for different folks
On Instagram, that means getting up an image that will stop people scrolling. The big thing there at the moment is the Vertical Video, the star of the IGTV service.
On YouTube, they’re giving you more time – they want to listen, laugh and learn – so they explore for longer. Facebook is all about fast, fresh content. Twitter takes an attitude, and like Facebook, you don’t expect your content to last. On Facebook and Twitter, content will either explode or disappear, although deploying techniques such as instant experience advertising or Facebook collection ads to give your content new life is a useful tactic.
And everything you output visually has to meet the standards each social channel sets for the optimum impact, with mobile users foremost in your thoughts.
You need to remember that a channel is just the medium, not the message. Millennials might love Instagram, but won’t follow you just because you’re on Instagram. They’ll follow you because they agree with your content and love what you’re showing them – they are learning and gaining value from it.
Clients often make the mistake of thinking: “My audience is on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn, so I’ll go after all those channels.” But the channel is not the message – it’s where you place the message. Use data, insights and results to determine where best to focus your energy. Making sure the message you deliver in your content on those channels is relevant is the key to building that relationship with a potential customer.
Turn content into sales?
You have to drive your audience from never having heard of your brand, to considering your brand, to trusting your brand, to buying from your brand.
You want to get as much engagement as you can through organic reach. That means responding to comments, liking the shares people give you, or commenting on and sharing other relevant posts. All these things increase engagement. Some improve your reach.
But in a social media space, a brand’s reach is actively limited and that’s where paid advertising comes into its own.
If you analyse the organic results of your content and pick the three that performed best in the last month and put budget behind them, they will deliver a return. You can do this for pennies per person, using the social sites’ tools to refine your audience by age, location and interests.
Slicker social advertising
Social advertising is becoming more comprehensive. With Instagram shopping, for example, brands can tag their clothes in picture uploads. Users can click on the pic and go off to buy the item. There’s no searching for a product code anymore – it’s slicker and more beneficial for the user.
While social media will drive people to your content, it’s not the only method of getting people to engage with your brand.
Activities such as guest posting on another blog can be used to drive traffic to your content. Or you can promote your content by email, sending links to users who have agreed to give you their details.
And make your site easy for visitors to explore by linking between relevant blogs and pages.
Aware, trust, buy
Converting the audience for your content marketing into customers can be a long process. You’ve got to make them aware of your brand, consider it, then decide to buy into it.
We’ve already covered raising awareness. The consideration stage is defined by return visits to your website, as guests build trust in it. These can be prompted by emails – if you’ve asked the visitor to register – or using IP addresses and cookies to remarket fresh content.
The time between awareness and decision grows depending on the cost of the product. If you want a Mars Bar, you buy a Mars Bar. But if you want a new car, you visit showrooms, do background research, pick up brochures, book a test drive, look at your budget then buy.
So you have to give a visitor to your site what they need every time during their product journey.
Journey to conversion
The higher the quality of the content, the more relevancy to the user and the better the signals you give out in general. If people go ahead and purchase then Google sees the search intent was followed through. It underlines that search terms have mirrored what the audience wants.
At each stage along the journey to conversion, provide a call to action (CTA) for the customer. These don’t all need to be “buy now “ or “book now buttons” – they could be “register an interest”, “request a demo” or “download the white paper”. People at every stage of the sales journey need to be given value.
As an aside, CTA should be at the top part of the page so that users don’t have to scroll and digest more content if they don’t have to. Or make the CTA sticky, so it travels with the reader. Give them every opportunity to use it.
So, finally, we’ve got to the sale. But now you’ve got to find new customers. How do you keep your content marketing strategy going, keep it relevant? Find out what to do in the final part of our series.
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