Today’s buying cycle occurs primarily online. Customers go through about 70 percent of the purchasing process before ever talking to a human — which means that your online presence has to do the selling for you.
And you build that on a foundation of five rules.
5 Rules for a Successful Content Marketing Program
Rule No. 1: Be a part of the online discussion or risk letting everyone else define you.
At the top of the sales funnel, customers are looking for information through their own research and using their findings to build consensus inside their organization. Your job: Create great content that will reward their search.
Say you’re a tech provider, and you know that your target audience will likely need solutions for cloud-based security. When someone from their team is trying to build that cloud-based security plan, they’re going to start their search online.
The best thing you can do for this potential client is to have a well-written, SEO-optimized guide to cloud-based security that appears in their search. They didn’t come to you, but you answered their needs — and now you’ve opened the door for a real human connection between your potential customer and your brand.
You know what happens when they don’t find your guide? They find your competitor’s. Creating strong, strategic content that rewards your audience’s search is the key to being found. Good content has to exist so your audience can find it when they need it.
Rule No. 2: Be transparent.
Today’s audiences value honest, open dialogues between brands and their customers. Define your value proposition, communicate openly, be consistent, and focus on creating value. To do that, you need:
Clear language. Get rid of the jargon.
A message strategy. Stake out your territory and be consistent.
Audience personas. Know who you’re talking to and do the research to figure it out.
Really good writing. Set the right standards and use the right writers.
Everything you create must be meaningful. Ask yourself:
- Did you tell the audience something new?
- Does your audience care?
- Does it align with your overall strategy?
- Are you a true expert on the topic?
- Would you enjoy reading the information you provided?
Rule No. 3: Invite them over for a visit.
Everything you do should ultimately drive people back to your content hub. When a searcher clicks that cloud-based security guide, they should be reading it on a content hub on your website.
The same applies for all your amplification efforts. YouTube, Facebook, press releases, e-books, and so on are all essential to your sales cycle, and they too must traffic back to your site.
Drive people to the place where your content lives, under your brand and close to your sales funnel. This is where the magic happens.
Rule No. 4: Never stop measuring.
Everything you create — digital media, print, emails, website, events, sales — should align with the purchase cycle. And you should track, measure, test, and optimize every piece of that content.
I see so many people throw content out there without bothering to actually take a look at whether it’s working. There are so many ways to measure your content today; I’ve written at length about finding and measuring KPIs. When you do so correctly, you’ve built a window that enables you to track:
- Conversion metrics
- Customer value
By keeping an eye on these inner workings of your content, you’re now able to properly optimize the three elements we’ve been talking about: your online presence, content, and amplification efforts.
Rule No. 5: Do not forget sales.
Sales matters. Salespeople:
- Have the knowledge and know the customers.
- Have huge networks (it’s their job) and can get the content into the hands of potential customers.
- Are a barometer for good content — they know which leads convert and why.
But according to Brainshark, about 40 percent of marketers rarely or never include sales in content development. Ouch.
There have long been silos between sales and marketing, but the reality is that organizing your business this way doesn’t work no matter what you’re doing — especially when it comes to content.
Say your customer has found that robust document you created about cloud-based security. It’s just what they needed, and so they decide to call up your sales department to ask a detailed question about a piece of the content. This moment is at the crux of your purchase cycle — but if the salesperson on the other end of the line doesn’t have the answer, you’re missing an opportunity to move them to the next phase.
But what if that salesperson had a wealth of knowledge on cloud-based security? Better yet, what if they had helped write that exact article? Or if it was their byline? When this searcher reads your expert content, they expect to talk to an expert at your company — which means your salespeople need to be totally aligned.
Make sure your salespeople have:
- A robust online presence across social media (LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter, etc.).
- A network of editors and ghostwriters to aid in content creation.
- Social media training.
- CRM tools with integrated web metrics.
By following each of these rules, you’re enabling your business to guide your audience through the purchase cycle so you can continually usher them to the next stage. Ultimately, of course, that should lead to you winning their business. Which is what good content marketing is all about.
Looking for further guidance? You can contact me here.