Content marketing is still the darling of the digital marketing world at the moment because, well, it has continued to be the online vehicle that engages target audiences while creating and converting leads that bring in revenues.

Combined with an overall marketing plan that includes other traditional online marketing efforts, content marketing has proven to be a very effective sales tool.

Creating and converting leads through content  marketing, though, involves using a slightly different formula than companies may use with other marketing strategies. 

The Need for Information, Not Elaborate Promotion

People want valuable information. And major search engines, such as Google and Bing, know this and give high ranking credit to those sites that understand their audience and deliver content to them. 

The need for relevant information cuts across all consumer demographic profiles and takes into account the changing buying behaviors of consumers.

 In other words, every audience has pain points that can be solved with information...or content as we'd define it online.

Content Marketing Defined

Simply put, content marketing is creating and distributing uniquely appropriate web content for the purpose of marketing a product or service or promoting a brand.

Its goal is to attract potential customers, build meaningful relationships, create leads and convert those leads into paying customers.  It typically involves writing compelling copy or creating an engaging video feed in relation to the product, service or brand being promoted.

A Holistic Content Marketing Strategy

Creating content simply because it is the trend is a costly mistake. Before embarking on a content marketing campaign, determine the message you want to convey to your target audience.

Make an honest assessment of the knowledge you possess to bring that message across, maintaining focus on your core business, product or brand.

Any blog posts, white papers or videos should gravitate around the expertise, avoiding any direct selling attempts or overt sales pitches.

Remember that content creation aims to build image and establish thought leadership so that prospective customers will trust you enough to like and buy what you're selling.

Delivering the right message to the right audience is key to achieving a strategic content marketing drive.

It is far more productive to target a specific audience with a single well-­ crafted message than deploy a generic message across the board.

For instance, an HVAC company will have more success posting a blog on 'tips to keep your bills down in the winter' rather than a post about 'running a business.'  

Narrowing your audience down to a particular group that has a 'problem' that you can sold with your expertise is the best strategy for driving the right traffic to your website. 

Understanding the Customer Journey

Now that we've covered what content marketing is and how you can use to to answer your potential customer's pain points, let's dive a bit deeper into determining exactly what kind of content to create.

The key to using content marketing to convert traffic into leads begins with understanding your customers. With every company, there's a buyer or sales process.  For visualization purposes, it's often turned into a funnel (via Meltwater):

customer purchase funnel

The sooner you can understand your own customer purchase funnel, the sooner you can map out your content marketing strategy.

Take our company, High Level Marketing, for example.  Our ideal customer is a small to medium sized business owner looking to build a new website and rank online in their local area for their service-focused keywords.

Let's discuss how you'd create content from the Awareness stage through the Purchase stage.

Customer Awareness

So, I know that I need to first fill up this funnel by driving 'awareness.'  In other words, I need to reach potential customers that simply fit into our 'small to medium sized business owners' category.  

Content examples include:

As you can see, the focus is to simply create content that small business owners would enjoy reading.  Very light content, nothing salesly; content that could be easily shared on social media and found through search.

Customer Consideration

The next segment of my prospective customers are those that are small business owners AND are considering hiring an online marketing service provider (or looking to hire one internally). What's important is that they're a small business owner that is considering the online marketing world.  

Notice how I try to keep things as broad as possible. I do this for planning purposes, then break things down into narrower categories once its time to execute the content creation.

To attract this audience, I would create content like:

These are all examples of content we've produced that targets our ideal audience in a specific phase of the buying process.  

They're researching to solve their own problems and we're hoping our content not only provides that solution, but also earns their trust as a service provider.

Preference

At the phase of the journey, our audience has a need and is now looking for the best solution.  

Side note: the flow of this content is also exactly how you'd create a lead nurturing program for your business.  When you capture leads from content that's created with each one of these phases in mind, you can then nurture them through marketing automation by delivering content that moves them down the funnel to purchase.  

So it is my job to now create content that is compelling. Content that helps a prospective buyer make the decision to go with High Level Marketing over another service option.  

This is also the phase where you'd create case studies that outline the impact your business or service had on a past client.

The goal is to sway the buying decision in your favor.

Content in this phase should also include 'bottom of the funnel' lead capture opportunities.  For instance, have a pop-over or call-to-action at the bottom of the blog post that offers a free consultation or estimate for your services.  

The idea is that these visitors are in buying mode, and therefore asking or promoting a free estimate or consultation makes sense based on where they are in the purchasing process.  

On the flip side, jamming a 'Free Estimate' offer in the face of someone reading '8 Books All Small Business Owners Should Read' is both disruptive and ineffective.  It's too early on in the purchase process to go into sales mode.  A better idea would be a call-to-action to subscribe to your blog

Purchase

This phase is often debated.  Once a prospective customer is speaking to your sales team, or they've signed up for a free estimate or consultation, do you continue to deliver content to them?

In my opinion, the best content you can create at this point acts as a resource for sales. Flyers, sales presentations, before and after photos, customer testimonials, emails, and videos could all play a key role in closing these leads into customers.

Of course, one thing that makes all of this possible is a properly built and designed website.  Your website is the foundation you need for online marketing.  Without a website that's designed to convert, and an SEO strategy that's designed to improve rankings, your content marketing efforts could end up being a waste of time.

To read more on that, check out: Why Choosing the Lowest Cost Website Design Company Could Lower Your Bottom Line.


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