A huge newsletter subscriber list or social media following counts for little if no one engages with your brand. You want a relationship with your audience where they become a valuable asset for your business. Achieving meaningful engagement via your digital campaigns will support your wider sales and retention goals:
Enter content marketing. If you can offer value to your audience with your content, then you create a relationship where they choose to engage with you, rather than being bombarded by adverts that, really, are of no use to them. Regularly publishing content that is both useful and interesting is the fuel that will keep an audience engaged across your various digital touch points, and give you the opportunities you need to achieve your wider marketing goals.
Audience Engagement is a big part of why you’d want a strong social media strategy, for example. Social media is the vehicle, just like your blog or newsletters, but engagement is the end result.
The basic principle of any marketing or sales funnel is that your potential customers are all at different stages of interest, and only a portion are ready to purchase.
We wrote an article back in December which outlined the 4 key stages of the sales funnel, and an often forgotten fifth. Very briefly these are:
Awareness | Prospective customers are still figuring out what their problem/need is, and what the possible solutions are. Huge potential exists at this stage, but many prospects at this stage don’t even know they have a problem to solve, let alone who you are;
Interest | Once they understand their problem, a deeper research phase occurs to uncover the right solution;
Consideration | By now they are reviewing vendors, and this is the point at which your sales team usually get involved
Purchase | This is the key moment where they decide whether to become a customer or not;
Retention | The often overlooked but still crucial ongoing stage after a prospect becomes a customer, where your efforts shift to ensuring they remain one;
To support your sales and retention goals, you need to pour enough people into the top of the funnel, push (nurture) enough through the funnel to become customers, and then retain enough of them.
Traditional advertising only really impacts the Consider and Purchase phase, mass-targeting those most likely to have a need, while your sales teams rarely have the opportunity to get involved earlier on in the cycle.
Content marketing however, can have a direct impact at every stage:
Awareness | Blog content, landing pages and graphical content help to educate your audience around their pain points, and win search traffic on those topics to get more of the right people on your site
Interest | Bigger pieces of content such as whitepapers and eBooks cater for the deeper research, and start to establish you as an expert in that space
Consideration | Case studies demonstrate how you’ve successfully delivered similar projects, giving the prospect insight into how they might do it, and showing that you can handle it
Purchase | At the crucial conversion point testimonial videos highlight the positive experience of others
Retention | Few new customers are experts in your space, so an ongoing content strategy continues their education and galvanises their valuation of your services
The end result is more of the right people coming into the top of the funnel, who – when they are ready to speak to your sales teams – are better educated, have a much better view of you, and are therefore more likely to buy from (and stay with) you.
SEO is about getting as many of the right people as possible from organic search results to your website. An element of SEO is optimising your content and web pages for search engines and user experience, but the bulk of it is about the content itself – that’s what people are searching for, and the reason search engines exist in the first place.
The overall effect of a good ongoing content marketing strategy is that it grows your website as a resource of useful material. This in turn boosts your domain authority, and makes all of your site pages more likely to rank well. Each individual piece of content can have its own strategy behind it too, which shapes it so that it wins traffic for a specific query. Each piece of content you publish therefore becomes another fishing line in the water.
We use our own unique process called Content Mapping to look at what content ranks well on a given topic, and has succeeded on social media. We note its strengths then identify how we can produce a better piece of content, which is more likely to rank for that query.
These two are tightly intertwined – by educating, you demonstrate your expertise – so we’ll deal with them together.
It’s an overused term, but thought leadership is very important because in a lot of cases – particularly B2B scenarios – both existing and potential customers won’t work with or continue to work with you if they don’t think you have the necessary expertise. You and your staff only have so many opportunities to actually speak to your audience, so you need another way to communicate that expertise.
If we could send one of our Content Strategists to spend a day with a potential client, giving them great advice on all things content marketing, free of any agenda, you’d expect that company would be much more likely to become a client by the end of that day. Not only would they have a much better impression of us, they’d have a much better understanding of why they need a content marketing strategy. We can’t realistically do that, however, and no potential client has a whole day to give us!
But, put simply, that’s the intention of content marketing. It allows us to engage with our audience on their own terms, in a much less ‘salesy’ manner – answering their questions and passing on our knowledge as we go. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the more they engage with our content, the more they see us as thought leaders, and the better educated they become – making them much better clients when they do come on board!
If you’re getting more people into the top of your marketing funnel, and more people are engaging with and sharing your content, then your brand awareness will increase as a result.
And because you can control the topics that your content marketing strategy covers, you can directly influence what topics your audience associate with your brand.
Also a bit of an overall effect of all of the above, a good content strategy helps to convert a higher percentage of prospects to customers. It brings more of the right people in, nurtures and educates them, builds trust and shows expertise, and ensures they’re more ready to buy when they become leads.
A good content strategy also takes conversion optimisation into account on your content pages and wider website. For example:
Are your content pages optimised to drive traffic to key conversion pages, and do they have relevant, valuable calls-to-action (CTAs)? Content marketing shouldn’t be too ‘salesy’, but it’s all wasted effort if you make it hard for people to do the things you ultimately want them to do, when they’re ready to do them.