Research shows that an inbound content marketing strategy delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel in comparison to traditional outbound marketing methods. I’ve had the opportunity to launch inbound marketing strategies for several organizations over the years. Without fail, the implementation of a solid content marketing strategy has resulted in a dramatic increase in lead generation, shorter sales cycles, increased volumes of product interest and better quality leads. While not all content marketing is created equal, there are a few foolproof tactics you can rely on to get results.
Whether you are brand new to content marketing or have been pumping out content since Blendtec’s first “Will it Blend?” challenge, the following four content marketing tips will help you drastically up your content game.
1. Focus on content that provides value to your audience.
Create market-relevant content that is educational, insightful and interesting — don’t make it about your products (at least at face value). The primary goal of each piece of content you produce should be to pique the interest of your audience and make their lives better. How can you make your target audience more productive? Happier? Surprise them. Teach them something useful. The sweet spot is educating your audience about a topic that leads to a need for your product.
But make selling your company and your products the secondary goal of your content marketing efforts. No one wants to read about your latest acquisition unless it makes a difference in their day-to-day lives. Have a new feature release? Go the extra step to determine what really drove the need for developing that specific feature, and focus your content around that need — rather than your product. At my company, we launched a robust media hub dedicated to top-of-funnel resources for the construction industry. We only publish industry news, best practices and interesting thought leadership — no product content allowed.
2. Help your prospects move through the buyer journey with direct calls to action.
About 57% of the buying process is done before a prospect even speaks with a sales representative. That means your buyers are proactively searching online for solutions to their problems and doing their own research — hence the significant influence of content marketing in today’s buying decisions.
If you don’t have your content mapped to your buyer journey, then start by identifying content for each stage of the buying process (awareness, consideration and decision). Stage one (awareness) pieces should focus on industry research, insights and opinions, stage two (decision) content should consist of product comparisons and evaluation pieces, and stage three is where your product-specific content should live.
When publishing your content, make sure you provide direct calls to action (CTAs) to encourage your readers to move themselves to the next step in the buyer journey. For every gated top-of-funnel guide you produce, create two to three lead-in blogs that solicit a call to action to download the full guide. When a prospect downloads a guide or e-book, put them in an email nurture that educates them down the sales funnel. No single piece of content should be an island. Intentionally plan your content to fit into a cohesive flow from top to bottom of the buyer journey funnel.
3. Ask influencers to contribute to your content.
Who doesn’t want to share an article they have been featured in? Leverage the reach of influencers in your industry by asking them to contribute articles on your blog or provide advice in a roundup post. Expert roundup posts such as “10 Industry Experts Share Their Top Content Marketing Tips” are genetically engineered for shareability. By asking contributors with extensive social followings to provide their views on a topic, you can both crowdsource your content and boost your article’s traffic. Just be sure to circulate the published article back to your contributors and remind them to share.
4. Don’t forget about content distribution.
You’re limiting your content marketing potential if your process stops at content creation. Producing quality, engaging content is only half the battle of a successful content marketing strategy. No matter how interesting or entertaining your content is, if you don’t invest the time getting your content in front of your audience, very few people may ever read it.
There are two avenues for content distribution: organic reach and paid promotion. In today’s digital landscape, smart marketers utilize both. Look to advertise your top-of-funnel (TOFU) content on the Google Display Network (GDN) or find digital publishers in your industry that sell dedicated email blasts that you can use to push out your high-value content. Both of these mediums are ideal for promoting content in the early stages of the buyer’s journey. Social media has become pay to play, with big players like Facebook altering their algorithms to favour those that pay them money to reach their audience. But you get what you pay for on Facebook — with over 1.5 billion users, no other platform provides the same reach or as detailed audience and targeting.
As for maximizing organic reach, there is a multitude of cost-effective ways to distribute your content. Ask your co-workers to share your company’s articles on their social networks and arm your sales team with new top-of-funnel pieces to send to their cold-call leads. Share articles with short commentary on industry forums, Reddit, Quora and LinkedIn groups. You can also repurpose high-value pieces of content into blog posts, infographics or teaser videos to increase their visibility and maximize your content investment.
You don’t need an army to build a high-performing content marketing strategy. Big and small teams alike can find success through an intentional, well-thought-out content plan. Content marketing is a calculated science — know your audience, create content that appeals to them, find ways to ensure your target audience consumes your content and tie your content back to your bottom-line marketing goals.