When it comes to your content marketing strategy, I bet you’re all just winging it, aren’t you? You have moments when you come across a great idea and then you just run with them and hope for the best.
Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. Then you just move on to the next great idea.
You don’t really analyze why it failed. You just tell yourself it was a dim-witted idea and it was destined to fail. It seemed like a good idea at that time in the heat of the moment, but obviously, you were mistaken!
Does this sound familiar?
More than 50% of companies don’t have a well-defined strategy for their content marketing efforts.
Whether you’ve been doing this forever, or you’re just testing out the waters trying to come up with the first blog post for your new company, creating engaging content that doesn’t just entertain or inform but also drives sales and conversions can be a tough nut to crack.
First and foremost, you need to know what it is that you are doing! You’re not writing a blog post, making an informational video or running a social media campaign.
You’re here to tell a story!
Coming up with stories that are relevant and useful to your customers on a daily basis, is the heart of content marketing.
Why Would People Care?
What you’re doing is not advertisement, you’re not hijacking your customers time and trying to sell them anything. You are trying to tell them that you care about them!
If you produce free, helpful and informative content for your audience, they will engage with you, spread the word about your business and obviously lead to more sales and conversions.
So the first step to coming up with a content strategy is identifying and understanding your audience. Simply put, you have your audience, your business and how your business can cater to your audience’s needs.
The Three Variables
1. Your audience,
2. Your message (content),
3. The platforms you use to promote your message.
Find Your Audience
As anybody would tell you, the first step is to understand who your target audience is. You need to create content that adds value to the life of your customer.
For that, you need to identify pain points, i.e. obstacles or hardships in your audience’s lives which they can overcome by using your product. Identify their problems, make them more aware of those problems and then seek to solve them using your product.
The best way to do this is to create an ideal customer persona. This person will have certain preferences, lifestyle choices, favored products and brands and certain behavioral traits. Once you have this made up, you can come up with other audience lists which match one or all of the characteristic traits of your ideal customer.
It’s important to remember that all your customers have the same problem, ie pain point.
So how do you create an ideal customer persona?
If you already have a customer base, you already have everything you’ll need. Just collate them together in one place, identify common or unifying factors among them and that’s it!
If you don’t then you need to do some research. When doing so, you need to focus on the industry you’re in, your competitors, customer testimonials, the kind of content they put out.
For example, if you are the marketing head of a fitness company and you sell gym passes, your ideal customer would look like this:
Remember, the reason you’re doing this is so you can tailor-make content which will add value to your customers’ lives.
You give them information. In return, they give you their attention!
Craft Your Message
This is where you really need a plan. Your message needs to communicate two important details primarily:
1. How your problem solves the pain point of your audience:
Your content should be created in such a way that it talks about both the problem and the solution you provide. You need to coach your audience through this problem.
You should ideally talk to people (new prospective leads) who are still trying to figure out what their main challenges are and also talk to your existing customers and educate them on how they can use your product to the fullest.
2. What Makes Your Product Unique/ Better?
Your competitors probably have products similar to yours. So the onus is on you to tell your audience how your product is better or how it is different or how it is more of a match for your target audience than your competitors.
This part is all about content — how you make your product stand out from the rest. Unfortunately, there are no solid strategies set in stone here. You just have to try out different approaches, keep A/B testing and then analyze what’s working and what’s not. But most importantly, keep an open mind!
It’s also important to know that your audience won’t just discover your product and then buy it right there on the spot. In all probability, they’ll learn about it, dig a little deeper if it seems interesting and then proceed to mull over it for the next few months and then finally, they see a remarketing ad which takes them somewhere and then they decide to buy (give your product a shot, more accurately.)
This divides your audience into three funnels –
- The Awareness Stage:-Where they first find out about your product. First impressions are paramount of course. At this point, your goal is to create content that will create a lasting impression such that your audience doesn’t just keep on browsing and forget.
- The Consideration Stage:-This is the period in-between awareness and a final conversion. No one commits as soon as they see something and they will likely take all the time in the world before they do. At this point, your goal is to engage your audience. Provide them with relevant helpful content to show them that yours is a company which cares. Even if the audience has not purchased your product yet, you still try to create as much engagement as possible.
- The Conversion Stage:-This is the final stage and all your marketing efforts lead you up to this point. It’s the moment of truth – make or break. You should remember that your audience will always need a final push to purchase your product. And now isn’t the time to talk about the features or benefits of your product. Now is the time to appeal to the emotional. Here, your aim is to create a feeling your audience can’t shake off.
The Content Platforms
You need to understand where your audience is hanging around on the internet – This should be included in the stage where you are creating your ideal customer.
However, it is important to not spread yourself too thin on all these platforms. Focusing your efforts and excelling in two platforms is much better than having a sprawled out marketing strategy that covers all platforms but isn’t excellent in any. You find your niche and you stick with it.
First, you need to segment the content platforms you intend to use according to the stage of the funnel your audience is in.
1. The Awareness Stage — How will people learn about your products in the first place?
This is when your audience first gets to hear about your product. This is often the make or break moment. However, content marketing when done right is forgiving in that, first impressions are not always last impressions.
There are two major platforms –
So what do people do when they’re facing a problem or they find a solution to their pain point?
They google it.
And they click on the first result. If that result has what they wanted, their search ends there. If it doesn’t, they click on the next 3 to 4 links at most. If they are really bothered by their problem, they will look at the other results as well (look, not click, they will scan the rest of the results). if you can talk to your audience directly, in your titles and meta description and form a connection with the user, the will click on it as well.
So you need to ensure your product(s) / company shows up on the first few results. And the way to do that is SEO. Proper SEO doesn’t just ensure your website shows up in the search results. It establishes your authority, as a source of information and a company people can trust. And people won’t buy from someone they don’t trust.
There are plenty of ways to develop your website’s SEO but that’s a topic of a different blog article.
II) Social Media
Social media might just be the strongest tool in your arsenal and when leveraged correctly, can reap rewards like nothing else.
The reasons being simple, people log in to their social media accounts multiple times every day and spend a large chunk of their days just scrolling their feed.
The second reason is unlike Google which is intent-based, (as in people are only likely to come across your product when they search for something relevant to what you’re selling), social media is everywhere, giving you access to a huge pool of people you can’t find anywhere else.
Also, there’s paid advertising which is the best example of inbound content which is marketed to the right audience. You can create exceptional pieces of content and then drive relevant traffic to it by running paid advertisements.
You need to have a strong social media presence but once you’re there you’ll find you are far from alone.
So how do you stand out?
You go back to the basics. You tell a story better than anyone else.
Remember, your audience will follow you because they like your content, not your products. So be sure to entertain them and provide them valuable content.
2.The Consideration Stage — How Do You Keep Your Users Engaged?
Now that people know you exist, you have to move on to the next stage. At this stage, the goal is to keep your potential customers engaged and make them trust you as a company which cares.
The best way to do that is to provide them with free, helpful content. But here, your content needs to be longer, something your audience can latch on to you. Think newsletters, ebooks, infographics, blog posts.
With such long forms of content, your audience gets to learn about your stance on various things and whether or not they agree with your position. They get to know about your brand identity, your voice’s tone on social media and most importantly, whether you can be trusted.
If they sign up for your newsletter or your blogs, it definitely means they are interested in you but might not necessarily mean they are ready to buy from you yet.
If you can stay in constant contact with your prospects without overdoing it, you will have done your job. Your job is to gently guide them through the decision-making process instead of leaving them completely to their own choices, without being too promotional.
Remember, your primary aim with your content is to get your audience’s attention. So your content needs to be attention- worthy.
3. The Conversion Stage — How Do You Turn Your Leads Into Customers
So you’ve played all your cards right, your audience likes the content that you put out and finds you entertaining.
And they just saw a remarketing ad – an offer which seems too good to resist. And they’ve made their way to your purchase page. From here on, it’s just a few more steps and you’ve got yourself a customer.
Your only job right now is to provide a small push. Your audience is here looking for an incentive to take action now!
You have to prove that yours is the best solution out there. And you don’t do that by talking about your features. You do that by telling stories, ie. customer testimonials, reviews, etc.
Ultimately your audience doesn’t want the best product out there, they want the product which cares for them the most. Something that hits the emotional center, not the logic center. At this point, you’re selling a feeling, not your product.
Here, your CTA needs to be more action-oriented which urges your user to start. If he has come to this point and then bounces off the page, it will be hard to bring him back. It’s time to go all-out now. Discounts, special offers, free trials — take your pick.
No more infotainment, it’s time for a sale!
So now you know how to create an ideal customer profile (your product solves a problem or challenge faced by your audience). Then you divide your leads according to the three stages of your sales funnel and finally, you create content catering to each stage of this funnel (create curiosity in the awareness stage, engagement in the consideration stage, and craft a final push in the conversion stage.)
That concludes our guide on how to create a successful content marketing strategy.
Remember to tell a story!