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Guest Column: 6 steps to a content marketing plan that can drive conversions

Guest Column: 6 steps to a content marketing plan that can drive conversions

Author | Nidhi Raj Puri | Thursday, Feb 05,2015 8:15 AM

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Guest Column: 6 steps to a content marketing plan that can drive conversions

All over the world, marketers agree that content marketing is hot! In the Asia-Pacific market, I see companies increasingly exploring how they can adopt content marketing strategies into their marketing. And it makes sense. What better way to reach out to the huge number of potential customers who spend time online? No matter where you (or your customers) are located?

Modern buyers are constantly bombarded by ads -- outdoors, on television, in newsprint and through digital channels. They tend to, subconsciously, begin to ignore them. Everyone wants to buy, but most people don’t like being sold to. And yet we all like learning new and useful things regularly. That’s why content marketing may be the most reliable way to reach prospects – because they are growing smarter and more informed. They trust only their own research. And by the time they reach out to a sales person, as much as 80 per cent of their purchase decisions have already been made.

We can help that decision-making process by engaging, entertaining, and educating them with relevant information during their research. Let’s look at some guiding principles for developing a content marketing strategy that gets results.

Before We Begin

First, let’s define what content marketing really is. Content marketing should be:
• An ongoing initiative, not a one-time effort
• Focused on the customer’s pain points, not the company’s product offerings
• Not solely entertaining, but also educational

Content marketing does not begin with brainstorming what to say. It begins with thinking about why you are saying it and to whom you are saying it. Ideas for content come from balancing the things you want to tell consumers and the things they want to hear.

Before you initiate your content plan, it is essential to look at analytics in order to understand your website visitors – what they are looking for, which pages they visit, how much time they spend on a page, and so on. Also spend time reviewing data from past campaigns. You need all of this data, as well as insight of your existing customers, to plan your content strategy.

Here are a few questions marketers should have on their minds when preparing a content piece.
• Who am I writing for?
• What kinds of content do they like to consume?
• Why should my prospects pay attention to this content?
• Does this content provide my customers information to do their jobs better?
• Is the content findable on the channels where my customers spend much of their time online?
• Is it inspiring enough to make the customer stop, think and take action?

Now that we have defined what content marketing is, here are six steps to creating an engaging content plan to drive conversions.

1. Have a clear understanding of your target audience

Take a good look at whether you are creating content that consistently keeps your target audience in mind. Many business owners make the mistake of writing for their peers, instead to their customers. The value of content marketing is generating information, awareness and engagement. This can only be done by focusing on the customer and talking to their interest areas.

Consider this scenario. Say you own a graphic design business and you write articles that are highly technical pieces related to UI design and tracking APIs. While the content may be well-written, it is more likely to appeal to other professional web designers rather than potential customers. Prospects are going to be looking for less technical posts like, “How to make your website stand out from competitors,” “What should you budget for your website design,” and “Criteria to keep in mind when choosing the right designer.”

Often, we draw inspiration for our content from popular industry blogs and publications. The things we read daily influence our thought process. So it’s important to take a step back sometimes and evaluate whether we are writing for the right audience.

2. Understand your buyer personas and identify their challenges

You have now decided to create content with your potential customers in mind. But do you know who your customers are, exactly? To understand your buyer persona, you need to go back to the demographics of your existing customers and run reports on their job titles, departments and regions, along with company size. Apart from this demographic information, it is essential to ask questions like:

• What is their business background?
• What responsibilities do they have?
• What keeps them up all night?
• What challenges do they face and what do they need in order to overcome them?
• How do they behave on your website? Are there particular page views that indicate sales-readiness?

You need to identify the challenges, pain points, interests, habits and needs of your prospects to more effectively target your content messages. Collaborate with your sales and product teams – they have a unique perspective of your buyers’ challenges as they interact with your buyers in a different way.  Identify how you can make your prospects’ lives easier by solving a common problem they face.

As you delve deeper into your buyers’ challenges, you can start to shape your content strategy. Effective content will address your buyers’ pain points and help them solve their problems.

3. Collaborate with sales and product teams for content creation

Content is available everywhere, so you need to identify the sources and capture that content. It takes an army to create and find compelling content. It’s not that content does not exist in an organisation, but in silos. As marketers, it is our job to not only create content, but also to be an orchestrator of content that resides in silos with teams such as R&D, analytics, the social media team, events and so on. Also, marketers need to look outside an organisation for content.

As a marketer, it’s your job to find the content, surface it up and package it in a way that resonates well with your buyers’ persona. It is very important to talk to other teams within the organisation to track that content down.

We all know how hard it can be to get a blog written from a senior decision-maker in an organisation. But that same executive might also be speaking at an event. Capture that speech in a recording and turn it into different formats – from a podcast, short article and blog post, to a series of tweets and LinkedIn posts.

4. Serve the right content at the right time

What does your specific sales funnel look like? Start with the awareness or brand discovery phase and go beyond conversion and up-selling. What types of content can you create to serve up along the funnel and help drive your prospects toward that critical decision to buy? The type of content you need depends on what stage of the sales cycle your buyer is in. If you deliver thought leadership, like best practices or educational videos, when the customer is actually looking for vendor comparisons, that content will not resonate.

5. Establish your distribution strategy

How will your content reach your customers? What combination of media channels would best fit your target audience? From print to online, digital to video, there is a huge range of channels to choose from. Understanding which channels, platforms, and content formats they spend the most time looking at can help you create content that achieves your goals. There are different ways your buyers consume information and spend their time online, making it vital for your content to be available in various forms on multiple channels.

Developing the volume necessary to fuel a content programme is a challenge. You can extend the life of your content by using it in multiple ways, offering it in multiple formats and distributing it everywhere. Plan to break long content into smaller pieces and different formats. If you have created a white paper, extract two main ideas and create short articles. Split out two more ideas and create blog posts. Promote them all through social media channels.

Maximise the visibility of your content by including social and share links in your various content pieces – papers, web pages, emails, blogs, etc. – whenever and wherever appropriate.

6. Close with the right call to action

Last but not least, you want to make sure that everything you create has a strong call to action. For example, if you are writing about a popular service that your business provides, you will want to end your piece with something like, “For more information about service packages, please get in touch with me here: me@mybusinessname.com.” Or, for an informative piece, you will need to link it to other relevant content for further information. That way, you can keep your prospects engaged with your brand, guiding them throughout their buying journey.

This single step alone will dramatically increase the ROI on content that you create.

Key Takeaways

Segment the target audience into personas and map content to them based on their pain points, relevant topics, appropriate channels for syndication, and the different stages of the buyers’ life cycle – awareness, research, conversion, engagement or beyond. Make your content available on all channels that your prospects use and always include a strong call to action. Speaking of which, if you would like to learn more about developing an effective content marketing strategy, download this toolkit to get a clear methodology for developing a content marketing programme that connects with your customers. And be sure to share your content marketing challenges and solutions in comments.

Ready to learn more about content marketing? Discover 3 essential ways to use content marketing for generating top-of-funnel leads with our free eBook, “Attraction 101: Content Marketing.”

The author, Nidhi Raj Puri is Marketing Manager (Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa) at Act-On Software.

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