In a world where content is king, do you often feel as knowledgeable as the court jester?
Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. By now, 86 percent of marketers report that they are using content marketing for their organization. However, far less are sure of what a successful content marketing plan even looks like.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Undoubtedly, there are several business goals tied to your content marketing plan. Often, one of the most difficult to accomplish is converting prospects to loyal, repeat customers.
If your brand is struggling to master this, it could be due to a failure in understanding important components about your brand that are keeping those leads from becoming conversions.
Luckily for you, we’re here to show you how to make a content marketing plan that not only captivates but converts those one-time likes into long-term customer loyalty.
Let’s start with what content marketing really means.
Back to the Basics
“Content Marketing” has become somewhat of a buzzword. It gets thrown around by everyone from the social media manager to the C-suite executives. In fact, it’s been bounced around so much that if you ask someone what it means to them, you’ll probably get a different answer each time.
Here’s how Content Marketing Institute defines it:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
It sounds nice, right? But what does it mean? All you really need to understand is this:
Everything you create (emails, blogs, social media, etc.) is content, but everything you create with a purpose is content marketing.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Once you realize that purpose is the driving force behind all that we as brand marketers do, only then can you start to craft your strategy.
So, we’ve got a pretty firm grasp on the concept of content marketing; now we need to figure out how to create a cohesive, focused strategy that will help get you those conversions.
What’s in a strategy?
Every brand is different, and unfortunately, there isn’t a secret industry-wide strategy for success.
In order to create that killer content strategy for YOUR brand, you’ll have to create a custom strategy. While that may sound like a lot of work, creating a successful strategy really only takes asking yourself five simple questions: Why? Who? What? Where? How?
From these questions, you’ll be able to develop a strategy that will get the results – and the conversions – you want. Let’s break it down a little further.
Question 1: Why Does Your Brand Exist?
The first and most important thing to define is what you offer the consumer. How is your brand unique and how will consumers benefit from it?
Oftentimes, consumers fail to become customers for three reasons.
- They don’t understand what you’re offering
- They don’t want whatever it is you’re offering
- They won’t offer anything in exchange for it if they don’t want it
In layman’s terms:
- They don’t get it
- They don’t want it
- They have no reason to care about it
The first step in any content marketing plan is deciding how you want to position yourself to consumers and what problems you’re solving for them. This can be done through blog updates, social media, videos, infographics, etc. – but make sure your messaging evokes an emotion that the consumer can tie back to your brand. Whether you solve a current problem or identify a problem the consumer didn’t know he or she had, showcase that through your marketing channels in informative but creative ways.
Not all problems are actual ‘problems’ remember. Not having the latest iPhone isn’t a problem per se, but if you’re someone who needs to have the new version of everything – that’s a problem in your eyes and might force you to make the purchase. Consumers aren’t always making rational purchase decisions; often, they’re making emotional ones or some combination of the two. Decide which type of purchase yours is and cater your content to that.
Question 2: Who Are You Talking To?
We’ve already determined that just creating content isn’t enough. The term “content” itself is amorphous and broad. To be a successful B2C content marketer, you need to figure out what it is your audience needs to keep them coming back.
Sure, you probably already know who they are – now, it’s figuring out what stage they are at in the consumer journey and how to get them the content they need at that stage.
When you begin to talk about consumer journey, other terms like ‘consumer experience’ and ‘buyer persona’ have also developed. In fact, recently-published studies predict that by 2020, the experience will be more of a determining factor than price when choosing one brand over the other – which gives us an indication of its increasing importance.
Given these three components are so important, let’s take a look at what they really mean, and how they work together.
The consumer experience is how a consumer perceives their interactions with your organization, your brand and your products.
The consumer or customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.
A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.
The consumer journey won’t be the same for everyone, which is why most brands will need more than one persona. To start, choose and define your most important personas. From there, you’ll start to see what types of content to create, how that content will be consumed and the best way to deliver that content to your audience.
“What would your content look like if your customer signed your paycheck?”
– Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, Marketing Profs
To successfully convert prospects into customers, however, takes more than simply defining your audience. If you are willing to take the time to understand your consumer and tailor your customer journey, it’s worth the ROI. Once you learn how to help consumers evaluate your content on their own terms, you build a bond of trust that your competitors won’t be able to match.
Question 3: What Is Your Brand Saying?
“Just do it.”
“Snap. Crackle. Pop”
Without any context, you know what these phrases represent and where they came from, right? Unfortunately, not everyone has multi-million dollar ad budgets to blast slogans everywhere.
However, when you invest in key pieces of content like a product video or web series, you’re building up content that speaks to your brand. The more you publish, the more consumers will learn and eventually associate key messaging to your product or organization.
The best way to get people to understand your product or brand is to make sure your messaging is consistent, diverse in format, published regularly, and has a clear call-to-action (CTA).
Is the viewer supposed to share, provide feedback, make a purchase? Take the guessing out of it and tell your audience what you want them to do next. These ‘converting content’ types might include:
- How-To Videos
- Free Samples
- Customer Testimonials
- Email campaigns
Determining which types of content your audience wants is no small task, but potentially even more important is determining how and where you distribute it.
Question 4: Where Are you Saying It?
Creating content for your audience is only half the battle. If you’re going to reach new people, you have to be strategic in placing your content and messaging. If you want your website to be your content hub and information capture – that’s great – but how are you driving them there? Great content means absolutely nothing if there is no one to witness it.
Certainly, an ‘epic’ piece of content like an ebook can serve your brand well in the long-term. But how does that work? Utilize the concept of ‘atomization’ to break up your large piece of content into digestible bites for your audience. Publish them cross-channel and at a manageable frequency for your team.
Although this is just a high-level overview of how to reach your audience, it’s a good place to get you started. Once you have your final list of the types of content you’re working with, it will be much easier to determine what platforms will work best for your brand and your audience.
Speaking of which…
Question 5: How Are You Going to Measure Success?
In the end, how will you measure the results of all your hard work? Effective brand publishers now know they must perpetually review their efforts and act on their metrics to optimize performance.
In terms of conversion, capturing a sale is the major goal for all of your publishing efforts. To analyze your content’s performance, it’s important to have clear and accessible data for your marketing and sales teams. So, what will you need?
If getting the customer to do what you want them to do is proving challenging, you should certainly evaluate whether your content is doing its job. People who come to your website will spend about five seconds there. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave, never to be seen again.
With fine-tuning of Google Analytics and other 3rd-party data tools, you should be able to track the journey of a consumer to your site and within your site. Some tools to help you with this include:
- Google UTM codes
- URL-shortener stats
- Heat-map analysis
- General website analytics
There’s no shortage of social media metrics or ways to synthesize them. Generally speaking, most publishers want to measure views, likes, shares, comments, clicks and follower growth.
Now, let’s say you’ve seen an increase in some of these metrics. Huzzah!
But you’re not done just yet.
While it might be tempting to present these new numbers at your next sales meeting and expect a pat on the back, have you actually accomplished your goal for conversions? Rather than acquiring more viewers, are more people actually talking about and spending money on your brand?
When it comes to measuring conversions, I think Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert, says it best:
“We look at several things. Now, it’s not just how many people see it. That’s great, and that’s an ego trip to say you have 100,000 followers, or you got 10,000 people to watch your video this week, but I think the real engagement is the true thing. Where are people commenting? I look at shares. Shares are a good indicator. But the biggest indicator is when my phone rings and they tell me they saw something and we start talking about it. And that’s what primes for a conversation that leads to business.”
Insights are the fuel of your content marketing strategy, and determining whether or not your current strategy is working will help you determine where you need to invest your efforts going forward.
By taking the time to understand exactly what the problem is and where it is you’re losing prospects, you can save yourself valuable time (and money) when you go to fix it.
With These Questions, Get Content Marketing Answers
It’s simple. People want products that will serve as a solution to their problems. But more than just solving a problem, you have to do it in the right way.
If I told you I could help you lose 10 pounds overnight, you would probably be interested, right? Unless I told you it involved removing an arm. I’d probably never see you again.
The same concept applies to your conversions. If your visitors don’t get it, changing the price won’t fix that. If your visitors don’t want it, a catchy slogan won’t make them think twice about buying it.
Now here’s a reality check: mastering this stuff is far from easy, and we’ve really only just scratched the surface. You’re undoubtedly going to run into a few hurdles along the way, but, by clearly defining your strategy first, you can quickly and efficiently create a marketing plan that works.