This year has brought newer and better technology, to be certain. And the best thing about this? Small businesses will have access to data and marketing tools that will level the playing field even more than before. While the concepts of good content marketing strategies have not changed, the specific methods of putting those concepts into practice are not the same.
So, let’s take a look at these tried and true concepts and how technology can enhance them.
1. Know Your Customer (KYC) To Develop Content Marketing Strategy
We are definitely in the age of the consumer. They are driving business decisions now. And those decisions must be based on solid data, not “gut” feelings or the previous more manual method of developing a customer persona. It’s time to tap into data, to really understand customer behavior and experiences. Implementing analytics tools and sifting through the data you are provided can give you great insights, such as:
Historical data on customer behaviors – their purchases, their interaction with your site, your blog, your social media platforms. What content has been the most popular? What pages/platforms are getting a good play, and which are not? Harvesting all of this information helps you understand your customers’ experiences with you.
Capturing real-time data on customer behaviors as they occur. There are many tools that will show you exactly where your visitors, followers, and customers are at any given moment. You will know what pages they are accessing, what products they are looking at, and where they are bouncing. Use this data to reach out to them as well as to revise places where frequent bounces occur.
Capture data on your customer demographic – where they hang out online, what they are buying, what companies they like and why, what times of the year they purchase products like yours, and more.
Capture customer data from all devices (PC, tablet, laptop, smartphone).
Using data and data analytics is a scientific approach. Used correctly, you will be able to enhance your customer experiences, gain insights into their preferences and needs, and use this information as you develop content marketing strategies.
2. Create Marketing Content for Each Stage of a Buyer’s Journey
Anyone who has ever purchased anything on Amazon understands how the company maintains contact throughout their journey. It goes like this:
You become aware of a pain point or a need. So, you go to Amazon and begin a search for a product that may resolve your issue. You are now in the “awareness” phase. And Amazon knows you are there and what you are looking at.
You have an interest in some products but decide to check out some other sites too. So, you leave Amazon, but Amazon remembers. You may even get an email reminder that you searched for certain products.
You return to Amazon during the “consideration” phase. Amazon greets you and provides you with visuals of the products you were looking at. The content (e.g. product descriptions, reviews, etc) is offered via links.
You make a “purchase.” Not only does Amazon make it very easy to do (because it has your shipping address and card information already stored, and you can purchase in almost one click. Amazon informs you that you will receive an email confirming the purchase and providing tracking information.
Amazon has several things in store for you, once that purchase is finalized. It offers more marketing content – “People who purchased this item also purchased….”
The “post-purchase” phase continues with more content from Amazon. You receive emails asking about your experience, about your satisfaction level. And when you return to Amazon in the “Re-Purchase” phase, marketing content is awaiting you – suggestions for products, based upon your previous purchasing behaviors.
You are not Amazon, and the marketing content it provides will not particularly relate to the marketing content you should be creating. Still, you should have content for each stage of the journey, with the goal of moving that buyer through your sales funnel.
a) Marketing Content For Awareness and Interest Stages
These are information-gathering stages. Today’s consumer wants to conduct a search and find relevant information about both products/services and about the companies that offer them. It is your job to have that information readily available and, through SEO, be certain that you show up on those results.
The types of marketing content you should be creating for awareness and interest stages are as follows:
Blog posts that educate, entertain and inspire. It’s important to show the value you bring to consumers along with your expertise and trustworthiness. No sales pressure at all – just solving problems and developing relationships. Think of the questions your potential customers may be asking; you have the data to know what types of humor they appreciate and what will inspire them – use it for content creation.
Videos. They are powerful indeed, and consumers far prefer them to text. Create explainer videos that show your value in solving a problem. If you need a great example, check out the initial video of Dollar Shave Club. Not only does it show how a real problem is solved, it is totally entertaining. Over 26 million views at this point. How-to videos are also valuable. Your videos don’t have to be professionally produced. In fact, casual and informal ones show you as genuine and authentic.
Social Media. If you have the right data, you know where your customer is. Choose the top two platforms and get aggressive with content posting. Again, do not focus on selling. Focus on establishing connections and relationships. Show the human side of your business; feature your team members; solicit contributions from your customers; show a sense of humor; demonstrate your social responsibility. And post as often as possible, even giving incentives if your followers will share with their communities.
Remember, marketing content at this stage is introductory – you want a potential customer to become aware of you and see you as a valuable resource.
b) Marketing Content For the Consideration Stage
Your customer is aware that you exist and that you have a product or service that may solve a problem for him. He is now looking at options that you and your competitors offer. Now is the time to bring that customer in with more information.
Offer downloadable e-books, guides, and subscriptions to your newsletter. You can provide links to these on your site or within blog posts and provide them in exchange for an email address.
Offer comparison videos or slideshares that show the superiority of your product over those of your competitors (you don’t need to name them of course).
Offer tip sheets related to additional problems they want to solve. If you are Dollar Shave Club, for example, you might offer tip sheets on other issues related to grooming. If you offer home décor products, provide marketing content related to color coordination or how-to videos on DIY home projects. Customers at this stage in their journey want to see a company that provides more than just a product.
The goal during this stage is to provide additional marketing content that showcases your greater expertise. You want customers to see you as a valuable resource on a variety of related issues too. You want to become memorable, as they consider those options. Your goal is to show that you are the best choice. To that end, you can provide a host of other related resources that your competitors do not. Offer them free, with promises of more to come. And it’s important to deliver that ‘more’ as often as possible.
c) Marketing Content For The Decision Phase
This is obviously the stage at which a consumer makes a purchasing decision. It is also the stage at which you need to turn on the steam regarding the benefits of your product. If you have been smart, your marketing content has not put a lot of ads and product pages in front of people before this stage. It’s a huge turnoff, and they see you as a bit of a harasser.
Content is obviously important at this stage too. It’s time to contact your potential buyer directly, perhaps through email, providing more detail about your product/service, authentic testimonials from customers, and more.
Blog posts can now speak to how great your products are and how your company takes care of its customers. They can speak to the growth you have achieved in product sales and how many repeat customers you have. It’s all about how you solve consumers’ problems best. These posts should link to product pages on your site.
Feature your products on social media platforms with customer use videos and photos. Link to your website for special offers and discounts
Drive readers to your website and offer that special pricing. Provide engaging product descriptions that tout all of the great features.
Send out emails with limited time offers. Emails are great ways to segment out your potential customers by their places in your sales funnel, so long as you have compelling subject lines, deliver what your subject line promises, and do not become a “stalker”.
d) Marketing Content For The Post-Purchase and Re-Purchase Stages
You now have a personal relationship with a real customer – one who has actually made a purchase. It is time to keep that customer engaged with you and to offer additional service as might be needed.
Every purchase must be acknowledged with a thank you and details about shipping, tracking, and, most important, how to be contacted when there is a question or issue. You keep customers happy when this type of follow-up, if promptly given – usually through email.
It is also a good idea to survey your customers about their experience and to address any concerns they had.
Stay alert. Monitor your social media platforms for comments and feedback. Get a social monitoring tool that will alert you whenever your brand is mentioned on the web. You cannot afford to let a negative comment or review go unanswered. Addressing them quickly is a part of any smart content marketing campaign.
Contact your customers periodically with offers and updates. You want to keep your brand in their minds. Again, it does not have to be about a sale. You can refer them to a new blog post that would provide valuable information, for example. Show that you are still interested in their needs, not just another sale.
If your target audience is not engaged by your marketing content, there is no point in having a strategy or campaigns. And this is also where newer technology can come into play.
As you craft your marketing content, be mindful of the following:
Your headline is critical. Think like a newspaper reporter. He motivates readers to move on to his article by providing a compelling, often intriguing, headline.
Audiences want to participate. Give them opportunities to do so – provide interactive content, surveys, quizzes, and such.
Use new technology to provide amazing experiences, including AR and VR. While this was formerly reserved for those brands that could afford pricey developers, new tools have seriously reduced the costs and complexities of doing this. Now, clothing retailers allow customers to virtually try on items of clothing; eyewear companies give consumers the opportunity to try on frames via their devices before they go in for their exams and frame choices; wine companies embed their stories of production in their labels – a scan with a smartphone brings up the video. Resorts provide virtual experiences so that vacationers can get a preview of what is available. Imagine the “leg up” that such brands have as their targets are making purchasing decisions.
Adopt a tone and style that fits your audience. Obviously, a brand that sells hearing aids to the elderly will have a very different tone than one that is selling energy drinks to young people. There are various options to achieve this without spending too much money. Consider using freelance writers on services like Freelancer or find a reliable writing service that will be ready to start creating great content the moment you think about it.
Keep text very simple, with short sentences, an unsophisticated vocabulary, and broken up chunks with headings and bullet points.
Include appropriate CTA’s based on where the customer is in his/her journey. For the top of your funnel, you want the customer to perhaps subscribe to a newsletter; in the middle, perhaps access other content resources you offer; for the bottom, obviously to choose to buy.
These Three Things…
Nothing is new about the concept of content marketing; nothing is new about a sales funnel; nothing is new about trying to capture buyers’ attention and engage them in your marketing campaigns.
What is new is the smarter consumer – the one who does not want to be disrupted and harassed; what is new is the type of marketing content you will want to produce for a highly segmented and savvy audience; what is also new is the technology that can make your content amazing.