Every business absolutely needs a content strategy. These drive leads, close sales, and streamline much of the sales and marketing process overall. Even above and beyond a social media strategy, content should be central to business growth efforts.
Content can also be part of a local SEO strategy like we covered in our last post: Local SEO: Creating Local Business Content Strategy. However, ranking your website or blog posts on search engines like Google may not always be possible depending on how intense your competition is.
The first thing I do when we bring on a new client is perform a content and SEO audit. This helps us determine what direction to take as well as tell us how much work we have to do in order to ramp up results.
Avoid the Biggest Mistake
Content is ubiquitous these days. The Internet and social media are literally flooded with it. And most of it is just mediocre. Just mediocre does not drive leads or sales.
Take basically any realtor website out there. I guarantee you that you’ll see posts like this “5 Steps to Buying a Home”, “3 Things Every First-time Home Buyer Needs to Know”, “How to Navigate Home Financing Options”.
Now click on those posts and you’ll get an article, maybe 500 words long, that says more or less the same thing on every website. This is garbage. It doesn’t help you rank in Google because Google’s algorithm is smart enough to recognize garbage. It also doesn’t do anything for potential clients because no realtor stands out from any other.
Content Needs to Be Tailored to a Specific Purpose
This is where real content strategy comes in. You need to understand the customer journey, the different points each customer passes through on their way to making a decision about who to buy from.
First, we need to take a look at the steps in a customer journey. Now, just to be clear, I’m not one to advocate linear steps. Every customer is different and may enter your sales funnel at different points. We need to understand the different steps, but we shouldn’t assume each customer will pass through in the same way. We’ll take a look at each in turn.
This stage is where customers are just learning about your product or service. They may have never heard of it before. Like a banana slicer, you don’t know your life isn’t complete until a marketer shows you what’s missing in itJ.
Your purpose here is to spark interest and speak to pain points. You’re answering the question of why customers should take any notice of your product.
Types of Content: Social media posts, email campaigns, problem-solving white papers, case studies showcasing successes, explainer video.
At this stage, customers are already aware of your offering and know that they want to purchase it. They now need to decide what version and from whom. Moving away from bananas and back to real estate, customers are now starting to evaluate their options. They want to know what the pros and cons are of working with a different agent or office.
Your content needs to be informative and helpful. If it comes across as too salesy, you’ll lose trust. Customers want to know that you won’t spin things for your benefit and that you’re really out to do what’s best for them.
Many traditional marketers mess up here because they start touting how great they are or glossing over faults. Customers are going to do a ton of research these days before they make a decision, so they’ll find out any shortcomings in your content. If you aren’t upfront about both your advantages and disadvantages, you’ll lose. Marketing these days is all about building trust.
Types of Content: Comparison white papers, videos, or infographics. Educational webinar, FAQ, demo.
Here your customer is ready to buy. They’ve either pretty much chosen to go with your company or it’s made the shortlist. This is the time to really focus on your value proposition, how you are different, and what great benefits you’ll give the customer over another option. It’s also the point where the sales person really enters the scene full bore.
The customer wants to feel confident about their decision and is interested in the finer details, so it’s also time to show off everything you’re proud of about your product or service. Give the client time to ask any final questions as well so that there are no lingering doubts about moving forward with a purchase.
And always, always, always have a clear call to action at the end. You should have one at every stage, of course, but this is really the most critical stage to drive a purchase decision home. Remember, the average number of times you need to ask for a sale before most people will by is 7. Believe it or not, if you don’t ask, they won’t buy.
Types of Content: Live demo, free consultation, trial, service estimate.
Your customer has completed their purchase, but you want to maintain that relationship. As everybody knows, current customers are much cheaper to reach out to and are also much more likely to spend than a brand new one.
Retention-focused content is any content that helps your customers use your offering better. This could be something like an advanced user guide, complementary offerings, or exclusive insights into upcoming changes.
Type of Content: Advanced Guides, Exclusive Insights, Sneak Peaks Back Stage, Testimonials of Customers Benefiting from the Product or Service.
Referrals, especially word-of-mouth referrals, are still, by far, the most successful way to generate new business. The problem is that people will rarely spontaneously share information about your product or service, even if they absolutely loved it. That’s the problem with word-of-mouth advertising, it’s slow and people just don’t do it as much as a business needs to continuously draw new leads.
So content marketing aims to increase that oh-so-important behavior by encouraging sharing. Can you share content with a friend in order to enter for a chance to win something? Can you get a discount on a future purchase? Can they get invited to special events? Anything that shows you care and rewards your customer for sharing.
Type of Content: Contests, Exclusive Events, Press Release centered on Corporate Responsibility Initiatives
Sales Team Integration
Once you’ve build out content for the different stages in the journey and the different questions or problems your organization is solving, it is simply a matter of updating your sales team on how to deliver which piece of content and when.
As your sales team connects with different prospective or current customers, they will want to follow-up with the appropriate pieces of content. A big tip here is to not fall into the trap of just blasting it out. You still want to personalize that content.
Your sales team should be familiar enough with the content that they can make minor edits before sending to the customer to speak to their unique situation. At the very least, the introduction and conclusion should be personalized.
This process is invaluable in a number of ways:
- It streamlines the process for your sales team. Your team is often covering similar content in each conversation or email. Any content emailed in this way is invariably of lower quality as the sales team member has many other things to be doing. By professionally creating the content ahead of time, you ensure high quality and similar messaging, not to mention freeing up your sales team to connect with more customers.
- It establishes your organization and sales team as experts in that area. The customers see that you clearly know what you’re talking about.
- It builds rapport with customers by answering their questions in a continuous process as they move from interested to buyer to advocate. You establish value each step of the way. Many sales people are in the bad habit of “checking in” and doing nothing more than pitching the customer again.
Conduct Regular Check-ins
By sending out content, customers actually appreciate the outreach and there is a great conversation open before moving into a pitch.
Once all is said and done, it just becomes a matter of checking in to see how the process is working, ensuring your team understands it, and updating any content as needed if it becomes outdated. Teams can be hard to change, but if you check in at least weekly for the first 28 days, you should be able to transition smoothly to the new workflow and your sales team will wonder how they ever managed without it since they now have so much more time.
Search Optimization Basics for Added Juice
There can be a lot to remember in these long posts. That’s why we condensed everything down to a simple checklist for our staff and clients.
We use a 17-point checklist to make sure we can get it as high as possible in the Google Rankings for any page or post.
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