Content marketing can accomplish different things for different businesses. Some businesses use it as a way to increase brand awareness. But many use content marketing as a way to generate sales or sales leads.
If your business falls into the last category, you need to make sure that your content is optimized for sales conversion. Here are some steps toward content marketing that generates sales.
Marketing that Generates Sales
Create a Content Marketing Plan
According to Gary Shouldis of 3Bug Media, not having a content plan in place is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make when trying to sell. Sure, you know you need to create content and you want to increase sales. But that’s not enough. You need to come up with a strategy for finding and reaching your target audience to actually get them to convert to customers.
Understand Your Target Market
In order to create effective content, you need to know who you’re creating that content for. Have a clearly identified target audience and speak directly to that audience in all of the content that you create.
Know the Common Concerns Your Customers Have
Customers who are reading your content rather than just purchasing your products or services right away are likely doing so because they’re still undecided. To help them make their decision, you need to answer their questions and alleviate their concerns. You can do that within your content, if you know what the common questions and concerns your customers have are.
Listen to Your Customer Feedback
Coming up with those questions to base your content around can be as simple as just listening to your current customers. If people often email you with the same questions or issues over and over again, those are likely things that would make for effective content.
Take a Look at Keywords
You can also look at some of the keywords and searches that bring people to your site. People will often enter questions into search fields if they can’t find an answer easily. So if you see common themes there, that could be another source for your content.
Make a List of Questions
Shouldis suggests going one step further than just keeping an eye out for common customer concerns. He suggests an exercise to businesses that want to use their content to increase sales.
Shouldis explained in an email to Small Business Trends, “The very first thing I always recommend is to create a list of the top 20 questions consumers have when deciding to purchase your product/service and create content to answer all of these questions in detail.”
Take a Look at the Buying Process
When coming up with those questions and other topics for your content strategy, it can help to put yourself in your customers’ shoes through each part of the buying process.
Shouldis says, “Spend the time to really understand the journey people take to purchase your product and then create the content to make it easy for them to buy.”
Create Content for Various Buying Stages
You can then cater each piece of your content to different stages of that process. Maybe customers often get hung up when comparing prices. So you could create a post that offers some comparisons. Or you could offer a post that explains the value of your product, beyond just the price.
Concentrate on the Bottom of the Sales Funnel
General content may have a higher likelihood of bringing people to your site. But content catered specifically toward people who are ready to buy has a higher chance of converting sales.
Keep Content Focused on Just One Topic
Content that is meant to convert sales should be focused on one topic and very straightforward. There’s no need to try to disguise your content as entertainment or anything else. Just offer up the information that your customers are looking for.
Use Key Phrases in Your Headlines
When you have that specific topic in mind for a post or piece of content, make sure your headline reflects that. A straightforward headline will be more likely to attract the exact customers you created that content for.
Include Questions in Your Headlines
You already know that customer questions make great subjects for content. But they can also make great headlines, since people often use them to search. Plus, it will let customers with those same questions know exactly where to look for answers.
Point Out What Makes Your Business Different
Another great topic for content is to point out what makes your particular products or services great. Focus on key differentiations or innovative features that set you apart in the marketplace.
Compare Your Business to Competitors
You can also create content that clearly explains the difference between your offerings and those of your competition.
Shouldis says, “As people are closer to making a decision they may be deciding between you or a competitor. This is your chance to really show the differences between you and a competitor and highlight what makes you the better solution.”
Give Customers What They Need to Make a Decision
Regardless of the actual format you choose for your content, the goal should be to provide customers with all of the information they need to be comfortable making a purchase from you. So think about the information they might need, and offer it to them through content.
Have an End Goal for Each Piece of Content
You probably can’t offer every single piece of information every customer needs to make a purchase within one blog post or video. But each one should offer something toward that main goal. So set smaller goals for each piece of content you create so that they’ll all be working toward making you more sales.
Determine Which Platforms Your Potential Customers Use
When it comes to actually publishing posts or promoting them online, you’ll need to choose platforms carefully. Do some research to see which ones your customers or potential customers use, and make sure those factor into your strategy.
Try Out Different Types of Content
There’s no rule that states you can only have one type of content. Just because you started a blog doesn’t mean you can’t also make videos. In fact, offering a few different formats within your content strategy can help you reach even more potential customers.
Choose Your Format Based on Your Message
The actual information you’re providing can also help you decide which type of content to create. If you’re showing people how something works, a video might be your best bet. If you’re making visual comparisons, maybe an infographic could work. Decide on the format that will best show off the message that you’re trying to convey.
Create Case Studies
Case studies are stories that showcase how your company helped previous customers. They explain what you did and why it was successful. And they can be very effective in convincing new customers to do business with you.
Shouldis says, “Case studies are great for helping people make their final decision to buy, especially if the case study closely relates to their own situation. It creates a story showing how your business provided a solution for a real life customer with a challenge they had.”
Choose Studies to Exemplify Common Issues
As Shouldis mentioned, case studies can be especially effective when they showcase an issue that your new customer is also experiencing. So if you find any common themes when speaking to your customers, those are the issues you should focus on in your case studies.
Consider Offering White Papers
White papers can also be a great way to convert new customers through content. They’re often more in-depth than other forms of online content. But the people who look for white papers are often those who are looking to buy.
Don’t Feel the Need to Entertain
Since you’re creating content specifically to help customers in their buying decisions, it doesn’t need to be the most riveting or entertaining content out there. It just needs to provide information.
Shouldis says, “Don’t worry about being boring, a consumer ready to buy wants information, not entertainment.”
But Your Customers Reading
However, you need to make it easy for customers to actually get through the information. Don’t write a term paper on the subject and expect everyone to read it straight through. Use simple terminology, add in subtitles if it’s lengthy, and try to make it as to-the-point as possible.
Visuals can also help customers make it through your informative content. Consider adding infographics to illustrate points. Or just use images that compliment your content to add some interest.
Make Your Content Evergreen
Content that sells should be relevant for more than just the week or so after you publish it. People may find that content again for years when they search for a specific piece of information. So make sure it’s something that will remain relevant for a long time. And if it isn’t, consider updating it.
Add a Call to Action
Sometimes, the best way to convert sales through your content is just to ask customers to buy from you.
Shouldis says, “If you create very useful content, you should be able to add a call to action, you earned it. You are a for profit business, both you and reader know this so stop pretending you’re not. Just do it tactfully.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Trying to Sell
A lot of marketers are wary of adding outright calls to action within their content. But if your content is created for the specific purpose of moving people through the sales funnel, you have to make it easy for them.
Shouldis explains, “If someone is interested in buying, they will want to know more and the next steps to becoming a customer. The people that get annoyed have no intention of being a customer. Which one are you creating content for?”
Create Content that Keeps Customers Coming Back
You can also encourage customers to subscribe to your content channels or sign up for your email newsletter. That way you can send them updates and other sales related content later in case they’re not quite ready to buy today.
Offer Incentives for Signing Up
A great way to get people to sign up for updates is to offer an incentive, like a free ebook, whitepaper or other digital product related to your offerings.
Nurture Leads with Regular Communication
Once people sign up, you should send them updates fairly regularly so that you stay on their minds for when they’re ready to purchase. Just don’t send out updates so often that they unsubscribe.
Have a Clear Goal for That Communication
Your follow up communications with people who have subscribed to receive updates should follow the same rules as your other content: have clear goals, answer questions and be straightforward.
Track Progress Based on Your Business
Content marketing is a process. And it’s different for every business. So you’ll need to track the methods and types of content that work best within your particular strategy.
Shouldis says, “Every business will have to do their own trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t for them. Staying on top of your analytics and tracking what content is converting is important in optimizing your content strategy.”
Don’t Just Look at Clicks
When looking at your analytics, it’s important to take into account more than just the most popular posts or the ones with the most clicks. If your goal is converting sales, you need to look at what content is accomplishing that particular goal.
Keep Updating Your Process with What Works
Then you can update your strategy over time based on your findings. If you see that video content tends to convert the most sales, try to focus more on that. If you see blog posts with a particular style doing better, try to create more with that style. Do whatever drives the most positive results.
Content marketing is critical, especially if you use it to generate sales. Always be looking for techniques to improve your content marketing as a way to continue growing your business.
More in: Content Marketing
Typing Photo via Shutterstock