You may be familiar with the concept of content marketing, but are wondering how it will drive sales at your business. After all, it may seem like you are just creating free information and getting nothing in return, but content marketing is more about building trust that leads to a transaction instead of focusing on the transaction itself.
Traditional advertising is mostly about making claims about why your product is the best or enticing people to buy your product versus the competition’s. People see so many ads nowadays that the effectiveness is declining because people are used to tuning them out.
Content marketing is what you need to break through the clutter. Instead of trying to get someone’s attention by hitting them with another ad, why not create something they are actually looking for: solutions to their problem.
When you do that with content marketing, you are one step closer to turning a lead into a sale.
Build trust through content
Surveys done by the Content Marketing Institute have shown that decision-makers prefer to get their information through articles and not ads. That makes sense, because an article gives you a chance to understand your problem better so you can decide for yourself what the solution might be, minus the annoying sales push.
Content allows you to connect with customers instead of talking at them. You are building trust by providing information that educates them, making them smarter buyers and establishing yourself as an expert.
A common objection from service providers is that if you give the consumer all the information, they will do the job themselves. The reality is that if someone is going to do the job on their own, they aren’t going to call you anyway. But if you provide instructional material, you can link to part sales or complementary services that relate to the initial work. Or, the person may read your content with an intent of doing the job, but after seeing what’s involved, decides to call the expert (you) instead.
Your content should make the buyer more intelligent. Doing so establishes your company as a trustworthy source of information and starts to build a relationship before they ever pick up the phone or send an email.
If people with a problem are looking at your website for answers to their pain points, you are one step closer to getting the sale than your competition.
Types of content that drive sales
Content marketing follows some of the same sales funnel ideas as regular marketing. The content you create will target people at different points in the sales process, increasing your chances of either completing the sale or creating future sales.
You want to engage with customers at the awareness, consideration and decision phases.
- Awareness content. People in the awareness phase don’t know you, and the goal is to make them aware of your products or services. You’ll need effective web content that is configured to help people searching for answers find your solutions. Blogs also come into play in this phase, as that’s where you can demonstrate your expertise by explaining how to fix common problems and generally educate the consumer.
- Consideration content. At this stage, people are recognizing you have the solution to their problem, but aren’t quite convinced yet. Your content in this phase goes deeper than before, providing them with things like case studies, whitepapers and other in-depth material to prove your expertise.
- Decision content. In this stage, this is where you turn to content you are probably more familiar with -- product demonstrations, pricing lists, discount rates and proposals. Notice how with content marketing, these traditional promotional materials are some of the last things a customer gets, not the first. Also, once the sale is complete, more content should be targeted at getting the buyer to create a review that can be used in earlier parts of the sales funnel for the next potential customer and for getting referrals.
Promoting your content
Writing great content that engages with customers is the first step, but you can’t forget to promote what you write. Putting strong copy on your website and creating educational articles for your blog will help with your SEO, but you also need to do everything you can to help people find your expertise.
Blog posts should be tweeted, and when relevant, posted to LinkedIn. If you sell to consumers, create a Facebook page and post your content there, as well. You want to advertise your free advice in as many channels as possible.
Once you have enough articles, you can create an email newsletter to share your helpful tips. The more people read your material, the more likely they will be to call you. Even if they don’t need your services now, you are still establishing your business in their mind as the trusted authority on the topic, so do everything you can to make people aware of your content.
Content marketing requires effort to get results, but when done right, it is the most effective way to drive sales leads and convert sales. By the time customers call you, they have already decided that you are an expert and that you understand -- and can help them with -- their problem. They are already well down into the sales funnel, making your job in converting a prospect to a customer that much easier.
Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge. If you have questions about how content marketing can drive sales for your business, contact him at tshryock@EmergeInc.com.