7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

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So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

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How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

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The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

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  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

A Guide to Content Marketing for Start-ups

How can content marketing help satisfy a start-ups customer acquisition and quest for growth. Old sales tactics are declining and the push sales cycle can mean a new business is out of runway long before their business gets off the ground with revenue. The rapid change in buyer behaviour for both B2B and B2C means an unforgiving economic climate in which a start-up has to function. Thankfully, the meteoric rise of inbound marketing together with social selling has added a suite of new tools to the business sales and marketing toolkit.

While the sales and marketing field have been levelled they are also becoming more complex as buyers seek out useful and valuable vendors via quality content as they self educate like never before. So how can a start-up business win with content marketing and what does it stand to gain from it?

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It begins with a plan

To develop a content marketing strategy, we must first understand the role of content in attracting the buyer in the digital economy. As buyers self educate online in both B2C and B2B markets they consume content as part of the buying journey. When we refer to “Content” we are referring to whitepapers, video, infographics, images, press releases, newsletters, help guides right through to thought leadership articles. Also, focus content themes and topics that match the interest of your “Ideal Customer Profiles” or “Buyer Personas”. When it comes to content curation do not consider content to be anything you find funny or amusing as you dive into the sea of digital content being published about your industry. Instead, think of content that adds value to customer or buyers journey, information that is useful and benefits the reader in some way. Start-ups who remember that content is bait and the better the content, the better the fish will have taken a big step towards getting their business moving forward. So ask yourself, “Who is your customer?” “What is their need?” and “How will you deliver on their need”. Now you can start to assemble a content marketing plan.

The first step as mentioned above is to define your target audience (ideal customer profile/buyer persona) in terms of Firmographics, demographics, age, occupation, habits, etc. Then, the start-up needs to plan who and from where will they create and source a steady stream of content for publishing. Next it is time to research what is their favourite social media platforms. This information allows us to define clear goals and social KPI’s. These may cover items such as content views, content downloads, traffic, blog visitors, total traffic, social reach and social engagement. Now the start-up can proceed with moving their plans from the drawing board into social media reality.

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Put the start-up on the social media stage

We know from research that over 75% of B2B buyers seek business information online. Over 90% of consumers now consume content prior to making an online purchase. So it is no surprise to know that one of the greatest benefits of content marketing is increasing the exposure to potential customers whether it is locally, nationally or globally. That is why building a social brand and social reach through content is closely tied to the process of developing closer relations with the target audience, and getting to know each other. The ultimate goal of any content plan is to inform, educate, engage, inspire, and spark attention. This is no easy task as the work of attracting buyer’s attention has fierce competition. The best shot for a new business is to become a valuable information source with real insights and fresh, challenging points of view. Content blindness or overload can be avoided if the start-up can separate itself from the competition and rise above the noise generated by vanilla flavoured content.

Also it is important to avoid the pitfalls that go with content marketing. Don’t be tempted to write about product superiority and service excellence without social proof which may include influencer opinions or valid customer reviews. Do not overlook the value of visual content and videos. A whooping eight seven percent of the top posts on Facebook have pictures included, while it is thirty five percent on Twitter.

Another critical point is to convey the businesses personality and social purpose. Content should reflect the business culture and be used to plant seeds with targeted buyers on your beliefs and philosophy around serving customers. Finally, create a content sharing schedule so that the selected content must is posted regularly. Creating a calendar is paramount, as this enables start-ups to plan themes and topics to match buyer interests while scheduling posts ahead of time.

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A content publishing engine room

Content creation falls into two main categories, “First click content” and “Second click content”. First click content is designed around the search engine optimisation (SEO) and driving traffic. It is heavily keyword focused with “Tips” “Guides” and “How to” type content the best themes to ensure sharing and thus getting the content at the forefront of search engine results page (SERP). Using content to build inbound links is one of the best marketing strategies there is, so ensure your content publishing engine knows what keywords to target.

Remember Google carefully monitors the content surrounding the anchor link (title, topic, theme, keywords) so it is vital that the quality of the content has to be top-drawer when doing link building. Other aspects of a content publishing plan are to monitor industry trends and new relevant keywords as to develop content or visuals. Identifying these elements can boost a business’s search ranking and drive more traffic.

While content marketing can be an inexpensive, yet highly effective lead generation method to reach ideal customer profiles, it does require investment in the production of the assets to be published. Create a content publishing engine that will help your start-up to attain a position of industry leader over a period of months. Sometimes if not often start-ups have little room for manoeuvre and must operate on a shoestring budget. So to make every Euro count, content marketing can have both short tailed and long tailed benefits by aligning all social media marketing to target buyers supported by quality, relevant content.

The runway is shorter than you think

A sense of paranoid can be healthy when launching a new business; one can live or die by their ability to quickly identify real wants and needs of buyers. The runway to getting the start-up of the ground maybe shorter than you think with more effort than you planned. This requires social selling with content, social media marketing, social reach and social engagement. To pull this off, the business must make the best use of content marketing strategies. Relevant, regular, appropriately themed quality content that engages the target audience to find you useful and valuable is the only way to make a name for the business quickly. If content is king, then badly written, irrelevant or copied articles, have little chance of becoming royalty. Always refer to the plan and only produce content that is tailored to the needs of the customers. It is about using content to be seen, be found, be useful and be valuable in the eyes and minds of buyers so the start-up can generate revenue sooner rather than later.

How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way.

Many companies struggle in how to use content marketing to drive their sales or business upwards. No big surprise as today’s buyer is more educated and savvy than ever. Smart marketing leaders know that traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the day, so turning to social media and content marketing as a means to drive traffic and leads makes sense . In fact social media/online advertising will overtake traditional advertising this year, posing opportunities and challenges for many companies.

But social media and content marketing is not the same thing. Yes they do operate hand in glove with each other however one is focused on “consumption” while the other is based on “participation”.  The goal of content is audience consumption, while social media is all about audience participation.

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According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements.

So think of content as a beautifully prepared meal that people want to consume, social media as the room where they sit talking about the lovely meal they just have eaten and social networking is how you make people aware of your food in the first place.  They key to using content marketing is to create different meals aka content themes (chicken dinners become boring after a while) to keep people coming back for more. The same way we create different meals for different times of the day or weather, we also need to vary our content according to the different stages our prospective buyers are at.

I call this

ACD Content Marketing   

I believe your content tactics should mirror both your company stage of development and your sales pipeline. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is heavily SEO focused, a new business or one targeting a set of keywords for Google traffic will create allot of this type of content. It is aimed at potential buyers whom have no previous awareness or interaction with your business. The goal here is using keyworded content to get searched and seen by as many people as possible. Themes for awareness content include such titles as – how to, tips on, a guide to etc.

Awareness Content is served up on:

  • Social Media Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Posted on Blogs – Medium, WordPress, LinkedIn Pulse and Blogger.
  • Published to your own Website and Landing Pages
  • As presentations on Slideshare or Learnist.
  • Visuals (including Infographics) on Visual.ly or Imgur.
  • SEO link building to places like Scoop.it, Quora, Pearltrees.

This type of content is usually on-going as a business targets new keywords or sets of customers. It is important to capture their interest via newsletter or update sign-ups. Then you can now move to creating “consideration content” or content that is focused on getting customers to select you as a vendor.

Consideration Content

As you build traffic, repeat visitors, newsletter subscriptions and social network connections a business should start to blend in consideration type content into their content strategy. This is where you use content to nurture (lead nurturing) prospective customers.

The goal is to create content that will “nurturing the customer” meaning informing them on why/how your product or solutions will solve their problems. At the beginning consideration and awareness content can often be have similar traits as in keyword focused, but try to leave the SEO to aside as you progress, switching the focus on going deeper with informative and insightful content. The content is still served up on all the channels lists in the previous section plus emailed to your subscriber base.

Consideration Content should include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Research articles
  • Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Valid and Verifiable Customer Testimonials
  • Interviews (text and video)
  • Webinars
  • Sharing other forms of proof (reviews/awards/wins)

Decision Content

Decision content is offered to your qualified leads (sales and marketing working together) from lead nurturing them during the consideration phase. This content should be personalised, specific and introduced at the right time in the sales process. I suggest business splits decision content into “pre-close” and “post-close”. Pre-close content can be vital to closing a sale so should be planned out carefully.

Types of Pre-close Content may include:

  • Onsite or Virtual Product Demonstrations
  • Existing customer reference with detailed implementation
  • Personalised Proposal
  • Pricing Documents
  • ROI Presentations using existing customer cases

Lastly, there is the “post-close content”, this can include surveys, up-selling and cross selling content and referral requests.

Ensure you create content to welcome new customers and solicit feedback as part of your content arsenal. Also make sure to produce content templates that thank them for their purchase. Also post-close content should include sharing information on your newest products and upgrades.

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Wrapping it All

The ACD marketing method has other benefits, used correctly it can be a superb way to gather valuable insights. Content marketing is the marketing of the here and now plus the future. It will only develop in its sophistication and personalisation as the social media networks become central to sales and customer interactions. Content is the always on, 24/7 plug-in to the internet world, always there guiding your potential customers even when you are asleep. The key to to create attractive and appealing content that will be consumed by the reader that matches where they are in your sales pipeline.

The Bitter Business can help create or work with your social media marketing or content marketing strategy, helping you to understand what type of content works and which aspect of your content creation needs to be improved to deliver more traffic, more leads and more customers.

Content marketing is powering social selling

The creation and use of content marketing is key to getting social selling activities right. In fact content marketing is now powering most selling and sales activity as it is the smoothest route to build up a relationship with prospects or buyers. It also gently reinforces a brand without over ally interrupting people with sales messages. In today’s digital aware environment, brochure selling is a big turn-off and no longer cuts it with buyers.

The sales professional today knows that selling is now about genuine, beneficial interaction with existing and potential customers which builds trust over time. Content sharing also has the dual effect of building brand awareness, a business may never actually sell anything directly over social media but they will generate awareness.

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What content is shared will impact the results.

To really make social selling work, the target audience has to be interested in what the sales person has to say and, ultimately, the customer believe in what they are saying.

 “Creating content your potential prospects will find useful or enjoyable is key to success”.

Quality, insightful and useful content brings a brand to life, giving the business a personality and allowing it (if they work hard enough) to eventually become an industry thought leader. Content can also help a business differentiate them from the competition. .

As content marketing plays such a central role in enabling social selling activity, here are some tips to help make a business brand stand out from the crowd:

What does a business need to consider when developing a content marketing plan?

There is no “magic wand or instant success formula” to creating effective and impactful content as each buyer grouping and seller is unique, each with its own buyers journey and value proposition. While it is helpful to review other content marketing strategies and competitor approaches by doing some internet searches, ultimately any company’s content marketing plan needs to be tailored to its customers and market needs. However any content plan should include the sales team sharing information that is of interest to their target audience (of which a portion should be nothing to do with their brand). Information worth sharing might include market insights, industry news, analyst reports or independent market research.

They say people buy from people, and in the social network world people follow people who share things that enlighten them or educate them. Also a business should consider social selling training so sales people develop their own style and not be a channel to spew out branded sales updates.

A good starting point is maybe blogging about observations or customer opinions about the industry in which a business operates which can also be a handy means of kick-starting some social conversations. “Maybe research shows some validated trends that all companies or customers are embracing. Then create a nice content piece about it and to add in your observations maybe with some independent quotes.

There is always LinkedIn group discussions, Twitter conversations or any other forums in which the target audience can be found to share insights. But don’t be a bull in a china shop, marketing and sales people need to listen and understand what is going on in the social world for their customers in order to get to grips with the relevant topics to engage on.

The marketing department should ensure that everyone involved in social selling has access to pertinent content as and when they need it or as part of a schedule, this content can be developed internally, aggregated from social media or taken from approved third party sources.

The content marketing strategy needs planning, production schedule, promotion plan and a means to measure the effectiveness of the activity

  • A business needs to define and set content marketing aims plus ensure they support business objectives.
  • To identify the target audience and gather as much information about them to understand their characteristics and interests via social media.
  • Clearly define what kind of content will help achieve the business goals.
  • Develop a content marketing execution plan. Including a weekly or monthly content calendar so that the sales teams understand what content and marketing campaigns are in the pipeline.

Content marketing is about sales and marketing combining in order to share with customers the right content at the right time.”

Final suggestion on this tip is for sales and marketing teams to hold a content meeting each month to decide which segments or messaging they will focus on and then agree what content is necessary to create or source.

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How businesses can ensures it exploits its content plan effectively

The first step is social media training for all in sales to ensure they maximize the content that will be made available to them. This social selling training should cover how to/not to use the various  social media platforms, what the company’s social guidelines are to training on tone of voice and language on social media.

Business needs to make it easy for sales people to interact with marketing in order to understand what content topics are working and which are not, then repeat the things that do deliver results (make sure results is defined to all) and stop any content production to those topics not delivering. In this regard monitor and report on the analytics whether it is leads generated, white paper downloads or social followers etc. Monitoring the analytics from social activity in detail, and drawing up a reporting pack will help the business stakeholders what content drives what activity plus what the target audience has read.

Other basic marketing activities such as monitoring click on URLs, content/blog page views can provide a business with useful data to shape the content marketing plan accordingly and tweak where necessary.

A crucial element in content success is ensuring that the business (sales and marketing) have a daily plan to actively engage in social conversations. This means taking the time to impart value-add comments, liking or re-sharing content with less emphasis on broadcasting sales messages.

“Buyers want to see that sales people are knowledgeable in their own right, not just conduits for branded marketing campaigns.”

Strike a balance so the target audience do not get bombarded with too much content or feel like they are being stalked. Mix up different types of content, whether is it informational, infographics, video, white papers, case studies or images to make the social interactions more meaningful.

The aim is to share quality content that people enjoy reading, also in social selling sales people need to come across as being unbiased so providing impartial advice works really well.”

Social selling is NOT plastering half-price offers on social media. A business needs to be engaging and give audience food for thought.

What are the key challenges a business is likely to experience?

Delivering real business results using content marketing combined with social selling can be tricky and which some companies struggles with date due to a number of factors.

Content Quality! It can be challenging to create really engaging content that cuts through the huge amount of social chatter. The volume of content and information sharing on the social network is huge so it requires any content marketing campaign to be “targeted and relevant” to a clearly defined audience.

Don’t force it. Too many companies try to push the sales teams and people to become a brand advocates with little choice. Start by educating and tapping into the people are really interested in social media where their passion can lead to other team members getting involved. Forcing people to update their LinkedIn profile or Twitter account every hour can lead to social fatigue. Think Smarketing. Where sales and marketing work together to plan and put in place goals that everyone will contribute to. Both teams and departments working in unison can the difference between success and failure in running content marketing campaigns. “If either sales or marketing try to push out this activity alone, it probably will not work. Avoid headless activity where people detach themselves from the brand values and focus on their own goals which can be wasteful. Clearly defined goals, objectives and constant feedback is what makes content marketing powering social selling successful.

Content Marketing Done Right

Content marketing when done right can deliver exceptional results yet as many as 75% of marketing departments are doing content marketing the wrong way. One big and critical difference between content marketing and promotional marketing can be summed up in these two words: sharing versus telling.

Today’s digital savvy buyers and educated consumers are ignoring traditional advertising and sales tactics like never before. They have become immune to brands telling them what to buy. Banner ads and online advertising are also feeling the heat with ad blocking technologies like AdBlock and AdDetctor helping consumers avoid advertising altogether. As one marketing agency stated “Internet savvy people are more likely to sign up for a trip to Mars than click on some banner ads.”

So, the logic would follow as buyers and consumers turn away from interruption ads online and are even using tools to nullify them, then marketing have responded to this challenge to ad weariness, right?

Ah no, this is unfortunately not always the case.

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Marketing is contributing to “Content Blindness”

When developing content marketing strategies, over 75% of marketing leaders report that product mentions are a regular tactic in their content strategies. (The Economist Group). Marketing departments have responded to the move away from online advertising or “ad blindness”by viewers and implemented content marketing tactics to counteract this decline in raising product awareness. However by flooding the social media networks with promotional lead content, they are in fact now encouraging “content blindness”.

The sharing of content has become a breeding ground for brand plugging and promotional stuffing. The result is audiences are now starting to see some content shared by brands as being deceiving, missing out on the fact that when you strip away the advertising pitch many of these brands have powerful stories to share.

Content marketing is primarily about sharing great stories and as you earn the audiences trust you can begin selling your products. The hard sales pitch tends to turn off potential customers, so rather going straight into selling mode, start with building trust and credibility through informative content that adds value.

Prior to publishing an article or blog post, ask the following questions:

  • Does the content offer real insights on a market or interest OTHER than plugging how great a product or service is?
  • Do the articles and blogs showcase the company’s expertise by providing actionable tips or research based analysis?

If the answer is, “Yes,” to these questions, your content is ready to publish.

Hold on I hear you say, so if we work diligently to create content NOT to sell to our readers, then how do we use content marketing sell?”

Well research shows that less is more, the least sales pitch orientated articles drive more sales when executed correctly. This is because the content will drive awareness (inform, educate, amuse, engage) and ultimately help prospects become qualified leads as they consider you as a viable purchasing option.

Any business can create a content marketing journey for their prospects and over time gently guide them to the solution to solve their problems: considering your product or service. But the patience and skill is you have to let them arrive at that conclusion at their own pace.

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Educate Through Content – Highlight Your Expertise

Real content marketing is about sharing thought leadership or research, addressing problems or market trends your customers or potential customers face. This stream of valuable content acts like a seed, planting the ideas which overtime grows into the realisation to prospects that they need your product or service.

The stark reality is that the press release route and publishing in-depth product descriptions serves only to create a wall between you and your audience. Audiences just tune out if they have not been primed with educational content before you go for the sale with “sales content”.

Also B2B buyers now use social media to research trends, reviews and ways to improve their business. This presents a great opportunity for marketers. But are B2B marketers missing the mark?

Well, the CMO Council studied how buyers viewed content published by business-to-business marketers. This quote may help focus your content strategy: “Business to business buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

Still lots of B2B marketers think that “content marketing” almost like a Trojan horse, publishing product descriptions in the guise of content. But buyers constantly remind us they are not ready to be sold the moment they see some sales content. Their journey is about accessing content that understands their problems first.

So when publishing content on forums, LinkedIn or on the company blog, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Hold the sell. As most readers are looking to learn more about a topic, do not start bombarding them with promotional jabber. Content sharing focuses on engaging them through quality articles packed with valuable insights to encourage them to learn more. Remember, in the sales process it takes anywhere between three and thirteen interactions for a prospect to turn into a qualified lead, so starting a “social conversation” with a sales pitch baked in will chase away potential customers, so the goal is to get them to stick around to learn something.
  2. Think of your audience, not your product. When creating and sharing content, always prioritise an audience first approach. What would the readers want to learn more about? What obstacles are they encountering and how can you overcome those? When you tap into your prospects’ needs and issues, you can create content that they can align themselves to and encourages them to continue the education process.
  3. Become a valuable information resource. Publish helpful content on a consistent basis will give readers a reason to visit your blog time after time. Becoming a go-to resource is critical to building up followers and readers. I also suggest that carefully offering a white paper, e-book or case study to visitors is a way to gain more in-depth information.

As your journey into content marketing continues, remember that telling is not selling so put your audience’s interests before your own. Content will only grow in quantity on the web, and the way to avoid content blindness and do it right is never use sales pitches disguised as articles. Instead focus on sharing your expertise and insights. Always write to benefit the reader. As time progresses readers will take note of your genuine approach to offering solutions and then will be happy to engage with the sales process.

Content Marketing Tips

Content Marketing is the key driver upon which most inbound marketing and social media marketing tactics are built. Content marketing not only impacts SEO, web traffic, leads and sales but also acts to influence buyers as they increasingly seek information before purchasing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, the sharing of content (self-penned articles, general news articles, product, research and whitepapers) across social networks is now a must when it comes to promoting a product or service.

The tips below are designed to help drive traffic to a website and generate more leads or sales. Apart from writing your own content, to really maximise social media marketing you also need to source interesting facts, expert insights, statistics, and trends on your industry and then share them on a constant basis to produce dramatic results on SEO and traffic results.

content-marketing-plan

Step1. Tell and share great stories

Telling and sharing compelling stories is at the core of content marketing — tell the stories with images, videos and words. So step 1 is to focus on improving your ability to tell a story. Crafting words is at the heart of all storytelling; make the stories real, relevant, insightful, human and social to get people’s attention.  Writing like most skills will develop with practice, so persevere to improve. You can start with article research by doing some keyword searches while also looking at the most read articles on social networks. Try to make your articles longer than 1000 words to maximise SEO. Then you can post the articles on lots of free social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Plurk, Google+, Scoop.it, and Storify) to get buyers attention as well as gather some quality backlinks to your website.

Step2. Create memorable and optimised titles

A memorable title will get more readers while an optimised title will boost SEO. Just as the cover image can make or break sales on a new book the article title influences how many people will click to continue reading the rest of your article. So start with the end in mind and practice writing memorable titles that hits these 3 buttons – tempt the readers, drive engagement and optimised for searches.

Step3. To be seen, be consistent

In social media there is no such thing as a one hit wonder. Once step 1 and step 2 are in play, the key is to be seen and seen often. Sharing quality content (not just your own), images and video on a consistent basis are a recipe for success. Set up a blog posting schedule or social network sharing calendar that ensures you have a plan to stick to. A good guide is to publish a thousand word blog post per week and then do a few social media updates daily.

Step4. Improve all your social media profiles

It may have been that you created your many social media profiles in a burst of activity but have since forgotten to update. Take the time to freshen up all your social media profiles and while you are at it why not review your social media strategy. Stay ahead of the pack by studying changes in the social media networks and any changes that could affect your social media activity.

Step5. Promote your content

As you improve your article and content creation also make sure to focus on improving your ability to share your content across the social networks. Social media is about creating awareness and consideration for your brand, product or service. So promote (share) your press releases, blog posts, white papers or news on your social networks to your target audience (do not spray and pray).

Step6.  Continue to improve your social media skills

Create a list of social media skills you want to improve whether it is writing, posting, selected images, getting followers or joining in social conversations. If you want to improve your LinkedIn skills such as social selling or making connections then spend the time reading posts and articles on the subject. Pick one item from your list where you would like to see improvement and work on it.

Step7. Enhance your email usage

Email is not old hat. In fact it still plays an important role in inbound marketing and social media. How can you improve your sales pitch efforts, marketing message, the click through rate on email newsletters or even personalised emails to followers and connections?

Step8. Try a podcast

If you have already done some podcasts, cool, if not start thinking about doing your own podcasts. Dip your toe into the podcasting waters by finding out what podcast are popular in your industry or even find a podcast you could join in as a guest.

Step9. Light up your posts with graphics

Images can have a powerful impact when communicating stories, news or ideas. An graphic or infographic can simplify a complex concept or convey a story in a very succinct way. Marketing surveys show that powerful visuals will improve engagement with audiences leading to higher conversion rates.

content-marketing-strategy

Step10. Develop whitepapers and research

To be a thought lead in social media it helps to do more than sharing your insights. People and buyers love experts so try to expand your content marketing into areas like research or white papers.  Expert lead or expert quoted content with data and trends has been proven to increase brand or product retention.

Step11. Review content marketing against goals

There is no point investing hours of time in crafting articles and content then sharing them if they are not measured against your social media marketing goals. To finely tune your marketing you need to know what worked and what did not. Every plan can be strengthened, practices improved and marketing plans revised by doing some in-depth investigation on your digital marketing efforts. This review is vital for improved social media results and an opportunity to see where you got your best bang for your buck. The good news is the time taken to do a review will tell you where and how you can continue improve your content marketing skills.

acd-content-marketing

Finally to be really successful in content marketing, focus on improving your social media skills every day. Continued learning drives your ability to produce content on a consistent basis. If you apply these 11 tips to your social media activities, you will see gradual improvement in your skills and capacity to drive business results using content marketing.

Content Marketing Plan

As social media grows, the use of content marketing both as a social selling tool and as an audience engagement tool to acquire and retain customers has now taken centre stage within the marketing strategy. The great news is apart from time to preparing the content, content marketing is mostly free but there are some lessons to be heeded. Free publishing platforms like WordPress or Medium, and free content and link promotion on Scoop.it, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook amongst others make content marketing a go to tactic for any business.

Also listed below is some helpful resource lists covering “content marketing guide” “content marketing tips” “content marketing promotion” and “content marketing publishing platforms”.

content-marketing

Content Marketing is not Blogging

To ensure content market delivers, a business has to start out with the end in mind, what keywords are you targeting, is your content for industry education or brand promotion.  Content articles need to be one thousand plus words and the content needs to be relevant and well written.

The use of content Marketing requires creating and sharing meaningful content (white papers, market research, industry insights, market articles) to attract and convert traffic into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat purchasers. The content a business needs to share should be closely related to what it sells; or more pointedly, words that will educate an audience, market segment or industry so they get to know, like, and be  influenced enough to do business with your company.

Content marketing is not a one off event, it is an ongoing marketing and sales process that is scheduled, resourced and integrated into the company’s marketing strategy. A company’s content marketing goals should be to own the media space coverage for the topics selected or target keywords chosen.

A critical point to note is that content marketing is the art of reaching out to communicate with your customers and prospects without the heavy sales pitch. This has become known as non-interruption marketing. Instead of pushing out products or services sales messaging, using social selling techniques the business delivers information that makes the buyer more informed. The underpinning fundamentals of a content marketing strategy is that if a business delivers relevant, timely, valuable information to prospects and customers, they will ultimately reward the business with purchases and loyalty.

Content Marketing “Creating a Deep Connection with Prospects and Customers”
Effective content Marketing is not possible without well thought out and well written content. Quality content is important as it links and impacts nearly all aspects of the marketing strategy.

  • Content marketing strategy powers social media exposure.
  • SEO: Quality content with relevant keywords will impact on SEO and SERP.
  • PR: Content marketing drives successful PR as it shows readers the business cares about them not just their business self-interest.
  • SEM: For paid advertising to work, great content will deliver more traffic/leads.
  • Inbound marketing: Content is key to driving inbound traffic, sign-ups and leads.

Content marketing is about telling a different story; breaking through the clutter, winning more customers by marketing more intelligently.

The days when a business bombarded a prospect will sales calls and interrupted potential customers with mediocre content (brochures) that customers do not care about are over. Intelligent marketing uses content marketing to draw prospects and customers towards the business by creating information and content they actually find engaging and useful.

Content Marketing Guide

1. Choosing Content Topics

Start by selecting what industry, keywords, target audience and information you believe they would be interested in. Write about topics the business is knowledgeable on and has expertise in. A company selling interior design could write a fun article about “interior design from the 70’s you want to avoid”.  It is not a sales pitch or net, content topics are fishing lines that attract people towards the brand. Engage the customer, give before you ask.

2. Planning the Articles

This takes time and patience. Writing quality content of 1000 plus words could take 1 or 2 days. Over time, experience will shorten the thinking time but planning and writing takes time. Planning out your content topics a month in advance can make the writing easier and the final content of higher quality. Before writing anything, devote time to keyword selection, topic title, brainstorming the content messaging, finding sources for images and sound bites.  So when the actually writing process starts is should be about crafting words.

3. Write Quality Content

Once the target audience, topic title and keywords have been decided upon, the process of crafting the words into an article can begin. Plan out how many quotes, sound bites you want to include. Always think quality, quality means grammar, sentence structure but more importantly is research based information like the information below on social media.

To put the potential impact of social media into perspective, here is some insightful statistics’ on buyer decisions.

“57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.”

“67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

4. Build SEO into content marketing

When writing articles (title and first paragraph) think SEO. Google and SERP now rewards higher word count articles and article topics that match the content along with visually focused (video, images). Think like Google does, does this content do a good job at connecting search users to quality, relevant information. Do a keyword search for the planned article title; strive to make it unique while still using the target keywords, example “Easy Content Marketing Tips”. The core SEO is content marketing but by including tips and easy it broadens the article appeal and reach.

5. Promoting the Content

Before you hit the publish button, check spelling and depending on your content platform make sure to tag it for search terms within the site. Now start promoting the article (posting on to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.). Use a social bookmarking tool like AddThis to link your article to social bookmarking sites like Tumblr, Digg, Reddit, and Evernote.  This takes time, do not publish and promote the published articles the same time every day or week.  Publish the article, and then maybe give it a day or two before linking and promoting it.

content-marketing-diagram

6. Pause, Rest, Repeat

The old 80/20 rules applies to content marketing, it is 20 percent inspiration and 80 percentage work (research, thinking, planning and doing). There is no magic wand or short cuts, DO NOT outsource your content creation except to a trusted party who understands your business and marketing strategy. Do not copy and paste existing articles, use them for ideas and suggested wording.

Content marketing tips.

1. When posting a link on Twitter and Facebook also include an image

2. Share articles more than once over 2 or 3 weeks but change image/wording (not the article itself)

3. Try different times when posting on social networks

4. Adjust the content (posting title or wording) to suit the audience

5. Post the article links to multiple social bookmarks

Content Marketing – Promoting your articles and links.

This is a list (not exhaustive) of where to post the article links. Using a social bookmarking tool like AddThis is free and will speed up the process. I find doing it from Firefox is quicker.  Also try not to be logged into Google when posting.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.it, Nowvia, Evernote, Storify, Paper.li, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Silk.co, Soup.io, App.net, Pearltrees, We heart it, Buffer, Quora, Klout, Google+, Digg, Bizsugar,Disqus, Tumblr, Pinterest, Plurk, Diigo, List.ly, Shareslide, Visual.ly, Bundlr, Soundcloud,  Crunchbase, Sproutr.co, selfgrowth.com, prunderground (for PR and SEO), bitly, Owler, Imgur, LiveJournal.

Content marketing publishing platforms.

Some companies choose to have more than one content marketing platform. Most will use WordPress built into the site and also use a platform like Medium for other articles.

WordPress – Blogger – Medium – Glipho – LinkedIn Pulse – Lifehack – About.me –  Google Groups – Typepad – Svbtle – Buzzfeed.

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