The Secret to Content Marketing That Sells

Tablet computer, smartphone and newspapers

There’s a category of content marketers who don’t succeed as often as they would like despite their best efforts. These are the marketers for whom “content” is an adjective and not a noun. Satisfied with creating content for the sake of content, these marketers fall into the trap of being pleased with production alone. They are the “contented” content marketers, promoting branded content with no deeper plan for winning the sale.

If you find yourself falling into this “contented” content marketing trap, there’s a simple yet valuable secret to improving your situation. The secret is that content alone is not a strategy. To really make a difference in your conversion efforts, you need to build the right action plan involving both inbound content and outbound marketing strategy.

Winning the sale through inbound

Inbound content wins when it attracts, engages, and ultimately converts your target audience. To produce this kind of content, you need to design resources for each buyer persona at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

If you find this idea challenging, you are not alone. Earlier this year we surveyed more than 600 U.S. marketers for our 2015 State of Digital Marketing report. Nearly one quarter – 22% of B2B marketers – indicated that “producing content” was their #1 marketing challenge.

Nonetheless, inbound tactics are crucial to having a content marketing plan that sells. According to Hubspot, 54% more leads are generated through inbound tactics compared to traditional paid marketing.

With a basic understanding of the buyer’s journey and buyer personas, you can create SEO-friendly content that speaks to customer pain points and needs.

It’s all about the journey

It’s no secret that the best businesses and brands are those that focus on their customers. Providing added value is the name of the game, so from the very beginning, your content marketing plan should focus on addressing the questions, problems, and solutions sought by your prospects as they move through various stages of their purchase cycle.

The buyer’s journey generally can be divided into the awareness stage, the evaluation stage, and the purchase stage. With these stages in mind, you will be able to brainstorm content topics that will be helpful to your prospect at each phase of their decision-making process.

SEO should be an important part of this strategy, as keywords still matter in the equation. This is especially true for B2B prospects at the awareness and evaluation stages, where online research is an important part of the process. In fact, according to a recent Think with Google study, 71% of B2B buyers start their research with a generic search. Google also reported that on average, B2B researchers conduct 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s web site.

If your goal is to get prospects to engage and convert, make sure your educational content stands out and attracts.

It’s all about the person

Your content can attract, engage, and convert – but only if it’s absorbed at the right time by the right recipient. As you create your inbound marketing plan, it’s important to remember that distinct individuals are consuming your content. Your content strategy will benefit greatly by creating buyer personas that represent specific, real-life customers.

Buyer personas include a person’s job title, skills level, goals and objectives, and behavior patterns throughout the buying cycle.

To determine the buyer personas for your industry, you can look to independent and market research, but also don’t underestimate how much insight you can gain from your actual customers through surveys and interviews. The information gleaned can help you not only create your ideal customer, but also help you develop the ideal content for that customer.

It’s all about mapping your content

While preferred content varies throughout each industry, some general guidelines apply for mapping content to each stage of the buying cycle.

At the awareness stage for example, you might want to generate blog posts that focus mostly on thought leadership. According to our 2015 State of Digital Marketing survey, 61% of all marketers who were confident about their ability to prove ROI utilized company blogs.

Buyer personas become especially important at the evaluation stage, when individuals are researching solutions. Depending on the persona of the customer, different challenges will present themselves, so it’s important to create content that addresses specific pain points for each of these targeted personas.

At the purchase stage, your content should focus on what makes your product or service different from your competitor. Content geared toward different buyer personas at this stage usually includes demos, trials and tools.

As you experiment with different content forms for your target audiences, be sure to test out video-based content. Our survey revealed that video dominates content marketing, with 7 out of 10 digital marketers believing it’s more effective than eBooks, case studies, infographics, webinars, blogs, and even mobile apps.

It will take some time for you to find out the kind of content that resonates with your audience. Look to social media shares, comments, and feedback from customer service to determine the winning content that is right for your B2B company.

Winning the sale through outbound

With the right SEO and inbound strategy, your content can successfully reach the right customer. But why stop with just inbound? The secret to content that sells is making sure it ends up being seen by as many targeted eyeballs as possible. Outbound tactics – the other half of the content marketing secret – can help you amplify your inbound success as well as accelerate your results.

Below are a few ways in which outbound helps your bottom line.

  • Paid search: Paid search can be critical to your company’s visibility at the top of the funnel. According to the aforementioned Think with Google study, generic paid search is a strong factor for both large and medium enterprises at the beginning of the business path to purchase. Paid search also carries other advantages, from helping you collect valuable data to giving you a higher click-through rate. To learn more about these advantages, read our earlier blog post, titled “Inbound is No Longer Enough: Why SEM and SEO Are Better Together”.
  • Direct Email: Contrary to popular belief, direct email is actually one of the strongest tactics available for digital marketers. Our 2015 survey found that direct email placed first among outbound tactics. Email works because it is the one channel where most B2Bs can prove campaign effectiveness and ROI. 
  • Display & Social advertising: If you want to nurture and convert leads, think about retargeting via search or social ads. This tactic can be a powerful tool in your overall outbound strategy.

The secret is in your possession

Now that you have the secret to content marketing that sells, there is no reason to stay in the category of the contented content marketer. Content creation needs a smart strategy behind it. Get started on improving your plan.

Want more information on smart content marketing?

For more tips on closing deals with better content, download “The Science of Content Marketing: Formulating More Leads & Higher Search Rankings”.wm123-ebook-banner-nov2014_600x200