Content Strategy

The Customer Journey: Does Your Content Match Up?

Content, content, content. If you have any responsibility for the marketing function in your organization, you're well aware of the steady shift to Inbound from Outbound Marketing. You're also no doubt being badgered by every blog, article, and webinar about the need to continually feed the content monster. More content. Relevant content. More frequent content.

All that pestering is valid. For your Inbound Marketing program to be successful, you need to be providing content on a regular basis so your prospects can find you and eventually become customers. But it's more than just pouring content into the top of the funnel and waiting for the revenue to flow out of the spout. To be really effective, you need to be providing the right content at the right time.

You know by now that prospects don't want to be sold. But they do want help to buy. The information they need differs at each stage in the buying cycle. That's the key point. A successful Content Marketing plan matches the appropriate content to the needs of the prospect at each step of the Customer Journey.

From your prospect's perspective, the Customer Journey can be separated into three steps: Discovery, Research, Purchase. From your point of view, the corresponding stages are: Awareness, Credibility, Sale. To get to the final stage and close the deal, you need to be aligned with your prospect by providing compelling content at every step.

Here's how to approach each phase from a content perspective.

1. Discovery/Awareness

Your prospects have a need to be fulfilled. At the beginning of the journey, they're casting a wide net looking for possible solutions. Your goal at this stage is to provide content that makes you part of the catch. Introduce yourself to prospects in order to advance to the next stage.

There are numerous ways to present your organization to potential customers. Blogs promoted on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube), infographics, and video are among the most effective content pieces to help you get noticed. Your website, logo, and ad campaigns all contribute to your visibility. plan a route . You have to be out there with content that people can find and share so when they have that need, they think of you.

2. Research/Credibility

Once you make the cut and become a potential source to fulfill the prospects' requirement, the validation stage begins. Prospects will be conducting more in depth research at this point to determine who is best suited to meet their need. You must prove that you can provide a credible solution. You can best do this by providing content that illustrates your knowledge, expertise, and ability to help them. Content pieces that establish your credibility include ebooks, white papers, articles, and webinars.

3. Purchase/Sale

If you've done a good job establishing your viability, you'll hopefully get a chance to close the deal. The prospect has invested a lot of time and energy getting to the final candidates. Your goal now is to differentiate yourself from the other contenders. Why should the prospect choose you? What makes you the best solution to solve their problem? Content that can nail down the sale includes vendor comparisons, case studies, company presentations, and proposals.

Don't cut corners when it comes to the final proposal. If you've been fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist, your last chance to seal the deal is with your proposal. Take advantage and make sure you use this final opportunity to convince your prospect that you can provide the best solution for their need.

Yes content is crucial. Your content plan is much more effective, however, when you have a strategy that puts the right content in front of your prospect at the time it will do the most good.

Do you have a comprehensive content strategy? If not, why not?



Photo Credit: Edgar Barany via Compfight cc

Content: The Key to Lead Nurturing

We've all heard the phrase, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." How about "You can lead prospects to your web site, but can you make them buy?"

We all know that the goal of  any Content Marketing strategy is to drive traffic to your site. That increased traffic needs to generate new leads which should ultimately propel converted sales.

How do you ensure that this happens?

One way is to establish a focused Lead Nurturing program.

In a white paper titled "The Importance of Lead Nurturing and Scoring," produced by The Association of Strategic Marketing, Lead Nurturing is defined as "building a relationship with eligible prospects regardless  of their timing with the aim to boost their business when they are prepared."

According to ASM, nurtured leads can increase sales by as much as 20%. Click through rates from Lead Nurturing emails are 8% compared to only 3% from general emails. Despite this increased sales potential, 69% of B2B marketers fail to use a Lead Nurturing system.

A Lead Nurturing program involves several components including Prospect Targeting, Lead Scoring and Ongoing Contact. But not surprisingly at the heart of it all is our familiar friend: content.

Here's why.

1. Content Establishes Credibility

As the ASM report points out, from the buyer's perspective, there is always fear and risk involved with any purchase. "The most important features a B2B vendor must have are trust and credibility," the paper states. "They have to build credibility and reputation by sharing relevant and valuable information."

2. Content Keeps You in Contact

According to ASM, the new generation of buyers tend not to commit to a sale until the last third of the buying process. Therefore, sales and marketing need to be involved throughout the sales process delivering "high quality content and information for prospects that is responsive, timely and relevant."

"The only way that they can maintain ongoing conversation with prospects" is with a comprehensive Content Strategy, the report asserts.

3. Content Helps Drive the Buying Decision

ASM states that 95% of prospects visit a web site for research purposes, but 70% will eventually buy from that company or from a competitor. Not using a content driven Lead Nurturing program is the #1 reason for poor lead conversion. Overall, 79% of marking leads are not converted to sales. However nurtured leads drive 47% more purchases than non-nurtured leads.

The ASM white paper concludes that Lead Nurturing is not about hard selling. Instead, the program involves establishing your credibility in the marketplace, presenting your solution as the most viable and ultimately convincing your prospect that you are the correct choice for them.

As always, the key to accomplishing that is through informative, well crafted and compelling content.

Are you nurturing your leads? Are you drawing traffic but not converting sales?



More on Content Marketing: 7 Points to Ponder

Content Marketing. Content Marketing. Content Marketing. It's everywhere.

Are you using it? If not, you'd better start.

In one of my recent posts, I discussed the concepts of Content Strategy, Content Marketing and Content Management - the Why, What and How of content.

At the heart of it all is your content and what it needs to do for you.

Here are seven things to consider regarding the Content Marketing explosion and how it affects you.

1. More May Be Less - According to Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) of Velocity Partners, nine out of 10 B2B marketers will be producing more content this year than last year. The problem is a lack of talent out there to generate all the required material. That will undoubtedly result in an effluence of poor content muddying the waters for the truly helpful content that drives traffic and sales. Kessler says the key will be to find writers and creators that "get content, understand context and can actually produce things that audiences want to consume."

2. Lead On - A study by B2B Magazine found that inbound marketing - of which Content Marketing is a key component - produces 62% lower cost per sales lead. The study also noted that 51% of marketers found Content Marketing to be the most effective tool for generating leads better than Brand Awareness, Thought Leadership and Sales.

3. Content Still Rules - Ben Hollom (@benhollom), Marketing Director at M2Bespoke says that "content is now the single most important aspect of a business' website."

4. On Your Mark, Get Set, Blog -  Where to begin? "If you're insisting on a practical starting point, a blog should be your content cornerstone," says Barry Feldman (@feldmancreative) President of Feldman Creative. Organizations seem to be heeding that advice. According to Wordpress, 402 million people view more than 3.5 billion blog pages each month.

5. You Can Run, But You Can't Hide - If you're still trying to "hoard" your useful content so as not to "give it away" then just stop. Angie Sanders (@pronouncedALJ), partner at esolutions360, points out that "if your audience doesn't get information from you, then they'll perform a google search and find someone else who'll give them the answer."

6. Been Searching So Long - With the advances in Google and other search engines, emphasis continues to move away from standalone SEO. Content Marketer Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion) predicts that "over half of the SEO companies that are around today will be gone within two years." He goes on to say that "Any SEO firm that cares about their clients and the future success of an organization is now starting to talk about and implement content marketing."

7. Building Your Foundation - Susan Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau), founder of Explore B2B, says that "Content Marketing is about building a reputation by showing expertise, knowledge, moral character and demonstrating superior communicative skills through the content you provide."

Have you started your Content Marketing plan? Where will you begin?

5 Reasons You Should Be Blogging

"Why do I need a blog?" It seems I get some variation of this question from one of my clients nearly every day. They hear that blogging "is the thing to do" but are not sure of the tangible benefit.

Part of the hesitancy is their reluctance to embrace the new reality of marketing in general and content marketing in particular. They have yet to realize that customers today want to be informed and educated and not simply "sold to."

Another reason is that they're overwhelmed with what is already on their plate and aren't thrilled about adding another task to their "to do" list, especially one that requires an ongoing commitment.

My answer is always the same.

Their customers want to hear from them in ways that they haven't in the past and blogging is the key first step. More ominously, I warn them that the new interactive requirement is not going away and although they may resist, their competitors certainly won't.

They need to get in or they will be left behind.

Here are the five major reasons why they - and you -  should be blogging.

1. Blogging increases traffic to your website - The first step in making a sale today is getting people to your site. Regardless of how visually attractive your site may be, people won't be going there unless there's a compelling reason for them to do so. According to the Pew Research Center, one in three internet users read blogs. Providing a well-written blog that informs is a key factor in getting people to visit.

2. Blogging sets you up as an authority - You obviously are competent in your field or you wouldn't be successful. Share your knowledge with your prospects and customers and they will come to look at you as an expert in the field. When it comes to their buying decisions, most people want to be comfortable before parting with their hard-earned cash. They want to buy from people who know what they are doing. Sharing authoritative content will set that tone.

3. Blogging provides a personality - People buy from people. Whether dealing with a one person operation or a multi-site global organization, your prospect's buying decision ultimately comes down to one person buying from another. Producing a well crafted blog provides a voice and personality that will make your customers more comfortable doing business with you.

4. Blogging opens a dialogue - The days of hiding in the back office or behind a monolithic impersonal website are long gone. At least from successful companies they are. Customers want to have input rather than a lecture. Your blog, while informing, can also solicit feedback from your customers - feedback that is crucial to developing and growing your business.

5. Blogging works - There's growing data which shows that posting regular blogs with informative content ultimately generates incremental sales. According to research done by Hubspot covering 2011-2012, companies that blog attracted 55% more visitors to their sites. That same research showed that 46% of those companies generated revenue as a result of their blogs. According to a University of Texas report, the top 50,000 blogs generated $500 million in revenue.

What do you say? Are you blogging? If not, why not?


Your Content Game Plan: Content Strategy, Content Marketing, Content Management

You can't get more than a sentence or two into a post or article on marketing without colliding into one of these terms: Content Strategy, Content Marketing, Content Management. Within a paragraph or so, you'll likely encounter them all. Those of us in the content creation world are familiar with all three, but that might not be the case for everyone. So today I thought I'd go to the experts and provide some basic definitions of these three critical concepts that make up your overall Content Game Plan.

Content Strategy

Michael Brenner (@brennermichael), Senior Director of #Marketing and Content Strategy for SAP defines it as "the mindset, culture and approach to delivering your customers' information needs in all places they are searching for it, across each stage of the buying process."

Mark O'Brien (@newfangledmark), CEO of Newfangled Web Developers, defines it as "a plan for regularly adding unique, expert, and indexable content to your site."

Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson), Content Strategist, Founder and President of Brain Traffic  says that "Content Strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. " She says the Content Strategist must define why we're publishing it in the first place.

In a word: Content Strategy is the why of content.

Content Marketing

Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says that the formal definition of Content Marketing is "creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

Robert Rose (@robert_rose), Strategist @CMI/Analyst at Digital Clarity Group says that "traditional marketing and adverting is telling the world you're a rockstar. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one."

Jason Falls (@jasonfalls), founder of Social Media Explorer defines it as "using any type of content (newsletters, blog posts, white papers, video, tweets, podcasts, wall posts) to attract an audience you wish to market to."

In a word: Content Marketing is the what of content.

Content Management

Kevin P. Nichols (@kpnichols), Director and Practice Lead for Content Strategy, Sapient Nitro, says it "designs the processes and structures as well as implements technologies to manage content from acquisition and publication to storage."

Laurence Hart (@piewords), Information Professional, CIO for AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) calls it "the coordinated management of all content throughout an organization, allowing for people and systems to find and use content from within any business context."

Bernard Kohan, Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Comentum Corporation defines it as "an application that provides capabilities for multiple users with different permission levels to manage content, data, or information of a website project or internet/intranet application."

In a word, Content Management is the how of content.

There you have it. The Why, What and How of Content.

How does your Content Game Plan shape up? Is it a winner?