You're talking to a friend about how terrible your day was. Your client was unreasonably irritating, your lunch tasted like burnt leather, and even your dog ignored you. To cap it all, your car broke down on the way back, and you can't use it for a week!
Your friend nods in sympathy and says "Well, it wouldn't have happened if you had used TruCoat. TruCoat, the all-weather vehicle protector. Get yours now!" In the physical world, this interaction will likely end with a resolution to never speak to this person again. However, this experience is par for the course in the online world when brands initiate conversations.
Despite negative consumer reactions, many companies continue to rely on outbound marketing tactics that interrupt a prospect's experience and shove a product under their noses. For example, consider how a Youtube ad interrupts your viewing experience.
Content marketing, as part of an overall B2B inbound marketing plan, is a much better, less intrusive way of building brand awareness and trust. Instead of going out and seeking prospects, content marketing brings them to you. When done right, content marketing gives you an almost unfair advantage since its effects are cumulative. So how can you build an effective content strategy?
Here are the 4 pillars upon which successful content marketing is built.
According to the Content Marketing Institute's (CMI) 2020 report on the state of B2B content marketing, 66% of respondents indicated that they prioritized their audience's informational needs over the company's sales message in all the content they created. It's a view that's supported by Rachel Cunningham, Content Marketing Director at BOP Design, a B2B marketing agency.
Cunningham identifies education as one of the primary drivers of content creation. People come to your website in search of answers to their problems. Unfortunately, many companies believe that content marketing equals running a blog that has search keywords embedded in all of its articles. They believe that they need to end their articles with a manifesto on how their products are the best and why the reader should buy them now.
Calling this content marketing is a bit like thinking that a photo of a delicious meal is as nutritious as the real thing. Words on a website don't make for a great content marketing strategy. Your focus has to be geared around educating your readers and presenting yourself as a trusted source of information.
Educating your prospects isn't just the right thing to do it's also good business. Think back to the last time you encountered a great sales rep. Chances are they were friendly, helpful, and most importantly, got you to trust them. You build trust by answering people's questions and helping them deal with the problems they have.
Many companies spend a lot of time trying to be friendly and trustworthy to their prospects. Educating your consumers is the easiest way to do this. While it isn't the only way to achieve the goal of being trustworthy, it goes a long way towards it. So start focusing on educating your readers, and stop trying to sell them.
People buy emotions, not products. We gravitate towards products and people who make us feel good or remind us of our fears. Content marketing often boils down to telling your readers a great story. Sure, your story might not be as gripping as anything Stephen King can come up with, but it's your brand's story nonetheless. Your stories need to revolve around the issues your prospects are facing. After all, this is why they're on your website.
Great storytelling takes time. You can't expect a single blog post or even 10 to increase sales by 100%. Like all great stories, your prospects need time to absorb what you're telling them. You need to trust that they'll come back to you in their hour of need.
Engagement metrics let you know how strong your relationship with your audience is. Stories that move your audience are shared or attract comments. Gradually, as engagement grows, you'll begin building a relationship with them.
Eventually, you'll notice that your customers keep coming back to you for more. It's no secret that a repeat customer is more valuable than a new one. According to some estimates, the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60-70%. In contrast, the probability of selling to a new customer is between 5-20%.
Content marketing helps you build trust with your audience, and this leads to great relationships. As your engagement numbers grow, you'll find your sales and customer retention increasing.
A key aspect of content marketing is establishing trust. While educating your prospects is a great way of going about building this, you need to demonstrate value as well. A prospect's journey begins with them learning how to solve an issue and progresses to trying to figure out whether you can help them solve it.
Content marketing helps you deliver a value proposition in an extremely effective way compared to traditional outbound marketing methods. When you watch an ad that interrupts you, you're hit with the value proposition even if you haven't asked for it. Even worse, the value proposition could address something that isn't an issue for you.
Thanks to keyword research tools, you can design a map or cloud of the problems your prospects face and address all of them one by one. You can then tie all of these problems together into a value proposition and allow your prospects to navigate to it when they're ready.
Thus, your prospects won't feel forced or pushed in any way. You'll be drawing them deeper into your funnel, and they'll convince themselves that you're offering the best solution to their problems. When the time comes to buy, your sales team won't have to deal with the usual objections.
Your clients will be warm, and all they'll need is gentle guidance to complete a purchase.
Create Better Customer Journeys
There are a variety of marketing assets you can create to demonstrate value to your prospects. Blog posts, whitepapers, videos, webinars, case studies, infographics, and so on. It's easy to go overboard and create one of each and bombard your prospects with them.
However, great content marketing is all about tailoring your content to your customer's needs. Cunningham points out that the forms of content she creates for her clients depends on the customer's place in the marketing funnel as well as their needs. A technical lead will find a whitepaper more useful whereas a strapped-for-time CFO will appreciate a short blog post.
There is no single form of content that is "great" or "foolproof". Each asset you create has its place and is relevant at different times of the customer journey. Content marketing helps you provide the most useful asset at the right time and in the right place. Doing this builds trust and gets prospects to check out your value proposition.
Tying it all Together
Great content marketing begins with a desire to educate and progresses by building a relationship with your prospects and demonstrating value by offering them the right forms of content depending on their position in the buying journey. Throughout this process, metrics and a desire to constantly improve will help you create more relevant content for your prospects.
As consumer behavior moves more than ever towards a desire for customized experiences, content marketing is the best way to engage your prospects without pushing them to buy your product. Trust is the key to great content marketing. Focus on these 4 steps to build more of it with your prospects.