Content Marketing – Achieving focus

Target your content marketing to match the buyer’s journey.

Providing value and answering customers’ needs is only a part of the story. In each piece of content, you should also target your customers’ specific buyer’s journey stage.

Generally, there are three stages of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, consideration, and decision. In the awareness stage, buyers are still researching their issues. In the consideration stage, they’re researching solutions. In the decision stage, they’re about to pick a provider.

If you’re writing a “What is [X]?” post, then the person who’s reading that article is likely not ready to decide about their provider. They are still in the awareness stage, completing research so that they can find out who offers a solution.

Conversely, if you’re writing a product page, then the reader who visits that page has already researched potential products and found you as a possible provider. That means you should pitch your product at every turn, reiterating your value proposition and differentiating yourself from the competition. You shouldn’t be shy about your products’ most valuable features.

Demonstrate a consistent brand voice and image.

No matter if you’re creating a blog post, web page, or eBook, your visitors should be able to tell who you are immediately upon consuming your content. To achieve this, you need to be very clear about the objectives of all your content marketing efforts. This in turn requires that you know what you want your business to be, your ideal clients, and how you want to connect with them.

That’s why it’s critical to create both a writing style guide and a brand style guide

 Is your content marketing timely and engaging?

Do your customers typically plan their financials at the start of the year? If you’re a finance start-up you might publish a blog post in January about budgeting quarter-over-quarter to prevent clerical errors and avoid overspending.

At the end of the post, you might include a prompt to check out your software or lead users to a template they can download after providing their email.

This is one example of content marketing that is timely and engaging. If you know your customer’s behavior and spending patterns throughout the year, it’s critical to capitalize on that. Publish blog posts and offers that capture them at the right time and answer their immediate needs. You’ll be well-placed to convert readers into potential clients

Do your brand visuals look the same across all platforms and devices?

 Do your brand tone and voice sound the same across all written communications? Strive to be ahead of the companies that publish similar content later on, often being first is all you need to win a customer over

Now let’s turn to one of my favourite sources of information the Harvard Business Review. I found a 2018 article by Frank Cespedes and Russ Heddleston titled 4 Ways to improve your Content Marketing. It is based on their insights from 34 million customer interactions. So, it is based on some intensive research.

To frame the article the authors state that the idea of content marketing sounds simple, attract prospects with helpful content for each stage in their buying journey and extend offers that motivate them to contact you for a demo or discussion. With online technologies and targeted lists, this should be a cost-effective tool for accelerating customer conversion and optimizing data-driven marketing by analyzing response rates, opens, reads downloads etc to each article.

Although the strategy is simple, it is important to look at the results. Much of the material produced does not get read, 5% of content gets 90% of the engagement.

The authors looked at 34 million interactions between customers and content on Docusend which is a platform that allows sales organizations to upload and share documents with prospects. And this is what they found:

1)           You have less than 3 minutes to make an impression and there is an optimal length. We are all bombarded by sales messages, maybe even more so today than in 2018 when the article is written. Their research found that the average viewing time for content was 2 minutes and 27 seconds. In this time your potential client is making rapid decisions on whether to learn more and move on to the next step. Conversely, you want to provide sufficient information to motivate your prospect to respond to your CTA.  The data showed that content that was 2 to 5 pages long was ideal. Viewers of articles of this length were more likely to spend more time on the first page and were more likely to read the entire piece. A typical page of text contains about 500 words, the average person reads at a rate of 200 words per minute. A two-page article will take about 5 minutes to read. That is not too much time to dedicate to learning more. Add relevant pictures, these do not take long for your reader to assess, remember the adage a picture is worth a thousand words. With text and pictures maybe six minutes to convey the information needed to take the next step and respond to your CTA. But keep in mind the research showed you had less than 3 minutes to grab your reader’s attention. My view is that you probably have got less time than that. That was the average open time, which means many articles were abandoned in less time than that. Plan your content to hook the reader in the first 200 words, or in about one minute.

2)           The authors concluded that mobile is important but you should not ignore the personal computer. At the start of their buyer’s journey your prospective clients may consume your content on their phone, iPad, or computer, it makes sense to optimize your content for multiple formats and devices. But as they proceed on the journey, they will require more detailed information which authors found was more likely to be accessed on a personal computer. Think of it like this, your potential client is considering hiring a health coach, they may start their research using a mobile device during their commute from work. They note a few potential providers during their commute and then continue their research at home on their PC. Using a content management system such as WordPress will automatically optimize your content for all device types.

3)           The next point I really liked because I have always been skeptical of articles that provide advice on the best day and time to send out content. I feel it is a bit arrogant to expect that folks are just waiting for your unscheduled content to be delivered, and secondly content is available 24/7/365 on the internet. A couple of weeks ago I got an enquiry regarding the purchase of a dental clinic from content I had posted over a year ago, and quite frankly I had forgotten that it was out there. What the authors of the HBR article found is there is no best day of the week to send out content. And remember this conclusion is based on 34 million interactions.

4)           And this to my mind is the most important finding from the author’s research, there is one type of content that outscores any other type of content in terms of completion rates. Clients want to know what you are doing for others, not what they might be able to do. Case study content does that. With your client’s permission write about your success stories. This delivers credibility and provides reassurance that the buyer is making the right choice. This is particularly important for a consultant selling to a corporation. If you are old enough, you may remember the saying that no one ever got fired by buying from IBM. If you are selling your services lower down in the organization, the buyer needs to be reassured that there will be no negative consequences from hiring you. Case studies can deliver that peace of mind.

The final takeaway from this article is that increasing numbers of potential clients do not move sequentially through the sales funnel. Instead, they adopt parallel streams to explore, evaluate and engage with content. That purchasing decision is a continuous and dynamic process, and your content format and sequencing must adapt to reflect this.

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