Today’s small business owner or digital strategist for a larger organization is constantly thinking of how to reach a prospect and convert them into a customer. There are differences in this process when your customer is a business versus a consumer, but in general there are four major steps:
There are a lot of options when looking at executing this process, some free and some expensive. If you are lucky enough to have a large advertising budget and brand recognition you can afford to ignore tactics like Content Marketing. However, if you are like many small to medium-size businesses that are looking to maximize your return on investment then you have no choice but to embrace content marketing.
Content marketing can take a number of forms and be applied in a variety of marketing strategies. The overall theory of content marketing is that you are going to provide informative or entertaining content to your prospects and customers. Every stage of the customer acquisition cycle can benefit from content marketing.
Awareness campaigns can be the most expensive part of the customer acquisition cycle. Paid advertising online and offline dominate this area. Social media has made the process of generating awareness much more cost effective for both B2B and B2C organizations. Personally I am not a fan of paid advertising in offline channels such as radio, billboard, newspaper, and television advertising. Unless your budget has several zeros at the end of it, then you don’t have enough money to get a good ROI. Paid online advertizing can be a very effective way to drive targeted leads to your website, where the focus turns to generating engagement from the first visit, otherwise the cost of the click was wasted.
For social media awareness, the key is to use content that drives interest. Almost every business owner will instantly assume that there is nothing interesting enough about their business or industry to generate awareness through social media. And to be sure, it’s easy to see why a link to the Affordable Car Act will not be viewed or shared often. The key for generating awareness on social media is to make sure that the content you are posting or linking to is either entertaining or informative AND relevant to the people you want to attract. Hilarious cat pictures from Buzz Feed will generate clicks, but not from the people you want to target. There are several ideas on how to post to social media to maximize awareness. Generally in this phase you are trying to get people to Like, Share, Forward, Re-Tweet and Comment. That means that general entertainment or shock-value are more important than deep information, though it must be connected to your industry.
When a person becomes aware of your organization or product through some type of awareness campaign, it’s then time to push for them to engage. This is where content marketing goes beyond entertaining posts and needs to focus on the needs of the person who has landed on your website, blog, landing page, or email newsletter. Because content is just about the only thing most businesses can easily give away for free, it is the best carrot to use for engaging the visitor.
Some businesses can present a discounted offer for services as the carrot, but oftentimes the visitor is not ready to commit to visiting the business after hitting their page. Even if this is a one-time transaction for something as simple as transmission repair, the visitor is likely to click around and review the content of the website before engaging with the offer.
Almost every business needs to earn the trust of the visitor to their website before a purchase decision will be made. Providing resources is one of the best ways to build this trust and begin a relationship. Downloadable PDF white papers, ebooks, article libraries, video tutorials, infographics, email newsletters, and the like are all great examples of free resources that a business can provide to a visitor to drive engagement. Creating this content requires an investment of time and/or money, but it can live on your website forever. Some businesses will chose to require the visitor to provide contact information before gaining access to the information. This should be reserved for truly high-value content where the visitor is willing to sacrifice anonymity for access.
A purchase decision is made by an informed person that trusts the business they are about to buy from. If you have not provided enough information or proven your trustworthiness then you have a significantly reduced chance of capturing a purchase decision. Information can be gathered directly from you, your competitors, or third party sources. Providing enough information to allow a visitor to feel educated through your website is the most effective way to avoid losing your prospect to a competitor. Frequently purchase decisions are not made upon initial contact with the prospect. That’s why engagement is so important to keep a person aware of your business and build trust during the process.
Building trust is especially important for web-only products and services. Large companies have built trust over years of serving customers and advertising campaigns. Smaller businesses have a lot more to prove. Website design, navigability, and content all contribute to the feeling of trust that must be established with a prospect before they will pull out their credit card, pick up the phone, or request information.
Everyone knows that it is cheaper to keep your existing customer than it is to acquire new ones. Using content marketing to retain customers is a simple way to stay in front of them while providing useful information. Some products and services may require deeper explanation over time, giving the marketer plenty to talk about via automated emails with instructions, tutorials, videos and more. Other products and services do not actually “need” follow up communication to get the desired value. For these products and services it is all about becoming an authoritative source of information and advice.
This can apply to something as mundane as air conditioning repair. The service was completed and the customer will likely not speak to the business again for many years, if ever. The goal is to get that customer to advocate to their sphere of influence about the great service they received. One way to stay in front of the customer is to send information about saving energy, changing filters, what new models can do for energy bills, etc. There are two goals here:
- Stay top of mind
- Give opportunity to forward email to a friend with an offer attached
Keep it Simple
Implementing content marketing does not have to be overly complicated. The idea is to create and maintain a conversation with everyone that comes in contact with your brand. Spending time developing helpful content is time well spent for every business. Take a moment to think about what you do for people and why they look to do business with you, then talk about it. Now let’s start writing!