If you need to find some information, what do you do? Do you dust down your encyclopedia, head to your local library, or phone a friend? An encyclo...what? No, these days you’ll do what most of us do: you'll go online.
Most businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop establishments, need an online presence to survive. But how do you get your business out there in front of your target audience? As the Internet has evolved traditional advertising has become less effective, especially now we can use ad blockers to banish those pesky pop-up adverts.
So what does work? How do you connect with your customers? Welcome to the era of blogs and reviews, videos and podcasts, and the dissemination of our opinions through Facebook and Twitter. These are the new sales tools and they have the ability to potentially reach millions of us in a very short space of time.
Thanks to this development in the way we consume, the art of selling has had to adjust too. Traditional strategies have been rendered almost obsolete and new ways of capturing our attentions have been developed. One of these is content marketing.
Content marketing is the creation and sharing of various media to engage with potential consumers. It aims to connect with us and provides information that we want and need. Unlike traditional advertising, content marketing has a give-and-take relationship with its target market.
I’m new to all this. Tell me, what is content marketing?
There are a number of ways to use content in marketing. Some are more effective than others in generating leads, specifically higher quality methods such as eBooks, case studies, and white papers. However, there are others that help build your company’s brand indirectly - which creates new leads. Here we’ll take a quick look at each one.
- White papers - White papers are reports focused on a certain topic. The information provided is comprehensive and useful to anyone needing guidance in order to make an informed business decision. White papers are typically sold to a specific target market.
- eBooks - Similar to white papers in terms of their singular topical focus, eBooks provide more information and are usually longer. They can be informative or entertaining, or both. While a lot of ebooks are sold, some companies give them away as a free download in exchange for contact information.
- Case studies - These focus on a specific business or person, with a real-life event being narrated in the form of a story. The purpose is to build credibility by highlighting your company’s expertise.
- Blogs - Most businesses have a blog; after all, blog posts are easier to write and maintain than white papers etc. Content is brief and fresh, and focuses on one particular aspect of the business at a time. Blogs are one of the best ways to engage with readers who are able to comment and share posts on social media.
- Articles - Articles provide a more in-depth look at industry issues and trends. They can be contributed to media outlets and other publications and may even establish you, the author, as an industry leader.
- eNewsletters - Newsletters are subscription-based and distributed weekly or monthly. Typically they contains news about upcoming events, articles or blog posts, and brief summaries with links to your company’s website.
- Podcasts - A podcast is an audio file that you can listen to via your computer or an MP3 player. These are generally used to relay interviews and they aim to provide information on a particular topic.
- Videos - The rise of YouTube has proven that videos can be a great way of grabbing our attention. And it’s not just cute cat clips that get all the views. Many companies use “how-to” video tutorials, interviews and video blogging to effectively engage and educate.
- Webinars - Although not quite as commonly used as other formats, webinars are another way to deliver educational content, for example through a slide presentation. They’re good lead generators too as they require registration prior to the event.
So, in a nutshell, if a form of media can be uploaded or shared it can be considered content. But are all methods powerful lead generators, or are some of them just a waste of your precious time? What we all want to know, is this: which types of content are the most successful in terms of generating the most leads?
Got it. So what type of content generates the most leads?
Having a blog, eNewsletter, a video channel or an eBook doesn’t automatically bring you the leads you need to grow your business. It’s important to remember that there are countless websites and blogs out there and yours needs to stand out from the crowd in order to generate the leads you need! You need to connect, engage, inspire and inform your potential consumers. Here’s what your content needs to do:
- Solve a problem. - One of the reasons why we go online is to find answers to our burning questions. Your content - whether it’s a blog post, an article, or a video - needs to tell us what we need to know or provide a solution. You need a strategic content marketing plan to work out how to meet these needs. Remember that different people have different issues so try to address these through regular posts.
- Tell success stories. - Everyone loves a winner! Stories about your happy customers are a great way of capturing the attention of your potential customers. This is your chance to shout about how great you are and how you've solved past customers’ problems. There are plenty of ways to tell your stories, from video interviews and podcasts to testimonials and blog posts.
- Address your challenges - If your business has a public perception problem, you need to leap into PR mode and start utilizing your damage limitation superpowers. In the age of the Internet, issues and controversies must be addressed. Create content that shows you’re smoothing out any problems and doing all you can to make your customers fall back in love with you.
- Establish your expertise. - You know your business or industry better than your customers and hiding your light under a bushel is not going to win you any new clients. Your competitors are online and fighting for the same target market as you. Conduct an industry study which you can present as a white paper or an eBook. Write articles explaining the intricacies of your industry in jargon-free language that will inform and educate your potential customers. The more you know, the more they’ll trust you.
Supercharge your content
Okay, we know. That’s a lot of information - so just how do you go about creating content that’s will not only get you leads, but will also establish you as a shining star in your field?
Know your audience. Who’s your target market? What questions are they asking? If you can come up with a demographic you will have a better grasp of what type of content is going to work for you.
- Looks DO count - Do some research on what constitutes an effective website. Sure, taste is subjective but numerous studies have shown that website design affects consumer behavior. For example, less text usually means a more compelling page. If you do need a lot of wording on your website, break it up with images and use white space well. Also avoid using too many colours and fonts - the last thing you want to do is give your potential customers a migraine. Go minimalist and your audiences’ attention will be focused on your content, not on your flashing widgets!
- The more the merrier - It might be tempting to stick to writing blog posts but you should get into the habit of using more than one form of content. Yes we know blogs are easier to maintain but take the time to find out what your audience wants and get creative with the way you deliver the answers. After all, you may discover that after shooting your video tutorial or recording your podcast that you have a real flair for showbiz!
- Avoid the sales pitch - Your content marketing strategy should focus on delivering value to your audience, whether it’s providing information or entertainment. Tone down your inner used car salesman and avoid the hard sell, otherwise you may just find that your marketing campaign is as effective as traditional advertising—which is to say, not at all.
The thing to remember is that to generate leads through content marketing, the focus needs to be on your readers, your target market, your potential customers. After all, we all want to work with businesses that we know, like and trust. Whether you’re giving your audience the answers they’re looking for or keeping them entertained, you’ll be getting a whole lotta love (and hopefully a whole lotta sales) back in return.
Creating GREAT content that really works takes a lot of time and effort. If you can’t think of anything worse than making the time to sit down and write regular blog posts or you’re not yet ready to unleash your inner Steven Spielberg on the world, talk to Pronto. We love nothing more than getting our creative juices flowing to help you shine online.
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