Google has ruled. Content is imperative to your marketing strategy. But the search engine threw in a challenge.
The content has to be awesome.
So what is awesome content? And how do you create it? There are a few things your content requires in order to be deemed extraordinary and be able to move people down the funnel.
What Makes Killer Content?
First, it’s important to review the pieces you need for awesome content. They are:
- Conversion. Good content for marketing is different than good literature. You can be the best writer in the world but if you’re not creating content on topics your audience is interested in, it doesn’t matter how well-written (or produced, if it’s in another medium) it is. It simply won’t convert and that’s what you’re looking for in business content. More about that in a bit.
- Entertain, inspire, or educate on a topic of interest to your ideal customer or client.
- Information. Content today is lengthier and well-researched. While the average person skims, not reads, content, they are often looking for advice, help to solve a problem, or examples of best practices. It’s difficult to become a strong resource with fluffy content (unless your business is entertainment-oriented.)
- Understanding. You must have a team (or content creator) that understands their ideal audience well. You can’t produce good content without knowing who it’s for, what they enjoy, and what they’re struggling with.
- Storytelling. You want to grab attention like a blockbuster thriller but you want to showcase your customers at the same time. Your business should never be the hero of your storytelling.
- The right medium. Some audiences respond to long tomes, others want memes with inspirational quotes, still others enjoy audio content or videos. Once you figure out what your audience responds to, do lots of it.
- Analysis. You can’t know if you’re creating good content if you’re not measuring it with effective methods.
Aligning Your Content to Your Sales Funnel
Next, once you have the key understanding of what good content is for your audience (every audience demographic is different), you need to understand how that content should drive action. You’re not getting graded on the quality of your content based on how delightful it is to read. If you’re producing content for your business, you want it to spark action. In order to do that you need to align it with the sales funnel.
There are several sales and marketing gurus who believe sales is dead. While that’s debatable, what is pretty clear is that “selling” is dead because no one wants a hard sell or pitch anymore. People are looking to do business with organizations they know, like, and trust. Winning someone over and getting them to trust you takes time. That’s where good, helpful content fits in.
You also need good content because people aren’t calling up your sales group as their first stop anymore. For instance, 77% of people are reading online reviews before buying and they’re influenced by the words of complete strangers. They’re also visiting your website for information before they’re picking up a phone.
That’s why you need content that will guide people along their purchasing path. There are three levels of the funnel that you need to tie content into.
Level 1: Awareness.
Customers must know about you to want to buy from you. They also must know that they have a problem that you can (help them) solve. Without this awareness, they won’t see a need for your product or services.
A blog title in the awareness phase might be 3 Things Costing You Big This Summer. This would appeal to people looking to shave costs and contains the technique of piquing your audience’s curiosity–am I already doing this? Am I wasting money in this fashion?
Level 2: Research and Comparison (also known as consideration).
Now that your potential customer knows they have a problem and knows you can help, they’re going to feel the need to find out who else can help and what other solutions exist for their problems or challenges. This is the discovery phase and creating content that acts as a resource during the buying decision helps you to frame the decision-making process to your advantage.
A good example of research and comparison-level content is what Marcus Sheridan did for his pool company many years ago. His company sold in-ground, prefabbed pools. His potential customers were always asking what the advantages of his pools were over poured concrete ones. He compiled pros and cons of both and won a big audience share. The trick in these sorts of comparisons is to be honest so that you admit to pros and cons of both (you can give yourself a few more pros but make sure you do admit you’re not perfect) you can earn your audience’s trust.
Level 3: Decision.
This is where they make their final selection between you, a competitor, nothing at all, or a different option altogether.
Content for the final decision level should be in-depth and highly targeted to your ideal customer. Check out this film by Patagonia.
Think of the sales funnel and your content creation as a courtship with the potential customer. It’s inappropriate in most situations to ask someone you’ve just met to marry you. Instead, tailor your content and resources for the stage each potential buyer is in.
One Last Piece of the Content Creation Best Practices Puzzle
There’s one piece of the sales funnel businesses often forget. The sales funnel is not so much a traditional funnel but a sieve. A traditional funnel moves everything that is poured into it down the pipeline. This simply isn’t true of any business. You will lose people along the way. They will pour out of your “funnel” at every stage. (That’s why it’s more of a sieve in the shape of a funnel.)
However, just because they’re free-ranging it out of your sales sieve doesn’t mean you can’t bring them back. The use of retargeting, marketing automation, and drip nurturing can keep your business on their minds until they’re warmed to the idea of buying from you. Drip marketing campaigns will share non-salesy buying tips on the buying process in your industry, like 5 Things to Know Before Buying a Car. This type of content keeps people involved and interested and continues to set you up as a resource for anyone looking into the types of products or services you sell.