In part 1of this 3-part post, Content Marketing Explained – Part1: What is it?, we came up with a definition for content marketing and set out its benefits.
Marketing through the use of high quality, relevant content, targeted at clearly defined audiences
- helps you generate sales leads directly;
- helps you nurture existing sales leads – making them more receptive to your products and services;
- bolsters the standing of your brand;
- improves your internet search engine visibility.
But how dowe ensure that the content we produce is targeted carefully and is of high quality?
We can’t rely on this happening by accident but rather have to plan for success.
Making a Content Plan 1: Segmenting Your Audience and Creating Customer Personas
We’ve all heard a lot about ‘sales funnels’ or ‘conversion funnels’ recently and it’s aconcept we’ll need to briefly acquaint ourselves with before we can go any further.
The sales funnel is a way of visualising the stream of potential customers that come into contact with your company – be it through your website, social media activity,direct marketing campaigns etc.
For ourpurposes, we’ll concentrate on online users. When a user takes an initial interest in your brand e.g. viewing a piece of content, they drop into the topof your funnel. Sales ready prospects drop out of the bottom of your funnel.
At the top they have only a general, ill defined interest in your product/service/company. They’ve now heard of what you offer but do they want it? Is it of value to them? They’re not sure.
As they move down the funnel, those who decide against purchasing drop away while those who remain get closer to making an actual purchase – they turn from mere leads into genuine prospects.
The kind of questions they now have are more like ‘What other types of this product are available?’ and ‘How do I choose between the different products?’
Finally, at the bottom of the tunnel we have people on the verge of making a purchase. They just need an extra nudge to tip them over the edge. They need answers to questions like ‘How much does it cost?’and ‘What’s the after sales support like?’
New prospects and leads can drop into the funnel at any point – if that’s when they happen to come across your company – and they can drop out at any point.
Our mission as content marketers is to fill the funnel with as many leads as possible and help as many of those leads as possible turn into sales.
The best way to do that is to target as many high quality pieces of content as possible at customers in each stage of the buying cycle – and then make sure they see it.
Segmenting Your Audience
Our first task is to decide how many different stages each buyer goes through in their trip from not even knowing what your product is through to completed sale.
That varies from business to business. The sales cycle for buying stationery is very short with few stages whereas the cycle for upgrading a whole computer network will be much longer.
Several people within a company might be involved in a large purchase and it could take many months from realisation of the initial need through to actual purchase.
This is where sales and marketing need to talk to each other – get everyone in a room and hammer out exactly what stages your buyers go through as part of their purchasing journey.
Creating Customer Personas
As you decide what each of the individual stages are you can invent a customer persona for that stage – an archetypal buyer. They’ll represent your audience for pieces of content generated for that stage of the buying journey.
This will make it much easier to come up with highly targeted pieces.
Using the example of upgrading a computer network, one customer persona might be:
Name: The Managing Director
Position:Top of the Funnel
Questions:What are the advantages of upgrading our network? Will it provide a return on investment?
Channels used: LinkedIn, Twitter, Email Newsletter
As you cansee, what we really need to nail down for each persona is what information they’re looking for and how to reach them.
When you’re finished you can put all the information into a grid, marking off each channel against each buyer persona to identify the areas where you need content.
Then it’s the fun part: brainstorming different content types to fill each of these gaps. Each piece of content needs to be suitable to its buyer persona and to the channels of communication which those types of customer use.
For example, you may find that for the top of the funnel, you want to make content that is readily shareable on social networks.
For themiddle of the funnel, you may find that designing content for email bulletins and blogs is best.
For thebottom of the funnel you’ll probably find that you need more content on yourown site that’s highly visible in search or that you can point paid ads at.
Again, the ways to reach buyers and the kind of content that’s suitable will vary from business to business so involve as many of your staff as practicably possible and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Making a Content Plan 2: Actually Making the Content
Now that you’ve identified the content you need to create you need to work out how you’ll go about making it.
We’d recommend following this process:
- Attribute the task of creating each piece of content to a particular person or team. The content generator should be the person with the right skills/knowledge for that type of content.
- Calenderise your content plan, working with the content generators to produce feasible and appropriate timelines. Putting everything in a calendar will not only help organise the creation of the content but its promotion too.
- Research each piece of content thoroughly. You need to know what’s already out there in the same industry to avoid pumping out the 127th infographic on the same topic.
- Inventorise your existing content. Are you already sitting on a great piece of content that you can rewrite, revamp and re-promote to fill this gap?
- Develop your new piece of content keeping the customer persona it’s intended for – their questions and concerns – foremost in your thoughts.
So the phrase to remember is, er, ACRID. Not the nicest sounding mnemonic I’ll admit but it’ll get the job done.
Soon enough you’ll have plenty of highly targeted, shareable and engaging content to start sending out into the world.
Before you go rushing off to start work on your plan though, WAIT!
In order to make sure you make the most of all your hard work in researching and developing your awesome new content you need to know how to promote it effectively to maximise views, click-throughs, conversions and sales.
That’s a process you should start thinking about before you actually start making your content so keep your eyes open for ContentMarketing Explained – Part 3: The Big Push. It’s coming soon…