More Wisconsin businesses are starting to see the value in reaching their target audience through content marketing. That means creating articles, videos, graphics, and all sorts of media designed to draw attention to your company and establish your expertise on a given topic.
However, any company that jumps right into content marketing without a plan is making a huge mistake. There’s much more to it than setting up a blog and getting on social media.
Strategy is at the core of any marketing effort. Without the right strategy, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s unlikely your efforts will grow your business in any significant way.
So, where do you start?
Understand Your Audience
One of the first steps in developing a strategy for content marketing, or any sales and marketing initiative, is understanding the people you’re trying to reach. An effective tool for this part of strategic planning is persona development.
Personas provide you with snapshots of the kinds of customers you want to reach. A persona may not necessarily be your typical customer, but it should be your ideal customer. It helps to view your target audience as a real person. Focus on psychographics more than demographics. This means understanding the fears and motivations that drive the persona. It includes considering their professional relationships and career goals as well as their personal lifestyle.
Find Their Path to Purchase
Once you understand the people you want to reach, you can create a strategy for how to reach them. This is where another marketing tool comes into play: the buyer’s journey or path to purchase.
All of us go through different phases when we make a purchasing decision. It’s crucial to understand the steps your personas go through on their path to purchase, and even more important to understand which marketing efforts are most effective at certain points on that decision-making journey.
For B2B purchasers, these decisions are often big ticket items or long-term service agreements. The stakes are high. Content marketing can help them at the research phase of their journey, and it will keep you top-of-mind as they compare you to the competition.
Timing is Everything
Delivering the wrong marketing message at a bad time could be costly. You need to follow what we call the “rules of engagement.”
For example, let’s say your target persona is a plant engineer looking for a widget that will help a facility run more efficiently. If you hit that engineer with a pushy, promotional sales email too early in the buyer’s journey, you risk turning him off, or worse, getting sent to the spam folder.
However, if you’re creating content that answers questions and gives valuable insight, you’re making the research phase of their journey easier. More importantly, you’ve established your company as an expert, and now you’re on the shortlist as they enter the next phase of their journey – comparison and consideration.
As our plant engineer persona starts to weigh the benefits of choosing you over your competition, you can continue to use content marketing as a way to move them along a path to purchase that ends with purchasing from you. Tell the story of what sets your business apart. Use content to show your target personas why they can trust you.
At this point, they may be ready to sign up for email communications or actually call you on the phone. You’ve earned the right to get permission to talk to them about making a purchase.
The goal of content marketing is to create a relationship, not a transaction. However, that doesn’t mean content marketing won’t boost your bottom line. The relationship you create with your target audience generates loyal customers and will lead to many transactions as well as recommendations that bring you even more business.
Know When It’s Time to Close the Deal
There’s certainly a point in the path to purchase when you can make the “hard sell.” However, the experience your target audience has with your company up until that point will make a big difference. They’ll be more likely to choose someone who’s been helpful and took the time to form a relationship with them.
Critics of content marketing often point to brands that are creating content for vanity’s sake. They chase page views and social media shares, but they forget about actually making sales. That’s a sign of content marketing without any strategy, and it’s becoming much too common.
Anyone can throw up a few blog posts or try to make a viral video. But, where does that leave you in the end? To get a return on your investment, you need marketing expertise, you need to understand your audience and build relationships, and you need to develop a plan that includes ways to measure success.
That’s an Element content marketing program in a nutshell. A growing number of our clients are opening up to this approach, and it’s exciting to see those who’ve invested in it get results!
If you think your organization would be a good fit for a B2B content marketing program, contact us to find out more. Our agency has a De Pere office as well as a new Fox Cities office in downtown Neenah.