How A Content Marketing Strategy Will Help Fill Your Marketing Funnel (Part 2)
In part one of this series I talked about how drastically buyer behaviour has changed in the past few years. If you missed that article you can read it here. We talked about how the world has gone digital and there’s an abundance of information available to anyone who has an Internet connection. What’s changed is that people rely far less on gathering their “research” from sales people and are now searching for questions to their answers online, and seeking recommendations from their family, friends and colleagues.
In order to successfully sell to the modern buyer, you need to shift the way you market to them. Mass advertising is losing it’s effectiveness. Broadcasting to a wide audience in hopes that you’ll attract a few people who actually need what you sell is no longer a winning strategy because people are getting better and better at tuning out this type of mass marketing.
Last month I shared with you an overview of the three stages a buyer goes through before making a purchase. This 3-stage process is known as the buyer’s journey. In this article I’m going to start going into more detail on the content marketing strategy you use to get the buyer’s attention and position yourself as an expert or a thought leader - and to eventually win their business.
In the first stage, the Awareness stage, the buyer isn’t looking for a solution. They’ve only just discovered they have a problem and now they’re looking for information. They want to better understand their problem and learn about potential solutions. Only when they feel they have the information they need, will they seek out possible solutions.
This is the part mass marketing doesn’t address. This is what most businesses are missing out on. They advertise their products and services as a solution to the prospect's problem without first addressing the problem. It’s making the assumption that the buyer fully understands their problem and intelligently understands how to fix it.
In comparison, that’s like visiting your doctor and complaining you have pain and the doctor just whips out their pad and writes you a prescription. That’s not how it’s done. A good doctor is going to take some time to ask you questions, run through a series of examinations or tests, and then make a suggestion or recommendation to you. You want to take a similar approach with your marketing.
Before you can create marketing that really speaks to your ideal customer, you need to know what causes them to search for information online about your industry in the first place. You need to determine what their trigger is - and sometimes there’s more than one. An event or a set of events has taken place for the buyer that causes them to become aware of their problem. They’ve also come up with a correlating goal they feel they need to achieve to eliminate their problem. Sometimes they know what this goal is, and other times they discover it after doing some research.
For example, in my industry we sell primarily to C-level executives and marketing professionals. Some of their triggers include:
- "My current marketing strategy isn’t working"
- "I'm not sure what’s bringing in new leads and customers"
- "We need more and/or better qualified leads"
The correlating goals would be:
- "I need to learn more effective online marketing tactics"
- "I need a way to track and measure my marketing activities"
- "I need to get my sales team focused on prospects most likely to convert to customers"
Once you’ve outlined your ideal customer’s triggers and goals, the next step is to brainstorm a list of commonly asked questions and answers that correspond to those triggers and goals. These questions, and your answers, are what form the foundation of the top of your marketing funnel and how you'll attract and get found by your prospects.
The first tactic you’re going to employ will be blogging. You objective is to write informative, educational articles that you’ll publish to your blog. Each blog post will address one of these questions and provide your answer. You want to shoot for a minimum of 600 words and make sure to optimize them for a relevant keyword phrase associated with what your buyers would be searching for.
These blog posts are how you get your ideal customer’s attention at the beginning of their buying process. Your prospect will be searching online for the answers to their questions and this is how they will find you. But once they arrive on your blog you need to have them identify themselves and opt into into your marketing funnel.
The tactic you use to convert a visitor to a lead is what’s known as a premium content offer, or what I sometimes refer to as an ethical bribe. It’s basically a more in-depth piece of content like an eBook or a whitepaper that speaks directly about the buyer’s trigger and goal and provides some solutions. An interested prospect will then trade their contact information to download the offer. This premium content piece serves a few purposes. It’s meant to to establish trust with the buyer, to demonstrate your thought leadership, and to begin to introduce your positioning.
To get the reader to download your premium content piece you’re going to include a call-to-action or a CTA at the bottom of your blog post. This is typically a banner or a button that the reader can click on to get the premium content offer. Take a look at the bottom of this blog post for an example. You can also include a CTA in the sidebar of your blog. Once the reader clicks the banner they’re taken to a landing page that contains a web form. The reader must submit the form in order to gain instant access to the premium content piece.
Once this transaction takes place, the prospect has now become an information qualified lead. This means that they are now qualified to receive more information from you in regards to your products and services. This does not mean that they are ready to be followed up with by someone on your sales team however. There’s still some more qualification steps needed before that happens.
Now that we’ve identified an information qualified lead, we want to continue to encourage them to move through your marketing funnel. You’ll use two tactics to do that effectively - email marketing and your blog. Here’s how it works:
Using marketing automation, or an advanced email marketing system, you’ll create a sequence of three emails, set to go out at predetermined intervals. When the prospect downloads your premium content piece that triggers this email campaign to begin.
The interval you send the emails out depends on your sales cycle, but typically they’d go out 3-5 days apart. Each email is meant to tease your lead with some additional information, and encourage them to click on a link that goes back to a blog post.
These three blog posts are written the same way as you wrote the previous ones. The purpose of these posts however, is to answer the most common questions you receive based on your sales process, your products or your services. The goal is to get the prospect to take action once again and to move them a step further through your marketing funnel.
So now you understand what the prospects objectives are in the Awareness stage and how to start meeting their objectives using your content marketing assets. In my next article we’ll go into depth on the Consideration and Decision stages and I’ll teach you the rest of the process for delivering highly qualified leads to your sales team.