One of my favorite ways to characterize marketing content comes from Forbes’ Josh Ritchie. Above all, he says, marketing content must “charm,” while sales content must “convince.”
It’s a great analogy. Content marketing is a lot like wooing your sweetheart, moving the relationship along in stages until they’re ready to put a ring on it.
At the beginning, there’s a rush of emotion. If your content can hit the right emotional notes for your target market, the relationship will progress.
But if you lead with sales content, you’ll scare off your prospect. Just like popping the question on the first date. It only works out in the movies. Trust me.
Building trust at the outset forms the foundation for a long-term relationship, both personally and in business. So, charm them with the kind of content that builds trust.
However, there comes a time when the conversation needs to nudge your prospect further along in their journey. The subtle part, just like in a personal relationship, is to engage your prospects in a conversation.
It’s as much listening as it is churning out content. The key to success is focusing on your prospects and their needs – from the first spark of interest to their first purchase and beyond.
With content that addresses their post-sale needs, you can turn them into loyal customers – even brand ambassadors. Just like a romance, it’s a journey that can last a lifetime. You just need a content strategy that can get you off to a great start and guide you along the way.
The Beginning of the Journey – Building Awareness
Just like you, your prospects are busy. They only search for something online when they need to satisfy their curiosity, solve a problem, or find something they want.
Here’s where you need to pour on the charm. But if your prospects can’t find you, you won’t be able to impress them.
The key to meeting them is to shore up your buyer personas. Identifying their wants, needs, desires, and problems gives you an insight into their lives.
Use your social media and content analytics to flesh out these factors. Start with your current customers, email subscribers, and social followers to identify commonalities.
Then, you can start to nail down some topics that they’d likely search for. Topics that you’re an expert on. Questions that they’ll likely type into the search bar.
Use a keyword research tool to augment some of the terms they’ll use to search for information about those topics. Predictive technology can help you find angles that will appeal to them.
Armed with that information, you can start the content planning and creation process. But remember, you’re not selling at this stage. You’re charming your audience with your knowledge, trustworthiness, and dependability.
Create content that both teaches and entertains. Use the power of storytelling to spark the beginnings of an emotional connection.
Don’t be in a hurry to move them along to the next stage. Instead, publish a wealth of content that makes you their go-to source of authoritative information about the topic.
As they move further along in their relationship with your brand, encourage them to become an email subscriber. Segment them according to their needs and interests so that you can send them only content that relates to their situation.
Once they’re on your email list, you’ll want to include some subtle references to the itch that only your product can scratch. Helping them recognize the problem they want to solve – the curiosity they want to satisfy is the first step toward getting them to search for the cure.
The Middle of the Journey – Looking for Solutions
Once they’re aware of what they need, they’ll look for solutions. If you’ve handled the first part of their journey right, you’ll probably have an edge over your competitors at this stage.
But don’t rest on your laurels. Keep up the charm, but delve a little deeper into their needs.
By this point, they’re likely on your email list. Provide your prospects with more in-depth information. Live events, like live streaming videos, webinars, or in-person workshops, are all excellent choices.
Although you don’t want to seem salesy at this point, it doesn’t hurt to mention a product that can meet their needs. Point out what functionalities they need to solve their core problem, and then mention that you have a product that has all those features.
Asking for a direct purchase might be a little early at this point. But, you can invite your prospects to explore further, such as offering them a free trial, a quick consult, or a free download of your ebook or white paper on that topic.
Reaching the Destination – The Decision
Your content has hooked your prospects and helped them realize the type of solution they need. They’ve likely narrowed down their list of providers they’re considering.
At this point, you need to convince them that yours is the superior solution. This is the spot where your content needs to focus more on driving them toward a purchase.
However, you don’t suddenly shift into used-car dealer mode. It’s more a matter of providing them with information that will set your solution apart from your competitors – sales enablement content.
Testimonials and customer reviews are perfect at this point. So are case studies that show how customers with similar problems found a solution by using your product.
Videos, too, that demonstrate how easy it is to use your product to solve their problems can help them finalize a decision.
Finally, meet with your sales teams in a few content collaboration sessions. They hear all the objections your prospects raise about your product. Creating content that addresses those objections can calm their pre-purchase jitters.
That one strategic move can differentiate you from your competitors. According to a Content Marketing Institute study, only 54% of sales and marketing teams share prospect and customer data. You need to be in that better half of that divide.
It Doesn’t End There – Post-Purchase Content Builds Loyalty
Once the prospect has said “I do” to your product, don’t stop your communications. Just like in marriage, that promise should only mark the start of a deeper relationship.
Create content that helps your customers get the maximum benefits from their purchases. Partner with your customer support team to identify some of the issues your customers are experiencing.
Videos and blog posts that teach them how to troubleshoot can help keep the brand love alive. Engage in social media conversations that help your customers solve their problems and get more value for their investment.
Once you’ve solved their problems, encourage them to share their experiences with their colleagues and friends. Turning your satisfied customers into brand ambassadors will help you build your brand’s “family” with generations of new, loyal customers.
One of the best ways to see the points at which you need to switch gears from marketing content to sales content – or from sales to support content – is to use a customer journey map like the following:
Image via UserTesting
Include your buyer personas and their preferred communication channels. Map out the steps they take toward becoming a customer, and ultimately, a brand ambassador.
For best results, keep your customer journey map, along with your brand style guide and more detailed personas, in your idea repository. That way, when you’re brainstorming ideas, you have everything you need to flesh out each piece of content for your prospects’ specific needs and perspectives at each point in the journey.
Balancing the mix of marketing and sales content for each segment can be complex. But if you have a digital hub where your teams can strategize, cook up ideas, create content, publish it, and analyze the results, it makes the whole process so much easier.
DivvyHQ’s content marketing platform will make your life so much simpler. With a single place for everything content-related, you and your teams can concentrate on your strategic and creative tasks.
Even more convenient, you can try it free for 14 days. Start your free trial today!