For many companies, content marketing’s place in the sales process is hard to grasp. You’ve heard buzz phrases like “content is king”, but aren’t sure how to use it in your business. In today’s post, we’re going to dive into how to use content marketing to generate leads. It’s our belief that all of your digital investments should be directly tied to bottom-line growth, and content is no exception.
What the Hell is Content Marketing, Anyway?
Content marketing is a whole lot more than posting blog posts on your website. It’s a core strategy that fuels nearly every other digital strategy out there, and can provide massive value to your brand if planned and executed correctly.
Put simply, content marketing is the solution to a problem many business owners are faced with- our audiences dislike and distrust traditional advertising, and ignore anything they perceive as marketing. In fact, less than 1% of consumers state that their purchases are influenced by ads.
If paying for ads doesn’t work like it used to, then we’ve got to come up with a new way to reach and activate our target audiences. We do that through content marketing.
How To Use Content Marketing
Understanding how to use content marketing can be a bit tricky. If you want to use content marketing to generate leads, you’ll need to understand the five keys to successful content marketing:
- Goal Setting
- Measurement & Optimization
Setting Goals for your Content
The first step in learning how to use content marketing is understanding content’s purpose. Far too many companies are spending time and money posting blog posts to their websites without any clear goal in mind. That’s a great way to waste money, and a terrible way to grow your business. By setting goals for your content, you introduce a level of accountability that will help you optimize your efforts and maximize the time and money you devote to content marketing.
Set your goals by considering the key actions that bring a prospect closer to becoming a customer. It’s important to understand that the final action- the purchase, is just the last in a series of actions that your prospects take as they move through your marketing funnel. Identify the stages that your prospects move through before they buy, and make a list of the actions that prospects take as they move from one stage to another.
Consider the example below. The company using this funnel has identified four stages that every prospect moves through: awareness, interest, consideration, and purchase. Additionally, they’ve identified four key actions that move a prospect from one stage to the next. Mapping the buying journey out in this manner will allow you to develop a cohesive set of goals that you can build your content around.
Once you’ve got a few goals for the content you’ll produce, it’s time to plan out your content. You’ll need to perform market and keyword research in order to develop an editorial calendar. To start, brainstorm about some of the questions or concerns that are relevant to your prospects throughout the buying journey. Ask yourself these questions:
- What problem are you solving?
- Who are you solving it for?
- Where do they go to seek out answers?
- How are you different than the competition?
- What is your value proposition?
- What are the most common questions related to what you offer?
Asking these questions will jump start your brainstorming session and help you develop an understanding of the sort of content that will be useful to your audience. You’ll want to use these questions to create a list of questions which you can answer with content
Once that’s done, consider the best format for your content based on your target audience and their activity. As an example, an ecommerce store targeting 18-25 year old females in the United States may identify Snapchat as a great medium for their content, and as a result choose to focus on creating video content suited to the platform. At the same time, a software company targeting business executives may identify LInkedIn as an initial touch point, and may choose to publish blog posts to their company page as a result.
Once you’ve got a list of general topics and have identified the form and medium that your content will use to reach audiences, it’s time to dive deeper and create specific topics. At this point, it’s wise to perform keyword research to discover what your target audience is searching for online. This will help turn your list of general ideas into a much larger list of specific topics, and will also help you use your content to boost your website’s rank in search engines. When we’re planning content marketing campaigns for our clients, we use AHREFs to discover keywords that we can use in our content. Their keyword explorer tool allows you to put in a single keyword and receive a list of related keyword ideas- a pretty easy way to turn one topic into several specific topics! If you’re just learning how to use content marketing for your business, a tool like AHREFS can save you dozens of hours and make planning content much easier.
After you’ve developed a list of topics, plan out your content with a content marketing calendar. Try to plan out your content in six-month blocks, and start out by planning to create two new pieces of content per week. We use Trello when creating content marketing calendars because it gives us a clean calendar view of our upcoming content while also making it easy to assign content to our writers and upload text, images, and notes for each piece of content.
Once you’ve got a content marketing calendar prepared, you can begin to use content marketing to generate leads for your business! You’ll want to ensure that each piece of content focuses on answering a question or concern for your target audience without delivering a hard-sell. Content marketing is about educating and engaging audiences, not pitching your products and services. Always make sure that your content is original, and that written content is long enough to help your website rank in search results (typically 300 words minimum). For every piece of content, have a defined objective in mind. In the example above, a blog post will often prompt readers to download an ebook, and content discussing specific products and services will often prompt readers to schedule a product demonstration. This ensures that your content is placed within the context of the buying journey, and that it helps to assist in creating key conversions that lead to sales.
This step is one that’s ignored by many companies new to content marketing, to their disadvantage. To use content marketing to generate leads, you’ve got to put it in front of your target audience. Understanding how to use content marketing promotion effectively can help you reach your audience in a cost-effective way. That’s why you identified where your audience seeks out answers in the planning phase! The great thing about content marketing is that you don’t have to pay to deliver it; promoting content through email, social media, and your website are all great ways to promote content. If you want to see short-term results from your content marketing efforts, using search engine ads and social media advertising to promote new content can be useful. If you’re going to use search engine ads to promote your content, you’ll need to perform more detailed keyword research for the content you’re promoting to be sure your ads are showing up for the right search queries.
Content Measurement & Optimization
Like any other marketing campaign, content should be measured and optimized over time. Using Google Analytics, AHREFs, or another similar tool, you can track how every piece of content performs for you, and tweak it to make it more effective.
Here are a few things we look for when we’re measuring the performance of a content marketing campaign:
- Social Success: How did the content perform when we published it to social media? Was it shared more or less than we expected?
- Conversions: How many people took the action we built the content around? What percentage of those who viewed the content converted?
- SEO: Is the content ranking for keywords in search engines? What does its traffic from organic search look like?
- Time: How long are people engaging with the content for? Are they hitting the content and bouncing immediately, or are they viewing or reading the entire piece?
Take the time to ask questions like these for every piece of content you produce. This will help you refine your approach, and make it easier to use content marketing to generate leads in the future. When you combine the data gathered during the measurement phase with ongoing research and planning, you’ll find that your content marketing becomes more effective over time.
As a final point, knowing how to use content marketing as an evergreen resource is the key to maximizing your investment. Keep in mind that you can always update and promote existing content in addition to creating new content. By doing so, you’ll improve the ROI of your content marketing efforts dramatically.
If you want to use content marketing to generate leads, you need to commit to working through the five phases of content marketing we’ve covered here. If you do, you’ll find that content is a great way to reach your audience, keep them engaged, and turn them into paying customers. Don’t be discouraged if content doesn’t start bringing in leads right away; content marketing is a long-term strategy that requires patience and consistency. Stick with your plan, follow the steps we’ve outlined here, and you’ll find that knowing how to use content marketing can be a fantastic way to generate leads and grow your business.
Looking for a Content Marketing Expert?
Our content marketing services help SMBs and Enterprise firms around the world reach, engage, and activate their audiences every day. Get in touch to learn how our unique, data-driven approach helps our clients maximize their investments in content marketing.