Content marketing: it's so hot right now, even McDonald's is doing it. And why wouldn't they? It works. If you're providing the kind of product or service that sells to knowledgeable, informed buyers (okay...maybe McDonald's isn't the best example now), then there is no better way to make the sale than to educate your prospects. Content marketing is about ensuring that your audience is educated about their purchase, so that prospects return to your company for resources, become informed leads, and eventually, highly knowledgeable customers.
From the marketer’s perspective, content marketing is a fantastic approach to both attract prospects to your website and nurture them through the funnel. From the buyer’s perspective, content marketing helps them learn about the services they may or may not require and helps them decide which company is best suited to help them.
We’re all looking for something: some product, some service, some solution to a problem. By producing content that helps your prospects solve their problems, you can gain the attention of your prospects and begin building business relationships.
Content Marketing: don’t pay for prospects to see your content, create the content they seek out.
The Value of Educational Content
There’s a huge variety in the types of content you can produce. We see content everyday in forms such as reviews of anything new in the industry, taking a controversial stance on a topic, infographics to show some data or research, interviews with well-known leaders, the list goes on. This content may interest an audience already connected in your industry, but there is nothing like the straight-forward educational article to attract interested prospects to your website and move them through the funnel.
This content is often in the tutorial or “how-to” blog format but can also be whitepapers, ebooks, or video. The format is less important than process. Your prospects find the content to answer specific questions and they should leave with those questions answered.
If you’ve produced quality content, you’ll pique their interest and they’ll come back to learn more from your company. Soon, you’ll be seen as their go-to resource for the topic and when they're ready to buy, you’ll be their first call.
Though it seems like a simple process to most, there’s one common fear that causes many marketers to avoid content marketing: no one will read it. Of course, the idea of wasting your time producing something that no one sees is a scary thought. However, if you’re selling a considered purchase and if you produce the right content for your prospects, they will consume it – it's in their best interest.
What is the Right Content?
I would never want to waste my time producing content no one would read or waste my audience’s time producing low-quality content that won’t teach them anything.
Before I start writing any piece of educational content, I make sure I’ve answered the five questions below. These questions make sure I spend my time producing content that is targeted towards a buyer, focused on a specific topic, and (above all) helpful for my audience.
1. What are the pain points I'm addressing?
If you want to ensure your content is consumed, write content that your audience is actively seeking out. Whatever pain points your past clients had before reaching out to you are likely the same pain points your future clients are experiencing today.
They may not be searching the Internet for your specific solution, but they will be searching for a solution to their pain point. If you can show that you understand their struggles from a list of Google search results or a busy Twitter feed, you’ll get their attention. Once you have their attention, you can start building their trust and developing a relationship.
2. Who am I writing to?
If you know anything about inbound marketing, you know it all begins by identifying your target persona. Truly great content (meaning both informative for the customer and effective at nurturing) is focused towards a specific buyer. With a persona in mind, you can focus your language, tailor your voice, maximize your keyword SEO, and show that you empathize with their struggles.
Without a persona, your content will often be watered down and vague. If the content is only somewhat helpful to many people, it’s not going to be super helpful to anyone. You need to produce content that is super helpful for your ideal customer if you are going to stand out.
3. What stage of the buyer’s journey are they in?
As previously mentioned, content marketing is a balance of both attracting and nurturing prospects. Some of the educational content you produce is better suited for prospects who are just starting to learn about your industry. Other content you produce will be better suited for customers that know a fair amount about your company and are on the verge of making the decision of whether or not to buy.
You may very well still be using the same persona, but your subject matter and goals will be very different depending on what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in.
4. What do they already know?
Once you've established your target audience and what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, you should think about their base of knowledge. You have to know what they already know to find the right starting place for your content.
If you begin with information they’ve heard time and time again, they’ll get bored and leave your website. If you begin with information they don’t yet understand, they’ll get confused and leave your website.
If you’ve answered questions two and three, you have all the information you need to start your content with an engaging opening that keeps them reading on.
5. How does this help nurture the relationship?
Content marketing is most effective when there’s a balance between educating your prospects and moving them towards a sale. You should already know how you’re going to educate the prospect, but will that education lead to a sale?
Any topic related to your industry can be used for effective content marketing, you just have to spin it the right way. After educating your prospects on a subject, guide them towards a topic more related to the services you provide. This is an all-too-easy step to forget and doing so decreases the marketing value of the content you've worked hard to produce. Remember, it’s all about building a relationship. Make sure they have a way to keep the connection alive.
Creating helpful educational content is one of the best ways to attract new prospects and nurture relationships. However, if you fail to produce helpful content, you’ll waste your time, the time of your audience, and hurt your reputation in the process.
Before jumping into creating content, take the time to plan ahead and make sure you're creating the most effective content.
For other tips for content producers check out our free ebook, The Business Bloggers Guide To Crafting a Powerful Blog.