Many small businesses are investing more time, money, and effort in content marketing: creating their own original online content such as blogs, social media posts, infographics, videos, white papers, and more, to help build an audience and interact with prospective and current customers.
One of the challenges of content marketing is that it's not supposed to be “salesy." Every piece of advice on how to do content marketing typically begins with, “Don't talk about your company or your products; talk about the customer's challenges." Addressing your topics from the customer's point of view will be critical to the success of your content marketing.
And yet, content marketing still needs to help your business make money and show an appreciable impact on sales. So, how do you use content marketing—without being salesy—in a way that actually helps boost your sales?
Here are a few insights to keep in mind when you're planning your content marketing strategy:
Sell Without Selling
The best content marketing does not come off sounding like a sales pitch. Content marketing strives to help your customer solve a problem, learn something new, or be entertained. It's less about your specific product and more about your customers' lives.
For example, if you run a hardware store, you could make fun YouTube videos showing your customers how to use different tools or equipment. If you run a restaurant, you can host a cooking show or a behind-the-scenes interview with your restaurant chef and kitchen staff, or offer free recipes and wine pairings on your restaurant blog.
The key is to engage your customers and prospective customers—to make people want to get to know you better—and to help put a human face on your business in a way that your competitors might not be able to match.
Teach, Then Sell
Some of the best content marketing, especially for complex B2B sales, is focused on educating the customer. Many customers are already doing their online research before they decide to buy from you or even contact your company for the first time.
Your content marketing needs to meet them midway in their research process and help them get better informed—not only about your products or services, but also about the broader business environment and specific challenges that they're trying to address.
This is why white papers and case studies are such popular forms of B2B content marketing: They enable you to go into detail and educate your audience, while also building up your business's reputation as a thought leader in your industry and beyond.
Segment and Target Your Content
Being effective at content marketing is not just a matter of publishing a blog and waiting for your audience to come to you.
You need to have a sophisticated strategy to target your content based on the specific needs of your audience—which is made up of different types of influencers and customers, each of whom may be reading your content at different stages of their purchasing process, and who may be engaging with your content in different contexts (such as on mobile devices, while in a store, while on social media, etc.).
With these differences in mind, your content marketing needs to offer different types of content for different audiences. You'll want to be able to speak to the concerns and questions of different types of customers, and deliver content via multiple channels—email, social media, online, and more. Not every customer is the same, so your content should not be homogeneous either.
Listen and Respond
By using the right attitude and a variety of approaches, your content marketing can become a more effective sales tool—not by making a sales pitch or by talking about your specific products, but rather by speaking to the specific concerns of your customers at every stage of their purchase (and use) process.
Listen to your customers and seek to understand their issues. Your content marketing needs first to build credibility and generate compelling value to establish and enhance your relationship with prospective customers—and then you can capitalize on that momentum by making the sale.
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