What Is Content Marketing, And How Can Your Business Use It to Sell?
by Jim Granat
Jim Granat is Head of Small Business at Enova International. He connects SMBs with credit through Headway Capital and The Business Backer.
The customer life cycle of a product or service is a delicate process to manage. You need to find the right customers, convince them to make a purchase and keep their interest so they continue to come back. But how do people find out about your business? How can you show how useful your service is to the right people? And how do you keep existing customers interested?
If your answer to those questions is to advertise on traditional channels, like TV, radio, billboards and the like, it’s possible you’ll see a good return on investment. But you’re not targeting a particular audience with such a broad marketing approach. If you don’t have a clear definition of your brand story, your target audience or where to contact them, there’s no way to give prospective customers what they need or want to hear.
Content marketing involves all the material that’s created for a specific audience to help build your brand and engage your audience. It merges your brand messaging with your audience’s desires and needs to create an experience or an emotional connection. Each deliverable has a particular intent; your purpose may be to notify existing customers of a new feature, to educate prospective customers of your product’s uses, to increase brand awareness or to accomplish something else entirely. This means that, ideally, content marketers address all stages of the customer life cycle and buying funnel. Content marketing entails a variety of media, including blog posts, product white papers, webinars, landing pages, social media posts, ads, emails, infographics, videos and articles. If you’ve visited a blog, seen Twitter or Instagram ads, or watched Facebook and YouTube videos, you’ve no doubt seen a variety of content marketing material.
How can you use content marketing to sell? Here’s a look at some examples of practical content marketing and how you can use it.
What can content marketing do?
Depending on the nature of your business, content marketing can accomplish a number of things. When done well, it can attract new customers, educate existing clients on how to use your product, re-engage drop-off customers, highlight newsworthy mentions of your company, feature other businesses that use your service and more. More importantly, it can help customers establish an emotional connection with your brand or product. Content marketing helps build your brand with the information you create and distribute, and can ultimately help you sell your product or service. If you produce high-quality, steady content, you can increase your audience engagement organically as more people rely on and respect your brand.
At the company I work for, our marketing and creative teams analyze every stage of the buying process and customer touch points, from early research and awareness stages to the conversion and engagement phases. We know that repeat customers are less expensive to maintain than new ones and are typically more engaged than the average non-customer. But we don’t just market to existing customers. The goal is to provide the right message to the right person at the right time.
For example, our prospective customers don’t always come from a financial background, and we want to foster a sense of financial responsibility in our customers. So we took a holistic approach to our marketing strategy. Small-business owners can access our resource page to learn about a variety of topics, from loan products and financial terms to marketing, management and sales guides. Our blog regularly publishes articles, infographics, templates and product reviews specifically for our target audience, small-business owners. Doing so helps increase visibility and transparency while guiding the customer along a complete life cycle.
Even if you don’t provide the right product for a particular visitor, that’s fine; your on-page content marketing can still accomplish the goal of providing the appropriate message for that person. The fact that the person interacted with your brand is still beneficial.
How can you use content marketing to sell?
Once you’ve identified your customers, what they want, where to find them and your objectives, you’ll be able to produce what’s actually useful to them. If you distribute content of value, whether that be humorous, informative or helpful, people are more likely to share and link to your content. This helps increase brand awareness on a qualitative level, but it also can help improve your site’s search engine optimization with additional links going back to your website on a quantifiable level. These inbound links help improve your site’s rankings. When your website is more prominently listed on a search engine results page, you’ll organically outrank your competition. This increased visibility and brand awareness and better search engine results can also help establish credibility for your brand.
Email campaigns are another effective form of content marketing I’ve seen increase conversions. One of my company’s email campaigns that has been particularly successful focuses on recent website visitors who ultimately did not convert. We sent them a follow-up email with well-crafted messaging based on the specific product they researched. The email content reminds the customer of our product’s benefits, while making it easy for them to continue where they left off.
This targeted messaging can apply to other scenarios, such as educating new customers on feature benefits, reminding people of premium offerings or leading them to explore additional products and services. Email is just one customer touch point where you can create a meaningful connection with your customers. A successful content marketing strategy guides customers along; it caters to people on various stages of their journey.
How can you make content marketing work for your business? Start with what your customers want, and create content that is relevant to their interests and your core business. As you can see, effective content marketing doesn’t just utilize one approach. Employing various content marketing methods can help you diversify your efforts and reach more customers in the buying cycle.