Did you know 81% of your customers conduct online research before making a purchase? Additionally, 73% of all retail shoppers use multiple channels to research products and make a purchase. It’s abundantly clear that today’s consumers are finding information and making purchases on multiple channels, so if you aren’t present on those channels, then you’re missing the opportunity to engage with your customers. So what’s the answer? How do you reach your customers on multiple channels in a smart, engaging way?
Two words: Content Marketing (CM)
Content marketing employs multiple channels to attract, engage, and retain potential and current customers. Don’t let the word ‘content’ throw you, CM isn’t only about writing content. Over the past few years, content marketing has ballooned into a beast that encompasses many different forms of inbound marketing tactics on multiple channels. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to creating a winning content marketing strategy that will help you reach and retain customers in a fun, friendly, and informative way.
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that attracts, engages, and retains potential and current customers. In simple terms, you produce content like blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, or videos (to name a few!) that meet the needs and wants of your customer base. By providing informative content on various channels, you'll attract the initial information-gathers, and if the information you provide is informative and relatable, the chance of retaining that potential customer increases tremendously. Unlike a TV or radio advertisement that is only seen or heard once, content marketing has a long lifecycle and can be shared repeatedly, increasing your reach without spending any additional time or money.
Creating a Winning Content Marketing Strategy
A great content marketing strategy centers on the understanding that by enhancing your customers' experience with your brand through thoughtful, informative content, the result will be increased conversions and lasting relationships.
The following five steps will lead you to a winning content marketing strategy:
1. Identify Your Audience
First and foremost, who is your audience? Do you want to reach the masses or focus on your niche market? The content you produce should always be directed toward the audience you want to reach. For example, if you’re in the landscape business, writing an article about children’s toys will not get you very far. However, writing an article about the safest sunscreen might not be a bad idea since your customers are in the sun all day - giving them a few tips on sun protection can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship. Imagine if every time your customer goes to buy sunscreen, they think of your article - THAT is content marketing done right! Again, the goal is to enhance your customer's experience with your brand, not disrupt their day with an ad featuring your product they may or may not be interested in at that time.
Frequency is almost as important as identifying your audience. It is absolutely critical that you produce content on a regular, dependable schedule. Can you commit to posting on social media daily or only three times a week? Decide what content schedule is sustainable for you and your team and stick to it. The good news is that once you get into the routine, it becomes second nature.
3. Content Producer
Once you decide to pursue a content marketing strategy, you’ll need to determine who will produce the content. If you do not already have someone on staff that can dedicate the time needed to your content marketing strategy, consider either outsourcing or hiring a content strategist or copywriter. Keep in mind that having a dedicated writer on staff can lend to many other in-house projects.
4. Content Marketing Platforms
Once you’ve decided on the subject matter of the content you want to produce, the next step is deciding which platforms will be best to reach your target audience.
Social media is by far the cheapest and easiest method for reaching your customers - and the masses, for that matter. If you already have a social following on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, this is a great place to start your content marketing efforts.
Weblog - (a.k.a Blog)
Blogs are easy to set up, in some cases are free, and have a long lifecycle in terms of value for your time and impact on customers. Unlike the fleeting staying power of TV and Radio ads, blog posts remain available to your customers for the life of the blog and can be shared an infinite amount of times.
Having an app can be a tremendous advantage over your competitors, but only if the content and products offered on the app draw users back regularly. Nike is an excellent example of having an app that sells products and provides value to its users via fitness programs and motivational information. A great balance between content and products is essential when building an app program.
Podcasts are one of the most up-and-coming forms of content marketing. Apple currently hosts 2.4 million podcasts, with a combined total of 69 million episodes available in over 100 languages. Currently, eighty-million Americans listen to at least one podcast each week - by 2023, the number of people tuning into podcasts weekly is expected to double to 160 million. If you have the means and the right niche for a podcast, this alone could be a game-changer for your business and customer base.
Producing videos for a company's YouTube channel is a form of content marketing employed by every major brand. Between being free to use and having the ability to record quality videos on a smartphone, YouTube is undoubtedly a winning addition to any content marketing strategy.
NOTE: Creating branded videos for your business should be seriously considered, especially when you consider that one video can be repurposed on multiple channels - YouTube, email newsletters, social media posts, and embedded in the company website and blog.
Another great way to reach your customer base is through an e-Book. To justify the time and cost associated with producing and publishing an e-book, you must have instructional or informative content that would benefit a large group of people. A huge bonus to writing and publishing an e-book is that it provides multiple opportunities for ROI if you decide to sell the book on Amazon.
Having a newsletter should already be a part of your marketing mix. Newsletters are free and a great way to remain top-of-mind with your customer base. In addition, if the content you provide is informative and beneficial, then there’s a good chance of the newsletter being forwarded to colleagues, friends, or family.
Infographics are a winning part of any CM mix because they provide easy-to-digest information in a fun format.
If you have templates or worksheets you are currently using in-house that could benefit your customers, consider sharing publicly.
5. The best content to share at each stage of the customer journey:
Awareness / Information-gathering
Share articles, blog posts, e-books, videos, and newsletters during the information gathering and awareness stage.
Share case studies, how-to articles, how-to videos, templates, or worksheets during the consideration stage.
Closing / Purchasing
If you are trying to close a customer, share customer stories, user-generated content, buyer’s guide, product videos, and research reports.
When it comes to your overall content marketing strategy, remember the goal is to build relationships and trust with your existing and potential customers. If your customers see that you care about them bettering their situation, you will most likely be their first choice when it’s time to buy.
For more on Content Marketing and why it’s one of the best areas for a company to invest their time and money, please check out our PowerChord Podcast covering all things Content Marketing with guest Travis Tyler - the Senior Digital Content Producer at PandaDoc. Listen here.
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