The Internet has changed the way we do everything, and marketing and sales are no exception. Having an active website is vital to the visibility and reach of your business, which means that your website can directly influence the success of your sales. So how do you keep your website active and your business booming?
Two words, my friend: content marketing. If you do it right, content marketing will take your business to the next level. But before we get any further, let me introduce you to someone.
Meet Maximus Barker. Mr. Barker recently started his own business, Doggy Dopamine. Doggy Dopamine’s mission is to help people who are experiencing depression or who are just having a rough day by lending them a dog. People can sign up their friends or family members for a doggy date, and after a thorough background check has been conducted, a dog friend is delivered to the client’s door. People can also sign themselves up. Mr. Barker is just getting his business off the ground, and he knows that spreading awareness via the Internet will increase his popularity and improve his business. But how can Mr. Barker use content marketing practices to promote his business and increase his sales? Let’s start by looking at what content marketing is and how it can be applied practically.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing involves creating high-quality content and distributing that content across different venues. This content should be informative; it should answer a question or fulfill a need for its intended reader or viewer. Companies that practice content marketing aim to become trusted sources of useful information, thus establishing themselves as authorities on topics relevant to their products or services.
The ultimate goal of providing this information is to attract more visitors who, over time, will convert into leads. Some of these leads can then become customers or clients. Content can include blog posts, infographics, videos, ebooks, and more.
In the case of Doggy Dopamine, Mr. Barker may want to focus on a few areas in his content marketing. He’ll want to provide information about dogs, such as dog care, training, and specific information about different breeds of dogs. For example, blog posts like “How to Train a Puppy” and “Training Your Dog According to Breed” would help attract the kind of audience Mr. Barker is seeking. He may even want to have some humorous content about dogs, as this kind of content would be sure to attract dog lovers.
Mr. Barker will also need to create content regarding depression, trauma, and other mood-related topics. Articles or blog posts about how spending time with dogs can improve mood and alleviate depressive symptoms would also be relevant to Doggy Dopamine; this material would appeal to visitors during a later stage of the buyer’s journey, a topic I’ll discuss in greater detail later.
Why content marketing?
Picture this: Mr. Barker knocks on a stranger’s front door. “Hi,” he says, “My name is Maximus Barker, and I run a business called Doggy Dopamine. Would you like to find out how you can lend a dog to a friend in need?” The homeowner, Mrs. Modern, politely declines. Mr. Barker tries one more time, saying, “Did you know that spending time with a dog has a positive effect on mood? Let me tell you all about it—” Mrs. Modern cuts him off. “No, thank you,” she says, “If I want to learn more, I’ll just Google it.”
Mrs. Modern doesn’t know who Mr. Barker is. She doesn’t know where he came from or whether he’s running a legitimate business. And, smart lady that she is, she will never buy anything from someone she knows nothing about. That’s because, unlike the consumers of days past, Mrs. Modern has the resource she needs to find any information she wants about dogs, depression, Doggy Dopamine, or even Mr. Barker himself: the Internet.
If you don’t give prospective clients the information they seek, someone else will. It doesn’t matter how much you boast about your products or services. The fact is, your readers won’t decide that they need or want these products or services based on your advertisement of them; instead, they will acquire all the information they need to decide if buying from you is necessary. You need to be the source of that information: enter content marketing.
Okay, so how do I use content marketing?
There are four basic steps involved in content marketing. I could go into each of them in greater depth, but here are the basics:
Step 1: Identify your target audience(s).
If you think that everyone and their grandmothers will be interested in your business, you’re wrong. There are just too many businesses out there offering too many services––they can’t all be for everyone. Instead, each business needs to establish its target groups, also known as buyer personas. A buyer persona is essentially a fictional example of an ideal customer––that is, someone who both wants and is able to buy your product or service. Relevant information to identify buyer personas includes demographic details, motivations, barriers your personas may face, and problems they need to solve. These buyer personas should be research-based.
There are a few ways to research buyer personas, but the easiest and most direct way is to talk to your existing clients. Surveys are a great way to gather the necessary information, as are interviews. This blog post goes into greater depth about what information is needed to create a buyer persona. Once you have determined whom you’re writing for, it will be much easier to produce content tailored to these groups.
Mr. Barker identified three distinct buyer personas for Doggy Dopamine: university students, aging adults, and people who have recently lost pets. Here are the basic details for each persona:
University students: Males and females in their early twenties. They either live in student housing or with several roommates. They usually don’t have pets of their own, as they don’t have the space, time, or money to care for a pet properly. They’re often under serious stress caused by assignments, and they’re prone to depression or anxiety around exam times. They’re very active on social media sites, which is where Doggy Dopamine should primarily be promoted for this group.
Aging adults: Many are widows or widowers. Their children are grown, and they spend much of their time alone. Many of them are unable to commit to the lifespan of a new pet, or they’re physically unable to care for a pet on a daily basis. This group is less likely to visit social media sites. Traditional marketing may be a better fit for aging adults; however, their children or other family members will often sign them up for doggy dates. The children of the aging adult group can be targeted mostly online. Simple, concise writing is best for the aging adult group as opposed to the more casual and humorous tone that is popular with university students.
People who have recently lost pets: They are grieving from the loss of their own animals. Employing the services of Doggy Dopamine can help them make the transition from having a pet to not having one. They may also use Doggy Dopamine to determine if they want to adopt new pets for themselves. They tend to be middle-aged individuals with families. They often have young children at home, and information about how caring for a pet is good for child development will likely sway them in the direction of trying Doggy Dopamine.
Step 2: Create content for each persona based on different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Understanding the buyer’s journey is essential to a successful content marketing strategy. There are three stages to the buyer’s journey: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage. Different types of content need to be created for each stage.
In the awareness stage, the individual knows they have a problem to solve, but they haven’t yet defined that problem. Because they have yet to define their problem, they haven’t come up with possible solutions yet, either. They’re doing general research to figure out exactly what their problem is. A university student in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey may be browsing the Internet for funny videos of animals or other funny content. If Doggy Dopamine has funny dog videos or memes, there’s a good chance the university student will end up seeing this content.
This type of content should be shared on Doggy Dopamine’s social media sites. Hopefully, seeing this content will lead them directly to the Doggy Dopamine site, thereby making the student more aware of the fact that they were seeking that content because seeing dogs made them feel better. Not all material in the awareness stage will lead viewers directly to conclusions; instead, it may just make them aware that a company or brand exists, even if they aren’t sure what that company does.
In the consideration stage, the individual has identified and defined their problem, and they’re now researching solutions. The aging adult is now aware that they are lonely, and they’re investigating different options for interaction. Doggy Dopamine needs to capitalize on these needs by creating content to show how caring for an animal can help reduce loneliness. The adult may have already determined that he or she would like to have a pet or to care for an animal; in this case, Doggy Dopamine needs to provide content about how fostering an animal can have the same positive effects as adopting a pet, but without the same level of obligation.
The key to all of this content is that the information needs to be true—it needs to be credible, and it needs to actually help the adult make the decision that is right for them. Not all adults in this stage will end up choosing Doggy Dopamine, but there’s no way that any of them will if they aren’t aware that it’s an option. A blog would probably be the best venue for this content, and it should also contain links to other reputable sites on the topic. If Doggy Dopamine doesn’t contribute useful information on this topic, the adult will look elsewhere for it.
In the final stage of the buyer’s journey, the decision stage, the individual has decided on a solution to the problem. All that’s left is to choose which service or product to use. The person is compiling a list of possible vendors and comparing what they offer (and at what price). A person who has recently lost a pet has determined that they’re still feeling sad because of this loss. They have decided against adopting another animal right away, as they’re not ready to make that commitment. Instead, they’re going to foster an animal. They may foster through an organization like the Humane Society, or they may use the services of a company like Doggy Dopamine. Their biggest decision factor is how much responsibility they want to have for the animal.
In this final stage of the buyer’s journey, Doggy Dopamine can be much more explicit about what it’s actually trying to sell. It doesn’t need to emphasize why the individual needs this service; instead, it needs to provide thorough information about what the service entails and how much it costs. For someone who has recently lost a pet, the important thing for Doggy Dopamine to outline is how easy and carefree the process of a doggy date is. Doggy Dopamine also needs to show the individual that the dogs are well cared for, that they all belong to loving homes, etc.
Step 3: Distribute the content.
Content that isn’t seen is as useless as music that isn’t heard. Be sure to distribute your content to make the most of your material. Possible venues for distribution include your blog, other blogs (via guest posting), social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), SlideShare, email, and content syndication sites like Outbrain. Try to repurpose content wherever you can to ensure that you get the most out of it. For example, if Mr. Barker writes a great blog post about how to train a beagle, he may also want to create a SlideShare using this article. If this garners enough attention, Mr. Barker may even consider creating an ebook on training specific breeds of dogs.
Step 4: Track your progress.
Content marketing isn’t about guesswork. You need to test what you’re doing to make sure it’s attracting unique visitors and converting some of those visitors into leads. You need to keep track of metrics like page views, social shares, and lead conversions. This article goes into greater depth on metrics. Google Analytics is the program of choice for most basic tracking of content marketing. It can track things like who visited your site (i.e., demographics, interests, behaviors, location), how much time visitors spent on your site, how many visits they made, which visitors read or shared your content, and which purchased your product or service.
If Mr. Barker uses Google Analytics, he can track each of his three buyer personas. For example, he can follow university students who visit his site, from their first share of a funny dog video to their viewing of one of his site’s landing pages. If Mr. Barker finds that most of his university students who make it to this landing page don’t actually end up converting to a lead or sale, he can make changes to the page and then conduct tests to see if those changes increase his conversions or sales for this landing page.
Now Mr. Barker knows how to get started with content marketing, and hopefully, you do, too.