Did you know that the average person will have 10 interactions with your content before making a purchase? If you’re a B2B company, it’s even more. So what does this tell you? Let me be as blunt as the business end of Mark McGwire’s thunder stick as I can be (LOL this just made me laugh way too hard to not include it). You’re self-promotional email newsletters, social media status updates, tweets, etc, are not working. But you’ve realized that already and that’s why you’re reading this. Allow me to share some additional statistics gathered by Forrester about what your customers trust.
The 6 Most Trusted Types of Content
70% Trust brand or product recommendations from friends or family.
55% Professionally written online reviews (i.e. consumer reports).
46% Consumer written online reviews.
43% Natural search engine results.
32% Information on websites of companies or brands.
27% Sponsored ads on search engine results
Source: North American Technographics Online Benchmark Survey (Part 1), Q2 2012 (US, Canada)
Before we start creating all sorts of content and wasting 70%of our content and time. I want to go over how we can connect to our customers at a level you never thought possible.
The last, but most important find from Forrester recently?
Buyers can be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of their way through the buying process before they ever contact you.
The Why behind Content Marketing
Remember the movie The Ghost and the Darkness? One of my favorites to this day. The one line I remember most from that movie is from John Patterson (Val Kilmer) when he is asked why he loves his work. His response?
“What better job in all the world than build a bridge? Bring land over water. Bring worlds together.”
Our goal with content marketing isn’t to sell your products or services to them in a direct “Buy my product today!” sort of way. Our long-term goal is to “bring land over water. Bring worlds together.” That is essentially what we are doing and what we should focus on with every piece of content we create.
Our other goal is to get them to trust you in a deeper sense than one usually does when choosing which store to buy a candy bar from. How we do that goes against many traditional marketing practices and will test your patience as well.
Tom Fishburne said it best – “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”
Here’s a quick example, I want you to focus on how this piece of content makes you feel.
If this were the first time you had seen this message from a car dealership you had never heard of, would you trust it? Probably not.
Now let’s flip the situation. If you had seen commercials on TV, read raving customer reviews such as the real one below, and saw a friend post a Facebook status about their great experience? You probably would believe it, and this would be the first place you would go to buy your next car.
“I have been in and out of this location for a week now. We got into one car, and decided we wanted another one. This was a hard enough transaction as is, but to top things off my credit is not good right now. They were more than willing to help me, run numbers for everything and made sure I was happy before I left.”
This real-world example shows us why content marketing is so important. More specifically, it shows why creating great content to act as touch-points for your brand determines whether or not people’s instincts will tell them “DANGER! RUN!” or “I WANT MORE!” when they see your final call-to-action and you ask for their money.
The New How of Content Marketing in 3 Time-Consuming yet Essential Steps (At least I’m being honest)
- Step 1 – The Real Buyer Persona
Tony Zambito explains the real buyer persona you need to follow perfectly.
“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)” Tony Zambito, “What is a Buyer Persona. Why the Original Definition Still Matters to B2B.”
Since this article isn’t about the huge (and widely misunderstood) topic of Buyer Personas I urge you to read my post, here, before moving on.
- Step 2 – Bye-bye, Lonely Keywords – Hello, Keyword Concepts
It’s not ancient history, but certainly seems so in SEO terms when companies would focus all of their efforts on a handful of keywords. (No, keywords are not losing value just because we can’t reliably track them in Google Analytics anymore.) But with the increasing intelligence and discernibility of Google’s all-seeing-eye, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate our processes for the make-or-break step of keyword (concept) research.
Rand Fishkin from Moz dedicated an excellent Whiteboard Friday to the topic: (MUST WATCH!)
According to a recent article from Cyrus Shepard, a gigantic 70% of traffic for any page comes from keywords that you didn’t target or optimize for. Shocked? Don’t be. That is why you start with step 1! You read my other article, didn’t you?!
So back to our keyword concepts. What is a concept? Instead of individual keywords we are going to choose as many relevant long-tail keywords as we can that are organized around a main idea or theme. Themes or ideas that we have developed after talking to our customers. This archetypal data will help us create a keyword strategy that will allow us to rank for dozens, if not hundreds, of keywords relevant to our target market.
My Secret Sauce to Keyword Research
Creating a buyer persona and understanding them is going to be like rubbing a magic lamp and having a magical genie pop out. Except instead of being limited to three highly irrational and poorly thought-out wishes you get an infinite supply of customer knowledge and happiness.
I gather all of the keywords related to my concepts. In this case I chose two concepts based off of two separate personas I created and started selecting and removing various keywords. Our objective here isn’t to find every keyword we are going to target with our content, it’s merely to get a solid number of “sub-concepts” that we can further refine into our overall keyword strategy that will match our buyer’s behaviors.
Selecting the appropriate landing page and optimizing it for the right buyer persona at this point is vital as well. We don’t have time to talk about that today. Read this awesome resource, and this one for now. Remember, we’re optimizing for people first, search engines second!
In my first round of keyword research I highlight the ones that I want to use in blue. Again, just a simple way for me to go back and easily see which keywords I have worked on before.
This phase is where you will find out if you’ve done your homework on your personas. Here we are going to match up keywords to each stage of the sales pyramid/sales funnel. Here we begin to build our bridge that our proverbial customer will cross to reach his/her solution.
Keep in mind that visitors using these keywords to come to your page are going to have different needs and goals at each of their points in the buying process. It is important that each TLP is built around those needs and goals in order for you to achieve the highest conversion rate possible for each CTA.
You can add or subtract as many keywords as you wish for your particular campaign or business needs. Although I strongly feel that in order to be known as an expert for this specific concept you need to have a healthy number of keywords. I hope this shows you the immense opportunity for ranking for terms that matter to every possible stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Step 3 – Content Creation
Now that we’ve made it this far, it’s time to really see the efforts of data collection, analysis, and research begin to pay off with our content ideas. I think everyone would agree that it’s much easier to create valuable content when you know what stimulated the target audience to search for your solution in the first place. This is when you begin telling your story and genuinely help people.
Here are just a few of the key events I like to focus on when coming up with content ideas.
- What are the consequences of not solving the problem that my target buyer faces? What problem can I solve for my target buyer?
- Are they even problems worth solving?
- Can it be solved at all?
- If so, how much time, effort, and cost will be required to solve it?
- What options do I have?
- What type of ROI can I expect?
For small businesses you can use a plethora of ideas – from customer reviews, product descriptions, and social media. Content is time consuming and expensive so start small and master the basics and focus on your own blog, such as this delicious example, ourbestbites.com, has done.
- Step 4 – Creating the Execution Calendar & Vision
Now it’s time to bring it all together with our Execution Calendar. I read a great article by Mackenzie Fogelson that I borrowed this design from and I have to say, it works so well! You can use any system you want but this is what I have found helps me keep things in order(along with Asana).
(Just in case you are curious, blue means I assigned it to a team member in Asana, red means I haven’t assigned it yet. Just a simple color code system I used to keep track of things.)
We all know the “A picture says 1,000 words” so here is my blog post summed up in one beautiful graphic.
I hope this has given you some new ideas for content direction and inspired you to reach higher with your content marketing and your efforts to “bring worlds together.” If you’re imitating the content practices of your competitors, as some have suggested doing, or you are creating what you “think” your customers want to see, then you are going to be one step behind the competition and your customers. Rand Fishkin said it best, “Imitation is the best way to stay one step behind.” So get out there, talk to your customers, create content so good they would be willing to pay for it! Know what they are worried about, excited for, and striving for NOW.
Hit me up with your ideas and feedback!