Marketing has changed. The sales process has changed. Consumers have changed. In order to reach your potential customers and really get them into your funnel so that you can nurture them into customers, intrusive outbound marketing just doesn't work anymore.
Marketing and the perception of marketing has completely changed, as we outlined in How Marketing Has Changed: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing. Consumers are no longer interested in "being sold" and are relying more and more on search engines to do their own research. They have less need for salespeople and we, as a society, are responding less and less to traditional outbound marketing.
So, with such a dramatic shift from how we've always done it, how do we continue to reach our prospects and keep our sales moving in the right direction? The key is great educational content.
As we've talked about before, 57% of the sales cycle is complete before a prospect ever reaches out to a salesperson. What this means is that consumers are becoming more educated and they're willing and able to educate themselves about almost any product or service that they need or want. Can you remember the last major purchase that you made without at least doing some sort of research on your own? Probably not.
So, where that leaves us as marketers and business owners, is in a situation where we have to become educators. We have to help our consumers do their own research by providing the information that they're looking for.
Great content is no longer defined by just great design, fun animations, or catchy headlines. It's defined by being helpful, informational, educational, and most of all, useful for our consumers. So how can you go about being more helpful and start creating great content that gets noticed and used by your prospects? Here are 4 steps to do just that...
Create Your Personas
There are few things as important to your marketing success as really, truly understanding who your target personas are. Your target personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers and they should be heavily researched and continuously developed to give you and your team an always improving understanding of who they are, what they're interested in, how they like to do their research, and which format resonates best with them.
Nothing should be done before you have a handle on your target personas. If you haven't already developed your personas, download our free Buyer Persona Worksheet!
Audit Your Funnel
It's so easy for every business to want to focus all of their attention on the bottom of the funnel, but by doing that, you're also failing to be the source of education that prospects look to when they're doing their research.
Before you start developing a new piece of content, go through every single piece of content that you've shared. That includes blog posts, checklists, eBooks, white papers, infographics, and any other content that you may have available to your prospects. Determine which part of the sales funnel that it falls into and which stage of the inbound methodology that it falls into. By doing this you'll easily spot holes in your content and identify where you need to spend extra time developing new content. We'd bet that it's likely in the top and/or middle of the funnel.
Start with Your FAQs
One of the easiest sources of content, for any stage of the funnel, are the questions that you continuously get from your prospects and customers. If one person asks a question, it's likely that many more have the same question, but they just haven't asked it. Start with your frequently asked questions and develop content around each one.
PRO TIP: Be sure to actually answer the questions and give away the information that your prospects need. Holding back information or only giving half answers is a great way to lose trust with your prospects. Remember, your focus is on becoming an educational resource.
Create & Understand Your Sequence
The next step in your journey to great content is understanding the "what's next?" question. Starting to put together not only how you will follow up with a prospect, but also what other content they may be interested in is very important. Start to think about what the next piece of content that a specific contact may be interested in if they've downloaded or read a specific piece of your content. Doing so will give you a better idea of what other content to promote to each prospect and will help you move your prospects through the funnel.
The landscape of great content has completely changed over the last few years. For content to truly be great, it's got to be helpful, not salesy. All great content starts with a great strategy. The HIVE GrowthPlan is a fully customized, detailed, and executable strategy for all of your digital marketing campaigns. Check out what should be in your digital strategy!