We have been drinking the content marketing cool aid for years. We understand how content attracts traffic, engages and builds trust….and we get it. Or do we?
There is a conversation we need to have that is often avoided. But before we have that conversation let’s take a little look over our shoulder.
In 2008 I started to notice that the web was changing. Websites that were online static brochures were challenged by blogs that had great content, started to become visible. These included Hubspot, Mashable and Copyblogger. Hubspot’s term for content marketing was inbound marketing. This content was also starting to be powered by social networks that made crowd sourced sharing global, instantaneous and viral. This content marketing tidal wave driven by a social web was at first just a ripple.
Mobile changed the content marketing game
Content marketing was supercharged by fast growing social networks that made content flow with little friction. Bloggers now could get attention by building tribes on social networks. That friction was reduced further by mobiles that enabled one click sharing without being in front of the desk bound computer. Smartphones and tablets increased the immediacy and the velocity. Content sharing took to the road.
Brands became publishers
Brands like Coca Cola changed their marketing focus from creative excellence to content excellence. Other companies like Red Bull took this revolution seriously and created a 150 person publishing company hidden somewhere in the mountains of Austria. The drink company is becoming a media company.
The phrases and the words that are trotted out include: think like a publisher, inbound marketing, be authentic and engage. These were all trotted out in a world blinded by the latest new social network toy and multi-media delights. We now have Snapchat, Periscope, Instagram and Meerkat. These are visual, snack size content platforms that thrive in a mobile centric world.
But content marketing also has a dark side. It’s the challenge of standing out in an ocean of content. Three billion people are using the internet every day and that is going to double in the next few years. They are all creating content. One billion websites and counting makes cutting through the clutter a big task.
Content marketers need to grow up
But it’s time to grow up and get serious. We have all been having fun in the sand box. We enjoy the traffic that content marketing creates and the engagement that it builds with your audience. But it’s time to take off the blinkers and get to work.
It’s time to have that conversation that moves from creating online buzz and brand awareness for its own sake to “conversion.” At the end of the day content marketing should produce leads and sales. Traffic is great to have and necessary, engagement is vital and social shares are powerful to amplify brand discovery. But it is still about sales at the end of the day. Content marketers need to get over content marketing for content sake and realize it is about being commercial. It’s time to stop being fluffy and a bit more hard-nosed.
Related Article: The Content Marketing Ecosystem is at a Crossroads
So for content marketing to work you need to go beyond traffic and engagement. It’s now for content marketing that means business. If you succeed at the first two but forget the third…you will fail. Let’s look at how that works.
This is code for traffic. It’s where the action starts. It’s clicks to your website, blog or online store. When you are discovered then people turn up to your website. They click on the link in Facebook, that tempting headline on Twitter or that Google search result. There are only 2 ways to get this.
Traffic and eyeballs can be earned. Build a social network on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and it will bring you traffic. You can also do it on Facebook but this is heading towards being a waste of time.
Another way to earn it is to rank high in search engines. Being on the first page of Google is worth gold but it takes years to earn that authority and ranking.
But there is a problem with earned traffic. It takes time. How do you earn traffic? Essentially there are 2 ways.
- Social media. You build tribes on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks such as YouTube. This takes years. But crack this nut and you get free crowd sourced marketing that is global. One of the brands that does this well is the video game franchise Minecraft. They train their fans to create YouTube videos that drives traffic and discovery like crazy. Nearly 3 billion YouTube views per month!
- Search engines. Building authority on Google means that being found on the first page of Google search results brings a ton of traffic. This means creating such great content that other websites and blogs link to you. Here is a powerful earned traffic source. A page one rank on Google.
Buying traffic accelerates discovery. Big brands have the budget to buy that all important attention. Smaller brands are stuck between little budget and little time as they struggle to both work in the business and market the brand. But the emerging truth is that paying for traffic on social networks is now almost essential. The free social media lunch is slowly slipping away.
What content do you need for discovery?
It’s varied and an inexact science.
- The catchy and tempting headline that gets shared on social networks that gets clicked
- On Twitter it’s that visual content. It could be that mini-infographic that captures the eye as it streams past in the Twitter stream that gets shared
- On Facebook it’s the quote turned into a visual image
- That short vine video embedded on Twitter
- A visual banner and headline that turns up on your Facebook profile that is a re-targeted
- An entertaining or educational video on YouTube
The list goes on. It’s all about capturing attention at the top of the marketing funnel. Social media excels at the brand awareness task.
Engagement is code for content in a digital world. Engagement doesn’t pay the bills but building trust and credibility with your prospects is essential. A blog post at first glance doesn’t produce sales. But this is where they start to see that you know your stuff. You can be trusted to deliver value.
Content needs to catch attention at the first stage which is the fun part. But if you really want the prospect to believe and trust you then it needs something more. Long slow burning content that moves the engagement from flirting to a meaningful conversation.
What content do you need for deeper engagement?
You got their initial glance and now the challenge is holding their attention for a little longer. The content needs to move from maybe what could be called superficial to that all important deeper conversation. What does that look like?
- Instructional videos
- Case studies
- How to’s
- White papers
Want deeper engagement… then produce some long form content.
This is code for leads and sales. If you don’t execute this step then the first two are just a waste of time. Fun for sure, and even exciting. We all enjoy watching out traffic metrics but now it’s time to fall in love with what matters. Conversion. You can get discovered. You can engage. But if you don’t convert that into leads and sales then you are just spinning your wheels. Many content and social media marketers don’t walk this talk.
Don’t underestimate the challenge
This step is requires experimenting, measuring and hard-nosed analytics to succeed long term. It’s hard. Conversion is a multi-step process. The more expensive the product the longer the journey. It starts with discovery, then moves to engaging the prospect and then the final link is conversion. The sale can happen on-line or off-line. Without doing this the rest is just noise and busyness. In its simplest form online conversion is a 2 step process that involves 2 landing pages.
Lead capture landing page.
Webinars are one of the best ways to capture those all-important leads and add great value for your readers.
Product sale landing page
Once you have the lead you job is then to convert it into a sale whether that is a an entry level product or something more complex.
Want to see some bad ass conversion tactics? Here is Leadpages conversion tactics in action. There are 8 “Call to action’s” on one page!
What content do you need for conversion
Content needs to be woven into the whole journey from discovery to conversion. But hard-nosed conversion requires a bunch of content.
- Well-designed landing pages that have high converting “calls to action”
- Webinars that educate
- Copywriting that convinces
- Educational videos embedded in landing pages in the conversion sequence that build connection and credibility.
- Testimonials from happy customers
- Bonus PDF’s
- Books and ebooks
Are you overwhelmed yet? Creating this takes time, resources and help. To connect all the dots will need creative content and technology. You can run but you can’t hide from that reality. In a digital world you will need digital marketing automation software to scale your efforts. This means using platforms like Infusionsoft, Hubspot and Marketo.
Content is the glue
Content is the glue in all the steps. It needs to be strategic. What content will you use to be discovered, drive engagement and convert traffic to leads and sales?