A bulletproof content marketing strategy anyone can use

For content marketing that really connects, get into your customer’s head—then have a plan to act on your leads.

For content marketing that really connects, get into your customer’s head—then have a plan to act on your leads.

I’m not a numbers guy, but two stats I recently saw didn’t seem to jive:

  • More than 70% of marketers now use content marketing to generate leads
  • 65%, however, have NO process—or at best an informal one—to respond to those leads

What?!? I saw these stats in an infographic, and they tie (roughly) to others I’ve seen floating about on the web. What these numbers suggest is a sort of off-the-cuff strategy—produce content, willy nilly, and if all your efforts actually work, well, we’ll figure that out then. I’m hoping this trend is changing, because a lot of folks are doing their organizations, and themselves, a disservice.

Many marketers are now opting to buy systems that manage their content marketing for them, like HubSpot, Contently, Marketo, and others (I’m not endorsing anyone, mind you). If you have neither the will nor the cash to go with a content management system right now, at the very least you need some sort of plan.

For a really effective and relatively simple-to-craft content marketing strategy, look no further than your customers’ buying cycle. If you have even a basic understanding of how your customers first connect with you, consider you, and eventually become buyers, you have most of the intelligence you need.

All you have to do is map the right content to the right time of the buying cycle. Most sales experts agree there are five stages to it:

Awareness – This is when a prospect becomes aware of you and your offerings for the first time. They may hear about you from a colleague, or see an ad, or maybe find you via a Google search. If he or she has a need and is intrigued, they move onto the next stage.

Research and consideration – The prospect will dig a little deeper, check out your site, perhaps read reviews, and pour through some of your social media. As you know, SO MUCH data is available to us all, and it’s easy to lose someone at this stage. But, if that person hangs in, thinks you meet a need, and actually likes you, then it’s another few steps up the sales mountain.

Purchase – This is when a prospect converts to being a paying customer. Everything he or she has seen or heard about you just resonates, is believable, and seems right. Out comes the wallet.

Retention – Now, it’s a matter of keeping that customer. Not all businesses fit this stage (some products are truly one-shot deals), but most these days want to upsell or keep someone purchasing.

Advocacy – This is the stage most marketers crave, but few reach. This is when a customer actually recommends you to others, writes a glowing review, is willing to go out and sell on your behalf. They don’t do this out of pureness of heart, but because you’ve treated them well, stood by them, helped them when they’ve asked. In other words, you’ve earned their backing.

Now, think about each stage. If you’re in the midst of crafting a blog, shooting a video, formulating a white paper or whatever the goods are, when does it make sense for that content to make itself known? In other words, for each stage of the buying process…

Imagine the questions a prospect or customer would have. Pardon the overdone cliché, but put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and take a long walk in them. Your understanding of a prospect will work in direct proportion to the type of engaging content you create.

Provide the answers with your content. The more the content gives, the better.

Figure out the best format for your content. Is it an eBook? Infographic? Microsite?

Granted, every business will be a little different. Some have excruciatingly long buying cycles, others are more on the quick-hit side of the spectrum. The moral of this story: Your content needs to be customer centric. Have the right stuff ready for them at the right time, in a format they’ll likely check out.

In the spirit of practicing what one preaches, I’ve put together a little graph of the buying cycle, with sample content ideas for each phase. Yours will likely differ, of course, but it’s a starting point…

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– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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