November 23, 2015
Effective Content Marketing
Automating lead nurturing and the customer journey requires content – blog posts, customer stories, emails, infographics, and more. If there’s no content in the mix, you’re stuck blasting people with product pitches and sales meeting invitations…which doesn’t work. Today’s consumers expect more from marketers. In a recent study of 1,200 US-based consumers, 72 percent of those surveyed said they are frustrated when they receive generic marketing that doesn’t relate to their interests. Translation: Batch and blast marketing is out. Personalized lead nurturing is in. The good news is setting up lead nurturing is a piece of cake once you have content to work with, so…
Start building your content vault
Your content vault is any piece of content you can use in your marketing. Think of the early-stage SaaS buyer who is browsing the web for different solutions, but isn’t ready to sign up for your service. Or consider the newsletter subscriber who has been reading your blog for the past six months and is starting to wonder what others are gaining from your product. The former needs a best practices blog post, the latter needs a customer story. To help you start building your own vault, we’re going to focus on three content pieces you can create within the next week or two. The goal is to start with these quick wins and build from there.
First, write one blog post that solves a common customer problem
One of content’s primary jobs is to alleviate pain points. Kind of like a doctor – in your posts, you identify symptoms and then offer readers a cure. If you don’t know which pain points your readers are stressing about, set aside time to research your audience and develop target personas. Once you’ve identified a common customer problem, get to writing while keeping these best practices in mind:
- **Clarify your direction. **The best posts zero in on a specific audience, a clear purpose, and honest success criteria. As the saying goes: “If your content marketing is for everybody, it’s for nobody.”
- Teach, don’t sell. Readers can smell a mile away when you’re trying to sell them on your product. Being too salesy pushes people away now that consumers expect knowledgeable content from companies. The way to cut through the noise is by giving away valuable expertise.
- Get expert insights. You don’t have to write this post on your own. Your CEO, marketing team, or sales reps can contribute their expert insights. Record your interviews with them to speed up the writing process. Trust me, it’s faster.
- **Write just enough. **Ignore the arguments over whether your posts need to be 200 or 2,000 words. What matters is the actual content of the blog post. Is it insightful? Does it give the correct action steps? Solve your customer’s problem in as few words as possible, and move on.
Resist the urge to plan out your whole blogging strategy right now, especially if you’re a company trying to bring a dead blog back to life. The priority is getting your three content pieces ready to go. You can figure out how to generate 126% more leads with blogging in a week or two!
Second, make one lead nurturing email to build trust with potential buyers
The conversation typically goes like this when companies without much content or communication try to re-engage with their stagnant leads:
Sales guy #1: “We need to nurture the old database.” Sales guy #2: “That sounds great! We need to jumpstart the business and drive revenue. What should we do?” Sales guy #1: “Let’s email our whole database and ask for a sales meeting!”
Sounds like a good plan…right? On the surface, yes, but that approach doesn’t work now that buyers can be 90 percent of the way through the buying process before they reach out to a salesperson. You have to warm people up to the idea of talking to you by sending valuable and educational content, also known as lead nurturing. Here’s a great example of a lead nurturing email from our friends at Zapier: The brunt of the content previews their interesting blog post and encourages people to keep reading more. There’s an unassuming “What is Zapier?” section at the bottom with a “Start My Free Trial” call-to-action for people ready to sign up. And if you look closely, the green call-to-action stands out way more than the gray one. I’m positive this is on purpose – this email is focused on giving value first with great content instead of heckling the reader to try their product. To create your own, repurpose the blog post you just wrote and follow the formula for the perfect lead nurture email. There is barely any extra content creation necessary. All you have to do is include the post’s feature image, an enticing snippet, and call-to-action to read more. Then you’re done and done. Now your content vault is really starting to cook! The last piece of content to create is a customer story.
Third, create one customer story that resonates with your target audience
Customer stories are a powerful way to win the hearts and minds of potential buyers. This quote from Fast Company succinctly explains why: “It’s far easier for us to remember stories than cold hard facts because our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening.” In other words, telling your customers’ stories helps people pictures themselves in the story, which in turn leads them to becoming a customer. Turns out good storytelling is good for business. Practically speaking, customer stories come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen approaches that are primarily video, picture heavy, mainly text, or a combination of all three. Choose your medium based on your available resources. Your top priority is to create a customer story that resonates with your target personas. This is gold to generate more interest from your website and handy for your sales team to share with leads. The common elements of a customer story are who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Who is the customer? Paint a picture of their day-to-day work and context for finding your company.
- **What problem were they trying to solve? **Highlight the pain that started their search for a solution. There’s a good chance others have experienced the same and will resonate with the story.
- Where are they located? Mention where their company is located. This is especially beneficial if your clientele is global, located in big name cities, or in locales where potentials customers live.
- Why are they trying to solve this problem? Dig deep here. Don’t shy away from the emotion-driven reasons or the compelling vision of your customers. That may be what draws people in.
- How did they solve their problem with your product or service? Show, don’t just tell what they did. And most importantly, share results, results, results!
Check out this example from Asana for inspiration: Asana does a great job telling Mashable’s story. The piece paints a picture of Mashable’s context and felt need, and shows how easy it was to integrate Asana into their daily workflow. Each paragraph is authored by a different Mashable team member, which adds a human feel while speaking to multiple audiences. The style is distinctly Asana but a great example to learn from for your own customer stories.
Adding to your content vault over time
If I’ve done my math correctly, you now have one blog post, one lead nurturing email and one customer story. Nice work! Your content vault is off to a great start. From here, start using this content in your marketing with the nurture leads into paying customers guide or keep creating more since you’ve already got your content wheels turning. Every piece of content you add to your vault is fuel for automating lead nurturing and the customer journey. Do you have any follow up questions about creating blog posts, nurture emails, or customer stories? Any pro tips you’d like to add from your experience? Let us know in the comments.