You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘content is king’ and it really is so very true. Sure, there are many other important aspects of a good marketing strategy but if you don’t have top quality content, your marketing is going to fall flat. But what kinds of content should you produce for your website and social media platforms? Read on for some great ideas.
Your sales funnel
Before I dive into a discussion about the different kinds of content and the goals they can help you accomplish, I first want to define the sales funnel I’m referring to. You see, there are a few different interpretations of the sales funnel. One of the most popular models consists of only the top, middle and bottom of the funnel and is focussed solely on the pre-sales flow of a prospect’s purchase journey. I, however, think the post-sales flow is just as important. After all, if you can get your customers to share their positive experience using your product or service with their friends then they’ll give you a whole lot of free advertising and social proof. And if you give them excellent post-sales support they’ll be much more likely to purchase from you again.
So, the sales funnel I am referring to here is a five-step funnel consisting of:
- top of the funnel – At this stage of the funnel you aim to help your prospects define the problem they are experiencing and position your business as an authority on that issue.
- middle of the funnel – At this point in the funnel your goal is to educate your prospects about how the class of product or service you offer can solve their problem and position your business as an authority on that class of product/service.
- bottom of the funnel – By this stage of the funnel, your aim is to prove that your business’s specific product or service is the best solution to your prospect’s problem and, as a result, convince the prospect to buy your product or service.
- loyalty – By this point in the funnel, you’re focussing on encouraging customers to purchase from you again, thus increasing their value to your business over time.
- advocacy – The final stage in this sales funnel is where you encourage customers to tell their friends and acquaintances about your business and how your products or services can solve problems that those people have, thus gaining you new customers.
Now I’ve defined the sales funnel, let’s look at some ideas for the kinds of content you could use at each stage of the funnel. Note that while you can use print content as part of your sales strategy, here I’m referring primarily to digital content as this content is suitable to the widest range of businesses.
Webpages and blog posts
The most ubiquitous content is probably the written and visual content included on webpages and in blog posts. Webpages are a good place to provide static content and blog posts are a great way of sharing time-sensitive and new content. Websites and blogs are great places to display long-form content.
While the emphasis here is on written content, images are a great way to help illustrate your points and can attract readers. Videos and audio files can also complement your written words.
Social media posts
Social media posts are another high volume type of content though they are generally reserved for short content and often serve as a way of sharing webpage and blog content. They can also be a great way of interacting with customers and prospects.
Social media posts should have well-crafted words as well as engaging visuals. Video posts are likely to be viewed and shared more than other posts but they can take a lot of time or money to create. Images are the next best thing. They may not lead to as many views, clicks and shares but they help posts perform better than text-only posts and they are cheaper and less time consuming to produce. Most social media posts should contain either an image or video.
Email is the last really high volume type of content. Email is great for sharing long and short-form content but it can only be delivered to prospects and customers/clients that have given their consent and provided their contact details. It is a good way of delivering tailored content but the investment required to make it useful may make it impractical for some businesses.
Lead magnets, such as eBooks, white papers, checklists and reports, are a great way of securing the contact details of prospective clients and customers so you can send information directly to them. They also give you an opportunity to go into depth on a given topic.
Testimonials showcase positive customer experiences and are useful for offering ‘social proof’ that your product or service does what you say it will. Written testimonials are good, pictures are better and video is the best.
Case studies are a more detailed form of testimonial in some respects. They can also allow you to show how your product or service can solve a specific problem.
Product comparisons help prospects determine which product or service is best for their purpose. They can also be used to convince users of a competitor’s product or service that yours is the superior alternative.
Tutorials help ensure customers get the most out of the products they have purchased. They can also sometimes be used by prospects to determine whether a product or service is easy to use. They can also help to showcase particularly stellar product/service features.
People learn in different ways so a mix of written and visual tutorials are useful. Once again, video tutorials are often the most effective but they are more expensive to produce.
Frequently asked questions, or FAQs, are a great way of providing the information about a product or service that a prospect needs in order to make the decision to purchase. They’re also very useful for helping customers make the most out of a product or service that they have already purchased. Savvy marketers can also use them to showcase product/service features.
Incentives, such as referral and loyalty discounts, are useful for encouraging repeat purchases and prompting customers to suggest purchases to their friends, family and colleagues. They can also be used to encourage customers to fill in product and customer service surveys as well as to provide honest testimonials and reviews.
How to use this content to achieve your sales goals
Some of these sorts of content pieces are most useful in one part of the sales funnel (for instance, incentives are useful in the loyalty stage of the funnel) but many of them can serve multiple purposes. The below image is a handy guide to the types of content you can use to achieve your business goals at each stage of the sales funnel and you can read on for further details.
Top of the funnel
When you’re looking to define your ideal customer’s problem, social media posts are often the best tool in your toolkit. Webpages can also be useful, however, especially if you’re not interested in using social media.
When it comes to positioning your business as an authority on that problem, webpages, social media and lead magnets can all be useful tools. You would be wise to, at a minimum, have at least one webpage devoted to each problem suffered by each of your ideal customers (that your products or services solve obviously).
Social media is perhaps the most commonly used tool for increasing awareness of your business. Having said that, if you’re not interested in using social media, you might rely on organic or paid search traffic finding your website. In that case, having targeted, high-quality webpages is something that you should invest heavily in. Word of mouth can also generate traffic to your website.
Middle of the funnel
Once you’ve defined our ideal customers’ problems, there are a variety of types of content you can use to teach your prospects that the class of product/service you offer can resolve their issues. Blog posts are often the primary means of doing this but having at least one lead magnet per product/service can also be useful, especially if you want to use an email list to generate repeat sales and up-sell. Once you have high-quality educational material on these topics, you can use social media to share this information. You can also source and share social media posts from other authorities on each issue to support your assertions and help prove your authority.
Bottom of the funnel
One of the most powerful means of proving that your business’s product/service is the ideal solution to a prospect’s problem is to display and share testimonials, case studies and product comparisons. You can display these on your website and share these via social media and email.
Perhaps the only way to trump this strategy is to allow prospects to experience your product/service for themselves. After all, a prospect is always going to trust their own opinion of a product or service over that of others and once someone experiences how much easier their life is due to your product or service, they’re more likely to make a purchase to avoid having to go back to life without that product/service. If this strategy is a viable option for your business, you can create content that defines and advertises a free trial/demo or a consultation. If this isn’t possible, you might resort to discounts or other similar incentives instead.
The best way to encourage repeat sales, cross-sells and up-sells is to ensure customers not only know how to use your product/service but that they know how to get the most out of your product/service. FAQs and tutorials are most useful for this purpose as they accomplish the task with the least amount of investment. These can be posted on your website and shared via email and/or social media. Answering customer queries is another way to accomplish the same thing, however, it requires people to man phones, email accounts and/or social media profiles, or an investment in an artificial intelligence solution.
You might think that discounts and other incentives could be used at this stage to build loyalty. While they can sometimes be effective, it’s much better to build loyalty by educating customers as it maintains the value of your products and services. Customers that make a purchase only when they have a discount to incentivise them are only superficially loyal. It also means you’re less likely to sell any products or services at full price, which effectively devalues them.
Customers that have received great information and assistance through the loyalty phase of the sales funnel are more likely to tell their family, friends and colleagues about your products and services. This is great free advertising but you can increase advocacy rates by proving customers with an incentive in return for sharing their experience as well as an incentive that they can share. A good example is a discount that an existing customer and their friend both get when the referred friend makes their first purchase or signs up for a free trial.
You can also use incentives to ensure you have a great stock of social proof, such as testimonials and case studies, that you can use in other stages of the sales funnel.
Create your content
Now you have some ideas of how to use content to improve your sales, you need to think about how you can generate that content. If you’ve got the skills and time, you can write your own words, create your own images and film your own videos. Chances are, however, that you either don’t have the time or skills required. If this is the case, you’ll want to outsource content creation to one or more experts.
There are a few ways to go about outsourcing content creation. You can look for an agency that produces the kinds of content you’re after or you can engage a freelancer. You could also hire an extra employee with the skills you need although that’s not really outsourcing. The latter might be your best bet if you need to create content about trade secrets before they’re launched. If this isn’t an issue for you, engaging a freelancer or agency is probably your best bet as you can more easily vary the amount you invest in these content produces based on how much content you need to produce at any given time. For instance, you can commission more work when first implementing your content strategy or in the lead up to launching a new product or service.
If you need huge amounts of content, an agency might be your best option because they have multiple people on the payroll and so can ensure they always have enough people to produce the content you request. Some agencies can also produce all types of written and visual content. Agencies may cost more as you have to pay for the work as well as for the privilege of having the agency delegate each piece. You might also find there is a lack of consistency when it comes to the tone and voice of content produced by an agency if pieces are regularly produced by different agency employees.
If your business doesn’t need vast amounts of content, one or more freelance content creators will probably suit you. If you want to outsource written content as well as picture and video creation, you might need to engage more than one freelancer. Those that specialise in video creation might (or might not) also offer image production services but probably won’t produce written content for instance. Having said that, some freelancers may have agreements with other freelancers so that they can offer packages of written and visual content. Freelancers may be cheaper if they have fewer overheads. The greatest benefit of using freelancers, however, is that you can ensure all your written content has a consistent voice and that images and videos have a consistent look and feel simply by selecting a single freelancer for each type of content. You’re also more likely to be able to find someone who specialises in your business’s niche meaning the content you purchase will be higher quality and will likely be better value for money.
What about you?
Do you use these kinds of content in your sales strategy? Have you developed an innovative way to use content to improve sales in your business? Let us know in the comments. And if you’ve decided to outsource your written content creation, email me to discuss your business’s needs and how I may help you use written content to improve each phase of your sales funnel.