I remember when the stuff I knew about brands all came from a paid media source or clunky communications from the company itself. Take one of my favorite toys as a kid—LEGOs. The only way I would know about those amazing plastic building blocks was through TV advertising, seeing a set in the store long before the amazing displays of today, or through a catalog that was included in each of the sets. So, while LEGOs had a direct way to connect with me as a kid consumer of their building blocks, they still had to stay within the established marketing and communications channels of the day. I knew nothing else about the story LEGOs wanted its followers to know.
Over the last 20 revolutionary years of digital media storytelling, we’ve seen companies shift and control the narrative they tell about themselves in drastic ways. LEGOs represents one of the largest elephants in the content marketing room, of course—they consistently impress us with all of their content swag out there. They have fully embraced the mantle of telling the whole LEGOs story to a clearly defined audience. With our ever-growing digital reliance, the onus has shifted from media and ads doing all the communicating to the brands themselves communicating directly to consumers in their own proprietary channels, like their website, social media spaces, email, and, yes, blockbuster movies. I’ll give you three guesses as to the key marketing strategy LEGOs has tapped into: if my headline above didn’t tip you off, it’s a clearly defined content marketing campaign.
Why should you invest in an inbound content marketing strategy for your organization?
But, let’s not forget about the consumers of your content—what’s the benefit to them? Well, if you’ve clearly identified where your customers find value from your organization, your content has helped them overcome a knowledge gap of some kind. A gap in expertise. A gap in software. A gap in human resources to get a job done. A gap that hasn’t allowed them to move forward in some way.
So, where do you get started in establishing or improving on your inbound content efforts? Here’s three of the biggest beats to get agreement on as you dive into creating valuable content for your customers:
Regardless of whether you have it written down, published and approved, you have an internal sales funnel. There are specific touchpoints by individuals within your organization that are key to making any sale happen. Tap into them to get a better understanding of which inbound efforts will resonate most with your audiences. These frontline sales and customer service people can be a wealth of content gold. Where do potential customers need the most guidance when it comes to sales or service? What are the most common questions they face when discussing needs with customers? Though it might seem like low-hanging fruit to a salesperson, the answers to these questions are where your potential customers have a knowledge gap.
Put focused and collaborative thought to your buyer’s journey and you’ll begin to see a clear picture of where your audiences have needs that you can meet. Your first job is to identify where they have gaps in their knowledge. As seen in my highly scientific illustration below, the gap area is where you’ll want to focus much of your content marketing.
This is the exact point at which your expertise, product or service is meeting the consumer where they have a need. Your job is to align the right types of content to each stage of your customer’s journey across that gap. By the way, this does not need to be complicated. Get some of your best brains in the room, put a bunch of Post-it notes and thick sharpies on the table and begin tasking yourselves with all of the things your potential customers don’t know. Your Post-its will begin to fill that gap quite quickly.
For our purposes in this article, we’ll consider there to be three broad categories of engagement by your customers and potential customers. When you get out of the weeds and stop chasing down every possible path, it’s amazing how much easier it is to align content against these three main buckets:
To be most effective in your content marketing, match the content you will develop to one of these three stages. Keep reminding yourself of the content marketing mission:
Your content challenge: What is most relevant and engaging to your audience at that particular stage of their decision making process?
With the understanding that every company and service is a little unique in their own way, an example flow of tactics by stage might look something like this:
Goal: Generate traffic and general awareness
Ways to support: Blog/Article posts, social media updates, published primary research, quarterly newsletter, news, event attendance, email
Goal: Generate leads
Ways to support: Educational resources, downloadable guides, webinar/events, blog/article posts, marketing landing pages, email
Goal: Convert leads to customers
Ways to support: Demo, customer testimonials, sell sheets, webinar/events, email
Take a look, and make note of all of the ways you support each buying stage and your audience’s needs.
As you begin to create, publish and eventually re-publish your content, it will dawn on you that you’ve created quite a library of content assets—congratulations! You’ve now become a publisher (in addition to the provider of your core service or product). About this time, you’ll also understand how it can be a challenge to manage all of this content, make sure the pieces are getting published in a timely manner and also focus on future content needs. That’s where a marketing automation platform will help you efficiently manage all of the many content touchpoints you’ve created with current and potential customers.
We like to be helpful, so KW2 has created a handy guide to help you decide which marketing automation platform might be right for you, so download our marketing automation comparison tool and get started! Always remember that any tool you eventually adopt should be working for you and not the other way around. If software is too confusing and thick to make it work to your benefit, then it’s not worth the licensing money you’ve devoted to it.
And, now, excuse me, I need to get back to my LEGO project…