I get it… You hear all the experts talking about content marketing and how great it is. But you’re still asking yourself about how an effective content marketing strategy drives sales to any kind of business.
What if I told you that you’ve probably made your last online purchase decision due to some type of content marketing?
“What are you talking about, Alkan?”
I understand that question. But listen to this story that happened to me last month:
DigitalMarketer’s Content Marketing Strategy Exposed – How They Made Me Pull Out My Credit Card
Check this out:
Good job, ha?
But how did this happen? Lean back, relax and listen to this very interesting story…
A month ago, I was scrolling down on my LinkedIn feed. You know, just to catch up with my network… Then suddenly, I saw a post by Marcus Murphy, talking about how DigitalMarketer is offering a month of free access to their training platform…
With a link to their sales page.
I thought “Let me check that.” and clicked on the link. There it was: A great sales page talking about why they are giving free access to the platform and all the beautiful benefits.
The offer caught my attention right away. So I went ahead and put the information that was required to join.
After 2-3 weeks of learning new things and refreshing my marketing knowledge, it was time to either be a paid subscriber or completely say “Goodbye!”. At this point, I was also inside the community. I made a few friends and had great conversations.
What do you think was my decision?
Of course, I converted into a paying subscriber. But how did that happen?
Breakdown of my Purchasing Process
One word: Content Marketing.
This is exactly the answer to how content marketing drives sales… Let’s look at the little bits and pieces of their content marketing that made me a paying customer:
(NOTE: DigitalMarketer obviously has also other marketing channels to get all these people signing up for their service. But I’d like to show you how I got into it through their content marketing strategy.)
1st Step – Their Social Media Post
The post from Marcus Murphy took my attention. This is some form of content marketing. It hooks you in the Awareness and Engagement stages of the customer journey (more on that later).
2nd Step – Their Sales Page
The initial sales page that I saw, was built in a great way. Good explanation of the features and benefits. All the great stuff that goes into copywriting, was effectively used on the sales page.
A sales page is usually dedicated to converting someone into a customer. But this time, it was more like turning a visitor into a subscriber in return for their information. This is again a part of the customer journey but I’ll explain it in a later section.
3rd Step – All Their Free Courses
Now usually people pay hundreds of dollars to get into their training platform. But this time, it was all free for a period of time.
Let’s remember: All the informational assets that you have (if you have any) are a big part of content marketing. This can be in shapes like video courses, a whitepaper, a pdf report, etc… More on all the different types of content later.
4th Step – Their Online Community
You may not have a community around your business but in this case, the community is an important part of the process.
With everybody posting great stuff about the training, or even answering your personal questions, excitement about the service increases. And like I said… You may not have a community for your business, but to excite your customers is a wonderful content marketing strategy.
If you can excite them for your product/service, you can make them a loyal customer.
5th Step – Their Email Onboarding Process
As soon as I’ve signed up for the free access, I got onboarded with valuable email newsletters. They made me know exactly what to do depending on my specific goals.
Onboarding can be done with any type of content. Depending on your business, you can give them a call, send a direct mail, or use an automated email campaign, etc.
This content type is also a part of the excitement phase of the customer journey (I know you wanna hear about what the customer journey is, but please stick with me. I’ll let you know very soon).
The Final Status
At this point, I was engaging with the brand.
- I’ve read their blog posts…
- I’ve connected with names on LinkedIn…
- I completed a couple of courses…
- I’ve chatted with other members…
- I’ve read their value-offering email content…
These are all the small parts of a great content marketing strategy. But these little things made me pull out my credit card and turn into a paying customer.
Now, I’m going to turn the attention to you…
What’s your content marketing strategy?
Obviously, the guys at DigitalMarketer are in the game for a long time and know exactly what to do. But how does your content marketing look like right now?
If you have a website or any social media profile, then you are implementing a content marketing strategy… It is either attracting customers to your business or it’s making a bad impression. But the worst thing is something else:
Not having any impact is the worst thing that can happen to a business.
Anyway, this blog post is for those that are interested in content marketing and how it can drive sales to your business.
It doesn’t matter if you’re already using content marketing strategically. Or maybe, you’re just trying things out but don’t have a clear strategy… This blog post is for you.
Let’s continue with a birds-eye view.
The Overall Content Marketing Funnel
Check this out…
Whatever you do, people first have to be aware of your business. They have to know if you can solve their specific problem. At the awareness stage of the overall funnel, you can use different types of content to get attention from your ideal customer.
Next is the evaluation stage. At this point, your ideal customer has consumed your content. He/she is evaluating if you’re a good fit or not.
Depending on your impression, the reader will make a move. You have two options:
- The prospect will take the next step with you (buy your product, call you, share their contact info with you, download your whitepaper, consume more of your content, etc.).
- Or he/she will move on. They will probably go on a search engine and look for other solutions until he/she decides to do business with one of your competitors.
In the last stage, as the name says, the person will ideally convert into a paying customer.
By the way, you’ll use different types of content in each step of the funnel. That’s where effective content marketing comes in.
This is the overall content marketing funnel of any business. Whatever you do, your customers are going through this funnel. But there is a more detailed version which we call The Customer Journey (credits to DigitalMarketer). Let’s take a quick look at that.
Content Marketing in the Customer Journey
The next visual will make it clear on how content marketing drives sales for businesses. In short, content helps people make informed buying decisions.
Do you know the feeling when you make a purchase without being 100% certain?
That’s not pleasant.
This is why successful businesses use informational content to give the prospect a better view of the product. The prospect feels more certain about the product and voila, purchase done. More than that, you’ll have a happy customer and fewer refunds.
Alright, so check this out:
This is the journey that most of your customers will take. The better you optimize this journey, the more sustainable business you’ll have.
So for the following paragraphs, I’d like to go deep into each step. Better than that, I’ll give you content marketing examples for each step so you know exactly what other successful businesses are doing.
Is that a deal?
Customer Journey Process – The Aware Stage
Before someone can have any interaction with you, they have to know that you actually exist, right?
This is the first step in the customer journey. You have to create awareness in your market space so people can consider your product or service. If they don’t know about you, they’ll choose someone who’s familiar.
Building relationships is the key term here. Let’s say that you advertise from a Facebook ad, directly to your $2000-$3000 service/product. That probably won’t work because taking a huge step is difficult for most people. That’s why a small time investment for an interesting piece of content is usually the first step in the journey.
People are googling, checking social media, watching videos… If you can have a dedicated content asset that requires almost no investment (other than time), it will create initial awareness with your potential customer.
Here are a couple of examples of content marketing in the aware stage.
Content Marketing Examples – Blog Posts
Blog posts are a great way to build awareness. They are informative. But more than that, they build trust and show your expertise to a potential customer.
Blog posts create the certainty that a potential customer needs before taking the next step with you. You teach them how a service/product like yours, can change their business.
Here is an example. Let’s say that I’m a SaaS business and I’m thinking about an explainer video on my website. But I’m not sure if they are effective or it’s just a hype. That’s why I go to Google and type: “how effective are explainer videos?”
So I click on the first results and this is what I see:
A great informative article. If this was a website that offered explainer videos, I would start considering their service because they were the ones clearing my doubts about purchasing an explainer video.
But unfortunately, they don’t offer that service. This is a clear sign that some video agencies are not taking advantage of blog posts as a content marketing strategy (or they are at least not targeting that keyword).
Anyway, let’s continue with the next example.
NOTE: Content Stackers offers SEO optimized blog posts for businesses. This will make sure that you’re building awareness in your market space. If you’ve found a keyword that you want to rank on, let us know and we’ll create an SEO optimized masterpiece. If you’re interested in trying out our service, contact us by clicking here.
Content Marketing Examples – Social Media Updates
Do you remember my story at the beginning of the blog post? Marcus’s LinkedIn update created awareness around their offer.
That made me take the first step.
So if you have a social audience, make sure to be in the minds of your followers.
Content Marketing Examples – Videos
YouTube… If you target the right keywords on YouTube, you have a better chance to rank on that keyword compared to Google.
Because most people just upload videos without doing any keyword optimization. They just create good videos but when people search for a specific topic, they are not discoverable.
But to make it short, videos are a great way to create awareness for your business.
Content Marketing Examples – Images and Podcasts
The last two types of content to use in the Awareness Stage are images and podcasts. By images, I mean media like infographics. People love to consume information through infographics.
The reason is obvious: According to Termopylaue Science, our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
Last but not least, you can jump into the podcasting scene. It’s also a great way to communicate with your audience and create awareness (PS: Don’t forget that podcasting platforms are search engines as well. So don’t forget to optimize your podcast episodes).
When the asset that you’ve produced, fulfills their intent behind the search, then you’ve created awareness and engaged the prospective customer.
Customer Journey Process – The Engage Stage
The engage stage is basically tied up to the aware stage. Let’s say someone googles the keyword “how content marketing drives sales”.
Ideally, they will see a result that links up to our website. If we have a relevant asset (blog post) that pops up in front of their eyes, we’ve built some awareness.
If the person clicks on the blog post and takes 5 minutes to read through the post, they’ll engage with our brand. Commenting, taking time to read, maybe sharing it on their social media are also forms of engagement.
When the asset that you’ve produced, fulfills their intent behind the search, then you’ve created awareness and engaged the prospective customer.
This is great!
Here is a rule that I’ve learned from Brian Dean: Look at the first piece of content that ranks for your keyword, and create something that is 5x-10x better.
This rule is critical.
It applies to not only blog posts, but also videos, infographics, images, podcasts, etc. The reason why we want to have the best content asset for a search query is to built authority and trust in our market.
Trust me… It helps.
In fact, by just creating the best long-form “pillar” blog posts in a specific niche, we are currently getting 70-80k organic visitors a month on one of our websites.
Customer Journey Process – The Subscribe Stage
The Subscribe Stage is important in the overall content marketing strategy. As soon as someone looks at your content but you don’t tell them what to do next, they will leave.
But if you look at many websites and how their blog is organized, they don’t tell the reader about what to do next.
Usually, at this stage, the piece of content that you gave for free, will also offer something more valuable. But this time, the extra value will be gated.
This is called gated content.
RULE: No matter how you feel or what you think. If your free content does not help your reader about what he should do next, you’re creating a bad user experience.
A gated content will offer the reader more free value but this time, you are going to ask for something in return: An email address, a phone number, etc. In return for their contact information, you’ll send them the free gated content. This can be a whitepaper, a pdf document, a special video, a mockup, a strategy call, etc…
NOTE: “Subscribe to our newsletter” is not a great lead magnet (another name for gated content). This is a mistake that most websites make.
If your free content does not help your reader about what he should do next, you’re creating a bad user experience.
Content Marketing Strategy – The Rule of S and R
The gated content has to be SPECIFIC and RELEVANT.
- Specific: Instead of saying “Join our newsletter for more”, say “Download Your FREE PDF: 3 Blog Post Templates”.
- Relevant: If they have read a blog post about “how to write a blog post”, don’t give them this: “‘How To Optimize Your Facebook Ad”. Give them: “Download Your FREE PDF: 3 Blog Post Templates”.
If you ONLY optimize this is on your website today, you’ll see an increase in subscriber/lead growth by tomorrow. I’ll promise you.
(if you don’t see any results, I’ll delete this entire blog)
Obviously, the process is longer than what I’ve explained in this blog post. Like I’ve said in the beginning, my goal for this blog post was to give an idea about how content marketing drives sales to a business.
- Content Marketing creates awareness.
- Content Marketing helps your prospects positively evaluate your services.
- Content Marketing helps your prospects take informed buying decisions.
- Content Marketing turns visitors into 100% certain, happy and loyal customers.
If there is a demand, I’ll also write about the other stages of the customer journey and how content marketing is implemented in those stages.
Just let me know in the comments section: What piece of information in this post was the most valuable to you?
What are you going to take action on?