We previously looked at why content marketing is a sustainable strategy.
The three reasons are:
- It’s been around awhile
- People crave content more than ever
- It’s profitable
Today we’re going to look at the last one in a little more detail. There are varying reasons, good reasons, for trying any type of content marketing. The biggest is probably the fact that: Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less.
And it can vary by business and target audience when it comes to determining the best single content marketing effort or the best few efforts.
Where one company might succeed better with blogging another might see more opportunity with video. The reality is that content marketing can work for most organizations. Different forms of content marketing can work. It’s usually challenging to try them all at once. And it takes effort no matter what you’re going to invest in.
That last part is the key for this post. It takes effort so it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you start. You don’t want to get going down the wrong path, put in all kinds of effort and realize that it might not be worth it.
So we’re going to look at some of the best ways to generate sales with content marketing.
1. Blog Posts
Here are two of my favorite stats:
46% of people read blogs more than once a day.
79% of companies that have a blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing.
When I started Ghost Blog Writers it was because I had personally been blogging. Someone asked if I would write regular blog posts for their business blog. From there we got a second client, then a third and so on.
With those first clients and with our own blog at GBW I saw how a continued investment in blogging could pay off in terms of traffic and sales. And it’s continued to remain that way for ourselves and for our clients.
In the early days of GBW I also would do some work on some other forms of content marketing including some below. We’ve backed off that for a couple reasons. First, we wanted to be specialists. Second, we really believe in blogging when it comes to content marketing. I won’t say it’s the best, but I do think it’s one of the best.
The key is focusing on the questions your target customer is asking in relation to your industry and to their job or life in general. Answer those questions with your blog posts and you’ll attract readers through various channels including organic search.
It’s also important to commit to regular blogging. That means at least weekly posts and doing it for years. Many bloggers give up right before they’re about to begin getting traction.
This category also includes guest blogging. I think it’s a great strategy for content marketing along with building your own blog.
Also falling into this category would be ebooks, white papers and other longform types of content.
I look at this type of content as kind of Super Blog Posts. A 10,000 word piece of content could very well be a blog post, but once you start getting to those levels you really have a guide, ebook or whatever. It’s just a matter of semantics I guess and how you end up publishing and distributing the content.
The key with guides and books is still to focus on the questions your customers have. Then you provide the answer in the best way possible. Generally for a guide or book you’ll take a question that requires much more information than a blog post would.
For example, you might answer the question – What is a good first email to a cold prospect? – with a blog post. You might answer the question – How do I setup an email prospecting program – with a guide or book.
And you can publish these in various ways. You can publish them online. You can publish them in print. You could do PDF downloads.
Here’s a crazy stat: Online video accounts for 50% of all mobile traffic.
People have all kinds of devices with high definition capabilities. We have pretty fast Internet connections and they’re getting faster. We have a thirst for video content and it’s becoming easier to produce video content.
I wouldn’t say it’s easy to produce great video content, but it’s easier to produce video content in general. That means it is easier to iterate and improve and learn to create great video content.
And many are using video as a way to attract audiences and new customers. There are a number of ways to publish video. You can pay for premium video services and host videos on your own website. You can post videos to YouTube where there is an extremely large audience of potential customers. Maybe there’s a combination that works best. I always believe in building online assets and I look at your website as something you own and content you publish there are investments or assets. Where if you build on someone else’s site you’re building on their property in exchange for access to their audience. There is room for a combination of both perhaps.
Again, we go back to basics by answering the questions your target customers are asking. Do that and over time you’ll have content that your audience will demand.
Webinars have become extremely popular in recent years. I’ve attended a few and I find value in them. I usually find myself waiting until after the event to see if a webinar was popular and then I’ll catch the recording. But you do miss out on being able to interact and ask questions if you aren’t there for the live event.
Webinars are great because they’re often partnerships between two or more parties. It’s a great way to expand each other’s audiences and reach while offering answers to the key questions the target audience is asking.
And webinars can be used throughout the sales process. You can answer more general questions for top-level sales focus or you could even do webinars that are more like demos to close sales.
I subscribe to a few podcasts on my phone. I always look forward to breakfast each morning because I’ll usually have at least one episode of some podcast to play while I’m making and eating my omelet. And I know that many others like to listen to podcasts while they work or while they’re on their commute.
With podcasts you can certainly get into question and answer format. Those are some of the best podcast, but you can also get into storytelling. Serial has been a big hit and there have been many that have followed the same format including businesses.
You can tell stories with all the forms of content here, but there is something cool about a series of podcasts that tell a story that seem to really get people involved and hooked.
Something that also fits well here would be guest podcasting where you are a guest on someone else’s podcast. It’s like guest blogging in a way. You provide some good content in exchange for access to an established audience.
Research would be data you collect, organize and publish. HubSpot does this with their State Of Inbound research each year. Moz has done it with the State of SEO along with a few others I think on content marketing, digital marketing and more.
Many organizations will put together research items that are very valuable for the right audiences. The key with research is knowing who your target customer is and the information they would find most valuable.
When I worked for a footwear cataloguer we would always look for the big industry research. We would look at research on the footwear industry. We would look for research on the catalog industry. We wanted to know what footwear trends were; what people were buying. What companies were doing well and why were they doing well. What strategies were they using.
You can gather research that is useful for you and maybe you could publish that, but usually the type of research that your audience will find interesting will be a bit different than the research you would find interesting. Find what your audience wants and then you’ll be on to some good content.
I look at this category as looking for questions online and publishing at the source. I like to take, for example, a question I see on a forum and answer it with a blog post. People do that with all the forms of content listed here, but it’s also good to answer or comment right at the source. It’s a good way to build your reputation as an individual and/or for the brand you represent.
These could be in forums. You can also comment on blog posts, articles, videos, etc. Think about the last blog post you read; a really good blog post. Chances are you might have checked out the comments. Most will be kind of short and blah, but you’ll usually see 1-2 really good comments that build on the topic addressed in the post. People read those comments and that’s why it’s a good way to build your reputation.
Quotes is something you can do to get into a routine that will get your name published in various places. An easy way to do this is to subscribe to HARO. You’ll get three emails each day. Get into the habit of responding each day and over time you’ll find that your quotes are used in articles published all over the web. It can really build over time.
These have been very successful for many content marketers. Neil Patel has used them to help build traffic to various blogs including his current blogs and the ones at his former companies, KISSmetrics and CrazyEgg.
There are tools that allow you to create infographics on your own. The other option is to hire a designer to help build them for you.
The other key is finding the data. First, you really have to find a topic that your target customer is interested in. That gets back to finding a question that someone has asked or that many people have asked and answering it with an infographic.
I wanted to put email last only because it’s kind of closed off from certain traffic sources. I like content that can be found and indexed and ranked by search engines. There are certain types of email that fall into that category, but email is a bit closed off.
However, I really like email. It’s very powerful when someone opts into your email list. You control the channel in that case and they’ve given you permission to market to them. I think email definitely has a place in most content marketing efforts. It’s really a way to build on the other content you create while working to take someone from a casual visitor to a paying customer.
Content marketing has been around a while and the reason it has been is that it’s profitable. We live in a great time because there are more forms of content that we can create than ever before. That’s evident by the list above. Hopefully after reading this you now have a little better understanding of the best forms of content marketing and you can choose the one, maybe two or three, that will work best for you and your company. Jump on those, develop a basic strategy of answering questions and make it a long-term commitment and you’ll see returns.