Sunshine on a Cloudy Day — Addressing the Unexpected in Content Marketing

You expect a zig but your prospects zag. Let’s look at how to prepare for outliers and other unexpected opportunities in your content marketing. 

You expect a zig but your prospects zag. Let’s look at how to prepare for outliers and other unexpected opportunities in your content marketing.

A day at the beach

As I write this, I’m at the beach. More accurately, I’m in a house near the beach waiting for an all-day soaker to move on and give us some sunshine. The weather forecast didn’t call for torrential thunderstorms, yet here we are.

Not that this was all bad. The view of the bay during the storm is beautiful and it brings to mind how even our best laid plans as content marketers don’t always mesh with the realities of our prospects’ plans. It doesn’t matter what the weatherman says if you look out the window and see something different …

Addressing the realities of the marketplace in which we operate is crucial. On the one hand, we have to be open to the idea that the assumptions we made as we planned our content marketing and put it into place may have been imperfect. And on the other, we should recognize that it can often be the outliers, the use cases that we didn’t account for, who are fantastic prospects. So how do we address these opportunities?

Websites and Control of the Narrative

On our websites, we need to give visitors the opportunity to explore. For all the effort we expend trying to control the narrative — and that’s generally effort well spent! — the web is a non-linear environment and even those in our audience who aren’t “power users” will still be eager to take advantage of the ability get where they want to go, regardless of where you want them to be.

So it’s important to walk the (admittedly fine) line between encouraging a particular course of action and hemming your visitors in. The former will increase your conversion rate; the latter will push visitors off your site, back to the search engine, and on to your competitors’ sites.

Content Presentation and Progressive Profiling

In an ideal content marketing world, we’d present only the content of interest to our audience. Meaning, we would know

  • Where each visitor is in his or her buying cycle
  • What his or her primary concern is
  • Who they are as an organization

And we’d be able to sue that information to serve up content custom tailored to their needs and situation.

Calls to Action

But we don’t live in an ideal content marketing world, so we have to build in flexibility that allows our audience to pick and choose, even if they’re not “ready” in our estimation, for what comes next. Most critically, we want our prospects to always be able to take action. Specifically, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to contact us easily and effectively.

That’s typically going to be email or phone, so you want to be sure that your prospects feel that they’re engaging with someone who can talk to them about their needs, not a switchboard operator or mail bot who is going to reroute them or get back to them days later. They’re making the effort now, they have an unmet need now, they want a response now.

Of course, we want to be careful that our calls to action aren’t so broad that they look to most visitors like a too-early ask, that uncomfortable moment when you haven’t earned their trust yet but are suggesting that you think you have.

If our systems are well built and we’re gathering data effectively, we should be able to influence and convince a variety of prospects to take the next logical step in their buying process. Have you evaluated your content marketing presence with the occasional rainy day in mind, rather than just the sunshine we all hope for?

Author: Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?

A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.

His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications. 

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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