The difference between just publishing a blog and content marketing is less about what you create than it is about how you use what you create. In other words, it’s what happens after you click the Publish button that determines whether you’re really a content marketer. An example of this can be found in using your content to nurture leads.
Helping smooth the path from discovery to purchase for prospects typically starts with great content, so I don’t want to underplay the importance of generating truly useful information for your audience. But making the leap from “free publisher” to effective content marketer depends on the rest of your plan.
Using Content to Nurture Leads
The first step of that plan must be promoting your content to get it in front of your audience. This is a topic worthy of lengthier discussion; for the moment, I’ll just say that email, social media, and just about any regular point of contact you have with clients and prospects should be part of your promotion efforts.
As you’re promoting your content, you must also be aware of when your content will be most useful to prospects. That is, at what point in their buying process will they find what you’ve written most valuable?
This means not only having a knowledge of what a typical prospect’s buying process looks like when he or she is buying your product or service, but also having content that addresses the questions and concerns that are raised at each step.
Once you have that matrix of content built, it’s time to integrate other tools into your content marketing program. Key among these will be email. Following up regularly over time is a key part of successful marketing of any kind. We all know that our first contact with a prospect isn’t necessarily going to be at a time when that prospect is ready to move forward toward a decision. A drip marketing campaign, as it’s sometimes called, is key to maintaining a presence without being intrusive. The goal is to stay recognized and useful until your solution is most relevant to the prospect.
Prospective profiling is the next step you should consider. In a nutshell, prospective profiling is the use of tech tools to customize the calls to action and content on your website based on the past behavior of site visitors.
The goal is to make use of what you already know about a prospect to a) avoid annoying him or her with redundant questions, and b) to ensure that you continue to offer useful information. Few things are more annoying than returning to a website to be greeted by a pop-up window offering the same white paper you downloaded yesterday — and requiring you to fill in the same form fields to get it!
Prospective profiling allows you to offer the next logical piece of content (from the prospect’s perspective) while asking for more information about them and their needs. For example, if you already have their name, email and company, perhaps you now ask for their title, their budget, or their expected timeframe for making a decision.
You wouldn’t ask for all of these things at once — the drop-off in conversion would be too steep, particularly if you don’t have an established relationship with the prospect — but asked over time, the questions are less intrusive. And you still are able to build a much more complete picture.
Closing the CRM Loop
This all gives you the ability to feed data into a lead scoring system tied into your CRM tools. Unless you’re still working from spreadsheets, you’ll want to work closely with both your website developer and your CRM consultant to implement a strong progressive profiling program. With you driving the process from a marketing perspective, you’ll be able to build a system that uses your content to nurture leads consistently from first content through conversion.