There’s a dangerous misconception out there that content marketing is just a softer alternative to sales.
The perception is that the content marketer is like the good cop to the salesperson’s bad cop.
She’s just there to tell a creative story about her brand’s reason for being before the salesperson comes along to do the important work of selling.
But creating content isn’t some kind of woolly activity that’s only designed to make you look interesting and clever.
These days content more or less is marketing. And given that most consumers make a buying decision before they’ve even had a conversation with the brand, content is also now the best way to sell.
Content works just as well for lead generation as it works for building awareness of your brand.
In this article I’ll explain why content marketing isn’t only for the top of the marketing funnel, and I’ll give you some tips for how to engage your prospects across the buyer journey.
Strategic content marketing isn’t blogging
There’s a big difference between content marketing and blogging.
At least there is if there’s a specific strategy behind your content efforts.
When you’re working from a content strategy, you’re not just sharing your brand’s opinion on a particular topic for the sake of it. Instead, you’re aiming for specific results depending on the particular piece of content that you’ve published.
A lot of the content you’ll write is designed for the top of the marketing funnel. This is content that’s there to build awareness of - and engagement with - your brand. It could be articles, thought leadership or ebooks.
But it’s important you don’t get stuck at the top of the funnel.
After all, content can have other objectives besides building awareness.
The case studies that you share on your website, for example, are there for those prospects who are further along in their journey. People who want to know more about the kinds of solutions you provide.
And still further down the funnel you have testimonials and sales materials that are there to qualify people who have pretty much decided that they need what you’re offering.
Content as stepping stones
I really like the analogy of your content being like strategically-placed stepping stones, which are there to get your prospect across from the other side of the stream.
The objective should be for your ideal customer to move closer towards deciding they need to invest in your product or service.
Each piece of content you publish increases the trust your ideal customer has in your brand. But at the end of the day you’re building that trust for a reason.
Think about who your ideal customer is and what matters to them. By building a detailed profile of this person, you’ll know what their concerns or objections are likely to be at different points along the buyer journey.
This insight is crucial, as it allows you to plan your content strategically.
Earning permission to continue the conversation
Remember that a lot of the people who engage with your content might not be in a position to buy now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be later.
Take the following example of how your content can work like stepping stones.
A prospect might download an ebook from your site. This ebook gives them valuable content to help educate them on the market. And in return for this free, helpful content, they give you permission to reach out to them via email. Now you can send nurture emails that lead towards you asking for a specific action to be taken.
You’ve earned your prospect’s attention, and so you’ve earned the right to continue the conversation until they’re ready to become a customer.
The final few stepping stones
Another reason why the stepping stone analogy is useful is that it isn’t a random thing.
You’re placing the stones strategically rather than hurling them into the stream and hoping that they land in such a way that your ideal customer will be able to get across.
Your content builds on itself over time. Taken together, all of your brand’s ideas should tell a story that’s recognisable to your audience.
The tone can change slightly depending on where your prospect is along the buyer journey, but it should still sound like your brand.
The aim is to make it so that when you do create content lower down the funnel - the final few steps to get your prospect across the stream - this content doesn’t jar with your audience.
And this is quite a common mistake, because people often wrongly assume it isn’t possible to be creative when you come to actually do the selling.
They forget that what you’re actually selling are emotions rather than the product itself.
As you’re selling emotions, there’s actually a great opportunity for your lead gen content to be incredibly creative. You can paint a picture for your prospects of life with your product. And you can introduce a little bit of tension about how they’ll miss out if they don’t take up your offer.
Great content makes people take action
Content can be a way of building awareness about what you do. It can be a way for you to educate and tell your brand’s story.
But great content can also be used to sell. It can make people take action at different stages of the marketing funnel.
Year on year, content’s influence on the buying decision increases. So think about how your brand’s content can engage your prospects across the buyer journey.
Not just at the top of the funnel.
I work with brands to create content that resonates with their prospects from the top of the marketing funnel to the bottom.
Find out more about my services, here.