Content needs to speak the same language as the people reading it. Generic content, content that doesn’t touch on the specific needs or concerns of your audience, and content that glosses over major concerns that your audience might have, just doesn’t work.
What does work is carefully researched content that a prospect will read as written directly for them.
But how do you create that kind of content – how do you get so far into the head of your prospects that they think you’re writing to them and them only?
Here are five tips from a top digital strategist to help master and emulate how your target prospects talk about their problems and engage them through content.
Spend Time Where They Spend Time – Go to the websites, forums, groups, and other online places that these individuals spend time. LinkedIn groups are especially effective to evaluate the types of conversations that are held professionally. Don’t necessarily restrict this to online either. Meetup groups, mixers, and conferences are equally effective for this type of research.
Subscribe to their Blogs and Social Profiles– Select a small group of people who are representative of the target audience you are trying to reach. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other platforms on which they regularly post. Check their blog, interact with them through comments and direct messages. Get to know their voice and their concerns in the way they naturally communicate.
Ask Your Existing Customers – Go to the people you already know. This is your richest pool of potential data; people who have had the problems you solve and that you have already worked with. Ask your sales team to provide answers to common questions you are preparing in advance of your marketing campaign or to share the common questions that their prospects ask.
Interview or Survey Target Demographics – Create a blind survey and ask those very same questions to people who you haven’t previously interacted with so you can avoid the bias that comes with it. This will cost money if you don’t have a list of people already that you can send it to, but for 200-300 answers, it’s well worth the investment to learn more about the common concerns and questions they have. Make sure each question is open ended to encourage written answers.
Test Different Types of Content with What You Learn – Finally, don’t be afraid to test different types of content and ask for feedback. Write content, produce videos, and post to social media based on what you learn, and then take that content to people you know in your target audience and ask them for feedback. Ask them to provide thoughts and questions about the content you wrote and elaborate on what might need to be changed or added.
It can seem time consuming, and at times redundant to do this kind of research, especially if you’ve been in the industry for some time. But the extra time spent will be well worth it when you understand on a much more direct basis what people need and how they describe those needs.
The next step is to create that content and start promoting it. Learn how to ensure your site is ready for the spike in inbound marketing activity you’re about to begin with our Marketing Ready checklist.
One of the most common concerns I hear from fellow marketers and business owners first implementing content marketing in their efforts is that it doesn’t drive engagement. Even if the platform on which the content is published gets thousands or tens of thousands of visits, the content doesn’t drive the kind of shares, comments, and social signals they assumed it would.
The big question here is why? What makes one piece of well written, carefully researched content different from another that drives three times the engagement?
The B2B audience targeting.
A well written piece of content needs to do many things – but before you put a single keystroke to a Word DOC, you had better know exactly who that content will be written for. Good content without a clear target is vague. It’s generic and lacks conviction, and driving someone to take action when the content lacks energy is nearly impossible.
Questions for Ideal B2B Audience Targeting
So where do you start? How do you create something that goes above and beyond “101-level” introductory content and resonates with the specific audience to which you want to provide value?
One of the most important things you can learn from Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing training course is how to identify and detail out a buyer persona. This is a human embodiment of the ideal customer – a top to bottom description of who you are writing for and what they are concerned about. Here are some highlights to help identify who this person is:
Who Are Your Best Customers – No one knows your customers better than you. Who are the best ones – the ones you would clone if you could? What do they have in common? Is there a particular industry, role within a company, or need they have that’s similar across multiple situations?
What Are their Most Common Questions – From there, gather a list of common questions these people ask. These can be questions asked during the sales process or ones they ask after becoming a customer that you know you answer frequently.
What Is the Single Biggest Pain Point They Face – From these questions, distil down to a single pain point you know they all share. What is the biggest worry, concern, or point of stress they deal with related to what you do for them?
What Is Their Position within Your Target Company – Most likely, these people will share a position within the companies they work for. Evaluate job titles, roles, and positions and determine what you’ll be dealing with.
List Some Basic Demographics – Other demographics you may want to consider in building your audience profile include age, education level, location, and income level. These will affect the language to which they respond and how best to address their problems.
Will this cover everyone who might be a good customer for your company? Absolutely not. But it will create targeted, engaging content that dives deep into what a specific segment of your audience needs rather than broad, generic content that you can find on a dozen other websites.
When you create this type of content, it resonates. And content that resonates, even with a smaller segment of potential readers, will drive more conversions and help you generate better leads in higher volumes.
What’s the Next Step?
Once you know who your target audience in the B2B space is and what they are looking for from content, you can start writing. But to better resonate and ensure your content hits the right mark with those potential prospects, you’ll want to speak their language.
From there, you’ll be able to speak their language and address their problems. This will almost certainly result in an increased rate of engagement across all of your content and becomes an integral part of your digital marketing plan.
Volume is an important factor in content marketing – the more you produce, the more people will likely see your content. But even volume has an upper cap. HubSpot’s VP of Content Joe Chernov recently made a change on the blog in which the company scaled back their content production significantly because they had reached a point of diminishing returns.
While their eventual number is 100 posts per month, well above and beyond what you and I can produce, it shows that there is a limit to what volume alone can do. Quality is equally important, but I believe above and beyond all of those factors is consistency.
Without consistently produced content released on a regular basis, a number of issues can pop up. Here’s a look at the benefits you gain from releasing content consistently.
If you produce high quality content, you’ll gain a small loyal following of regular readers. This is a great thing, but if you want to keep them you’d better be consistent. This goes double for content that falls into the “limited demand” category of podcasts and videos.
People only have so much time in the week to consume content. If you fall behind in posting, you can easily fall off of their regular rotation. Podcasters live and die by this with new ones focused heavily on how to get into that rotation and old ones working to stay in it. Skip an episode and you’re out. The same goes for video production and regular blog production (especially if you write long posts that require a lot of time to consume).
SEO Friendly Production
The search engines like regular content – they also reward it with more consistent and frequent crawling of your site. This can lead to better results in the search engines for all of your content.
At the same time, there are a number of directories that will only list your content if it is updated consistently. AllTop, one of the better expert-level blog directories will only list your blog if you post consistently with fresh, expert-level content on your subject matter. Stop posting and you lose that spot.
Feeds a Regular Social Schedule
Social media lives and dies by the content you produce. No content means nothing to put into the cyclical social machine, which of course means less activity on all of your channels. If you have a regular posting schedule for your blog, YouTube channel, and podcast, you have a solid log of content you can then post related to your brand in social media.
It also allows you to schedule in advance more readily because you’ll be drawing from an editorial calendar that is hopefully ahead by several days or even weeks.
What Role Does Frequency Play in Consistency?
It doesn’t matter how frequently you post to your blog – do it consistently. If you decide to post only once a month make sure you’re posting on the same day every month. If it’s weekly, choose a day and stick to it. Consistency has to become an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.
This helps you plan time for content creation as well. If you know that you will be posting every Tuesday, you can set aside 2-3 hours every Monday to focus on content creation, scheduling, and social media publication. If you know you post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you can schedule a full day at the end of each week to prepare for the next.
This kind of time is hard to set aside when you’re running from behind – and blogging, like so many tasks that offer incremental benefits – falls to the bottom of the to do list too easily if you let it.
And if you’re unsure of next steps or how to keep your content moving into the funnel quickly enough to feed your schedule, download our blog creation checklist. It will help you prepare for and get new content out regularly without stressing over missed deadlines.
Remember the days when marketing was a blood sport? When it required a ruthless approach to your competitors, deep pockets, and a scorched earth approach to capturing your “share” of the public’s attention so you could generate more leads?
Things sure have changed. Like many industries, the Internet has democratized marketing – but unlike other industries, that democratization hasn’t weakened or marginalized career fields (sorry travel agents). Rather, it has strengthened the power of a good marketing team – to the point that the average marketing budget has actually increased year over year for the last five years.
And it’s all about content. Today’s best marketing thought leaders are those that develop powerful, engaging, and most importantly, useful content for their readers. Content that solves problems, builds relationships, and guides readers in their pursuits. It also happens to capture email addresses, enter prospects into sales funnels, and generate significantly greater ROI toward sales than the scorched earth approach.
The best part of all? It’s accessible. You don’t need a six figure budget to write a really kickass eBook. You just need to know your audience and want to help.
If you are new to content marketing and are eager to learn how it works, and more importantly, how all those eBooks and blog posts generate more leads, here are 7 tips to do the same for your business.
Tip 1 – Identify Exactly Who Your Target Audience Includes
Without a doubt, you are probably an expert in your field. You know your business inside and out. No marketing agency or consultant could match what you know about your prospects. Why then are your marketing materials so generic?
An effective content marketing campaign strips out all the guessing, all the broad approach content, and all the 101-level “here you go” content from the start. You need to know exactly who your ideal audience includes and what their problems are.
HubSpot identifies this as a buyer persona and they get so specific as to give their avatars names and back stories. Imagine you are writing your book for one person – what does that one person (your ideal customer) need from you? How can you solve their problems? The subsequent book will be written with much cleaner, more focused language as a result.
If you’re not sure exactly how to break this down, perform an audit of your best customers. Who are the decision makers from those companies and how did you originally approach them? This is the core you’ll be focusing on.
Tip 2 – Answer Specific Questions in the Language They Recognize
The next step is to speak and respond in the language they best understand. Never assume anything when developing content for a marketing campaign. Here’s what we use when evaluating a target audience:
Social Media – How do they interact on social media? Which thought leaders do they follow and what kind of content do those people produce?
Groups and Forums – Visit LinkedIn Groups and industry forums and read the conversations being held. What are the most common problems cited and what language is used to discuss and solve those problems?
Sales Teams – The sales team has the best insights into the problems held by these individuals. Ask your sales team to provide common questions and concerns and the exact language used to describe those. Recorded calls can even help here.
To make your point and ensure someone finds value in that content, you need to provide answers in the same language and urgency with which the questions are asked.
Tip 3 – Create an Automatic Followup Machine
It’s relatively easy to generate more leads with content online. Write an eBook or White Paper and drive traffic to it (which you can do with ads) to capture information. But someone downloading an eBook is not necessarily a qualified sales lead.
Content marketing is an active process that manages a large portion of the nurturing that was historically done by the sales team. Email marketing in particular is incredibly important, with 73% of businesses saying this is crucial to all of their marketing efforts, and overall ROI surpassing social media by 20%.
The reason why is simple. Email allows you to followup with your prospects on autopilot – sending more information to them at set intervals and creating touch points every 2-4 weeks that keep you top of mind.
This “top of mind” mentality is incredibly important because your prospects will go in and out of research mode multiple times before they ever approach “buying” mode.
HubSpot has a version of the above graphic that breaks it down into 3-4 steps. I like this one slightly better because it shows the nuance between stages, but the core concept is the same – A lead is not just a lead.
That individual is in a certain state of mind. The type of content they download from your website and the type of interaction they have with your business will determine what type of lead they are. Someone downloading an eBook about “how IT services work” is an Explorer – someone just getting started.
Even if they download more than one piece of content they are still relatively high in the funnel. It’s when they start asking you specific questions, attending webinars, or replying to emails you send that they approach sales-qualified. But if you don’t followup with an automated machine that creates multiple possible touch points, it’s impossible to know when this will happen.
Automation can be done in a number of ways. The simplest is with an email autoresponder that sends canned messages every 1-2 weeks. There are more, however. Website content that matches or changes to match the customer’s information is a great starting point as well.
Tip 4 – Diversify the Content You Create
Content is a broad term. It can mean any number of different mediums – blog posts and eBooks to be sure, but also infographics, videos, social graphics, and even audio clips. Visual content is processed 60,000X faster than just text by the brain and can have a much stronger impact when trying to capture someone’s attention online.
Additionally, keep in mind that not everyone learns the same way. Some people prefer to listen to information. Others are more hands on and want to do something with the information they are given.
There is no single type of content that will cover the needs of your target audience. Diversify with the same message across multiple mediums and you’ll provide a more complete solution.
Tip 5 – Be Consistent and Highly Active in All Channels
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a content marketing campaign is the “burst and wait”. So much work goes into creating a single good piece of content that people tend to get very excited and blast it out as soon as it is completed.
The problem with this strategy (or lack thereof) is that once you send out your content – by email, blog post, and social media – what’s next? If you don’t have anything else on tap, all of your freshly engaged leads will quickly dry up and find their information elsewhere.
A good content marketing campaign relies on two things – relevance and consistency. So your content needs to be engaging and relevant – targeting the specific problems you know this audience has – and it needs to be delivered at set intervals.
Frequency will depend on your audience, but a good starting point is to have weekly touch points of some sort. Here’s a breakdown of what we recommend as “minimum” engagement benchmarks:
Social – Daily
Blog – Weekly
Email – Bi-weekly
Download – Monthly
With four tiers of content delivered at varying intervals, you can engage with your prospects constantly without spamming them through a single channel. There is some overlap here (you will likely send an email and write a blog post to drive traffic to your new eBook), but the end result is upwards of 10 new touch points per week for your prospects, depending on where they connect with you.
Tip 6 – Ignore All of Your Preconceptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about your audience. You are, after all, an expert in what you do. But marketing is a tricky science. I’ve been working with business leaders and fellow marketers for more than ten years and in that time, I’ve been wrong as often as (and probably more than) I’ve been right.
The Achilles Heel of any good marketing team is assumption. Assuming you know how something will perform or making decisions based on what you’ve seen work or not work in other campaigns or on competitor websites can pigeonhole you to the point of failure.
Data is incredibly important in what the top inbound marketing companies do. I don’t make decisions without having a mechanism in place to test my hypothesis or at least run it through a smell test to determine if it’s wroth investing in.
It’s also a very effective way of trying something new for your organization without getting pushback from other decision makers. If you’re only “running a test”, there’s no long term commitment. If the test works, you look good and are given the thumbs up to continue. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to continue anyways.
There are a number of mechanisms you can use to test your ideas. Just be sure to actually do it before investing in an idea.
Tip 7 – Create a High Converting Machine on Your Website
Last but by no means least is the machinery used to deliver your content.
If you want to generate more leads with the content you create and ensure that people not only find it, but engage with it so you can followup in a sales capacity, you need a good machine on your website to do everything listed above.
There are three components to a good website “machine”:
Strong user experience that engages the visitor
Technically sound platform to perform in search engines
High converting CTAs and landing pages to drive conversions
Each of these points lies with a member of your marketing team – #1 with your designer, #2 with your SEO, and #3 with the strategy and CRO experts.
Unfortunately, it’s number 3 that frequently gets overlooked. The “sexiness” of a new website or high Google rankings often overshadow the utilitarian value of a revamped headline on your top converting landing page, but here’s why this is arguably the most important part of the formula.
The average website converts at between 0.5% and 1% when we start working with it. This is historically what I’ve seen from the majority of “fresh” sites that have minimal digital marketing history.
A good benchmark for a B2B website after update is 1.5% to 2%. That number can be achieved through redesign and content optimization. I’ve seen new sites launch before that instantly doubled conversions, simply through revamping user experience and clarifying conversion points.
But there’s more. When landing pages are overhauled, rewritten, and targeted to the very specific people that they can most benefit, the conversion rate reaches upwards of 3% to 3.5%. Top performers cap out above 4% conversion across the website.
Imagine what that means. If your website goes from 0.5% to 4% conversion rate, you will be generating 8 TIMES more leads than you were before the updates were made. That’s a substantial difference. I’ve seen businesses get overwhelmed by the new volume, unable to keep up with the influx of people who need to be called every single day. It’s that powerful.
A good landing page will make a huge difference in your lead generation efforts. Don’t overlook just how important this can be.
What’s the Next Step
With all of this said, there are a number of things you can do right now to get your website marketing ready and start benefiting from the value that good content can offer.
We’ve crafted an eBook to get you started that discusses the 17 things you can and should do to make your website as Marketing Ready as possible for the new visitors that you hope to drive there. From content creation to SEO updates and conversion page optimization, these are 17 quick tips you can work on right now to start improving your conversion rate and using content to generate leads for your business.
This is almost certainly not the first article you’ve read about content marketing. The Internet is littered with them; good marketers trying to help small business owners get more out of their marketing efforts through content generation.
But it’s not that easy.
You can’t just write a blog post and flip a switch to start generating dozens of new leads. There’s a lot more going on behind the curtain. You have to connect with your audience in targeted ways.
So rather than repeat the same tired (and somewhat useless) tips about quality content and writing for your readers first, let’s look at real, specific ways that the content on your website can be used to connect with your target audience on the things they care about most.
Build Content Around Singular Actionable Items
Keep your content concise and to the point. This doesn’t necessarily mean short, but it does mean you should avoid meandering, unfocused pieces that don’t necessarily provide value to the reader.
For every piece of content you write – whether it is a blog post, the script for a YouTube video, or an eBook – imagine the one problem your audience has that you can resolve. Develop content focused on solving that problem.
Complete guides to broad topics can be extremely valuable and will still generate downloads, but they take much longer, slowing down your marketing campaign, and they will attract more general leads – possibly including people you may not be interested in doing business with.
By building content around a single actionable concern, you can get stronger, more targeted leads through your efforts.
Clearly Define the Role of Each Piece of Content
A strong piece of content is not only well written, but well situated in your marketing funnel. When writing an eBook, or preparing a case study, what is the specific role of that piece? Where will it live on your website, who will read it, when will you email it to prospects?
More importantly, at what stage in the buying process will a prospective lead be interested in this content?
Imagine your ideal customer is on a 1,000 mile road trip from their home (not knowing anything about you or what your products do) to yours (becoming a customer). At what milepost will this piece of content live? Is it a Milepost 5 acknowledgement of the problem they face, or is it a Milestone 800 introduction to your services and pricing?
Know exactly where your content will live and it will perform much better when developed.
It’s tempting to link to the same eBook over and over again on every page of your site. After all, you didn’t have anything on your site before, so that one book is better than nothing, right?
While this is true, it won’t result in the strongest results for your marketing efforts. The more targeted and specific each downloadable marketing offer you create is, the better it will perform.
So think of the different problems people visiting your site might have and how you can address them in different formats and with different subjects. Create content that covers these concerns and marketing offers that relate to them. For some businesses this might mean 3-5 different eBooks all working to provide value very early in the buyer’s journey. For others, it might mean only 1-2 offers. For others still, it might mean 30+ different offers.
There is no cookie cutter formula for this. It’s entirely dependent on your business and the problems faced by your audience. If you are stuck while trying to figure this out, get help from a good internet marketing specialist who understands this.
Invest Heavily in Your Headline
The single most important slice of real estate on any page of your website is the headline. It captures attention, defines the page’s purpose, and spells out the value proposition of what you’ve written.
So spend as much time on this as possible. You only have 10-20 seconds to capture and hold the attention of the average web user – your headline is the lynchpin to making this happen.
This does not, however, mean you should get overly creative and try to pen the world’s snarkiest headlines. On the contrary, simply, straightforward and to the point often get the job done best. I always look for the following when evaluating a headline:
Does it clearly spell out what the visitor will get?
Is it phrased in terms of benefits?
Is it short enough to be scanned in less than 4 seconds?
Does it make immediate sense without any jokes, metaphors, or rereads?
In some industries, additional rules may apply. Concrete numbers that make the headline more definite might be important if discussing a piece of technology or medical supplement. The goal is to be direct and ensure someone knows exactly what they are getting from your site.
Write to a Specific Individual
At first, persona marketing can seem counterintuitive.
Talk only to one person instead of broadening your message to as wide an audience as possible? Why would you want to do that?
But there’s a subtle magic in this kind of targeting. By identifying not only the demographics, but the actual needs and desires of your ideal customer, you can create much more specific content that speaks to real problems instead of general observations.
It doesn’t matter if the exact wording of your content strikes a chord with every reader. It will strike a resounding chord with the small handful of perfect targets you’ve been trying to track down, and others will respond to that personal-touch.
By following these five tips, you can produce better targeted, more specific content that speaks to the needs of your target audience in the most effective way possible. By doing this, you will generate more leads with the same efforts, and see much greater results from your content marketing actions.
Learn more about how to optimize the existing pages on your site to convert and create new leads at much higher rates with our newest eBook – the Landing Page Conversion Optimization Checklist:
Your website is more than just a brochure. It is a digital manifestation of your business. It represents not only who you are as a company, but who your customers and prospects are and what they need.
That’s why it’s so important to have a clear plan in place before spending thousands of dollars to drive people to that website. If it doesn’t fully represent all of those groups, you may as well throw that money out a window. Let’s take a look at some of the things that an internet marketing expert pays attention to while crafting the right strategy.
There are three core things you can check on your website to ensure it is ready for a marketing campaign right now.
Does It Speak the Right Language?
Forget your brand for a moment. Your website needs to transcend it and represent something more. This is an automated tool – you don’t have the benefit of a salesperson guiding someone through every click and explaining things not immediately clear on the site.
Your website needs to perfectly capture two things in the way it communicates:
The target personas and audience you want to be your customers.
Your marketing message, spoken in a way that is relevant to these personas.
More than anything else, your website needs to clearly communicate what you can do that is different from your competitors to solve your prospects’ key problems.
Forget the bells and whistles, the shiny new coat of paint on your website, or the features you’ve been slaving over for years (however cool they might be). Does your site clearly communicate WHY those things matter specifically to your target audience? If not, this is the first thing to address.
Does Your Website Provide Value to Your Prospects?
Now that you know who your target audience is and what they need, does your website provide them valuable content that specifically addresses their needs and desires? If you’ve pinpointed the key pain points of your target persona, why isn’t every piece of content on your site about resolving that pain?
That doesn’t mean you need to rewrite your entire site, but revising and refining the language to match those needs is incredibly important.
At the same time, the content you create should be desirable enough to require registration. You want contact information so you can follow-up later, build relationships, and nurture new leads. This is where downloadable marketing offers come in. EBooks, video series, newsletters, whitepapers, and checklists – the kind of stuff that your prospect can download, take away and use to resolve their problem further.
Do You Have Recurring, Targeted Traffic Sources?
Finally, you need a way to get people on to your site, and more importantly, to engage with your content.
Getting traffic is easy. In fact, it’s probably the easiest component of any marketing campaign, if only because you can just pay for it. But getting GOOD quality traffic that matches your target persona, driven to the right pages of your site where they will engage with content you’ve curated just for them…that’s much harder.
Fortunately, by identifying who your target audience entails, what they are interested in getting from your website, and how they would most like to engage with that content, you can seek out traffic sources that allow you to drive just that to your site.
Is Your Website Marketing Ready?
Just having a website is not enough. You need a website that communicates who you are to the people you know you want to be your customers. Whether your website’s copy is too generic, or you just aren’t quite sure yet who that ideal audience entails, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate how to build a communications strategy that works.
You can get started in the next few weeks with an upcoming series of Webinars from LeadConnect Marketing. Featuring our owner – Anthony Chatfield, a leading digital strategist – our Marketing Ready webinar series will dig into the five steps needed to ensure your website is ready for a full blown marketing campaign and how to start making changes today that will improve the traffic you already get.
Register now to join us for this special 30 minute presentation: