Every podcast, every webinar, every Facebook Live and every talk I give I have to answer this question:
“What is content marketing?”
To be clear…it doesn’t get old, I want to answer it…but why do I still have to answer this question?
Because most people don’t know what content marketing is.
Content marketing is often misunderstood, and therefore people are misguided when it comes to how they learn, implement and ultimately get results from content marketing.
This often leads to problems such as:
- We’re doing content marketing but we aren’t getting any sales
- How do we use content marketing to increase sales in our company?
- Does content marketing actually lead to sales?
After reading this article it’s my hope you will leave with the urge to not only learn more, but want to produce the best content you can for your prospects and customers.
I want you to be happy and successful, and I want you to fully embrace content marketing.
This article comes from a source of frustration, but it has pushed me to set the record straight once and for all and draw a line in the sand.
Let’s lay it out, in simple terms, not only what content marketing is, but why it’s important for your business to invest time and effort into learning and implementing the principles of content marketing.
If you want to grow your business and make more sales from content marketing, then please read on and share this with your business and marketing friends.
Changing consumer behaviour & the Zero Moment of Truth
I think we can all agree that how we buy things today has changed dramatically.
We no longer get the information we need from sales people in stores and showrooms, we no longer pick up the phone to speak to people in organisations when we want information.
No, that would be silly. What do we do instead?
We Google it.
We use search to find the answers to our questions and solutions to our problems.
If we make a bad buying decision today we’re just lazy. We have access to all the information right at our finger tips.
This is what Google calls the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’, or ZMOT for short.
On average, 70% of the buying decision is made online before someone contacts a business for the first time.
Read that again, slowly.
Now the number might be higher or lower for your specific industry, but hopefully you agree with the principle – that consumers research online before contacting your business for the first time.
Just think about how you buy things today.
You probably do the following things:
- You use search
- Read reviews
- Compare price, products and features
- Ask your friends on social media…
…and you do all of this before speaking to a sales person.
Why? Because no one wants to speak to sales people anymore.
Certainly not before feeling confident and at least a little educated about the product or service being considered.
We want to make an educated buying decision on our own terms. We want to feel confident and trust who we are doing business with.
The great thing about the times we live in is that we don’t have to put up with sleazy, greasy sales tactics anymore.
Why? Because we’ve got access to all the information in the world.
We can research, compare, and decide where we want to buy from without leaving our home, and all in our own time without pressure.
What you need to be thinking about is – where and who are people getting their information from?
Is it you, or is it your competitors?
ZMOT example: Buying a summerhouse
I’d like you to imagine sitting out in your garden in the summer evening drinking a glass of Prosecco in a new sexy AF summerhouse.
You there? OK, you’ve just become aware that you want to buy a summerhouse.
What’s your next action?
You’re probably not going to get into your car and drive around the country looking at manufacturers and suppliers, are you?
No, you’re going to go to Google and you’re going to start your research.
You’ll start with some simple searches and then it’ll quickly get more complex. Here are a few examples:
- Best summerhouses
- Types of summerhouses
- How much does a summerhouses cost?
- How long does it take to build a summerhouse?
- What size is a summerhouse?
- How big should a summerhouse be for a family of 6?
- What’s the difference between a summerhouse and a cabin?
- What type of roof does a summerhouse have?
- What’s the difference between an apex and pent roof?
- What foundations are required for a summerhouse?
- Can you put electricity in your summerhouse?
- How do you heat a summerhouse?
- Can you put a stove in your summerhouse?
- What kind of wood do you make a summerhouse with?
- What’s the difference between red wood a white wood?
- How do you maintain a summerhouse in the winter?
- How do I prevent and get rid of mould in my shed?
- What kind of paint should I use on my summerhouse?
I could go on… 🙂
What’s interesting about all of these questions?
That’s right, we still don’t know what supplier or manufacturer we’re going buy our summerhouse from.
- Do you believe that this is part of the process for a typical prospect?
- Do you believe that your prospects will research first before contacting your business for the first time?
Of course it’s true.
And the same is true in your industry. Your prospects are going through the exact same process.
Your challenge is to figure out what questions they are asking and create content that answers those questions.
- Start brainstorming all the questions your prospects and customers ask. (Email me your first 50 ideas – firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Is it possible for you to become the most helpful company in your industry and help your prospects make an informed, confident and educated buying decision?
My hope is that you’re ready to do this.
If you sell summerhouses for a living, and you want to make sure you have a chance of being considered by your potential customer, then you better be answering these questions in blogs and videos – just like Cara Mackay, MD at Gillies and Mackay.
Are you winning the ZMOT?
“If you aren’t winning the Zero Moment of Truth you’re losing customers you never even knew you had the chance to get” – Jay Baer
Now that we understand the Zero Moment of Truth, there’s good news and bad news.
- Good news: When someone contacts you for the first time, you can be confident that they’ve done some research. Selling becomes easier and less complicated.
- Bad news: If you aren’t creating content that helps your prospects find you before they know who you are, you don’t even have a seat at the table.
If you want to win the Zero Moment of Truth, here’s your challenge:
- Research all the questions your prospects and customers ask
- Document and organise them (See ‘The Big 5’ below)
- Act quickly – don’t mess about on months of planning
- Optimise for search – use a keyword tool as part of your research
- Hit publish – get the videos and blogs out there
So…how does content marketing lead to sales?
OK, now we’re getting into the ‘nitty gritty’.
This is the part that will make the biggest difference for you.
I will explain, in simple terms, how content marketing will grow your business and get you customers.
In other words, how content marketing leads to sales and puts money in your bank.
As business people, entrepreneurs and marketers, this is what we’re really interested in, or at least it should be.
Here’s a basic outline of how it works.
Search engine position – Create and publish the best version of the content available online today that answers your customers questions. You have to optimise this content for search and aim to appear on the first page of search results for the relevant search terms.
[This leads to]
Traffic to your website – Track and measure the performance of your content. Uncover how your prospects find your content and click through to your website. They may read multiple pages over a long period of time. As you appear more often in search, your traffic will increase.
[This leads to]
More leads and enquires – An increase in traffic and page views will result in a more informed and educated audience. You then offer them more information in exchange for their email address and contact details, making sure that relevant forms are easy to find.
[This leads to]
More sales – You continue to follow up with your prospects and potential customers over time. More leads will lead to more sales if you’re doing the right things. But not only that…
[This leads to]
Increased profits – Content marketing creates better customers – they are more confident, they spend more, stay with you for longer, tell other people about you – and all at a lower cost, which often times leads to an increase profits.
Does that all make sense?
OK, so that’s the process, but let’s wrap a little structure around this now.
- You understand the importance of the Zero Moment of Truth
- You’ve got all your questions documented
- You understand the process
- You’re ready to go, but there’s one more question…
Where’s the best place to start with all of these questions?
Marcus Sheridan, They Ask You Answer & The Big 5
I discovered Marcus Sheridan around 2013/14, and that’s when the penny dropped for me about the power of content and inbound marketing.
I started my first blog in 2010 – and although I ‘got it’ – until 2013 I didn’t really have a solid structure for approaching content marketing as a sales and business growth solution.
Marcus has helped me to see the direct link between content marketing and sales.
A quick back-story on Marcus Sheridan
Marcus used to be a ‘pool guy’ – selling fibreglass pools at River Pools and Spas based in Richmond, Virginia.
In 2008, as the financial crisis hit the world, his business was on the brink of disaster. He needed to do something about it, and he needed to move fast!
This is when Marcus discovered the incredible power of content. He started answering his customers questions using blogs and videos.
He’d be out on sales appointments, he’d get asked a bunch of questions, and if he hadn’t answered those questions on his website already, he’d stay up late to write and publish the content.
Long story short, he was rewarded for his efforts with more traffic, leads and sales. His company survived the financial crisis and their website now receives the highest amount of traffic in the industry.
In 2013 Marcus’ story about saving his company was featured in the The New York Times – A revolutionary Marketing Strategy: Answering customers’ questions.
Marcus now teaches the philosophy of They Ask You Answer across the globe and has witnessed success with content marketing in 100s of businesses in all industries all over the world.
Make sure you pick up his book today – They Ask You Answer (Amazon UK).
Embracing They Ask You Answer and The Big 5
After years of creating and publishing content Marcus uncovered 5 main topic areas that get the best results. The so-called ‘The Big 5’.
When people just like you and I are searching for information online to help us make an educated buying decision we typically search in and around 5 main topic areas.
The Big 5 areas are:
Let’s look at each of them in detail, along with some examples to help you make progress quickly.
1. Price & Cost
This isn’t about simply stating the price of single product or service.
As consumers we want to understand how pricing works in the specific area we are searching. From Sheds to IT Services:
- What factors make the price go up?
- What factors make the price go down?
- How can we do it cheaper?
- How can we do it for free?
- Why is it so expensive?
- Why is it so cheap?
- How long does it take (also related to price)
- How to save money
As a consumer, I want to know how far my money will go, and what I should be expecting for my money.
Before I choose who I want to buy from I want to know that I’m making a good decision, and that I’m not being ripped off.
In short, I want to feel confident and when I decide who I’m buying from I know if I can trust them or not.
Now, it might not be common practice to discuss price and cost in your content, but those who do will be rewarded.
Examples of ‘price/cost’ articles:
“Honest and transparent content is the greatest sales and trust building tool in the world. Period.” – Marcus Sheridan
Nothing breeds trust more than talking about the problems in your industry.
No one is perfect, and pretending to be perfect or the best makes people think you’re hiding something.
People aren’t stupid, and we’ve all had bad experiences with businesses and brands in the past, or we know someone that has.
We call this ‘the elephant in the room’ – we all know the problem exists, but no one is talking about it.
Is it possible for you build trust with your prospects and customers by talking about the things others aren’t prepared to discuss?
Of course it is.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why would someone NOT buy from you?
- What problems are common in your industry, and how do you solve them?
In other words, what are the reasons and objections people have about buying from companies like yours?
You’d likely be honest about it if someone asked you face to face, so what’s stopping you from publishing your answer about it?
Let’s get the problems out there, let’s talk openly about them, let’s own them, and as a result you will help your prospects understand what they can do to make sure they don’t have a bad experience…whether they buy from you or not.
Examples of ‘problems’ based articles:
Reviews are one of the most common areas of research for a consumer.
We use reviews to help make a buying decision on everything from Amazon to Trip Advisor to Money Supermarket. Other people’s opinions and experience hold a great deal of value.
We don’t even know these people, and yet what they say matters a lot to us.
As a business owner and marketer, my question to you is: why are you leaving reviews up to third party companies and websites? As the expert in your industry, why are you not writing and publishing the reviews for your prospects?
Is it possible for you to write honest and unbiassed review content to help your prospects and customers make more informed buying decisions?
Of course it is. You should be doing it, your audience want your expert thoughts and opinions.
The major mistake that most people make when it comes to reviews is that they forget that it must be unbiassed. There’s no need to look smart or brag about your product or service.
Lay it all out – the pros and cons – and then leave it up to the customer to make the best choice for them.
It’s your job to educate, teach and advise, and they’ll be on your website reading the content 🙂
Examples of ‘review’ based articles:
4. Best of/Best in class
Similar to writing and publishing reviews, you will know what the best and worst products, services and companies and manufacturers are in your industry.
You will know the good, the bad and the ugly of your space.
You will know what makes a product or service good, and what makes it poor.
This is your opportunity to create the standard and draw a line in the sand.
Examples of ‘best of’ articles:
“Consumer ignorance is no longer a viable sales and marketing strategy” – Marcus Sheridan
Comparison websites are possibly the most visited websites in the world.
As consumers we are obsessed with comparing things.
Just think about the last thing you bought.
You probably compared it against multiple competitors, using some of the factors discussed right here in The Big 5 – price/cost, reviews and best.
Coming back to the core principles of content marketing, The Big 5 and They Ask, You Answer – how can you be the most helpful in your industry?
Listen to the questions and problems your prospect have, and they will be asking for your opinion on ‘this vs that’ – write the article, record the video and publish it on your website.
Examples of ‘comparison/vs’ articles:
Update 2017: No decision is too small for today’s consumers
“As we look at the search trends that defined 2017 one thing becomes clear: we’re officially in the era of the research-obsessed consumer. With a smartphone in hand, people can get the answers they need to make the right purchase decision anytime, anywhere. You can see this behaviour clearly in search data—mobile searches for “best” and “reviews” have grown in the past two years.” (Source)
OK…it’s time to go to work
We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret – Jim Rohn
Let’s check in with where we are before we finish up…
- You understand the importance of the Zero Moment of Truth
- You’ve got all your questions documented
- You understand the process
- You are now organising your questions around ‘The Big 5’
Note: You may have some ‘how to’ ideas – just go ahead and create your ‘Big 6’ instead, but please prioritise The Big 5.
Now it’s time to start writing and creating your content. It could be in the form of blogs, videos or podcasts. It doesn’t matter, the same process applies.
Please visit the examples I’ve provided you with to get a feel for how to structure your content and present your content, and if you’ve got any questions you can email me at email@example.com.
It’s time to go to work.
Final words from Chris
Two final points before we wrap up…
The Internet has been around for a while now. There are literally hundreds of thousands of blogs, videos and podcasts published everyday about every single topic you can think of.
So how do you make sure your content is found by your prospects?
Firstly, no one is waiting for another mediocre or average piece of content. There’s already too much crap out there.
But that’s not for you. You’re better than that.
If you want to stand out today your content has to be good. It has to be better than what’s available to your prospects today.
This is what content marketing for today is: creating the best possible version of that content available online today for the topics your prospects and customers are interested in.
That’s the benchmark.
Don’t be scared about this. You didn’t get into business to be average, did you?
If you know your onions about your topic, this should be an exciting opportunity for you.
Secondly, The biggest misunderstanding about content marketing is that it’s completely separate from sales. I hope that you can now see that there’s a direct link between how people search and find information (content), and how they use that information to make an educated buying decision.
As business people and marketers we have to make sure that our resources – human and financial – are being put to good use. Content marketing efforts must lead to sales, what’s the point otherwise?
The biggest reason that most businesses and marketers are frustrated about not getting sales from content marketing is because they aren’t writing content for their prospects from the start.
If you’re not driving the type of people to your website that have the ability and willingness to buy from you, then you’ll struggle to turn those visitors into leads, sales and profits. Stop writing content for your peers, and start writing for people want to buy from you.
If you’ve got a question email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or jump into the comments section.