Lets imagine you’ve set out to create content to use for lead generation. After writing and going through multiple edits, your content is ready; all that’s left is to point paid ads towards it and wait for leads to pour in, right? Well, there are still a few steps to go before you have a campaign that makes the most of your content.
Wait, you say, Why am I paying to get people to my site, just to look at content? What I really want are leads! It’s tempting to use content that vaults buyers right towards an immediate sales close, but that rarely works. The case for content is best made by Invisible Sale author Tom Martin, who said, If you’re going to win over the self-educated buyer, you have to be committed to helping them. So lets review each of the critical steps needed to integrate your content into digital campaigns, turning it from ordinary content into super-content.
Give content super-powers by repurposing it
Not everybody absorbs information the same way, so why do we serve everybody content in plain text-format? As Marshall McLuhan’s the medium is the message slogan suggests, we could make our content even more useful to buyers by putting it in various formats.
Like any good story, you should put be able to cast good content into as many forms as makes sense. Hollywood can take a good book and turn it into a movie, a musical, a graphic novel and an amusement park ride. In the same way, your content ought to work in various formats: a blog, a video, an infographic, a curated list, a quiz, a data sheet, a trend report, an interactive demo, an ebook, a template such as a checklist, a podcast and more. Marketer Jay Baer quips that publishing handy content in a useful form gives it You-tility.
Make your content easy to find
Prospects like to use content to inform themselves about solutions to problems. But when they reach our websites, they immediately hit dense, detailed explanations. It isn’t that we don’t want to explain the issues in simple terms. It is because most of us have trouble breaking the vast knowledge we’ve amassed in our area of expertise into bite-sized chunks. Part of this solution can be found in a 150 year old concept that organizes content into intelligible subject groups. Melvil Dewey came up with classifications to help anyone find anything. His hierarchical Dewey Decimal System used a branching structure to break down information at 2-digit, 4-digit and 6-digit levels of detail.
How do you apply this idea to your content? Look at your content and you’ll probably find that you have lots of individual subject detail that would be 4-digit or 6-digit level detail in Dewey’s Decimal System. You need to bring order to this content by broadly classifying information by category, equivalent to the 2-digit level that Dewey used for whole sections of a library. Once your content is broken into broad classifications you have flexibility. For example, you can tweak existing pages with very detailed content or subtly shift focus by adding new categories/tags. Doing it at this low-level is good because you can make changes without changing your whole website. You’ll also see areas where you could write new content to cover the areas where your library is most sparse.
Buyers begin by expecting 2-digit detail so they know which part of the Library they’re in. Once you show them content grouped by topic, they will tend to stay on your site, even if their immediate questions weren’t answered. They will follow links to information on closely-related topics using lead-ins like: People who asked this also wanted to know or links to other facets of the topic, and be drawn into sibling topics they hadn’t even thought of.
Like Dewey, who made it simple for Library patrons to navigate through stacks and shelves to find knowledge they were looking for, you can make it easy for buyers to find your content. Using a Dewey-esque classification, you’ll help them find answers or dive into more detail on your site. In the process, they may even become convinced that YOU are the solution they’ve been looking for.
Know how deep your audience wants to go into subject matter
It’s tricky to know how much detail to give, when to make content basic and when to delve into more advanced material. Give too little and the prospect thinks you don’t have the goods. Get too deep by using lots of three-letter acronyms and you quickly lose a decision maker who’s unequipped for lots of detail. My advice is to imagine that you’re sporting scuba gear and you’re guiding a newbie client who has jumped into the water with just a bit of equipment. As their guide, you see they have snorkeling gear, not scuba gear. So it’s your job to wade them down a bit into detail, but stay near enough to the surface so that they can always come up for a breath of air. It doesn’t matter that you can go much deeper as a scuba diver; what matters is that you keep common ground and give information at the depth that the snorkeler can handle. That’s a strategy that gives you a great chance of comfortably giving your visitor the content they need.
Content acts like a map for buyers on their journey towards a purchase
Make sure you intelligently arrange your content. Structure individual pieces of content to be used at different buying stages. These pieces can work together, the way that route-signs work on a trail or like the water stations along a running route, encouraging marathon participants towards the finish line. Kevin Cochrane, CMO at Agari, described how it works in the pages of the American Marketing Associations Journal:
“Tailoring materials to specific consideration sets and steps in the buying cycle may be a smart strategy. [Experts] advise marketers to make sure that each piece of content is connected. There is a lot of content out there that is standalone and that is problematic.”
You have to look at all of your marketing content as pieces of a puzzle. So at the end of a White Paper, for instance, marketers should provide recommendations for other content prospects can read, or links to upcoming company events about that topic.
The world is full of good stories build your content as a story
Content can move the buyer from the new and unknown to something that’s known and trusted. For marketing to work, it must translate new information into something you already know. Once that is done, you can reproduce the essence of that new information in your own words so others can understand and act on it.
Your content can do this by using the age-old structure that stories use. Stories can help buyers identify with your vision, it can help them see themselves in your case studies, how you helped companies in the same situation. They will continue reading your content, following its plot progression. Your content should be broken up so it caters to both those who are starting fresh and for those jumping in mid-way through the action. Make the buyer the hero of the story and so long as the content leads towards a purchase decision as its conclusion, the buyer will lead themselves there, at their own pace. According to C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley’s Content Rules, you need to embrace a new mindset one focused not just on generating leads but on developing a strategy to keep prospects engaged until they’re good and ready to talk to your sales reps.