How To Create Content That Works in Digital Marketing

Other business and creative objectives aside, the biggest goals for both content and social marketing are invariably sales and lead generation. That’s just how it is. They’re there to bring in customers and put bums on seats. 90% of the time we’re doing this to sell a product or service, and this is (very basically) how we create and target the content to do that.

When targeting content (and social media) we need to think back to some core sales principles. It’s not the 80’s; we’re dealing with a whole different format, so we can immediately replace the “target prospect” with a “buyer persona.” Just like creating a brand personality, a buyer persona is a character to whom we can relate and to whom we can target our content and social efforts.

Who is your audience? Think of a buyer persona as a potential customer. An archetypical person that you want your marketing message to reach. These personas (you probably have 3 or 4 targets) should include the essential demographic and behavioural attributes needed to round them out into ‘flesh and blood characters that are easier to identify with and that you can ‘speak to’. Give them gender and a name, a potential income, and education, some skills, some loose hobbies, a relationship, think about who they work for and give them an organization type or industry, likes and dislikes, habits and preferences, geography, a pet bunny, or any detailed characteristic that helps pinpoint your understanding of their needs, situation, condition and aspirations. Who’s laughing at the kids who used to play AD&D now, eh? Think a bit outside the box, but stay on target. Justify everything. Most of the audience is the blog readers who can be received by blogger outreach. Bloggers attract audiences by writing on niche topics. How to contact the blogger is a major issue to publish your content.

NB: In B2B most decisions are made by a group. You might need to create a persona for each member in the decision-making process (not as easy as it sounds). Thinking of this as a flowchart, with personas as advocates or obstacles, can help.

Now we have our personas we have to identify what stage of the purchase process they’re in, and then generate and distribute content to them accordingly. What can we give these people that they need, at each stage of the process, to move them up the sales funnel? There are a lot of different versions of this process been created over the years, but I find breaking it down into 4 works best for what we do:

Suspect: Everyone (and their friends) in your target market. People who could potentially consume (or share) your product or service, or may influence the people who do.

Prospect: People looking for more detailed information on how to resolve a key problem or solve something they need to accomplish. Think about what those needs might be.

Lead: The right person with the ability to buy. They have the need, the budget, the desire to investigate their need, etc. What is actually a lead will no doubt, to some degree, be further defined by your sales or marketing team (if you have one). These people have invariably passed the point of initial contact with your firm.

Opportunity: The right person who is ready to buy. They know (99%) what they want, and they want it now, but they want to make sure they get the right people for the job and within the right budget/time scale.

Now we need to create a content-rich journey that takes our personas from where they are right now and helps them through to the end goal (buying your über-widgets). We plot this on a table we call ‘The Content Grid’. This is a simple visual matrix where at the intersection between the personas and their stage in the purchase process we can suggest a distribution medium and potential subjects for content development. Subjects and topics are subjective, naturally, but some content types fit nicely (but not exclusively) with our 4 stages. I’m going to generalize here, but I want to give you some suggestions to act as a catalyst for further ideas and to get you thinking about measurement (without which this is all pretty pointless). Think distribution (what medium), messaging (what story) and measurement (showing results) for each persona at each stage:

Suspect: easily found (SEO rich) informative blog articles about general problems your personas may have (or not realize they have); links to general (on topic and entertaining) external content in social channels; easy to consume (and redistribute) on-topic infographics; more generic non-demo explainer videos, etc. Look to distribution this content through blogs and social networks and remember to record any insights from traffic spikes and referrals, measure click-through on inbound links, and look for social signals like ‘likes’, tweets and re-tweets, +1’s, etc. or you can’t show impact or advancement up the sales funnel. This is usually around 75% of the content.

Prospect: think a little more specialized here like webinars and speaking events (don’t forget to record them for legacy/YouTube); more blog content (maybe in report format) and social support answering more long-tail questions and written for search marketing; specific explainer videos. Think concise guides and eBooks with more detailed information on how to resolve core (and specific) industry problems. Think delivery through email and direct mail and capture people into house lists via newsletters. Offer them something of genuine value and they will sign up. Results should be measured through conversions, and this should be a drive to gather names and email addresses (for future marketing opportunities). This is usually around 10% of the content.

Lead: more of the same, but potentially much more specific. Content could highlight the risks of not taking action, and how your experience helps bring solutions with it. It can examine specifics and fulfil the particular needs of a lead, even being created reactively if appropriate (“Oh, funny you should mention that our Head of Widgets wrote an article about it on our blog this week, let me send you a link…”). Painting a brand as an industry leader is always a strong tactic. Once again, webinars and events have their place, as do niche blog content, podcasting, instructional videos, white papers, newsletters, email marketing, etc. It’s easy to measure downloads, click-throughs, attendance, phone calls, etc. as quantifiable results. This is usually around 10% of the content.

Opportunity: this is REALLY specific stuff, leading to and facilitating a final sale and helping them nail the right buying decision. There’s often some reticence (by companies) to give this sort of information out, but it’s 2012 and people expect it and it builds trust. Believe me, if you don’t give out this sort of info (feature breakdown downloads, live chat and direct Q&A services, pricing breakdowns/visuals, comparison and solution calculators, etc.) then they’ll just go to the competition that does. This is a place where (especially the blu chip) organizations can come up short. The big measurement factor here is sales. If people are going to spend money they now expect a digital buying centre where they can go to get all the information they need to make an educated buying decision. This is usually around 5% of the content (but A LOT more time consuming to create).

So, that’s where and how to create content and target social efforts, but what content do you create? As discussed you need to be answering questions and fulfilling needs, but what they are is open to interpretation by industry and persona.

Try creating some buyer personas and the matrix above, and it’ll give you grounding and clearer ideas of what you need and how to begin. Have a think about what types of content fit with your brand and personas, where to implement it and what topics and questions you’d ask for each. Hey, if you really stuck for a starting point, run a search in Yahoo Answers or Quora and see what questions your personas are asking about your industry, then answer them. Also, remember this is an evolving process. If you need any help, give us a call. We help clients with this process all the time and a firm foundation is the first step to delivering a strong outsourcing content marketing plan. We produce all the elements above, so give us a ring if you’d like to know more.

Digital marketing is all about creating evergreen content so that people can share that on digital media and social sites.


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