Why is content marketing so important? Research shows that year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is almost 8x higher for content marketing industry leaders. But content marketing is about more than just inbound marketing or attracting traffic. It’s also about understanding the customer lifecycle and the entire customer journey.
Content ideation is a very important first step in the content journey. In this article, we’ll discuss three effective methods for content ideation: buyer personas, the customer journey and the content gap analysis.
Buyer Personas Exercise
Many clients come to us and know exactly who their audience is, but they don’t have it documented. It may sound silly, but documenting this important step keeps the customers wants and needs top of mind at all times. Some clients even print out their personas and tape it to the wall as a reminder.
At Acumium, we perform a buyer personas exercise for all new clients, whether they are looking for us to provide a custom development project, a website redesign project or a content marketing strategy. A personas exercise consists of identifying these key components:
- Demographics: This is an easy one. Gender, geography, industry and internet savviness. This information will help determine what types of content to write during the creation phase and what targeting to use during the promotion phase. If you are a local retailer, your strategy is going to be a lot different than if you are a global distributor, for example.
- Motivators: Identifying motivators is the next step in the buyer persona process. What motivates customers to choose you? Examples could be price, service, expertise or ease of use. A lot of times this comes back to your company’s value proposition. What makes you special and differentiates you from your competitors? Talk about that in your content.
- Pain Points: What frustrates customers about your product or service or causes them to go to the competition? Are you more expensive? Did they have a bad experience? Understanding your customer’s pain points can be very powerful. Use this knowledge to your advantage and address those concerns with a positive spin when creating your content. For example, even though your product may be slightly more expensive, you offer a lifetime warranty. Or maybe it’s because your product is constructed out of a more rugged material than the competitions’, so you won’t need to replace it as often.
- Barriers/Objectives: What are your leads’ barriers to entry? Would it be too expensive or inconvenient to switch to another brand or service? Is there too much work involved with leaving a current provider? Understanding the barriers can help you determine where to focus your efforts.
- WIFM (What’s in it for me?): These are statements customers would say when describing why they find value in your business and why they choose to do business with you. For example, “I know that when I shop online at your business, shipping will be free and my order will arrive as expected.” Or, “I know when I use your company, you always get the job done on time and on budget.”
- Quotes: These are actual quotes that your customers have said to you via phone, email or social media. For example: “I know that when I work with Company A, they are going to listen to my needs.” Or, “Love your product. The quality is exceptional. I have purchased your product for my entire family.”
Content Tip: You can take it even a step further to think about what keywords each target persona would use in a Google search.
Now that you understand the customer, it’s time to take a walk in their shoes along the customer journey. According to the Online Marketing Institute, it takes between 7-13 touch points to generate a lead. What that means is you need to be everywhere. An omni-channel approach – repeating the same message on all channels – will make a difference. So don’t think that if you share something on one channel that you can’t share it on another. We are so bombarded with content that hearing consistent brand messaging is a good thing. It will help your business stay top of mind. There are many different versions of the customer journey funnel, so this may need to be tailored to fit your specific company or industry. At Acumium, we focus on these four major phases for content: Awareness, Consideration, Intent and Loyalty.
Potential leads may first hear of you through brand awareness content such as blog posts, infographics, images and videos that you share on social media channels. Many times social media may be the first place where potential customers are exposed to your brand. Leads may also find this content through a Google search result, so you will want to stay on top of SEO best practices to ensure your content is searchable.
If the quality of the content peaks their interest and makes a good first impression, they may click around your website and dig a little deeper. This is the consideration phase. In this phase, we are really looking to gain some micro conversions that will allow us to continue and grow a relationship with a potential lead. We can create opportunities within content such as ebooks and white papers, to generate these micro conversions, such as asking them to provide an email in exchange for an in-depth, downloadable piece of content. If a potential customer gives up their email address, it’s a good sign that they are interested in what your company has to offer. This is where your brand really has a chance to nurture leads further down the funnel via an email drip program or any other retargeting tactics, such as Facebook retargeting ads or Google Display Network retargeting.
Pretty soon, your leads may be interested enough to check out reviews and case studies from your previous clients or customers. This is really when the decision process begins and your lead is nearing the close of a purchase. Providing case studies will not only give your lead a good sense about your quality product or service, it will create trust. If you’re a B2C business, make sure your reviews on Angie’s List or Yelp are up to snuff. How about your Facebook page? At the end of the day, you want to be where your potential customers are looking to find more about you from people they trust, like other consumers.
Once a lead becomes a customer, your content options don’t have to stop. In fact, a satisfied customer will want to hear more from you. Follow up with them periodically on new product offerings, promotions, newsletters, blog articles and more. Encourage loyal customers to promote your brand on social channels or to write customer reviews. This is a great way to get started on building your social influencer strategy. Social influencers, or brand ambassadors, find joy in helping a brand, so engaging with these people is really important. Just look up any brand on YouTube and you will see tons of user generated content created by influencers and ambassadors that help spread brand awareness to those in the consideration and intent phases of the customer buying journey.
Content Gap Analysis
The content gap analysis is an exercise you can do at any time, whether it’s before you write content or after you have written some content and need inspiration on topics. Understanding your audience is key, which is why going through a personas exercise before developing your content strategy is so important. Once you understand your audience you can identify what topics resonate for each persona and at each stage of their customer journey.
If you have existing content, do a content audit and map out your personas and customer journey stages and identify the gaps. For example, Persona A may only have content written in the awareness and consideration stages, but not the intent or purchase stages. Basically, a content gap analysis helps you identify content holes and brainstorm new topics and formats for content.
If your content is relatable, useful and inspiring to your audience, you will begin to funnel users who come to your website, blog and social media channels down the buying cycle. However, not all content will resonate with all audiences, and not all audience segments will be at the same stage of the customer journey at the same time. So creating content that reaches all audience segments at all stages of the buying cycle should be your goal.
Skipping the content ideation phase is very common, but taking the time to develop content ideas will make your content marketing efforts much more focused and valuable in the end. It will also set the stage for creating a content marketing strategy, which increases content marketing effectiveness and gets you one step closer to achieving your business goals, whether that’s increasing leads, sales or revenue. Check back for our next article, How Content Fuels Social: Repurposing Content for tips and tactics to develop content that appeals to customers at different stages of the buying cycle.
To learn more about how content marketing fuels social channels, listen to the Social Media Breakfast podcast where Heather and Sara discuss the topic.