English is a funny language. Wielded correctly, though, it can do wonders for your business. At Lead Marketing & Design, content marketing is one of our specialties. Most customers have questions about a business’s products or services. Answering those questions in blog posts, articles, and even e-mail campaigns—and doing this well—can put your business ahead of your competition in attracting a loyal customer base.

Today’s Customers Want to Do Their Own Research

There’s a statistic floating around the marketing world that seems to pop up every now and then: Buyers are 80 percent through the sales process before they contact you. Years ago, when the internet was still making strange noises when you tried to connect, this number was probably in the 20 to 30 percent range. This is why content marketing is a powerful tool today: most customers are more comfortable doing their own research before they take the time to call, contact, or visit your business.

Your Content Should Drive Sales

This is vital. Don’t begin a content marketing initiative if you aren’t focused on driving sales. Good content resolves the questions that prevent your customers from buying (or buying sooner). Good content will also move the right buyers farther down your sales funnel and kick the wrong buyers from the system before they show up to waste your time. Either way, good content marketing addresses your customers’ questions in an honest, substantive way. Run-of-the-mill blog posts that someone slaps together in 15 minutes probably won’t accomplish much. (I’ve included some examples of ugly content below.) Providing the wrong information won’t accomplish much. And not writing your content for a specific stage of the buying process won’t accomplish much.

5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Implement Content Marketing

Is content marketing right for your company? At Lead Marketing & Design, we’ve helped clients implement lead-generating content marketing strategies. In our experience, it’s best if you’re able to answer ‘yes’ to all five of the questions below before you say ‘yes’ to content marketing. Before we begin work on a client’s content marketing, we ask these questions to understand if it’s the right strategy:

1. Would a reasonable person view you as a leader or authority in your market/industry?

The best content comes from leaders in their respective fields. Or from the new industry player that has all the ingredients necessary to attain leader status and just needs some time to start getting attention. Customers listen to and trust leaders. Every business wants to answer ‘yes’ to this question, but if we’re being honest, some can’t.

2. Do you have the resources to commit to quality content marketing?

Content that sells—that delivers leads—takes time. In other words, it can require a substantial investment, depending on how technical or complex your industry is. Do you have internal resources/knowledge that you can tap for your content? Or will you need outside help?

3. Do you know who your ‘ideal’ customer is?

Content marketing can help you build a solid base of ideal customers, but you need to have an accurate picture of who that is. As with any other facet of marketing, if you try to serve everyone—and appeal to everyone—with your content, you’re not going to make a very big impact. What answers do customers and prospects need in order to take that final step and give you a call, fill out your online form, or hit the ‘buy’ button?

4. Are you willing to discuss stuff that your competitors won’t?

Why does your product or service cost what it does? What are the downsides to your product or service? If customers are going to find out anyway, you might as well address the negatives up front. And, this also means that you should aim to provide content that’s unique—that people can’t find anywhere else—to differentiate your business from the pack.

5. What’s your one big idea that will hold everything together?

Every article you post or send should be strong and stand on its own. But to get your whole program right, all your content should reinforce one larger theme—one controlling idea. For example, a landscaping company’s one controlling idea might be that they offer the most eco-friendly landscape designs. Each article the company posts should reinforce this idea, whether it’s about incorporating native plants into a landscape or planting trees to cut a home’s energy bills.

A Word of Caution: it Pays to Seek Help with Content Marketing

Here are some brief excerpts from fall-flat content I plucked off the Web. I’m not going to link to the articles. In fact, I also changed the wording slightly.

It’s time to start loading your plate up with vegetables.

Trumpeting the same advice or information that customers can find everywhere else is not a winning content marketing strategy. Doesn’t every self-help guru, fitness outlet, and dietician constantly howl about eating more vegetables? This example from a gym’s “Learn to Be Fit” page violates #4 above. The rest of the article’s tips are generic as well, and won’t actually make potential clients want to sign up for a membership or group class.

Zoning will allow you to cut down on your heating and cooling costs and is easy to operate.

This one caught my eye because we have a problem in our own home with hot and cold rooms, which zone controls are supposed to fix. By the time I finished the 200 to 300 word article, I had more questions than answers. How exactly does zoning work in a residential setting? Is there more than one thermostat or is there one thermostat and multiple thermometers? What equipment do I need to install? How do I operate a system like this? As I mentioned in #2 above, your content needs to be comprehensive enough to answer most of your customers’ questions, not create more questions.

Thinking of planting ornamental evergreens? Plant info on Google is not reliable as it is based on information from all over the world. We want to share our observations with you from getting our hands dirty.

This gave me a strange feeling because I found the article on Google. Aside from that, it’s a great concept. If I was in this company’s service area, I’d love plant information tailored to our regional climate. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t deliver. It provides the same basic information that a person can dig up on Wikipedia and then asks potential customers to “call for a consultation.” That’s a nasty bait-and-switch, and I wouldn’t be too eager to read through the rest of the company’s articles. 

Content Marketing Delivers ROI, but Only When You Commit to Excellence

At Lead Marketing & Design, we’ve been fortunate to be able to assist a few clients with their content marketing, including strategy and the actual content. We know how much work content marketing can entail. And this is why it pays to seek help if your company wants to employ content marketing to drive leads.

Short generic articles and carbon-copy content isn't going to do much for your business. On the flip side, being transparent, comprehensive, and authoritative can do a lot. When done well, content marketing can reinforce your company’s position as a leader in your marketplace and help attract a strong base of loyal customers.

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