The problem many marketers have with effectively using content marketing is that they focus on only one part of the buying cycle. They pigeonhole themselves into creating all of their content for boosting awareness (i.e., top of the funnel) or generating conversions (i.e., bottom of the funnel). This lopsided strategy won’t work because it fails to hit consumers at each part of the buyer’s journey.
So what leads marketers to make this mistake? It could be a number of things, including the following:
- A lack of understanding on how to optimize their content for each area of the buying cycle
- Very little knowledge of what makes content valuable to the consumer
- Limited resources available to create content
It’s these missteps that lead marketers to drop the ball with their content efforts. Our team at Fractl is here to help clear up any misunderstandings about content marketing and show you how you can optimize your efforts for each level of the sales funnel in order to maximize results.
How to Use Content Marketing Throughout the Buying Cycle: A Three-Step Guide
Remember that the most effective content marketing plans use content in each area of the buying cycle. Incorporating a few of our client campaigns, we created this step-by-step guide to illustrate how content can be used in each stage of the cycle along with which type will have the strongest impact.
Step One: Create Content People Want to See and Share to Increase Awareness and Traffic
At the beginning of the buying cycle, the goal is to generate awareness about your brand. You want as many people as possible to familiarize themselves with your organization and what you provide. In other words, you want the next viral hit. These campaigns are designed to appeal to authoritative sites that drive traffic and generate links, and for these reasons, the best content is something that has mass appeal.
A great way to do this is through emotionally driven visuals. By nature, we are visual creatures, and our brains connect with images much faster than with text alone: In fact, an MIT study found that the human brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. Because our brains are wired for quickly absorbing and interpreting visuals, content that includes strong graphics works well in this part of the buying cycle.
Take a look at Reverse Photoshopping. We used images of comic book heroes altered to have normal body types. It’s a shocking visual that clearly resonated with audiences – it earned over 100,000 shares on social media.
Another popular component of an effective viral campaign connects content with a controversial topic. In Perceptions of Perfection, we tapped into the heated discussion of women and their all-too-common unrealistic depictions. By creating a visual that connected to an emotionally charged topic – and expanding the reach by including designers from 18 different countries – we were able to generate nearly 1 million social shares.
Keep in mind that when you’re creating content where the goal is virality, make sure it’s easy to share. When people can share your content quickly, your audience will automatically help with your outreach efforts and continue to spread the content across the Internet. We played into this strategy with Your Face on Meth: It included an app that enabled users to upload their photo and see what the effects of methamphetamine usage would look like on themselves. This encouraged people to share their image and helped the campaign become one of our most successful to date.
Aside from something visually appealing, authoritative sites are always looking for new, original data to share with their audiences. For example, in Twitter Reading Levels, we scraped more than 500,000 tweets to create a data-driven story about literacy rates around the world. This unique data set helped catch the attention of over 250 high-authority publishers.
Other highly viral campaigns will take a data set that is not readily available and present it in an easily digestible format. For Movoto’s Wealthiest People campaign, we created a map that broke down relatable data by state. This built-in ego bait made it interesting to people across the country, which helped it earn 130 pickups from top-tier publishers including Yahoo, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post.
Step Two: Create Conversion-Driven Content to Target Leads
When you are no longer attempting to connect with a wide, relatively unknown audience, you can focus on content that will speak directly to your target consumers. This is known as conversion-driven content.
Conversion campaigns are designed to target consumers in a specific market and lead them to sales on your site. These campaigns are hyper-targeted to a specific audience that is ready – or nearly ready – to purchase.
When you create content for this phase of the buying cycle, engage your audience through data married to an emotional hook. In the campaign Xbox vs. PS4, we used data that resonated with gamers, a direct consumer for eBay. By promoting content that compared fans of Xbox and PlayStation 4, we caught the attention of loyal gamers and helped the retail site draw attention to its video game products.
However, remember that a consumer doesn’t begin the buying process knowing they need a product. Typically they start the journey knowing they have a problem, so content that helps them sort through their problem is a great way to drive conversions. In The Male Fashion Fit Guide, we targeted men looking to upgrade their wardrobe by offering a guide to finding the perfect fit in shirts, shorts, pants, and ties. After providing the consumers with wardrobe guidance, the content leads the audience to buy those products directly from eBay.
Step Three: Provide On-Site Content That Builds Trust and Authority
Once you’ve generated leads and even driven a few conversions, use on-site content to boost trust and reposition yourself as an authority in your industry. On-site content is the backbone of your digital presence, and it is where you develop your voice and provide resources for potential consumers.
A great place to start is with an on-site blog. For instance, for BuzzStream, we outlined a blog strategy that included posts its customers could use as a detailed resource. These posts highlighted industry-specific knowledge, like this Best Practice Guide for Influencer Marketing Pitches. This resource puts the client’s expertise on display and provides visitors a look at BuzzStream’s in-depth knowledge of the industry.
On-site content should also mimic the services offered by the client. Take a look at How to Create a Viral Idea in a Boring Vertical. This is a very niche topic, but the post shows readers how you can use tools specifically from BuzzStream to streamline the process and create content that will maximize your efforts.
Another key theme of these posts? Length. Shallow, generic on-site content is not nearly as effective as detailed, in-depth resources. Don’t skimp on the value when publishing content if you want to connect with consumers at this stage of the buying cycle.
For example, in the post 101 Questions Your Team Needs to Answer Before Pitching a Publisher, we didn’t settle for your typical “Top 10” list. Instead, we went the extra mile and listed over 100 questions – along with answers – which is something incredibly valuable when establishing yourself as an authority within your industry.
A Bonus: How to Repurpose Content to Fit Every Stage of the Buying Cycle
Now that you know how content can be used effectively across all stages of the buying cycle, you probably have one last question: How do you find the resources to create content for each stage?
For organizations with limited resources, the amount of content needed to hit each stage of the buying cycle may seem a bit overwhelming, but there is a trick to creating enough content to fill all phases of the cycle: It’s called repurposing.
Through repurposing, you can take one topic, data set, or idea and turn it into multiple pieces of content that can work for each stage of the sales funnel. For example, you can repurpose multiple blog posts that were originally designed to generate awareness into a white paper that targets a consumer further down the funnel. By simply tweaking a word or reformatting your content, you can reuse it in different phases – ultimately maximizing your resources and optimizing results.
When the right content is present in each stage of the buying cycle, content marketing is an extremely effective way to increase visibility, generate leads, and close more sales. You’ll want to outline a content strategy that hits each phase of the cycle to get the most leverage out of your efforts.
Want even more examples of how content can be used in all stages of the buying cycle? Check out the complete Fractl portfolio of case studies that includes dozens of examples of content campaigns for each phase.
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