Sunara Spires integrating social media strategy at Inspires Marketing

How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Strategy?

I’d like to share with you why even small and medium sized businesses should focus on developing a content marketing strategy, the key elements of the customer journey when it comes to content, and much more.

Just 5 to 6 years ago, marketeers didn’t really need to consider social media, my clients had a product or service to sell and our goal was to get that message in front of the right audience, at the right time and in the most targeted media channel. They wanted results from their ads, whether those be traditional or paid search, it was all about numbers - more website traffic, more online conversions and better search rankings. They wanted their businesses to grow, simply by reaching more people.

Now, 6 years later, I believe it’s not about driving traffic to a destination and expecting customers to buy. Companies now need to listen to their preferred customers’ conversations on social media and develop a well-defined emotive communication strategy, creating relatable, engaging content with their ideal prospect’s motives in mind. Then they need to carefully manage the distribution of that content across all sorts of digital channels where their perfect customer hangs out.

The world of social media is a noisy place. Content without a good strategic point of view behind it isn’t going to cut through the noise. It just adds to it.

Start by Understanding Your Customer Journey and Define Your Content Goals

Look at your full marketing funnel and the customer journey to your product. Your typical customer goes through a multi-stage process before making a decision that hopefully ends with buying from you.

In most cases, the decision-making process starts with an emotional desire or problem that the customer wants to overcome. This is when they start to either seek out a solution or be open to suggestion. This is called the ‘Awareness’ phase of the customer journey. From here, customers move through Awareness to the ‘Consideration’ phase, where they do more research and weigh up their options and compare their different choices. The next phase is ‘Conversion’, when they make a rational decision to part with their cash and complete a purchase.

The fourth and final phase is ‘Advocacy’, or loyalty. This is where customers are so pleased with their purchase or your services that they’re not only willing to buy from you again, but to talk to other people about you, too. This phase after a purchase is an important part of the full-funnel content strategy and the goal here is to reassure and delight. I’m going to take you through each of these phases in more detail later in this feature.

Start by analysing all four stages of the entire journey a customer goes through to buy from you. Look for places within each of these phases of Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Advocacy where there might be a breakdown or gap. As you work through your sales funnel, identify how you can plug the gaps in your customers’ journey with content on your social media platforms, on your website and through email. Consider these ‘bridges’ to be your campaign goals.

For example, do you need more cold prospects to be familiar with your brand, relate to your brand values and better understand what you sell. If that is the case, then start developing content that builds awareness and positions your brand. If you need to encourage your warm audience, then produce content that will answer questions and overcome obstacles that could delay a decision.

Know When and How to Use Social Media in Your Content Marketing Strategy

When developing a content marketing strategy, examine all four phases of the customer journey: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, and Advocacy. Social media can work beautifully in all four stages of the customer journey, but you don’t necessarily have to use it in every single stage.

Focus on the areas of the funnel that need the most attention or that can make the biggest difference for your company. Then create content that is specifically designed for that phase of the customer journey.

If you already have an engaged audience or good number of followers, these people are already aware of your brand and consume your content, but they may need further encouragement to make a purchase? Your marketing content should focus on these Consideration and Conversion stages of the customer journey and break down any barriers.


Breaking Down the Four Phases of Content Marketing

Introduce yourself

Phase One: Building Awareness

The goal of awareness content is to stand out and grab attention by providing information and entertainment at the same time. Appreciate what your perfect prospect wants or needs and stitch this into your brand story. Place messages on 2 to 3 digital platforms where it makes most sense. Ensure this content represents your brand image and voice, including colours and styling. How does it position you in relation to your competition and what can set you apart from them?

Don’t be afraid to make content personal by genuinely and authentically revealing “why” you love your business. Collect reviews on platforms such as TrustPilot, LinkedIn and Google My Business, or, the digital environment most used by your perfect prospects. Use these testimonials to show how you treat your clients, and how their reaction gets you out of bed in the morning. Align your business alongside the emotions your potential customers are most probably already feeling.

Produce content that talks to the emotional pain, excitement, or other feelings your ideal audience has at the Awareness stage of their journey. Often people buy with emotion and then justify that decision with logic. All purchase decisions, whether it’s a handbag or an interior design service begin with some sort of emotional trigger, this is essential to catch the attention of your ideal audience and attract them to your brand and into the next phase of your marketing funnel.

By building a brand story you can say what your business is about, position your products or services as a solution to your prospects’ needs and desires and show that you are trustworthy, experienced, and can drive positive outcomes.

The story must also be relatable. You need to know who you want to see your story, how it’ll make them feel and empathise with what they’re already feeling. Most importantly, you’ll have to show that you have the answers they need to make their life better/easier. Their issue is the hero of your story during this Awareness phase and your brand should be seen as the route to achieving a better solution.

A good starting point is WHY? Why you exist, why you do what you do, why you love what you do, etc. I hate to see companies misrepresented. My passion is to ensure that every digital and advertising touch point exudes the same qualities and professionalism as the actual customer experience. This is what drives me to help businesses that are currently letting themselves down in the digital environment and not capitalising on their potential business gains from getting their content and conversion strategies looking and sounding brilliant.

Make friends by getting to know each other better

Stage Two: Consideration

The aim in the Consideration phase involves social engagement, focus on your perfect customer’s most targeted social media channels as the most powerful tools to get people to pay attention to you. This doesn’t have to be paid, you can start by organically posting on your profile. You want potential customers to come on a journey with you. You want them to build a relationship with you as a brand or business.

During this consideration phase it’s a good time to generate content that addresses frequently asked questions, a how-to video, expert blog or podcast that positions your business as an expert with information. Approach the content in a way that benefits and provides real value to your ideal customer. You want them to feel like they can’t believe they’re getting this content for free.

Friendships don’t happen with one great news feed post or video. It takes time and commitment to gradually provide value in a way that builds trust and positions you or your business as an expert long-term. The relationship must also be two way. Respond to questions or comments quickly to connect on a more emotional and personal level with your engaged prospects.

At this stage there shouldn’t be any expectation that they buy from you. When they’re ready to buy, they’re more likely to choose your company or your brand simply because of the trust you’ve established over time.

Choose the primary social media platform that is most popular with your preferred prospects. This might be YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and IGTV or LinkedIn? Whatever platform you choose as your primary channel for posting your content, ensure that you consider the needs and mindset of your targets while on that channel.

Up until this point I’ve described an organic content strategy for moving people from the Awareness phase through the Consideration phase. By running paid retargeting campaigns, you can drive people who have already been through the Awareness phase more quickly through your marketing funnel. However, this may rush people through the customer journey and not give you enough time to properly position your brand. The idea behind running an organic strategy is that it allows customers to consume your social engagement content over time and it primes them for when they’re ready to buy.

Close the Deal

Stage Three: Conversion or Purchasing

By this phase you have made people aware of your brand and positioned it as the right choice for their needs, but this doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy right now. You cannot assume that people will click seamlessly from your post and start making a purchase, there could be barriers preventing them from making a purchasing decision.

The goal in the Conversation phase of the customer journey is to get people across the line and to become a paying customer. To do this, consider all the reasons someone might hold back from making a purchase, and then come up with rational ways to address these concerns. At this point a lead magnet that provides you with an opportunity to communicate on a more personal level with your prospect should be included in your content strategy. A lead magnet is simply gated content. It’s a wasted opportunity if you provide a link where anyone can download your checklist or worksheet. Instead, create an opt-in form where you can collect their email address and any other contact information you want (the more information you try to collect, the lower the response rate will be). When you have their information, they can access your free valuable content and you can add them to your email marketing campaigns and other marketing initiatives (GDPR permitting).

The dialogue you start after someone has shared their email address with you isn’t made public or shared on social media. It goes directly to your prospective customer and walks them through what it would be like to buy from your company. You could provide more specific details about your services or answer any questions.

You can automate this process through your email provider, sharing with your ideal customer what they’ll experience if they choose to make their purchase. This is a great time to share reviews and case studies that are more factual than the emotive content created at the Awareness phase. These will encourage people to buy from you and overcome any barriers they have in making that purchase decision. Don’t forget to include a very clear call to action with the email.

Retention and Recommendation

Stage Four: Advocacy, Identify Touchpoints Following a Purchase

Now that people have paid money and become your clients, it’s critical that you keep working on your relationship. In the Advocacy stage, it makes good business sense to do things to continue to impress your clients or keep them happy.

Right from the moment your customer has parted with their hard-earned cash they could be suffering from feelings of buyer’s regret. At this phase you need to assure them that they’re in the right place and made the right decision in buying from you. This improves the customer experience, increases retention, encourages people to refer you to others, and just builds better relationships with your customers.

Establish a ‘Keep-In-Touch’ strategy, ensuring you achieve the right balance of frequency and relevance; you don’t want to have the opposite impact and turn them off you. This is your opportunity to invite fresh reviews, encourage sharing of experiences through participating in case-studies, facilitate sharing of content including refer a friend offers or simply ‘Up-Sell’ and ‘Cross-Sell’ more products and services. It’s also a good time to define when a customer needs reactivating by introducing paid social media advertising to your custom-made audience.

I’d love to hear your comments or if you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please get in touch. CONTACT

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