Content marketing has earned its reputation for delivering results.
More and more businesses are investing in content marketing initiatives that educate, inspire and entertain.
Though all that engagement is nice, the best programs deliver the most relevant business-building conversions. So, how do you use content to lead someone from awareness to customer? The process might not be as linear as you think.
Thinking of the audience journey as a web—a non-linear experience—might seem confusing, but it will help you to consider the smaller conversions that lead to a bigger goal, and then you can build on the key principles of better-performing content.
[FREE GUIDE: 7 ways to get honest feedback from employee surveys]
At each stage along the non-linear journey, prompt conversions with calls to action leading to the next logical steps. From a content perspective, considering the journey as a web of possible paths offers a roadmap to purchasing, helping potential customers overcome any obstacles.
1. Identify the pivotal conversions.
The ultimate conversion is a sale. To lead a customer to that sale, content marketing conversions can take on disparate forms and deliver success in many ways.
Perhaps you know that if a customer watches 75 percent of a product video, they make a purchase 10 percent of the time. If a prospect opens your weekly newsletter more than 10 times, your sales reps increase their chance of gaining a meeting by 75 percent. Also, dispelling that one myth about your product increases intent to purchase by 50 percent, and getting a customer into a showroom to try your product is the difference between seeing and believing.
Like those examples, a pivotal conversion is anything you can measure that’s instrumental to the audience journey with your brand, product, solution or service. No matter what the conversion, the parameters of success must be defined so that it can be measured and evaluated accurately.
2. Consider the micro-conversion.
Think back to the web analogy. Sometimes customers fly straight into the center of the conversion web, perhaps without even considering your competition or engaging with any of your content. That’s an effort-free customer.
By contrast, some people might start at one edge of the web, interacting with bits of your content for inspiration, entertainment or educational purposes for years before making a purchase. When they’re ready to buy, they have already formed a strong relationship with your brand.
Every micro-conversion within a customer journey holds value. Each time an audience engages positively with your content, you are beginning to build brand affinity. These small steps—such as watching a video, reading an article, sharing a pin, or commenting on a post—are wins. The better we measure and understand their impact, the more effective we can be in guiding customers more quickly to a pivotal conversion that ultimately leads to a sale.
Regardless of whether that micro-conversion is to sign up for a newsletter, order a catalog or a fabric swatch, or click the “buy now” button, each helps move your audience forward.
3. Focus on the principles of better-performing content.
At its core, content marketing solves challenges and inspires action, while building relationships and a sense of like-mindedness with your audience.
The first guiding principle is to know your audience and how your organization can make their life better. Ask yourself: Where can we provide value?
Second, you must put your content in contextually relevant environments where the audience is already engaged in addressing a challenge—and where you can provide the perfect solution. Effective content placement provides a seamless experience for your audience, makes your content work harder and ensures that those pricey clicks are valuable.
Third, content must meet expectations for the interaction. If, for example, the title of your content promises 5 smart design ideas for a happy and healthy home, it had better deliver. Few things will lose an audience faster than surprising them with less or lower-quality information than they were expecting.
Fourth, don’t forget your CTAs. Multiple CTAs. CTAs everywhere.
John Mader is a VP and director of connections for Wray Ward, a digital communications firm. A version of this article originally appeared on the Wray Ward blog.