If your ultimate goal is to generate more targeted traffic and high quality leads for your business and ultimately convert those leads into customers, you need to develop a content marketing mindset and get into the habit of creating engaging and high quality content that is educational, meaningful and targeted to your niche. The bottom line is that consumers today don’t want to be sold to. Rather, they want to be educated so that they can make informed decisions, and they are more likely to buy from brands that they like and trust.
An effective content strategy will build your brand, generate quality leads, increase your online visibility and position you as an authority or expert in your field. If you have an online business, be prepared to be a publisher and connect with your target audience by providing useful and meaningful content that solves specific problems.
Blogging For Business
A blog is a powerful business tool that you can use to effectively generate qualified leads for your business. They inject fresh, meaningful content to your website and act as the basis for your content marketing campaign. A blog enables you to consistently provide something of value to your visitors. Essentially, it builds trust and familiarity with your brand.
Blogging can also function as a key part of your sales funnel to answer questions from prospective customers who might currently be in the awareness stage of the buyer funnel.
Focusing on your primary audience and consistently publishing quality content that solves problems and provides solutions that are valuable to that audience is one of the most powerful ways to generate high qualified business leads for your business. In addition, blogging helps to establish credibility, authority, thought leadership and search engine ranking.
The fact of the matter is, a blog is probably the most powerful and cost-effective in-bound marketing strategy that you can invest in.
Creating a Blog for Your Business
Google has a bias towards the highest quality, most relevant and freshest content. If you’re publishing quality content using keywords in the right way, people in your target audience will discover your content much more easily on the search engines. Blogging also offers you the opportunity to improve your organic search ranking every time you publish something new – as long as it is original and hasn’t been published elsewhere.
Lead Generation Goals & Objectives
The first and most important step in creating a successful business blog is to establish clear goals and objectives that are in line with your overall business objectives. You need to be clear on the goals you want to achieve through your blog so that you can create content that effectively serves those goals. If your blog doesn’t have clear goals it will be left floundering with no clear focus or intent, and the content you do write for the blog will have no clear purpose or objective.
When you understand exactly why you have a blog right from the beginning – which is to generate leads, your content will have a clear purpose and your strategy will be more focused and targeted toward achieving your goals. In addition, you will be able to evaluate the success of your blog based on your defined goals.
Essentially, your blog should be primarily designed to provide solutions and solve problems for your target customers. Consider the following example of how you can use a business blog to develop relationships with your target customers:
Say you run an online computer store that sells Windows and Apple computers including desktops, laptops and tablets, as well as peripherals and accessories such as printers, drives, graphics cards, processors, memory cards, etc. You also offer a local service, performing tasks such as assembling brand new computers from scratch, computer repair and building home office networks for customers.
You now decide to establish a blog for the business. The first step is to define specific and attainable goals for the blog that lines up with the overall business objectives. Your defined goals could be to generate brand awareness for your business, establish relationships and drive qualified traffic to your website.
To get this process started, the first stage of the process would be to brainstorm topics on the best way to communicate what the business does to the Internet community. Before you start blogging, it is important to know exactly who you are writing for. Start by creating personas around your target audience.
What is a Persona?
A persona is a fictional person that represents a well-defined segment of users with similar goals, interests, challenges, problems and personal characteristics. Your business will likely have completely different types of customers, and you need to create content that is tailored to each of your different customer segments in order to effectively market to them. You’ll need to create personas so that you know what type of content to produce for the different types of users you serve. This will allow you to write effectively for your audience.
Creating personas is extremely helpful in the sense that they can help visualize what types of themes and topics your potential customers would be interested in. You can also get a sense of the type of keywords they are likely to use to search for your products and services.
For the purpose of the blog, we have broken down the customer base into into 6 personas based on the information we have of them:
- Persona 1: David is a freshly retired 67 year old train driver. He is not tech-savvy, but has a smartphone and has used computers at work, but has never purchased a computer before. He is considering getting a computer for home use.
- Persona 2: Andre is a 32 year old IT professional. He is tech-savvy and knows exactly what he wants. He has done his research and seen a specific brand he is interested in.
- Persona 3: Sherene is a 23 year old graduate. She has purchased a computer before and is looking to upgrade. She is currently at the research stage of the buying cycle.
- Persona 4: Peter is a 42 year old engineer. He is tech-savvy, and is looking for computer parts to build, upgrade or repair his computer.
- Persona 5: Vanessa is a 38 year old health worker and single mother. She already has a laptop, but needs another computer for her children. She would also like to create a network to link her computer and printer to the children’s computer. This means she’ll be looking for a local computer store that offers these services.
- Persona 6: Abiye is a 19 year old student looking for a budget laptop for his homework.
Creating personas is extremely helpful in the sense that they will help visualize what types of themes and topics your potential customers would be interested in, and the type of keywords they are likely to use to search for your products and services. It will also provide ideas of what type of content you should be producing for your audiences. Therefore, questions to start the brainstorming sessions should be designed to find out how your blog can serve the needs of your target audience:
- What can potential readers of your blog learn from you?
- What do they want to learn from you?
- What can you learn from your customers?
- How can you spark conversations with your audience?
- How do you establish yourself as an expert or authority?
What can a blog visitor learn from you?
Consider the following example of how you can use a business blog to develop relationships and generate leads: let’s say you run an online computer store that sells Windows and Apple computers including desktops, laptops and tablets, peripherals and accessories such as printers, drives, graphics cards, processors, memory cards, etc. You also offer a local service, performing tasks such as assembling brand new computers from scratch, computer repair and building home office networks for customers.
You can easily produce an educational and informative blog that is aimed at serving different levels of customers and potential customers. For example, for visitors who are not tech-savvy, you can produce simple articles and video blogs that discuss the basics of using computers, and explains the features and benefits of the different types of computers (desktops, laptops and tablets). For other more tech-savvy users, you can produce a blog that demonstrates how to perform a variety of challenging computer tasks.
So in the above example, the goal here is to become a leading resource on information about accomplishing a variety of computer tasks. The means to your end goal is to generate brand awareness, drive targeted traffic to your website, generate leads and build relationships so that you can develop trust with your customers and prospective customers. The end goal is to turn your visitors into customers. In other words, the goal of your blog is to build authority through your computer knowledge and leverage that authority to become a trusted information resource for the different audiences that visit your Website.
What do they want to learn from you?
The best way to answer this question is by understanding your existing customer base through research, surveys and polls to find out what kind of problems and challenges they face so you can publish content that solves problems for them. You can also listen to their conversations on various social media sites to get more ideas. Internal search on your blog can also reveal the type of content your visitors might be interested in or looking for.
So, let’s say after listening to online conversations, you find that building networks between Apple and Windows computers, tablets and smartphones is an activity that most people in your target audience struggle with. What you’ll now need to do is produce a 7 step how-to blog post on how to setup a computer network to share files and printers between Android, iOS, and Windows computers and printers. You also post a video blog on your site that that demonstrates the process for your target audience so they can watch over your shoulder as you perform the process.
Now, you might think this to be counterproductive, giving valuable information away for free? Well, it’s not. What happens is people will go to Google and do a search for “build a home network between Windows and Apple computers”. Next they find your highly optimized video and blog post title on Google featured prominently among the top ten results: “How to build a home network between Windows and Apple computers and printers” Of course this will pique their interest. This is exactly the information they are looking for after all, and you are willing to share your trade secrets with them. What do they do now? They click on the link to your website, and go read the post and watch the accompanying videos.
Now, sure they can go and setup and program their network on their own after reading that post (and many will do so), but there will always be those few that cannot do it on their own. Why? Perhaps they are technophobes and afraid they will mess up? Perhaps they just don’t have the time to do it themselves? Whatever the reason is, there will be those that just cannot do it themselves.
This is where it gets good for you: towards the end of the blog post you mention your home network building services, and provide your readers and viewers a first time customer discount.
Why should they choose you over another computer store? Well, there are a few reasons:
- You have demonstrated your expertise established yourself as a leading authority and knowledgeable expert in the field.
- By watching your video, potential customers get a chance to see you doing what you do best. Those images are powerful and will remain in the memory of your visitors.
- You walked them through the entire process. They can rest assured knowing that you can do a better job than they can.
- Through your website, they now know exactly what other products and services you offer when they are in the market for those products and services. Even with those consumers that were able to build the network based on your step-by-step instructions, the law of reciprocity says that those people will be always be looking for ways to thank you for solving their problem. People expect to pay for valuable information. We have offered that information for free. Since we sell computers and accessories, they are more than likely to visit our store when in the market for related products.
- They are already on your website. Why look elsewhere when there is an expert already in front of them?
- They have begun to trust you. This falls in line with the “expert” thing, and it falls in line with you laying out your expertise right in front of them. But also it’s because you have been presented as a professional business with has an online presence AND a strong, authoritative social voice. This is the very essence of business blogging.
Promotion and Distribution
Your content marketing strategy should not be limited to creating quality content, but also promoting and distributing the content after it’s published. You want people promoting your content by liking, sharing and commenting on it. This means you’ll need to leverage the distributions channels that work best for your content. These include social channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ where your target audience hangs out, and content sharing sites like SlideShare and Scribd.
A slew of social signals to your content will force the search engines to take real notice of your brand resulting in more traffic, more leads and ultimately more business. And the more relevant, meaningful and valuable your content is, the more your target audience will trust you as a source of credible information.
On the flip side, if your content is generally viewed as thin or meaningless dribble, this will do more harm than good to your brand because it will turn people off visiting your site. If people are not returning to your site, this will send the wrong signals to the search engines.
An effective content marketing strategy is crucial to the success of any lead generation campaign, and the numbers bear this out. According to research by HubSpot, B2B marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those that do not. And the number of leads rise substantially when companies use content ad networks to amplify this work.