If you operate a business in today’s world, it’s no longer an option to be online. And no matter how you market your business, chances are the concept of “online content marketing” has crossed your mind a time or two.
It’s a hot topic.
And for good reason.
That’s because everyone uses the internet to find information. If you want to buy a new car, you search. If you need a new water heater, you search. If you want a new pair of shoes, you search.
Of course, you search in different ways. And for different reasons.
If you’re ready to buy a new car, your search can start in many ways. If you know what you’re looking for, your search may start by typing in a make or a model. If you have no idea what car you want, you might start more generic – “top cars for families.”
Sometimes you back into an answer. For example, a person shopping for a new water heater might not know they need a new water heater at all. They type in a question – “why is my water heater making noise” and go looking for the answer.
And then there is search for a new pair of shoes. You want the latest style. You want to consider your options. You might bypass Google altogether, and go straight to where the photographs are. Only Pinterest or Instagram will do.
Is your business in the right place to reach out to your customers? Is your business providing the right online content at the right time?
Different Levels Of Awareness
Every purchase we make has an arc of awareness We start with the first hint of “I need that.” We think. We search. We compare. And only when we’re sure do we lay down our credit cards. Think of that arc like this:
- Infancy – this is the first sign of awareness.
- Young – this is heavy growth mode, we’re learning all we can
- Adolescence – this is where we contrast and compare
- Adult – we’ve narrowed down our choices and are weighing final decisions
- Mature – we’ve made our decision, we’re ready for action
We all go through that phase with every transaction. Some may be quick decisions – a few minutes for the entire process. Others can take days, weeks, months to reach the point of sale.
Knowing how and when to engage is what separates the good from the great business model.
Creating Your Customer Profile
It only makes sense to dive in deep and really get to know your prospects and customers, even before you meet them. If you can identify who they are, what they want, how they live, you’ll have a better idea of how to give them all that and more.
Online content is easy to produce, but it also has the potential to be a complete waste of time. If you’re talking just to be talking, nobody cares.
But if you talk for a specific reason, you can say what they want to hear. You can grab and keep your readers’ attention and help walk them through their awareness process.
Remember the arc from above? Start by asking questions about each of the phases, and discover what your customers want to learn at each phase. What keywords do they know? What phrases are they searching for?
Because a person changes direction as they gain more knowledge, it’s important to up your game in online content creation to entice them into deeper understanding as they move along the arc.
If you aren’t sure, there are ways to ask them. Send out an email to your current client base with a link to a brief online survey. SurveyMonkey is a great resource for building surveys on the fly. You can keep it simple with their free tool, or up your game and get as sophisticated as you desire.
Create Your Content
What makes a leader in an industry is proving your worth. When you “walk your walk”, people listen.
And you can do that by creating content that showcases that knowledge and experience. That’s where your blog comes into your strategy.
Your website is filled with all kinds of pages: your about us section, a services section describing what you do, product pages listing out your merchandise.
But a blog is built for communication. It’s where you educate, inform, and even entertain.
What’s even better is there isn’t a “best practice” when it comes to creating online content for your blog. It depends on who your target audience is and what you want to share.
It might be:
- A whitepaper
- A report
- An infographic
- A video
- A newsworthy event
- A how-to article
- A press release introducing something new
The more you put out there, the more offerings your prospects and customers have to peruse. They do it in different quantities. They do it at their own personal pace.
And that’s a good thing, because you don’t know at what point of the arc they enter in at. They can create the trail that works best for them.
Even if it means heading out through a link, following a graphic to your social media accounts, or filling out a form. Options are your best friend. It keeps them engaged.
Don’t Forget What Content Really Is
Words are important in the online world. That’s what Google uses to rank you in the search engines. That’s why companies dedicate a good portion of their marketing process to ensure their sites have proper SEO in place.
But there are two sides to every piece of online content you create: the content you see, and the code used to create it. Google looks at both when ranking. That means you should be utilizing both strategies with every piece of content you create.
Photographs and graphics are just as important as copy. Google can’t “see” the image, but it can see the metadata you attach to it. That’s how you SEO a photo.
And if you do your images the right way, they can gain a lot of traction in certain social media platforms: think Instagram, Pinterest, even Facebook.
Why? Because we’re visual. We like to make a judgment call in just a few seconds. Does it call to us? Do we want more? And a quick glance can tell us all we need to know.
But don’t skimp on professionalism. Have a plan with your look and feel, as well as what you want to say. Ever seen a well thought out Instagram page? Ever seen one that isn’t?
Like everything, there are two ways to use online content: the right way, and the not-so-right.
People that want the right way spend their time with experts that can help them achieve their goals. The not-so-right? Not so much.
Which one are you?