As any seasoned content marketer should know, there’s a lot more to content marketing than simply creating a flashy infographic or writing a blog post, publishing it, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
In order to generate leads from your content strategy, you need to consider both the content and the content experience. Not only does the content have to be valuable to your audience, but it also has to be part of a well-optimized content experience in order for it to become content that converts visitors to leads.
But how exactly can you build a high-converting content experience? Follow these four steps and you’ll be well on your way to conversion city!
1. Consider the Content Journey
Before you can build your content experience, you need to understand who you’re talking to, as well as how, when, where and why they’re consuming your content.
This starts with defining your buyer personas. Understand what their needs are and where their priorities lie. Once you learn your personas’ needs and pain points, you can start filling in the gaps with content. Create content for all stages of the funnel and understand the specific goal or purpose of every single piece of content.
Part of understanding what your audience needs is understanding the buyer process, from awareness, to consideration, to making the decision. However, it’s also important to note that the content journey is not a straight line — as Rand Fishkin explains, the content marketing journey looks less like this…
And more like this:
Having content that addresses the specific needs of your audience at each stage of the journey, regardless of where your prospect hops on the path, is the first step to building a high-converting content experience.
2. Craft Valuable Content
Once you’ve identified your content gaps, you can’t just fill them with any old content. Your content must be valuable to your audience.
Since value is subjective, let’s break that down a bit more. When creating content, consider the following:
Relevance — Is your content right for your audience? No two audiences are exactly the same. Take the time to drill down to find out what your audience wants, and make your content relevant to them so they’ll actually care about it.
Consistency — Does your content align with your audience’s expectations? Consistency is equal parts frequency and being on-brand. Your content should be great every single time so that your readers will come back time and time again.
Trustworthiness — Is it legitimate and believable? Credibility is key in content marketing. Looking back at Rand’s content marketing chart above, he has set aside a whole block for building trust. Take time to edit and fact-check your content, and above all, don’t make promises you can’t keep in your content.
Authenticity — Does it prove you’re human? Humans like talking to humans, not machines, so don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into your content! Your content is a great way to facilitate communication and differentiate your brand.
Usefulness — Does it benefit your audience right now? Above all, ensure your content is actionable and practical. Not all content needs to provide a clear set of steps to resolve an issue. That said, no reader should click out of your content thinking, “That was a waste of my time.” Again, drill down to your buyer personas, and take ample time to come up with good ideas that are sure to win over your audience.
So you’ve identified your content gaps and are filling them with valuable content. What next?
3. Optimize the Content Experience
Ensure your awesome, valuable content lives in an equally awesome content experience. But what exactly does this entail?
Hear me out: Imagine how awful the IKEA shopping experience would be if you walked through the double sliding doors and landed in a messy pile of furniture. Pretty unpleasant, right? Instead, IKEA provides a clear engagement path that guides you through the store and ultimately leads you to the checkout.
Do the same with your content experience — make it easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, and provide your content readers with a clear path as to what they should do next.
You may have created the right content to match the right audience, but this means nothing if it’s not meeting them at the right time or place. We talk about responsive design, but what’s it’s really about is a responsive experience centered around the reader. Ensure that the experience is responsive so your content can be consumed at your audience’s convenience, regardless of device restrictions.
Organize your content strategically, and don’t make it hard to find (e.g., don’t hide it in menus within menus). Provide content recommendations and, most importantly, include contextual, targeted CTAs so your readers can easily move down through the aforementioned content journey.
Guide your readers to where they need to go to meet both their goals (resolving a pain point) and yours (conversions).
4. Strategically Gate Content for Lead Generation
You’ve hooked your audience with amazing content and have guided them through your awesome content experience. Now, let’s get them to convert!
Lead generation is all in the CTAs you present to your audience. As mentioned above, your CTAs must be as targeted and contextual as possible — for instance, don’t include a CTA to download “A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing” on an infographic about “Advanced Email Marketing.” It just doesn’t make sense. Again, make it easy for your audience to know what to do next — don’t confuse them with jarring, out-of-context CTAs.
Of course, your lead generation strategy won’t be effective if you gate every single piece of content you create. Gate only your premium content, the stuff that’s so good that people would be willing to “pay” for it with their information.
Finally, consider the right strategy for gating your content. There are a couple of options available for effectively gating content:
Landing Pages: Landing pages are great because they allow you to test everything — headlines, images, colors, and so on. They make it easy for your prospect to complete one action and ultimately convert. However, landing pages can often create leaks in the content engagement journey you design because they require your audience to be removed from the experience. In order to consume the desired content, they must first land on the landing page, then wait for the content to arrive in their inbox upon completing the form. The upside here is that this process does validate the email address as viable.
Overlay CTAs: Overlay CTAs, or “pop-up CTAs”, provide a more integrated approach to lead generation. Unlike landing pages, they can be placed directly over a piece of content, facilitating the feeling that the content is “just out of reach”. Upon completion, users can immediately consume the content without ever leaving the content experience, thus helping to create a tighter content experience.
Assembling the content experience
To summarize: Generating leads with your content begins with a thorough understanding of your audience and the content journey. Once this has been established, the content gaps must be filled with valuable content that will keep your audience coming back for more.
Once you’ve hooked your audience with content, ensure that they land in a well-optimized content experience that’s designed to help them convert. Gate your premium content with CTAs, so long as they’re targeted and contextual within your content experience. It won’t take long for the leads to start pouring in!
Ready to implement your own content plan? Checkout our Content Plan Toolkit and we’ll give you all the resources you’ll need to learn how to serve up content that attracts prospective buyers and creates brand affinity. The toolkit will help you develop buyer personas, map out your buyer’s decision-making journey, and serve them content that will help them at each stage of the journey.
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