Eighty percent. That’s how many B2B buyers conduct their own research before ever engaging with a sales person.
It’s daunting when you think about it: At any given moment, more than three-quarters of your potential customers are busily checking you out, making value judgments about your products and services in order to narrow their options and, if you’re lucky, contact you.
Which means you’d better have great content.
From case studies, white papers, and videos to blog posts, webcasts, and eBooks, it’s critical to have content readily available (and findable) that answers buyers’ questions, addresses their business needs and pain points, and helps them visualize a successful working relationship with your company.
Doing this well – including making your content available when, where, and how prospects want it – positions you to more effectively walk them through the buying process and close more sales.
So what does great content look like?
The answer is all over the yard, dependent on an abundance of factors that can be objective (industry, geography, business model) or subjective (“I like blue!” … “I hate videos.”).
But the good news: Great content has a short list of traits in common.
So without further ado, here are five key traits that great marketing content shares:
1. Is Written for a Specific Audience
Rule #1: Know thy audience. Content is only as effective as its ability to resonate with your reader. No matter how well it’s written, if it doesn’t “speak” to your audience, it doesn’t have value.
In order to know who your target customers are, what they do, and what matters most to them, you must research your audience. That’s the only way to effectively address their pain points and offer an appealing solution. Content that lacks this focus is simply a waste of time and resources.
2. Uses a Clear Call-to-Action
Moving prospects down the sales funnel and getting them to convert is the goal of your content. Whether you want prospects to sign up for your emails, download a solution brief, watch a product video, or start a free trial (or any number of other goals), your content needs to spur specific action.
To do this, be very clear about what you want your audience to do … what action you want them to take. People have limited time to guess at the next step, so make it easy for them to take it.
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Collectively, these calls-to-action encourage prospects to engage with you and progress through the buying cycle.
3. Maintains Brand Consistency … Everywhere
The new normal is “multi” – multi-channel and multi-device – and your prospects and customers increasingly expect to engage and interact with your company regardless of where they are or what device they’re using at the moment.
For this reason, it’s critical that your content marketing be consistent everywhere, aligning everything you publish on your website, blog, and social media sites with your brand image, voice, and messaging.
Your content leaves an impression on those who read it. What does that impression say about your company? Does it convey the image you’re striving to achieve? The more your content does this, the more you can use content marketing to build your brand.
4. Follows SEO Best Practices
In its most basic form, SEO is about producing content that grabs the attention of today’s top search engines (and we’re not naming names, but their initials are GOOGLE).
In other words, it helps you get found and get known. By adopting the right SEO strategies, your content becomes more relevant to search engine. As a result, it’s more discoverable by potential and current customers, you get more visits to your website and, most importantly, conversion rates increase.
5. Is Designed for Expansion and Sharing
It takes considerable time and effort to write content that’s equal parts good and resonant with particular audiences. So whenever possible, increase the mileage of your content by making it available (and shareable) across as many devices, mediums, and channels as possible.
Who knows? Every once in a while, you may enjoy some viral love.
Have a white paper? Make the main concepts more accessible by creating an eBook. Then extract two main ideas from it and create two blog posts and an infographic.
Planning a webinar? Make it available on-demand from your website, iTunes, or YouTube. Post the presentation deck on SlideShare. Create a Q&A from the session.
Make it easy for readers to share your content by embedding social sharing tools in everything you publish, every place you publish it.
Encourage engagement and sharing by creating real-time polls or requesting comments and/or reviews.
Cross-promote by linking a current piece of content (e.g. a blog post) to a previously published piece of content (a how-to video), giving readers more reason to spend time with your brand.
Valuable content is essential to establishing brand differentiation and maintaining business success. By adopting these five traits, you’ll not only be head and shoulders above the competition, you’ll be more likely to reap results.
Image of “content-marketing” by DigitalRalph, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
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