Content Is No Longer King

content catalyst

No matter how you plan to grow your business content has become the entry point and catalyst for effective growth in most every channel. No, content is no longer king – that’s so last decade, but more on that in a bit.

I’ve been writing a great deal about growth of late because I’ve become fascinated with the struggle it presents.

One of my core beliefs about growth is that it comes from doing less instead of more.

While that may sound a bit counterintuitive it springs from the fact that marketers today have something like sixteen channels to choose from in order to create awareness and ultimately grow their businesses. (I outline all channels in this Lead Generation System post)

Terms like social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing and search engine marketing entered the marketing conversation in the last decade.

While this may seem to present a golden opportunity for some businesses, it has created frustration for others. It is simply impossible to effectively create a meaningful presence everywhere and attempting to do so creates so much fragmentation that the message is often lost completely.

The key to succeeding in the current environment is to master two or three channels at the most and commit to going deeply there. In my experience, most businesses already have one or two channels that produce the bulk of their business, yet they do little to amplify that effort. (I’ve written more on this idea of Channel Leverage here)

For example, many businesses derive a significant percentage of their business through referrals and word of mouth recommendation but have no formal referral program in place.

My contention is that business should focus on building multiple referral programs and explore ways to use advertising, strategic partnering and even content to amplify their referral channel – less is more!

And now to the real point of this post (Sorry I had as one of my editors called it a lot throat clearing to do to get to the point.)

No matter what growth channels you decide to pursue, content is your ticket to entry. Now, before I go much further let me say that by content I mean, long, deep, dramatic, useful, dare I say epic, educational content.

Again, in this regard – less is more.

The days of writing 500-word wispy blog posts three times a week are over. They certainly served a purpose four or five years ago (hello SEO) but no longer.

Today you are better off writing one or two epic posts a month and using them as a tool to power every channel. (That’s good news, right?)

Your approach to content as an asset still needs to be based on an editorial calendar that serves your business, but creating that plan is even easier if you start to think about ways to use your content for multiple channels.

When we work with businesses today content development is the place we must start. There’s little hope in expanding the reach of a business without a substantial content asset to draw from. There are few channels that don’t run on content.

Let me give you an example of how this could play out.

Let’s say you commit to 12 epic blog posts per year – something in the 1500-2000 word range with lots of deep useful advice, some nice design elements, maybe a dash of data and even a bit of drama.

If you’ve done your keyword research and spent a little time using a tool like BuzzSumo to drill down into specific post ideas you have the makings of an annual editorial calendar. (Here’s a post on how I use BuzzSumo)

Now, let’s make this content pay.

In one sense you already have. Your post will most certainly help your SEO efforts the chosen topic and set the table for shares and links. (By far my most shared content is over 1,500 words)

Let’s say one of your posts describes the sixteen most awesome ways to do X. It’s long and it’s meaty and people devour it, but you know what would be cool – if you added a one-page checklist with all sixteen points.

And what the heck, let’s use a tool like Thrive Leads to create a two-step opt-in box for people who want that checklist. (There’s an example of a content upgrade in this post)

Wow, people are actually opting-in at a pretty high rate, why don’t we see what happens if we buy some targeted Facebook ads to drive some cold traffic to the post. All of a sudden content is making our advertising pay off.

If all these new people are going to opt-in we should make sure that our email follow-up directs them to last month’s epic post so they begin to realize how glad they are that they know us.

Now, let’s amp things up a bit.

Our blog post on the sixteen most awesome ways to do X would actually make a nice presentation. We could simply promote it to our audience and hold a webinar, but why not reach out to some potential strategic partners and offer to do it free of charge for their audience instead.

This is a great way to extend the reach of your content, but more than that it’s a great way to get referred by a trusted source and potentially meet some very qualified prospects.
The key to making channels pay is a commitment to producing the most useful content possible.

  • Content makes your advertising more effective
  • Content makes your selling efforts more effective
  • Content makes your referral outreach more effective
  • Content makes your SEO efforts more effective
  • Content makes your influencer outreach more effective
  • Content makes your email marketing efforts more effective
  • Content makes your social media efforts more effective
  • Content makes your PR efforts more effective

Much has been written about the need for great content, but I believe it’s more than king or queen, it’s more than a channel, it’s air – we need it survive. It is the catalyst and enabler for every other channel we use for growth.

This isn’t a call to write more, better content – it’s a suggestion that you must change your view of what content has become and what it must mean to your ability to grow.

Put epic content at the center of your marketing efforts – do less, but do better – and you’ll find that you have far greater opportunities to expand in every direction.

Getting More Sales with the Buyer’s Journey

How does someone decide to buy a product or service?

This is answered by the customer life cycle or sometimes called the Buyer’s Journey. The sale is made when a buyer goes through three key phases: Awareness, Consideration and then Decision.

In the Awareness phase, a buyer starts from being problem aware to researching about their needs and then setting up priorities for their purchase.

In fact, you’ll be surprised that “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier”(CEB). This means that they would be doing their research online, with reference to influencers, and authorities on the topic before they even make an inquiry.

Therefore, the most important way to reach out to potential buyers in the awareness stage is to be there when they are researching by having an online presence either by SEO, paid online ads or content marketing (and importantly Re-Targeting). The goal is to get potential buyers into your mailing list by offering them access to information (e.g. ebooks or whitepapers) or tools (e.g. assessment tools).

Once they “Know” you and are in your mailing list, you can send them educational material and progressively profile them with Marketing Automation, to discover their fears, problems and priorities. When they start to engage with your content regularly, they are starting to “LIKE” you.

In the Consideration phase, the buyer has shortlisted a few possible solution providers, and may be doing additional research. How would you stand out at this stage? The answer is authority and social proof. Authority can be inferred when you are quoted in industrial journals, influential blogs, and media interviews. And social proof can come from solid Case Studies and good client testimonials. This is the time when the potential buyers start to “TRUST” you.

When the potential buyer eventually makes an enquiry, can you offer a way for them to “TRY” your product or service? This gives them an easier way to assess the value of your product or service and lowers the risk of them making a wrong decision. This could come the form of samples, free demos, free consultations, one-dollar-trials, money-back guarantees etc. You could also provide assessment tools or gap analysis reports to help them to see how your solution can best help them achieve their goals.

A finally in the Decision phase, how can you help the buyer ease into the buying process? Just making it convenient to “BUY”, can actually help you close more sales. For example: providing installment plans, discounts, free perks from partners etc.

The stages KNOW, LIKE, TRUST, TRY, BUY are the first 5 phases of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass.

To examine this in a more detail, let’s take for example the Marketing Hourglass strategy for a consultancy business illustrated below:

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1. KNOW stage.

To get potential buyers to know you, you post blog articles and run ads on facebook targeting at a specific demographic that you want. The viewer lands on your conversion optimized landing page with rock-star copy-writing, and downloads your eBook, becoming a lead. In addition, the lead explores your website, downloads more content, gets progressively profiled, and subscribes to your newsletter. IF the viewer does not opt-in, you can re-target them with different ad copies on Facebook or websites they are likely to visit (using Google Re-targeting on Display Network) until they become a lead by opting into your list.

2. LIKE stage.

To get your lead to like you, you give away valuable content via emails that helps them in meeting their goals. The content you send are not salesy but educational, in multi-media formats: article, infographics, videos, images. You also invite them to your facebook page, where they can see more  edutaining content you post. You know they are ready to move to the next stage because they have been opening your emails, clicking links, watching videos, visiting specific web pages. (you can achieve this with lead-scoring via Marketing Automation). IF the lead is not engaged yet, try sending them material relating to a different pain point.

3. TRUST stage.

Sharing successful case studies from actual customers, and social proof in the form of high ratings, positive reviews, and even video testimonies go a long way in establishing trust. The prospect now sees your services through the lens of happy clients. The call-to-action at this point is to invite the prospect to “TRY” your service or product. In this instance, the prospect is invited to join a webinar, where they are expected to request for a FREE gap analysis report. IF the lead attended the webinar but did not take up the free gap analysis report, you could send them a self-help assessment tool, with more case studies, or endorsements from influencers.

4. TRY stage.

After the report is generated, the prospect is invited to a complimentary 30-min consultation to go through the report, highlighting the gaps and potential for improvements. This allows the prospect to experience your expertise as a consultant and evaluate cost-benefit of engaging your services. The ideal outcome of this stage is for the prospect to request for a proposal. IF the prospect attended the webinar but did not take up the free gap analysis report, you could send them a self-help assessment tool, with more case studies, or endorsements from influencers.

5. BUY stage.

Three days after receiving your proposal, you schedule a follow-up call to explain the process of engagement. The prospect is happy with the proposal and signs the consultation agreement contract, and makes the first payment. You enter into the project fulfillment stage. IF the prospect did not accept the proposal immediately, there could be 2 reasons: “Price” or “Unsure of the ROI”. You could offer more favorable payment terms, throw in some freebies, make a limited offer discount, reduce the scope or send them more justifications from customer success stories and testimonials. 

Automating the Buyer’s Journey

All these follow-up actions require a coordinated marketing effort, diligent follow-up. Marketing Automation ties up all these activities by adding rich information about prospects as they interact with your content, setting up tasks and reminders, sending them personalized messages according to their pain points and priorities.

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In the “Know-to-Like” stage, an email campaign sequence comprising of articles, videos, infographics are sent to the lead. Each activity: video watch, email open, visit to pages, answering of surveys, completing quizzes, joining the facebook group etc are tracked and scored. Once a predetermined engagement score is reached, the “Like-to-Trust” sequence can be launched.

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In the “Like-to-Trust” sequence, the prospect is invited to a webinar, where they will be offered a free gap analysis report, and a free 30-min consultation to run through the report. Reminders are sent to the prospect 3 days before. If they missed the webinar, we would send an email with the links to the replay and the gap analysis form. We could also get a sales rep to give them a call to get some feedback, further qualifying the prospect.

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In the “Trust-to-Buy” sequence, the prospect attends the consultation call, which ends up with 2 possible outcomes: (1) they ask for a proposal (2) they say they are not ready at the moment. Automation can be set according to the outcome, setting up a task for the proposal to be sent for (1) and sending them follow up or down-sell a self-serve product for (2).

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Outcome 1 – Send proposal:

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Outcome 2 – Not ready yet:

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To know which part of the buyers’ journey the prospect is at is crucial the lifecycle marketing strategy. Marketing Automation is almost always essential for lead nurturing, lead scoring, profiling, personalization, and other analytics to measure the level of engagement, and triggering the offer at the right time.

 

Brendan-Yong.jpgBrendan Yong is a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant specialized in marketing automation based in Singapore. His company Empathi Solutions helps Asia-based clients build Marketing Systems to Grow Predictable Revenue using Infusionsoft CRM as the primary marketing automation tool.

How to Optimize Your Site for Google’s Featured Snippets (Quick Answer Boxes)

featured-snippetsIn 2014, Google introduced a new way to satisfy a user’s intent by giving them quick answers right within SERPs in the “featured snippet” position (above the top organic result and below the paid listing) and online businesses and publishers have been trying to adapt to the change since then.

On one hand, featured snippets present a challenge to online publishers by sometimes removing the need to ever click through to their sites. On the other hand, they have given e-commerce sites a new opportunity to rank for informational queries and boost their site visibility.

Ranking in the Quick Answer box does give a huge competitive advantage, so there’s no way businesses can ignore those.

Here’s a two-step tutorial on optimizing your content for featured snippets:

1. Find out Which Questions Google Users Are Asking

Google won’t show quick answers to any queries that sound like a question (with words “how”, “why”, “what”, etc.) but they do for most of them already. The key to getting into the featured snippet position is to understand which questions people are asking in your niche and how to answer them with your content.

Investigate which questions users type into Google’s search box

SerpStat is a brilliant tool that returns Google Suggest phrases based on your provided term.

The beauty of the tool is that you can use “Only questions” filter to see all various questions people type using your base keyword:

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Investigate your current referrals

In most cases, pages that get into the featured snippet are those that already rank high for that query (1-5 top positions), so explore your Webmaster Tools “Search Analytics” section as well as Google Analytics top search referral landing pages reports to identify your site pages with the highest potential to get featured in the quick answer box.

To see your question-related queries in Google Webmaster Tools, go to Search Traffic -> Queries and from there filter “Queries” by various question words you are researching. Below, for instance, I am filtering my queries by “how” (Keep “Position” checked because, as I have already mentioned, the higher the organic position, the better your chances to get featured in the Quick Answer Box):

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Apart from those two tools provided by Google, you can also try Brightedge which is the only web analytics solution I am aware of that is tracking whether your site is appearing in “quick answer” boxes and which queries have those:

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Ask real people what questions they would ask on your topic

MyBlogU (Disclaimer: This is the site I have founded) is a good place to get the community to help: Simply create a new project, describe your topic and ask the users to submit their questions.

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Track questions people ask on Twitter

User-generated content is one of the best sources of “how-to” content inspiration. Oftentimes, the first place people turn for help to is Twitter and Facebook. While I don’t know a good way to monitor what people are asking on Facebook, Twitter is easy and open.

I use Cyfe to monitor several phrases and related questions people tweet. The beauty of the tool is that it archives all widget results, so I can always go back to find some content inspiration:

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The search phrase I was using to retrieve the questions from Twitter was

“how to” apple

2. Add a Section (or Many Sections) on Your Site Answering Related Questions

With Google providing so much opportunity to non-commercial how-to content, many brands have started taking informational search queries much more seriously. Here are just a few more or less creative examples:

HomeDepot is building “Project: How to” section which is very-well-integrated into the e-commerce part of the site:

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Sitegeek has added “Q&A” section to each included hosting page answering most popular user-generated questions about the specific service:

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Werther’s Original have expanded product information by including “Nutrition facts” and “Ingredients” sections:

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Notice their product pages are now included into the featured snippet:

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Here’s a few content tips to show Google your content is answering a specific question and have better chances to get featured in Google’s Quick Answer boxes:

  • First state that question explicitly on the page
  • Then answer that question in no more than two sentences
  • Below elaborate on the topic in the article (to avoid Panda filters, your content needs to be profound but to trigger a featured snippet appearance, your content should be very specific, so aim for both)
  • Create a specific, yet in-depth page for each question you are targeting. It’s better if the actual query (together with the question word) appears in the URL slug

It hasn’t been confirmed but the educated guess is that the variety of content formats on the page answering the same question helps in ranking in the quick answer box. Consider turning your tutorial into a PDF and annotated video, for example. Here are more ways to re-package your content into:

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Apart from your site, your Youtube channel can be a good alternative to rank in the featured snippet box. It’s been noticed that Youtube how-to videos often appear in the Quick Answer boxes.

To optimize your Youtube videos, you need to:

  • Name your video exactly as the question you are targeting
  • Make sure your video has a voice transcript (Which is where Google seems to be taking the text explanation to feature in the Quick Answer Box)
  • Rank your video high in general Google search results (It would help if you could link to it from your own site. Use this detailed Youtube optimization checklist I have shared here)

Have you seen any success ranking in Google’s featured snippets? Please share your tips and results!

Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of MyBlogU.com.

 

Content Upgrades are the New Gold Standard for Lead Capture

content upgrade

The notion of getting someone to your website, landing page or content of some sort and enticing them to exchange their email address and other contact information to get something they are looking for is pretty much standard marketing fare these days.

The idea of bait for lead capture has certainly evolved, though. There was a time when all you needed was a lead capture form and message that asked people to sign up to capture an email, but then people got very tired of all the email this generated.

Smart marketers realized that they needed to offer something valuable in exchange – an ebook, webinar or free trial of some sort.

Even so visitors started getting harder to convert as more and more sites featured pop-up, slide in and scrolling calls to sign up and download.

Today, and who knows how long really, marketers have tapped the seemingly insatiable hunger for useful, actionable, educational content and are employing highly targeted “content upgrades” to effectively convert visiting traffic to lead funnels like never before.

The basic idea behind a content upgrade is this – Write a really great, useful blog post and then when people show up to read it offer them an “upgrade” to the content in the form of a checklist, video, or case study relevant to the topic in exchange for  content details.

Less content, more value

Brian Dean of Backlinko told me that when he discovered the power of the content upgrade he started producing content less frequently while focusing on creating posts so full of great content they couldn’t be ignored. He then married these posts with a content upgrade that ensured a large percentage of the traffic these posts received (sometimes from the thousands of shares and links from other sites) also turned into leads for his various SEO offerings. (Listen to Brian on a recent Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In this post on Dean’s site Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List you’ll find a link to download a handy checklist of the top factors. Dean claims that the addition of this checklist increased conversion on this post by 785%. Not too shabby.

I do think there’s a move towards less content, but better content and the content upgrade philosophy plays right into this. The days of writing wispy daily posts may be coming to an end – at least for highly competitive industries.

Precisely segmented visitors

Another important factor to the multi-variant content upgrade is that it helps you segment visitor interest.

Very few people are that interested in the generic ebook or report you wrote several years ago, but they are terribly interested in how to do that one specific thing they searched for – all the better that you now have the ability to know what they are looking for and tailor your response to that specific need.

Think about the implications for this when it comes to email marketing follow-up. You now have a much more focused idea about what your subscribers care most about and tailor your follow-up with this knowledge and even use it to create more complete products and courses based on this interest.

Better automation and follow-up

One of the drivers of this form of lead capture is better automation technology. The days of one size fits all pop-up boxes are over. My current favorite toolset Thrive Leads offers WordPress users what amounts to a Swiss Army Knife of various form creation options.

The Thrive Leads plugin allows you to create up to a dozen variations of inline forms, light boxes, welcome mats, and slide in two-step sign up forms. Every form can be executed on a single page or post, and every type of capture campaign can be tested against variations.

This type of powerful form creation coupled with lead nurturing campaigns using a tool like Infusionsoft makes the content upgrade an almost unfair competitive advantage.

Developing content upgrades

I wrote a post some time ago on something called Facebook Dark Posts. Google smiled on this post and shows it whenever someone goes out there searching for this trending topic.

If I happened to have a course or ebook on Facebook I could easily capture highly targeted leads by adding a content upgrade to that page.

One of the quickest ways to identify great candidates for immediate content upgrade opportunities is to look through your analytics and find your most popular content today and consider ways to personalize a content upgrade for these posts.

You can find your most popular pages in Google Analytics by going to Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages

Another great ploy is to use a tool like BuzzSumo to identify some of the most shared content online based on the keyword phrases that relate to your business or ideal client.

My guess is you can easily identify a post that is getting tons of shares that you might be able to both up the game on and create a content upgrade for.

My guess is that in the example above for Backlinko Brian found a post for the top 100 factors and created the top 200 post that kicked that already great post in the rear – add a content upgrade and watch your list explode!

Landing page pioneer Lead Pages has long been a promoter of the simple content upgrade for conversion. Here’s a great post with 21 examples of content upgrades to get your mind humming. (Pay close attention to the content upgrade offer you’ll get on this page too.)

What’s a good upgrade?

You don’t have to overthink the package for a content upgrade. In many cases what you’re looking to do is simplify information not make it more complex. People want relevant snacks more than the full manual.

  • One of the easiest content upgrades is a checklist based on a how to post. People like checklists and they are easy to create.
  • Take a 100 factors kind of post and reveal the top 10 in detail in an upgrade. (Similar to Backlinko post above)
  • Create a list of tools related to a particular type of advice – I could easily add the top 10 tools to use in creating content upgrades to this post on content upgrades
  • Compile a list of links from around the web telling people how to do something based on the tool they use – set up lead nurturing in Infusionsoft, Act-On, Aweber, etc. – the best part is you don’t have to create all of the tutorials you just have to find them.
  • Create or compile a swipe file – if you are telling people how to get influencers to write about their business, share exact scripts and emails they might use as an upgrade.
  • Offer a screencast showing readers exactly how to do what you’ve written about in your post.
    Partner with a tool provider – write a post talking about how to do something and contact one or more provider of a tool for actually doing it and let people enter for a chance to get this tool for free.
  • People love templates – if you write a post giving advice offer to share a template, completed example or form they can use to do what you’ve suggested.

I think it’s time to make content upgrades a big part of your content marketing and lead capture game plan.