This article has been contributed by John Hurley.
Great content gives prospective customers what they need. In most cases, this isn’t a list of reasons why they must buy your product “right now.” Sure, assertive sales copy plays a really big role in online commerce, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
One of the most successful strategies in lead generation and nurturing is to give prospective customers something they crave: helpful information. People use Google to have questions answered. They click on links that promise to solve their problems or improve their lives with knowledge.
This is the foundation of great content marketing: prioritize customer value over a premature attempt to convert. In this article, we’ll be talking about widening your marketing funnel’s top end and greasing the wheels that gently lead your prospects towards a more receptive headspace. Once you have them there, you can pounce with an elegant conversion CTA.
Let’s take a look at eight great ways in which you can use your company blog to generate and nurture high-quality leads.
1. Show the Customer That You Care About Them
One of my favorite things to see when I visit a company’s blog index is a wide variety of useful, relevant topics that make no direct reference to their products.
As a marketing professional, it shows me that the brand understands and respects its customers and that someone in the marketing department is great at their job. As a potential customer, I’m intrigued by the wide variety of articles and enjoy browsing for posts containing info that will benefit me one way or another.
This is a long way of saying that your content strategy should prioritize customer needs. Of course, you’ll want to find ways to reference your brand or a particular product, but this must be done with the utmost subtlety. Your real value here is going to come from:
- goodwill from the reader associating your brand with content that improved their lives
- click-throughs to other articles on your blog
- signups to newsletter (you have a newsletter, right?)
- shares and additional brand exposure on social media
- click-throughs to your product range
My main point is that none of these awesome things are going to happen if you don’t offer the reader real value or if you prioritize the sales pitch. Take a look at SweetWater Organic Coffee’s blog as an example. Browse through their extensive resource of coffee-related blog posts. This is a blog that clearly aims to please the coffee-lover rather than push their products.
Image source: sweetwaterorganiccoffee.com
2. For a Hard Sell, Offer Exceptional Value
(I love contradicting myself. Spoiler: I’m going to do it again in this article.)
Sometimes, you will be able to get away with writing a post that focuses on your product range or a specific product if you manage to surround it with exceptionally valuable, niche information.
The best way to explain this is by example. Zoma is a company that sells high-end memory-foam mattresses, pillows, and mattress foundations. Their brand frequently associates themselves with athletes, and their primary brand message is that sleeping well is critical to a healthy lifestyle.
When they wrote this exceptional long-form piece on the link between mattresses and back pain, they packed it with so much useful information on the topic that it was forgivable – even logical – that they make frequent reference to their flagship mattresses.
In addition to the “salesy” part, the article overflows with expert opinions, scientific research, and helpful tips on overcoming back pain through better sleeping habits – many of these not involving their product.
So, if you’re going to use your informational content to sell something specific, it’s absolutely critical that it’s accompanied by exceptionally valuable supporting information that dilutes the reader’s sense of being sold to.
Image source: zomasleep.com
3. Publish Evergreen Content
Evergreen content refers to information that’s virtually always going to be relevant. Evergreen content is the opposite of seasonal, trend-driven content, and the main reason I’m an advocate of it is because of its excellent ROI.
Writing informational content that has real value for your target audience isn’t easy. There’s a ton of research that has to go into it. Nor is it cheap if you’re publishing these articles frequently. On top of that, investing in content marketing is playing a long game; the payoff is often only visible many months after going live with a post.
However, once it gains traction, it’s the gift that keeps on giving – especially if you’re publishing content that’s always relevant. It’s the marketing equivalent of passive income. Play your cards right, invest smartly, and you’ll continuously be reaping benefits from an asset that mostly remains untouched for the rest of its existence.
Evergreen content can be divided into two categories:
The topic you’re reading about right now is an evergreen topic. The topic of how to become more successful at an established business strategy isn’t going to go out of fashion. These should be relatively easy to identify in your business niche.
This article from Runner’s Athletics’ blog is an evergreen format. It’s a comprehensive glossary of terms that are hyper-relevant to their target audience. Other examples of evergreen formats are checklists, detailed how-to guides, original research, and use cases. I’ll get into more detail on these last two a bit later.
Image source: runnersathletics.com
4. Create Highly Topical Content
Here I go, contradicting myself again. Sometimes you’re going to find a particular angle for an article that’s simply so globally relevant that you’d be making a mistake not to take advantage of it. However, as you’ll see from the example I’m going to provide, it’s extremely important that there’s a very visible correlation between your product and the angle.
During a global health crisis, like the world is experiencing at the time of writing this article, many responsible citizens are in self-imposed isolation or spending as little time in public places as possible.
Certain companies that directly address practical issues stemming from being in isolation can create marketing content that genuinely helps people while, at the same time, promoting their products. The key thing here is that it’s not a cynical co-opting of a global tragedy for the sake of profit.
Essentially, the brand’s heart has to be in the right place. Insincerity is something that many consumers will pick up on, and it’ll be hard to recover from the resultant reputational fallout. Also, it’s just not cool… don’t do it.
UpFitness is a mental and physical wellness site that sells a wide range of supplements and online physical training services. Their products are perfectly suited to a content campaign that addresses the challenges of being housebound for extended periods of time. Their content is tasteful, devoid of clumsy sales pitches that could be seen as profiteering, and genuinely contributes to the greater good.
Image source: ultimateperformance.com
5. Create Highly Specialized Content and Flaunt Your Credibility
If you’re fortunate enough to have a writer on staff that is exceptionally qualified to write on a specialist topic, use them as often as possible. And once you have their article live, draw as much attention as possible to their credentials.
A site that does a great job of shining a spotlight on their prestigious content is Elemental Labs – manufacturers of LMNT electrolyte replenishment drinks. Their founder, Robb Wolf, is a frequent contributor to their blog. He’s also a former research biochemist, two-times New York Times best-selling author, and social media influencer.
Elemental Labs’ marketing team does a terrific job of roping their famous founder in to create the odd blog post on a highly technical topic. Whenever they do, they make it clear who the brain behind the story was with a tasteful tooltip that launches when the user hovers their mouse over the author’s icon.
The article itself doesn’t hold back when it comes to detail, and it shouldn’t. They have an expert in their corner, and he should be flexing the company’s intellectual muscles. Health and wellness is an industry that’s plagued with pseudo-scientific posturing and theorizing. Elemental Labs have a resource that lifts them out of that arena, and they’re really smart to get Robb to produce content for their blog.
If you can, play this card as frequently as possible. Don’t let the best minds in your company go untapped for high-quality content.
Image source: drinklmnt.com
6. Provide Social Proof: Part I – Customer Stories
A one-sentence testimonial has its place on your site, as does a slightly more in-depth product review and star rating. Social proof is one of the main steps to success in online commerce. People love seeing that their peers have validated their interest in a particular product or service. There’s some serious psychology behind this phenomenon.
If you’ll pardon the metaphor, a customer story, as part of an informational blog post, is social proof on steroids. A blog post gives you the advantage of additional real-estate for thousands of words, imagery, audio, and video to tell the tale of how your product impacted the life of a customer.
Prospects get the opportunity to connect emotionally with the satisfied customer – a key ingredient in lead nurturing. A site that shows us how it’s done is Somnifix, a brand designing sleep aids that help users stop snoring. This is a deeply personal problem that has to be dealt with delicately. Finding a satisfied customer to tell their story might not be the easiest thing to do, but the company was fortunate enough to get Steve to tell his story.
The video interview, especially, is extremely effective at creating that emotional buy-in that the marketing department was undoubtedly aiming for.
Image source: somnifix.com
7. Provide Social Proof: Part II – Case Studies
In the B2C world, especially if you’re selling to enterprises, a web testimonial isn’t going to cut it. Sure, it helps the prospect verify that your offering is legit and also builds initial credibility, but big business is hard to satisfy.
The amount of diligence that an organization goes through before acquiring new tech or professional services means that marketing content has to go that little bit further to be taken seriously. Often, the acquisition process goes through several phases, with numerous parties getting involved in vetting your product.
In these scenarios, populating your blog with case studies – in-depth analyses of how your service impacted a particular customer’s operations and finances – is a terrific way of nurturing an enterprise lead.
Once you’ve obtained permission from your client, do a deep dive into the process of integrating your product and services into their lives. Harvest every bit of information you can out of the engagement. Don’t hold back on the details, but don’t be boring or repetitive either. Include plenty of visuals like infographics. You can even include video interviews where appropriate.
The critical thing with a case study is that it illustrates the measurable impact that your service or product had on your client’s business. Anecdotes and testimonials from staff only go so far. Remember that the person who’s ultimately going to make the important decision is someone who is very deeply concerned with the bottom line.
Hubspot is the undisputed champion of using case studies for this purpose. Their content is deeply meaningful while still being accessible and interesting to read. If you feel that this kind of informational content is appropriate for your marketing process, take a good, long look at what Hubspot’s done and learn from the best.
Image source: hubspot.com
8. Research and Publish New Data
Backlinks are an inbound marketing mechanism that plays the triple role of generating traffic, building your reputation, and boosting your Google rankings. But convincing reputable sites to link to your informational content isn’t the easiest thing to pull off. Backlink outreach is a massive pain and takes a huge amount of effort, and the likelihood of it happening spontaneously is virtually zero.
However, what if you were to bolster your stable of informational content with industry-specific, highly topical data that no one else has published?
How much easier would it be to nail a backlink from a prestigious website if you could provide them with data that further supports a point they’re making in one of their own informational articles?
How much reputational mileage will you get out of being the source of this data? How much love will Google show you when dozens of websites start linking to this article?
Paying a specialist writer to conduct surveys and do research that results in brand new, up-to-date, referenceable figures is expensive and would take a while to produce, but the benefits are significant.
BrightLocal shows us how it’s done with their 2019 consumer review survey. This is a piece of informational content absolutely packed with all those delicious stats bloggers go looking for when trying to prove a particular point. Whether it was lead-gen giants, OptinMonster, who found this survey themselves and linked to it in their much-referenced article on social proof, or the other way around, is immaterial. The point is, BrightLocal did the legwork, and it paid off big time.
Valuable informational content is not easy to create. It’s certainly much harder than simply aggregating existing knowledge into a new package. It requires insight, time, and a bit of financial investment, too.
However, the benefits of going the extra mile with the knowledge you serve up to your site’s visitors are immense. People love being informed – after all, it’s one of the main reasons they use the internet.
You don’t have to dedicate your entire content marketing budget to cover every single one of the points that I discuss in this article. Think about them critically, decide which are most applicable to your brand, and don’t hold back.
Give your prospects the value they deserve, and you will see the benefits.
About the author: John Hurley is a professional geek and marketing strategist. He loves to get nerdy on strategy and technologies to grow online businesses. Learn more about John at JohnHurley.io.