If you’ve been following along with our Small Business Growth Series, you’ve learned how to clarify your brand (who you are) and how to identify your target market (who your potential customers are). Now let’s discuss how to turn those potential customers into sales.
A lead is a potential customer that has shown an interest in your product or service. Companies may acquire leads through channels like digital marketing, advertising, direct sales, referrals, etc. Perhaps your business has a strong outbound sales team, or maybe most of your leads come in through your website thanks to your solid SEO strategy. Or perhaps you’re in an early stage of your company and most of your potential customers are coming from your personal network/word of mouth. If you’re still looking for the right marketing and lead generation channels for your business, grab a copy of Traction: A Startup’s Guide to Getting Customers, and test some of the channels they describe.
The Buyer’s Cycle
Leads that fall into your target market/customer segments are the most important and valuable.
Lead nurturing is the process of converting potential customers into actual customers by adding value and fostering relationships. Successful nurturing requires building relationships with these potential customers by leading them on a journey that ends at the purchase of your product.
Start by considering the felt needs of your customers in each stage of the buying cycle. Taking the time to meet your potential customers where they are is essential to leading them on a journey that ends in sales and customer loyalty.
Content marketing is one of the most effective tools you can use in the lead nurturing process.
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content Marketing Institute
Content marketers are highly effective in converting leads to sales because rather than broadcasting a message, they find ways to add value back to their potential customers. In fact, conversion rates are nearly 6x higher for businesses that are utilizing content marketing over those that utilize traditional marketing tactics. (Source: Aberdeen)
Creating Content for Your Potential Customers
The first step in effective content creation is to consider the needs of your potential customers. Refer back to the customer segments you defined and ask questions like:
- What types of content will interest this type of person?
- What are this person’s strongest felt needs that I can address?
- And most importantly, how can I add value to this type of person?
Effective content marketing builds trust between you and your potential customer – trust that you understand their needs and have their best interest in mind.
One way to discover the types of content that are resonating with your leads is to do a competitor analysis. Utilize tools like Moz, Wordstream, SEMRush, or SpyFu to search for the keywords your competitors are ranking for. Are you including these topics in your content? In addition, tools like BuzzSumo help you understand what types of content are resonating the most with readers. Use these tools to deepen your understanding of your target market.
Once your initial research is done, you must plan out your content creation. Overall, the content you generate should be:
- 60% educational
- 20% conversational
- 20% promotional
Educational content is the most time-consuming content to create, but the most valuable in converting leads to sales. Educational content provides resources and expertise that meet the needs of your target market. By creating this type of content, you are adding value to your potential customer and building trust. Educational content helps convey your brand’s intent to serve and support your customer’s needs.
Conversational content is the most relational content you create, the type of content that humanizes your brand. Conversational content may include information about your team, projects that you’re passionate about (that are not directly tied to the product you’re selling), or it may engage readers in discussion with your brand over topics relevant to your industry. Great conversational content builds another layer of trust with your potential buyers.
Promotional content is the type of content that connects your buyer to your ultimate goal for them – the purchase of your product. Effective content marketers always ensure their promotional content has educational and conversational elements to it while clearly encouraging your customer toward sales. This balance maintains the trust you build through educational and conversational content.
*Note: Beware of the temptation to add a promotional element to every piece of content you create. Muddying up an educational piece of content with a sales pitch or promotion can erode trust with your potential customers and have a negative impact on your conversion goals.
Once you’ve found your stride in content planning and creation, you must begin to find the most effective ways to reach your target audience with your content. Feel at a loss? You’re in luck! There is a huge variety of software platforms and innovative tools that allow you to distribute your content to your target audience, while helping you refine your strategy and increase your success. Tools like MailChimp, Autopilot, Hubspot, Pardot, and others can help you more deeply understand how your potential customers interact with your brand in each stage of the buying cycle, giving you actionable insights that can improve your lead nurturing efforts.
Converting your leads to sales requires you to continue to refine your understanding of your potential customers’ needs and build a relationship with your buyer. This will ultimately foster a sense of loyalty to your brand. Loyal customers are one of your business’ greatest asset – which we’ll discuss more in the final post of our Small Business Growth series!