It’s standard practice in content marketing to say ‘brands must act like publishers’. But many brands ask: What kind of publisher? The New York Times? The Huffington Post? One model won’t work for all B2C and B2B businesses. So it’s key for content marketers to find the right publisher analogy for their business. Simply put, what kind of publisher do you need to be?
For most brands, there are two sides to the content marketing coin:
- Content that develops credibility for your brand
- Content that delivers a conversion
Many brands are investing in content as a smart way to build trust and authority with their audience as opposed to typical sales-focused advertising. Unfortunately, just creating content doesn’t guarantee that readers are going to engage in your content experience or react to your call to action.
When I was at Edmunds.com, we became an “Informational Publisher” like CNET, Bankrate.com or WebMD. We worked hard to ensure our content was delivering on both sides of this coin – attracting audiences through high quality content while ensuring it was also optimized to help consumers convert in our business model (connect with car dealers, financing and insurance options, etc.)
Delivering with the Conversion Content Funnel
In the case of Edmunds.com, the website is built to help customers move through a purchase funnel (awareness, consideration, etc.) that is becoming more complex and less linear. News, reviews, advice, and more are seamlessly tied together across a host of auto-specific categories and topics with marketing pitches from car manufacturers, dealers, financing, and insurance companies. Everybody wins because there’s high-quality, useful content for the buyer and the marketer’s messages are presented in the most engaging, contextual way possible. This is a tight content package designed to engage and inform, not just close a sale.
Keep in mind that the conversion need not be a traditional purchase funnel like car buying. Content can help you gather newsletter subscriptions, website or event registrations, Whitepaper or eBook downloads, or even contest submissions to generate leads. Some great examples of using content without a traditional sales conversion:
- KellyOCG’s web site provides original content with insight on efficient use of your business’ workforce tightly incorporated with the value proposition of their consultation services.
- HSBC Global Connections is site that uses licensed content to help businesses expand internationally while also effectively showcasing how HSBC can be part of that growth.
- SAP’s Conversations on the Future of Business microsite incorporates original content, curated content and tweets around targeted topics like “customer centricity” and “resource optimization” to drive registrations for SAP-sponsored events.
The scale of your efforts can be as small as a high-quality post or as large as a new microsite or blog. And if you can’t create enough content for your funnel, you can leverage a content mix strategy that includes editorialized curation and community-based content approaches to scale your efforts. If you want the benefits of publishing without the risks, curation provides real-time content without setting up a large editorial team.
Well implemented, the conversion content funnel leads the customer from one quality click to the next, adding value to both the conversion and brand credibility sides of the coin.
Driving Brand Credibility
For brands, the relationship between earned and owned media is increasingly important. A strong conversion content funnel can also deliver brand-level benefits, especially if the messages are being distributing deftly across a variety of channels including brief “content teasers” on social networks that can drive readers to articles, newsletters, product information on your website, and a regularly updated blog.
Higher content frequency increases your chances of social interaction, sharing, and more links back to help Google notice you. To build on that, you can also use content networks like Outbrain or Taboola to amplify your content and deliver your message to potential customers on top publisher sites like CNN, Forbes and USA Today.
Connecting your brand with trusted industry voices works at both levels by emphasizing your principles and showing how you put them into action with your products and services. And the timely use of available web content can show your brand is engaged and listening, especially when there is an opportunity to tie it specifically to what you are selling.
Leveraging Content for Both Conversions and Brand Building
Even well built conversion content funnels have some intangibles (e.g., the value of thought leadership, social reach). But when you tie the benefits of building your brand’s personality along with hard numbers on how well content can feed your conversion funnel, investment in scaling your content efforts becomes an obvious win.
Some quick suggestions to measure your funnel:
- Always monitor your campaigns so you can measure and make changes as you go. Google Analytics can give you great information about what links help customers directly through the funnel and which ones are sending them off-track.
- Change up your messaging if it isn’t working, tweak the planned path for your funnel through A/B testing apps like Optimizely, and keep the ideas that work while replacing any underperforming aspects.
- Replicate the most effective ideas with variations that will develop your brand personality, modify them for new products, and generate alternate campaigns for certain buying seasons or links to timely news that can help provide context for your value proposition.
The savvy content marketer can get real value out of both sides of the content marketing coin by blending the conversion and brand-building needs when they produce, package, and distribute their content. I’m curious to hear your answers for these questions and welcome them in the comments section:
- What kind of content is showing the best results in your conversion content funnel?
- How do you track your success in building out your brand credibility?
- Which brands are best at executing both sides of the content marketing coin?
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