What have you done for the top of your marketing (TOFU) funnel lately?
If you’re not familiar with TOFU as it relates to your inbound marketing strategy, let’s do a quick recap. Imagine your marketing funnel, which takes the shape of a tornado. At the very bottom of this funnel is your ideal customer, who has been sifted through the marketing process and emerged as a brand-loyal and happy consumer.
Each stage of the funnel works to eliminate spammers, random visitors, and non ideal customers from your marketing strategy. For example, your newsletter may contain some very industry specific information, and thus uninterested parties will unfollow. Marketers spend much of their time working through the middle of the funnel to find qualified leads and ignore the rest.
This brings us back to TOFU.
Marketing to the top of the sales funnel is often brushed away as a pointless effort. You may not see the value in producing content outside of your industry or not aimed at your ideal customer. The problem with this logic is that without collecting people at the top, visitors can’t start the sifting process down the funnel.
TOFU content can inform, entertain, or answer a specific question. According to marketing firm Impulse Creative, 85% of website visitors fall into this category. The content doesn’t need to be extremely specific or directed at your ideal persona: it just needs to be something that peoplewant to click on. Once there, they will now have the option of participating in your marketing funnel, or to simply click off your site. It’s just important to have them there and do your best work to keep them there with great content.
But who are these anonymous 85%? And how do you know what they want?
TOFU visitors are “Learners.”
Browsers are using search engine sites to help them answer a specific question that they face. They aren’t looking to buy something, close a deal, find a lifelong business partner, or become brand loyal to the website they click on. They simply want an answer, and they used the search engine to find you. Inbound marketing refers to these visitors as “Learners.”
If you want to appeal to Learners, you will need to work on TOFU content that is general, helpful, and pleasing to the eye. Using high-quality graphics, eye-catching headlines, and informative (never sales-y!) content are all ways to attract and keep them on your page.
Here are some examples.
Let’s say you run a carpet cleaning company, and you want to bring tons of visitors to your website using TOFU. If you want to attract Learners, you may want to create blog content like “how to remove red wine stains from carpet,” or “how to get rid of grease spots.” You may even run a feature about the top ten cleaning products for different lengths of carpet, or go crazy with a post about the most beautiful rugs throughout history. A good TOFU strategy encourages people to want more content, and thus keep your website in the top of their mind as they consider how worn and stained their own carpets are at home.
Your TOFU content could also veer outside of your industry. What about a tour of historical castles with restored furniture? The concept of restoration and preservation is in line with your company goals, and could draw in people interested in that similar subject. At our presentation design firm, we sometimes create infographics on how to make certain recipes. It’s not going to gain us an immediate lead, but it does bring people to our site and keep them clicking. For a TOFU strategy, that’s all that matters.
Start your TOFU strategy today.
Don’t feel anxious to create content that is not handcrafted for your ideal customer. Push yourself to spend today writing down at least five different TOFU blog or content ideas. What if you designed a few inspirational quotes to post on your Twitter? How about a blog series about frequently asked questions in your industry? What about a fun list of the best things to do in your headquarter’s home town?
Make your content fun, make it educational, and above all: go out there and just make some content happen.
You probably have an amazing marketing department that is constantly creating interesting, value-packed content that moves leads down the sales funnel, right? Of course you do.
But it’s possible that you may be undervaluing the impact your content can have when it’s more integrated with your sales team’s actions – and that has to change.
Why? Because when your sales team is able to leverage your content and learn key insights with the engagement data that comes from it (what role they are, what they’re interested in, company size), your content becomes even more powerful as a sales tool.
With this data, sales teams are able to optimize and scale their SQLs (sales qualified leads) by determining which MQLs (marketing qualified leads) are Super MQLS – all before sales vetting and call attempt. This data also allows the right follow-up information to be sent to the right people at the right time.
In this post, we’ll look at what content for sales enablement really is, as well as examples that showcase how both marketing and sales team can use it to more effectively drive sales.
What Is Content for Sales Enablement?
First things first: Let’s get on the same page about content for sales enablement. Different companies define it in different ways, but for the most part, it’s just what it sounds like – content that enables sales.
According to a survey from DemandMetric, marketers define sales enablement content as:
Print materials and assets (like whitepapers, brochures, etc.)
And what’s more: Three-fourths see it as valuable, essential material. 75% of marketers said sales enablement content makes a moderate to significant contribution to the sales process. So it makes sense that both the marketing and sales team should have an open dialogue around this content.
To really maximize sales enablement content, you need your content to be doing the work for you. While case studies and testimonials are definitely helpful for bottom-of-the-funnel leads, using interactive content to pose questions and receive opinions is really what will take your MQLs to the next level, and drastically scale your sales efforts in the process.
Let’s explore what this type of sales enablement content looks like in action.
Examples of Interactive Sales Enablement Content
Now that we understand what sales enablement content is, let’s look at an example and break down why it’s so effective. First, we’ll look at two assessments.
Maybe you’re wondering, “How does an assessment like this one enable sales?”
First of all, an assessment is a piece of content that feels individualized to a specific issue for the user – it helps tease out a pain point that preps them for a simple, easy solution.
Beyond this, it’s a great tool for the sales department because it moves buyers a little bit further down the funnel as they work through the assessment.
The more the leads think about the specific obstacles they are facing, the more they become aware of how much they need something to address it.
It gets better: Often, sales has a series of questions they ask every prospect to grade how good the prospect is. Having specific content like assessments, roi calculators, and product pickers starts capturing that critical information as part of your content-enabled campaigns, pre-sales.
With this data, that initial vetting effort from sales is minimized or skipped completely, allowing the team to focus their effort on “super MQLS,” spending more time closing deals, and less sorting through unqualified leads.
Sales works more higher qualified leads, and marketing improves its scoring efforts and creates customized nurture streams to further leads through the funnel – all leading to greater efficiency, and increased revenue.
Lastly, well designed sales-enablement content provides a richer experience for prospects. Positioning assessments, polls, or quizzes to allow the lead to learn something about themselves or their organization in process is a much less “salesy” experience. There’s no person on the other end making a pitch – the customer just works through the discovery process in a low-intensity, low-commitment context.
Which Big Data Blueprint Is Right for You?
Pentaho, a big data integration and analytics solution, used a product picker assessment that asks lower-funnel prospects specific questions about their current data process and problem points.
This assessment bucketed users into four product groups/ sales use cases. The lead data went directly to their Marketo and Salesforce databases that allowed sales to follow up with powerful insights to the organization’s needs.
325 of the leads created through the content were qualified to Sales Accepted Leads with the data received. Over $200k in pipeline was directly attributed to the interactive assessment.
Realize Real Results
Blackbaud, a marketing platform for non-profits, has seen content for sales enablement produce amazing results.
They launched a microsite called Realize Real Results, which included different types of content (including interactive calculators and assessments.) The microsite was promoted across various marketing channels over the course of one month.
Sales reps were able to use the data from the calculators as talking points during discovery calls, creating a more informed conversation. For leads that have not used the calculator, they were invited to put in their own metrics right on the call and see the results in real-time.
52% click rate on landing page
56% lead conversion
500 qualified leads
133% Q1 quota attainment
$600k add’l Q1 sales
Pretty impressive, right? The content for sales enablement deployed here produced real, tangible ROI – and allowed both the marketing and sales teams to work together to outpace their goals.
Where Sales and Marketing Unite
As you can probably see, content marketing and sales enablement are the place where the marketing and sales teams need to overlap and work together.
It’s no longer enough to just create great content and put it out in the world – it needs to relate back to a larger sales strategy and produce valuable customer data that both teams can put to good use.
Ask yourself: Are your marketing and sales team effectively collaborating in the content department? If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your approach.
Leads are great, but there’s a long road between a lead and a sale. Converting prospects into revenue requires marketers everywhere to manage and nurture an on-going relationship with their leads. This usually entails the long hard task of separating legitimate prospects from duds, organizing data, and consistently tracking key leads on a regular basis. Sometimes, you also need to use competitive intelligence tools to steal your competitors’ customers.
When it gets right down to it, manual lead management can be a huge, boring, and largely inefficient task. Fortunately, there are all sorts of tools that can help your company get the job done faster.
Setting your sales team up for success right in the inbox is a great way to get a handle on lead management. Rapportive is a useful tool that can upgrade popular email services to help you make faster decisions about your audience. It automatically displays relevant information about contacts pulling from online sources such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Another tool that can optimize email is Boomerang, which can schedule an unlimited number of emails to go out at a specified date and time. The app can also filter important emails you need to be reminded about so that they automatically appear at the top of your inbox.
One way to alleviate the pains of lead management is by looking for hidden sales functions. For instance, Google Groups, which is tucked away in Google Apps, is a tool that can help you efficiently share contacts and email addresses with particular groups of employees.
All you have to do is create a group within Google; for instance, everyone working on a particular sales project. Then simply forward emails or share contacts without worrying about adding each member to a new thread.
Another app that possesses surprising hidden sales functions is Apple’s Address Book. This App has a useful notes function for storing relationship statuses, company web pages, and instant message handles. This allows you to fill out various contact fields, share contacts via email, and sync everything with your other Apple devices.
Turn your smartphone into the ultimate sales tool. Smartr Contacts by the San Francisco-based Xobni is a free tool that can make your address book smarter by shifting the focus to managing relationships instead of email addresses and phone numbers. The app pulls updates from social media, recent emails, and other contact data into one place—allowing users to get immediately up to speed on their prospects.
Social media integration is an absolute must-have in any sales arsenal. You can generate customer data by monitoring your company’s social media activity with web-based tools like Sprout Social. This tool gives you a better idea of who is using or, at least, talking about your services. It’s a great way to keep track of your list of Facebook friends and Twitter followers all in one place.
Sales Genius allows you to send trackable emails through Microsoft Outlook, making it easy for current Outlook users to integrate this app into their small business. The app maintains a detailed history of sales leads’ website visits, telling you when and how often a prospect is looking at your site. It also automatically notifies you when youshould contact that prospect based on how often they visit.
Continuous lead management is an important part of any healthy business. Lead management tools are a smart way to stay on top of the constantly changing market to help your company stay on top.
What’s your favorite lead management tool? Did it make the list? Tell us about it below.
The post 7 Lead Management Tools That Will Save You Hours appeared first on PureB2B.
Imagine a world where we stop asking prospects to complete lead generation forms for gated content. Say what?
How will marketing teams deliver qualified leads to their sales teams? How will content marketers measure their marketing performance? In fact, lead generation was ranked as the most important content marketing goal in the latest B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs.
If we eliminated all lead gen forms, what metrics can we use to show the ROI of our content marketing investment?
Making Content “Free”
Those were probably some of the questions that ran through Dave Gerhardt’s head, the Marketing Lead at the messaging app startup Drift, when their CEO David Cancel proposed to nix all gated forms to their content.
As the editor of chiefmartec.com Scott Brinker noted, there are a number of caveats that makes eliminating lead generation forms more feasible for Drift than for other companies. They still have a pop-up that invites people to subscribe to their newsletter, and they offer freemium trials for people to try out their product. But the freemium model doesn’t work for all businesses.
While the idea may seem too radical to some marketers, if we see it through the lens of a prospect, nixing all gated forms might actually be quite nice. Wouldn’t it? No more forms to complete to get the content you want. No more (unwanted) nurture emails and calls from marketing development or sales reps, aggressively moving you through their funnel. You reach out if and when you want to engage with their company.
Future Of Content Marketing: No More Forms?
Noah Fenn, the head of video sales and strategy at AOL, has talked about ad execs sharing this “collective amnesia,” where they somehow have forgotten that they, just like the rest of us, are viewers themselves who just want to read and watch their content without unwanted interruptions – the exact same ads they are creating that we want to avoid if given the option.
Do marketers perhaps share this “collective amnesia” with our demand generation programs? Our prospects may tolerate lead gen forms and phone or email follow-ups, but can we honestly say that they like it when they are not ready to engage with your brand yet? Who is actually doing the demanding with our demand gen programs?
As Brinker asks, if we, as marketers, only focus on doing these two things really well – one, create valuable content our prospects want and need without gating them, and two, make sure our companies are building amazing products that people actually want to buy, renew and recommend to the world – could this make marketing more effective, and could it help companies grow their sales and revenue faster?
These are certainly interesting questions for marketers to think about.
Marketing ROI In A New World
As Brinker notes, at least for B2B marketing, lead forms and nurture campaigns are the “heart of modern marketing operations” today. Existing marketing automation software and technologies are primarily used for these marketing activities, which marketers use to measure and evaluate their KPIs today.
If we stopped using lead forms and nurture programs to generate quality leads, how will marketers measure their marketing ROI and performance?
For companies like Drift, marketers can track their number of trial sign-ups and upgrades. For businesses who don’t operate on a freemium model though, perhaps the best KPI is the number of subscribers to your content.
Subscribers convert to revenue at 9X the rate of non-subscribers no matter what your actual conversion rate from web visitor to revenue is.
Clearly this would disrupt the way many brands execute their marketing strategy and how they evaluate their marketing performance today. But if we put on a potential customer’s hat, what is disrupted here?
Is it the customer’s experience with our brand, or is it just our own marketing strategy and operations? Would this disruption actually push brands to become more customer-centric and innovative with their marketing? I believe this focuses the marketing organization on understanding customer needs, creating amazing content experiences, and optimizing on a measure that first defines value for them (the subscribers), knowing that these subscribers are much more likely to convert to sales.
What do you think? Would it be possible for B2B marketers to adopt an approach similar to Drift’s strategy? What potential benefits and challenges do you see with such approach? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share in the comments section below!
Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.
Ever feel like your content team is stuck in creation mode? You know – as soon as you finish one blog post or eBook, you’re onto the next one, giving little thought to extending the lifespan of the piece of content you just finished.
The quality vs. quantity content debate is ongoing. On the quantity side, it’s important to create a steady stream of fresh content to remain topical, engage subscribers, and increase inbound traffic.
On the quality side, your content will only be valuable enough to generate engagement, subscribers, backlinks, leads, etc. if it exceeds a certain standard.
In other words, if the quality of your content is suffering for the sake of quantity, you have a problem. It might be time to give your editorial calendar a break and focus on getting more value out of the content you already have.
Here are a few ideas for how to generate engagement without having to create more content.
If you’re in an industry where it makes sense for your brand to cover highly topical content, don’t stop on my account. However, if your audience will find more value from evergreen content topics – content with a longer shelf life – plan them carefully.
Build a finite list of evergreen topics for each persona, and create 10X content around each key topic (this is also a great practice for SEO purposes). Consider things that could easily go out of date, including:
Stats – Stats are important to prove any point or demonstrate industry trends. Make sure that any stats you include are from a recent, credible source so they don’t date your content (and compromise your own content’s credibility).
Trends – Remember frosted tips? Some trends never turn into a best practice (nor should they). Be critical when writing about trends, and if you’re unsure, consult an industry expert.
Product – Your product will evolve over the years. Keep this in mind if you include screenshots or talk specifically about features and capabilities. Talk to your product manager about providing a product roadmap, and keep track of where you include screenshots so you can easily update them.
Thinking evergreen will make it much easier to execute a content strategy that’s focused on longevity. However, even the most evergreen of evergreen content topics will need to be updated eventually, which brings us to our next point…
Regularly Implement Historical Optimization
Historical optimization is exactly what it sounds like: optimizing “old” content so it’s as good as new. The optimization process involves analyzing your content to determine which old pieces are top performers, editing and updating them, and then re-publishing them as part of your content schedule.
This has a number of benefits:
It ensures all content in your resource center is fresh and up-to-date
It can improve your content’s performance
It’s easy to scale when implemented as part of your regular publishing schedule
Once you have a content strategy that’s designed for longevity (i.e., you’re focusing on publishing a certain amount of evergreen content and you’re performing regular historical optimization), it’s time to start reviving your content via promotion.
Re-promote your content on all of your regular promotional channels – social media, email, etc.. Schedule it to be featured at the top of your resource center to improve discoverability. Encourage your entire team to share it on social again.
If it fits your audience, take advantage of syndication and republishing channels like LinkedIn Publishing, Business2Community, and Social Media Today (which allow for your content to be republished with a canonical URL, thus avoiding any duplicate content issues).
New platforms mean new audience exposure, which is necessary to prolonging your content’s lifespan and generating more engagement.
Don’t Be Afraid to Give Your Editorial Calendar a Break
You work hard and pour tons of time and money into the content you create. Make sure it’s bringing in positive ROI!
Give your editorial calendar a break (if only for a few days) and focus on getting more value out of your “old” content. It doesn’t deserve to collect dust in the depths of your resource center – bring it out and let it shine.
Because of this, it’s important to plan out a strategy for addressing those needs at the bottom of the funnel. You’ll want a plan of action that helps you move those low funnel leads right on through to the customer side.
So what are customers looking for at the bottom of the funnel, you might be wondering? In this post, we’ll cover five key areas that address their common questions and concerns.
1. Social Proof That Addresses Their Concerns
Low in the funnel, your leads want clear evidence that proves you can deliver on the things you promise. And they want to hear that from someone other than you. Enter social proof.
Increasingly, review sites like G2 Crowd are becoming more and more browsed and relied upon for low-funnel leads. This gives them the general experience of current or past customers. Make sure you encourage great customer successes to leave their reviews on these sites.
Other social proof comes in the form of testimonials, case studies, and results produced for clients. They not only provide concrete evidence that you can provide real, tangible value for clients, but it also allows them to see for themselves what past customers have to say about working with you.
Take this example from Super Spicy Media, a social media management company. They leverage social proof in the form of testimonials to show how they addressed customer concerns and produced positive results. Promoting these assets to leads in the bottom of the funnel gives them one more reason to stop worrying and to take action.
2. A Discount or Deal to Overcome Price Objections
For other bottom-of-the-funnel leads, it’s a pricing issue that’s keeping them from converting into a customer. They see the value of what you can provide, but they’re not convinced it’s worth paying the full price tag.
For these customers, a discounted period or free trial can allow them to get hands-on experimentation with your product or service (and to see for themselves the many benefits of your offering.) During this time, customers come to realize the value of the investment in a more long-term relationship with your product.
Unitrends offers cloud-based backup services to enterprise clients, and they use a 30-day free trial to get bottom-of-the-funnel leads interested in using their service for the long-term. Bonus: In collecting form field information up front from mid to low-funnel leads, they ensure they can follow up with them when the time comes and help them convert.
Potential customers also want to know that you can help them address concerns that are unique to their individual niches. For example, a hair salon owner exploring appointment software wants to see some content that indicates other hair salons are successfully using this particular product.
Highly relevant content (again, like a case study or testimonial) that shows similar businesses’ positive experiences are powerful because they are more tailored to the lead’s individual concerns. It’s not a catch-all – it speaks to more specialized needs.
Kissmetrics does a nice job of this in an in-depth case study with a client in the eCommerce world, Ecwid. They show how their services helped a company working with this highly specialized subject matter used their tools to produce amazing results.
It’s always a good idea to remind your bottom-of-the-funnel leads of your authority and expertise, as this drives up your ethos with your audience. It’s a basic principle of Rhetoric: Remind your audience that you’re an expert they can trust with proof they can evaluate for themselves.
So how do you do that? Showcase your awards, achievements, press, and praise in a way that convinces leads to follow through and convert.
Mentalist Vinny DePonto has an entire page on his website that indicates his expertise as a performer, and it includes reviews from respected theater publications, praise from past clients, and more.
Bottom-of-the-funnel leads don’t want to wait around for answers – they need fast responses that address their questions. In fact, data from InfusionSoft shows that If you wait more than 30 minutes, then your lead is 21x less likely to turn into a sale.
Because of this, it’s important to have options like live chat and email support that can help resolve issues for these leads efficiently. Automated emails can also help ensure your potential customers know help is on the way. If someone is having an issue with checkout, your website navigation, etc., these features keep you from losing those leads who are ready to buy.
Nordstrom uses live chat for this very reason. Right from the checkout screen, customers can resolve issues in real time thanks to handy live chat features.
Forrester reports that 99% of leads do not convert. LinkedIn reports that 87% of leads do not convert. So why are marketers so focused on lead goals and cost per lead when it comes to LinkedIn marketing and social selling?
I believe this is giving marketing a false sense of LinkedIn success or failure. Here are 3 examples to show you what I mean.
Wiley’s CMO Focuses on Their High Click-Through Rates Instead of Revenue Generated
As I mentioned in my recent article “CMOs Are Failing to Go Beyond Brand Awareness on LinkedIn”, Wiley’s CMO, Clay Stobaugh focuses on sponsored updates and sponsored Inmails. I must admit that they are getting amazing click-through rates. But he never discusses how many of those click-throughs are becoming leads and how many of those leads are turning into actual opportunities and actual clients.
Now, let’s assume that many of those click-throughs become leads – and he has a low cost-per-lead. If those leads do not move forward, then he has a high cost for business growth. And, their efforts on LinkedIn are nothing more than a cost center. It doesn’t matter how low the cost-per-lead is if leads are being stuck at the top-of-the-funnel. It’s still a cost and investment that isn’t leading to revenue! Do you see what I mean about a false sense of LinkedIn success by focusing on cost-per-lead?
Social Media Firm Focuses on Lead Goals Even Though the Leads They Delivered Went Nowhere!
I recently spoke to the President and CMO of a logistics company – and they were both so focused on how many leads we are able to deliver on a weekly and monthly basis. They proceeded to tell me how another social media lead generation firm was delivering 5 to 10 leads for sales calls per week.
However, those sales leads they were delivering went nowhere! 90% of the calls were with prospects who were not in the right stage of the buying process at this time – or they were with people who were not even a decision maker or influencer. The people who said “yes” to a call was just looking for free information, to network – and maybe refer the company.
What good were those leads if there were no relationships being created and leveraged to create revenue opportunities? Again, the cost-per-lead may be low but the cost for business growth is high.
Sales Consulting Firm Focuses on Cost-Per-Lead Rather Than the Return on Relationships That Will Lead to Greater Revenue
The President of a sales consulting firm almost did not renew the firm’s contract with Get LinkedIn Help because she wasn’t getting a return-on-leads that she wanted. She was so focused on her cost-per-lead rather than the return-on-relationships she was getting.
Through our efforts, the firm was building relationships with VPs of Sales and Sales Enablement Directors at Fortune 500 companies like Oracle, First Data and TD Bank. She didn’t think about the value those relationships will have once they close deals. She didn’t think about how we’re shortening the sales cycle and giving the firm a return-on-time.
By focusing just on leads instead of relationships that will turn into revenue, the President was getting a false sense of failure (when she was indeed getting something way more valuable than leads that tend to go nowhere!)
If Your Intention Is to Grow Your Business, Shouldn’t Your Focus Be on Generating Customers & Revenue
For our own LinkedIn marketing efforts at Get LinkedIn Help, our team does not carry a lead goal. In fact, we don’t even carry an opportunity goal. We only measure marketing success by closed revenue and make decisions based on this metric. Even if we generate a lower amount of leads or opportunities, it doesn’t matter. Our revenue that is coming from our LinkedIn marketing efforts is all that matters.
The way to focus on customers and revenue is to focus on the complete funnel – not just the top of the funnel and the volume of leads that are going into the funnel. Marketers need to take a pipeline marketing approach, make decisions based on revenue generation instead of leads and optimize all aspects of the LinkedIn marketing program to widen every stage of the funnel. The only way marketers will be able to generate more MQL’s, more SQL’s, more sales opportunities, and more deals is to use the entire pipeline.
So, what are your thoughts?
Should marketers be focusing on the lead volume or should they be focused on the relationships that are being created – and how they are driving revenues. Should they be focused on cost-per-lead or the cost for business growth and results like:
400% ROI for an International Coaching Firm
$300,000 in additional yearly revenue for a Top Marketing Firm
900+ IT Decision Makers for a SaaS Company leading to more sales opportunities
30%+ more webinar registrations & 5 new clients from LinkedIn
More than $10,000 in less than 30 day using our strategies
Evergreen content can help you grow your business along with your authority, but do you know what evergreen content is?
Evergreen content in the most basic definition is content that is optimized for SEO the right way and has no expiration date that will maintain your expertise and authority for a long time period. As people search for specific thing using key words they will continue to find your page over and over again.
Other type of content is content that needs to be seen right away as it will be outdated in 5, 8, 10 months from the time it is published but it is relevant to today’s trends in your niche.
Now you are probably thinking wait if the content is going to be outdated in such a short period of time why do I want to include that into my content? The best marketing plan is to mix both timely content with evergreen (timeless) content, this will keep readers coming back for the timeless content as well as new readers who are looking for the timely content which will provide you the best opportunity to increase your authority and your readership.
Write on an exact topic; such as Halloween decorating.
Show your awareness and expertise.
Inspire your reader to take action.
Use and easy to read and follow format.
Repurpose the content to fit your readers according to their likes and share it again.
Those are a few tips on how to write evergreen content that will be read again and again.
How to create a successful marketing plan
Are you trying to set up your marketing plan? Let’s look at a few steps for you to follow.
Define your objectives and goals. Without clearly defined objectives and goals there is no way to evaluate and adjust your content over time. A great marketing plan like the leaders will include ways to measure how their marketing is helping to develop longer relationships with their customers and effecting over all business objectives.
Create or map your sales funnel by using your content to make your readers aware of product or service, consider that product or service, and then buy that product or service,
Define your readers and their behaviors when it comes to finding the articles and posts that they read. In order to do this you must go beyond traditional demographics such as age, geography, and income and also look at the sort of challenges, motivations, and behaviors that your readers have in common.
Determine channel strategy, with the constant growing number of social media platforms and channels you will need to determine where your target readers already spend their time searching for information related to your business.
Those are just a few of the steps that go into creating a successful marketing plan. Further steps to a successful marketing plan can be found here.
Making the content of your marketing plan lead to sales
First you need to understand what types of content lead to sales; these are great examples of content that will lead to sales.
Whitepapers or brochures
Blog posts that are packed with value
Reviews from users and or study results
Training such as with email
Interactive help such as a calculator for a generating leads tool
Now that we see what types of content will help lead your marketing funnel to sales there is a certain order to it. Take the review or statistics from a study; those are best used near the bottom of the funnel.
Traditionally a sales person (a car salesman) would be asking you questions to get a better understand of the things you are looking for, the things you must have, the things you’d like to have, and those things which you do not want or can do without. With content marketing this step is taken for you with a series of assessments, roi calculators, and product pickers.
A well designed marketing of sales content gives the readers a better experience while learning about them through polls, quizzes, or assessments that allows them to learn something of value about themselves or organization. In this mode it is less of a sales pitch but instead gives them the comfort of low intensity without being pushed by a salesperson making a pitch.
To learn more about what content can lead to sales and how to use evergreen content to help with sales read Sales Enablement.
Using evergreen content to help with sales enablement
Using evergreen content to help your search results is not the only reason for investing time into it, it can also help you gain customer trust and loyalty, generate leads, and prove that you are an authority on your brand.
By doing some investigating, research, and narrowing down your topic you can come up with timeless evergreen content that your readers want. You can also update, tweak, and share previous posts according to the comments or questions that have been left on the topic.
A few tips on making evergreen content help with sales are;
Guest posting or syndication allows you to raise awareness of your brand.
Paid promotion for a tweet on twitter or a Facebook post can help get your content in front of 1000s of new readers at any given time who would not normally have found your content.
Ask well known influencers in the industry to contribute to your piece which lends more credibility to you.
Feature it on your website.
There are several ways to make evergreen content work for you, not just in creating loyal readers but also in converting those readers to customers who buy your brand. It can also be linked to from another site which again gives you more authority on your brand since other people in your industry who have influence are directing their readers to your content on your site.
Learning how to use your evergreen content to create more loyalty and sales should be a priority if you wish to gain authority and make more people aware of your product or services.
My cousin arrived from California the other day. As we sat enjoying a bottle of his excellent homemade Cabernet, he told me about his decades long wine-making hobby.
Turns out there are many ways to screw up wine in the production process (technical term). But if you don’t begin with the right, quality grapes, there’s little you can do to improve it.
It occurred to me this applies to content creation, doesn’t it? If you don’t have the right inputs, there’s little even a great writer can do to produce great content.
Content Source is the secret sauce to quality content because it’s the way you acquire and prepare inputs to your content process.
Our practice of using Content Source began over 12 years ago, but became a disciplined, robust practice about 5 years ago. When we consider our world without Content Source, we realize we would lose our:
Leverage, efficiency and lower effort creating content — especially at scale
Ability to create content versions for greater relevance based on different:
Forms (micro, short and long)
Access to essential content assets and especially plain and linked text content
We find it an essential resource that enables us to optimize the ten criteria for quality and effective customer-facing content. (See 7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of your customer facing content)
What Is Content Source
Content source is a repository of all text elements that are used in, or to create content.
Think of all the content types you manage: documents, web site pages, images, graphics, video, etc. Most content is managed in proprietary management systems designed for each asset type.
How do you “manage text”? We seldom find organizations that do. But isn’t this an important content type? Doesn’t almost all content begin as text? What if you had instant access to source content that improves quality and reduces the time and effort to create new content? That’s the potential here.
How do you manage linked assets such as your blog posts, landing pages, web pages, as well as third party web assets so your users can easily search for and find the linked assets they need. This was another use case that got us started with Content Source.
For text management, if you answered Google Docs, Evernote or OneNote you’re on the right track. Years ago we started with a master Google Doc file. We found it became a big honkin’ file that was too cumbersome. Today we use Microsoft OneNote.
We call this Content Source because this repository contains all of the source elements from our finished content products. We also regularly curate third party content as source inputs to our new content. This post will highlight important text assets and applications beyond traditional documents, that are needed by content users.
My challenge to you is, how well do you manage, share and re-use your text assets? Do you even think of them as assets? When it comes to professional content operations, everything is a potential asset.
Why Manage Text
The most important reasons include:
Improve support to all content creators and users across the organization’s content ecosystem
Improve the ability to find and use content
Reduce the time effort and cost of creating new content
Improve new content quality due to better and timely inputs
Optimize reuse of important subsets of finished content
Maintain existing content assets faster and easier (future-proof content)
Design and create modular, configurable content elements to optimize relevance, forms and formats. This will prepare your organization for the next and rapidly emerging phase of “structured content” creation methods.
We think this is the “source” of higher quality, audience and situationally relevant content. It makes a continuous stream of rapidly developed content possible. It’s an important part of solving content scaling challenges. It will significantly lower content costs, especially as content scales.
How We Use Content Source
Content Source is useful for primary content creators and operations people, as well as front line creators/users. Select versions can even be deployed to customers, resellers, partners or other content constituents in your ecosystem.
We use Content Source as a front end management system to all content:
It provides a single point of access with links to all finished content assets, regardless of storage location
Each asset is front-ended with an explanatory abstract, enhanced tagging, and other meta data that’s more robust than capabilities in typical native management systems
Often assets are stored in different versions, formats and locations, links to which are easily documented in one place with this approach. And this includes references to related assets.
Documents on Sharepoint, Box, and other file systems
Web pages and blog posts including syndicated locations such as LinkedIn
Third party web articles and PDFs
Links to image and graphic repositories
Videos on video hosting sites — YouTube, Wistia, etc.
We curate internal and third party content.
This means we have a single repository for at least the text and link elements of every content asset. When content is being created, or when work products are finished, the source elements are deposited into the Content Source repository. A Content Header template guides adding the metadata.
When anyone in the organization finds valuable third party articles, research reports, facts, stories, quotations, images and graphics — anything that is important to share or possibly use — it is emailed into the system.
So text content that is often stored in document files (Word or PDF), or read but left on the web, are more accessible for search and re-use by storing the plain text.
We extract and prepare source elements for fast discovery and reuse.
Click for larger view
The main idea is to prepare content for easier access and re-use. So the facts, stories, quotations, graphics, etc are extracted from their source content into separate text assets that are appropriately tagged. We apply this to common phrases, explanations, and other frequently used text. This improves our ability to find them.
We distribute text assets for immediate use.
We believe creating content as re-usable elements is an imminent major shift in thinking and process for creating customer facing content. To do this, content must be modular (or atomized) and configurable. This process has been used in technical document creation for a long time.
Content Source is how and where we manage these elements.
Other uses for plain text include:
Copy for regularly used, ideally professionally developed and A/B tested, emails for marketing and sales professionals
Copy for social media posts that link to appropriate content
Copy for landing pages
Answers to customer questions
This list goes forever and as you apply this practice you will discover applications you’ve never considered!
Often the people who are creating the source elements and finished content are best to also produce these elements. This improves quality, efficiency and ease of use.
How To Start
Like any new habit or practice, the use of Content Source will evolve. But there are some recommendations that will help you get started, make the process easier, and accelerate your time to beneficial experiences.
Make a place for this. I highly recommend Microsoft OneNote. We’re constantly evaluating options, and there are applications that are maturing that may provide an even more robust solution, but for now this is the best we’ve found. It is free, works well with Macs, and through OneDrive nicely supports sharing by multiple users. Even permissioning is well done. Take some time to learn the basics of this application. It’s very rich. Be patient. Front end learning time will save you later, make the work easier, and produce better results.
Apply your information architecture. If you don’t have a good information architecture schema for your content, spend some time at least on a high level structure for your content. Do the same for content organizing schemas, right down to robust taxonomy.
These are an essential tool for professional content work. Think of your primary “topics,” sub-topics, key business concepts, and categories of types of content (facts, research results, quotations, stories, questions, answers, etc). Topics and concepts will guide what content to acquire and how to curate it. It will provide tagging guidance. Apply this to folders, sub-folders and pages in OneNote. Work this out universally for your organization. Get input from all stakeholders, but don’t make everyone have to figure this out.
Develop a Content Header (download example provided here) that everyone can use to curate content. This can be added to the “Page Templates” section in the OneNote menu.
Start to curate both proprietary content and third party articles. First copy the entire documented into a page (and apply the Content Header information/metadata). Then extract relevant sections into a separate “page” or onto a page with a common theme such as “topic” quotations, or “topic” phrases, etc.
Stay tuned for more ideas and recommended practices to improve your Content Source. This will help you get the most out of your customer facing content, content resources and investments.
Three years ago, The Onion published this satirical piece “Sponsored Content Pretty Fucking Awesome,” ridiculing the absurdity of native advertising. If you’re pressed for time, here are two short snippets to give you a taste of the post:
“I love, love, fucking love sponsored content,” said news and entertainment reader Erica Olson, adding that when she can tell a corporation is financially behind a piece of writing, she is even more inclined to click on it. “First off, it’s cool. That’s not debatable. Second, I don’t find it in any way insulting to my intelligence. In fact, it makes me feel smarter. And third, did I mention that sponsored content is just really fucking cool?”
“I would say that I’m happiest when I’m being taken advantage of and duped into reading what is essentially a company’s propaganda disguised as actual editorial content,” said Colorado resident Colin Portman, adding that he wanted to personally thank media publications for regularly including sponsored content in their production schedules.
What’s probably funnier and more ironic is that, after the article was published, The Onion became one of the most successful native ad creators in the industry. 90% of The Onion’s advertising package now includes custom native ad content. The growth of its in-house content agency Onion Labs exploded, landing them big clients like Bacardi, Audi, Groupon and Lenovo.
What makes Onion-branded content so much more effective than others? And why is there so much branded content out there that just, well, sucks? What does it take to build a funny brand? Check out what Rick Hamann, the Chief Creative Officer of The Onion, has to say in his latest interview with Contently’s editor-in-chief Joe Lazauskas.
Great Content Takes Smart Risks
Hamann credits The Onion’s native ad success to smart risk-taking. While they never do anything that will make their clients uncomfortable or angry, they do find out where that line is and get as close as they can to that line. This is what makes Onion-branded content so fresh and effective.
For clients who wish to play a more active role in the creative and content creation process, The Onion offers ad products that aren’t Onion-branded. This flexibility would allow brands to still develop content that are within The Onion’s “comedic sensibilities,” but incorporate their products and messaging in the ways they want.
Ultimately, content success is about finding a balance between taking creative risks and serving the company’s business needs, to effectively reach and engage your target audience while giving your content a unique voice and identity.
Why So Much Branded Content Sucks
This is easier said than done though. As Hamann admits, creating great comedy and content is really difficult, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. It’s the same reason why so much advertising out there sucks because it’s really hard to do.
It takes real passion and dedication, Hamann says. People in your organization have to genuinely want to create great content and make it work, no matter how difficult it can be. If they don’t have the passion, care and knowledge to know what they are doing, Hamann says the final work is guaranteed to be terrible.
Think Beyond The 30-Second Increments
When asked what advice he would give to companies who want to make their brand funnier, Hamann says they shouldn’t make commercials.
Just like AOL’s head of video sales and strategy Noah Fenn, Hamann thinks brands shouldn’t limit themselves to thinking in 30-second increments and trying to run an ad as a piece of content. You need to create as many different ways as you can to solve the marketing challenge your brand has, whether that’s brand awareness, reach, engagement and so on.
Now more than ever, there are different devices and platforms brands can leverage to reach and engage their target audience. So you need to create a good mixture of content, including written, video and social, then find ways to distribute it to as many people as you can, and measure your performance so you can readjust your strategy accordingly.
Collaboration and communication is critical throughout this process. That’s why Hamann gathers everyone who touches the content creation work for a daily meeting every morning, to collectively work through their client challenges.
The Secret Sauce To Creating Great Content
While native advertising is not the same as content marketing, we can all agree that Hamann has shared some valuable insights that all marketers can apply to improve their work.
Great content surprises and delights your audience. I would take it a step further and add that effective content needs to provide real value and helps your audience in some way, to truly be able to resonate, reach and engage them.
It requires real passion, hard work and craft, combined with a thirst for constant learning, experimentation and innovation, and true teamwork with everyone in your organization to create the content and brand your customers will love.
What other tips do you have for marketers to create effective content and to build an amazing brand? Please share your ideas below!