How Content & Sales Work Together: Beyond Inbound
Feeling lost for words? Not sure how to make the most out of your content budget?
Great content is your chance to shine as a brand, but it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Where do we invest? Who do we need to talk to? The key to content success is audience alignment – aligning content with your customers to help you build better relationships.
Online sales are based on relationships and reciprocal communication. Whether it’s a sign in a coffee shop or a tweet – people are constantly judging your brand based on what they read. Sophisticated consumers will detect layers of meaning and emotion in even the tiniest sliver of content, so you need to tread carefully.
Here’s how to make your content work harder for you by integrating it with your sales strategies and goals.
The basics: Strategy, scaling & seasonality
Creating good commercial content comes down to strategic planning. First and foremost you need to start off with a proper content strategy. (You aren’t going to succeed at cost-effective and thoughtful content marketing without a strategy).
- An editorial calendar will help you manage internal and external content resources throughout the year. Decide when you need to annually publish the most content, and make sure you feed that back into the calendar. Always keep some space free for reactive content creation. (Here are more tips on how to scale content).
- Think about your content in terms of a complex network that supports a wide variety of processes and experiences – you need to think about your content on a huge scale, even if your business is small.
- Content seasonality is a great way to maximize seasonal sales – make the most out of the customer conversations already happening around you.
- Great content doesn’t need to be expensive – you just need to put time and effort into creating it. It’s often about getting the right people to help you with the writing. Using experts? Plan their content interviews plenty in advance to get the most out of their knowledge.
- Content isn’t just flashy stuff you create for your blog – it’s everything that you do. Internal company culture, employee engagement, and branding – they all impact your content.
- Consistency – it might seem boring, but it’s true – being consistent is important. Follow your content calendar, and keep checking your metrics to measure campaign effectiveness. Refine and tweak based on user engagement, post shares, page likes etc.
What’s that stage again?
A core tenet of the inbound methodology is ascertaining where prospects fall in terms of awareness stages – and creating content that matches their mood.
Anyone approaching commercial content needs to get their head around customer awareness and consideration stages. When creating content, consider whether your customers are:
- aware of a problem;
- aware of a solution to that problem;
- aware that your product is the solution to their problem;
- considering your product;
- or in the post-purchase phase.
Use these different stages to help you:
- Map out branded content that suits all these different moods – using the correct content format and messaging;
- Not scare people off by moving too fast down the sales funnel;
- Figure out the ideal content ratio for your niche.
Remember that great sales content is focused on the user – not your internal sales cycles.
One great inbound strategy that you can use to help boost sales is including targeted buyer’s guides on product or sales pages. This kind of user-focused, informational content is an online goldmine of keywords and engagement.
- Use keyword research as the basis for your guides and try to answer as many user questions as possible. Buyer’s guides are a great SEO strategy that will help you increase relevancy metrics through the use of long tail keywords.
- The video is a great format for buyer guides, but include a search-engine friendly transcript too.
- Buyer’s guides help you position yourself as a product expert. They are perfect for raising problem awareness and strengthening product knowledge.
Setting the right tone
Did you mean to sound patronizing and sarcastic? It’s OK if you did, but if that was unintentional – ouch. Getting the tone 100% right for your content is something that comes with time, but you’re better starting off with a detailed tone of voice guidelines to be safe (MailChimp have a great example of this).
With the wrong tone, even great content becomes bad content; because it’s out of line with what customers want to hear from you. In order to engage and sell effectively, you need to make sure that you carefully manage your tone of voice.
- The number one rule for deciding on your content tone is: know your audience. You can play fast and loose with your tone ONLY if you know who you are dealing with.
- Split test your content to see what attitude and tone appeal to people the most – try testing your landing pages, email newsletters, and social posts.
- Think about timing and seasonality – holiday mail shots are a time for loosening up, whereas a business email sent out at 7 AM needs to strike a very different impression.
- The biggest tone deaf customer service mistakes tend to happen around ‘apologies’ – make sure that any apology you make is A bad apology will only fan the flames.
Can a brand tone of voice make you famous? This cafe owner in Dublin has become (in)famous for his colorful social media posts; his blunt comments instigated an online war with vegans awhile back. Swearing and being confrontational may not be for everyone, but the cafe’s Facebook page gets a ton of engagement from customers and supporters. By embracing the mantle of ‘rogue restaurateur’, The White Moose Cafe have been able to drive sales and online reviews through social media.
Intrigued? You can ditch the perfect PR veneer of your brand if you like – but only if you can handle the consequences. People tend to strategically misplace their sense of humor online, and what may seem funny to you, may be offensive to some. Approach this strategy with caution.
The right neighborhood
Have you ever thought about how what you share (and who shares you) impacts your sales?
Not convinced you should worry about your content neighborhood? People make purchase decisions based on recommendations, and algorithms decide where you fit in based on mutual shares, likes, and interests.
- Being in the right neighborhood is all about knowing your audience; knowing where they are looking is half the battle. Try to align your brand and content with platforms and publishers that are ‘in’ for your audience right now.
- Don’t share content through your company profiles without properly checking it out first – bad content can masquerade as high quality if you’re not careful.
- Focus on quality, not quantity, when it comes to content curation.
- Spy on your biggest competitors and industry thought leaders – try to emulate their sharing style without losing any of your originality.
- Think about all the social and professional networks around your brand. They are often a fruitful ground for sales recommendations. Use your network to your advantage and leverage it for branded content creation.
Repetition of key sales messages
Yes, sometimes it’s just that easy. If you want to make something memorable – you have to repeat it. But don’t just say the same word over and over again – explore your topic with synonyms and variants.
The perfect place for repetition is a landing page or an email newsletter that ends in a call to action – it’s all about being persuasive and getting people to do something (like BUY).
Here’s content repetition in action:
What do new e-commerce entrepreneurs want to hear? That starting their store is going to be easy and a piece of cake. That they can make money.
Shopify’s web sales page uses subtle repetition; emphasizing how easy their platform is to use by repeating it in page headings, call out boxes, and in page copy. By inserting all these messages well within the F-shaped heat map (where people will be looking the most), Shopify is being savvy with their copy targeting and making their words work hard for them.
And they’re not just repeating ‘easy’ over and over again, they are using other themes like ‘make your first sale today’ and using the personal pronoun ‘you’ to underline ownership.
Pro tip: Get emotional with your sales messages. People make decisions, even ones that seem ‘logical’ and are financially important, based on their emotions. It’s important that you know what emotional triggers you need to focus on for your target audience.
Getting content and sales to talk to each other isn’t that hard, as long as you stay committed to listening to your customers. There are loads of little content hacks (like good ‘ol content recycling) you can use to make your content processes more efficient. Recycling, outsourcing, repurposing – all these are legitimate ways to get the most out of your writing and content. Don’t be afraid to fully embrace content marketing for your brand and see your sales figures soar. What business challenges can great content help you solve this year?
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Sales.
About the Author
Kayleigh Toyra a writer & content marketer based in the UK. Great content comes from great listening. I’m interested in how brands can use the power of great content creation and the audience listening to reach their business goals.