Online, you can learn a lot about your customers by observing and understanding their digital behavior. That's why your online presence needs to be integrated -- PR programs, marketing campaigns, social networks participation need to be one connected execution that speaks with your brand's voice.
From a content standpoint, it also needs to integrate three important components: editorial impact, community building, and calls to action.
What I just described here is the part that makes it hard to tell you that how Dell did it will work for you. You're not Dell. Your product or service is different.
You may have a small business, and not a large organization. However, we can take it one step at a time and look at things you can do to connect with your buyers, and keep them engaged throughout their decision journey with content.
Let's say for the sake of simplicity that you have your business strategy in hand and are now looking at growing your customer base, or expanding within your base with more services. You'll need to diversify your content itself to appeal to one and the other separately, especially if you're close to your customers.Tools
A couple of weeks ago, we listed a few tools that allow you to automate the tracking part. If your budget allows, and you've planned or promise to plan your Web site to map to buyers personas, you can implement one of these tools.
Connecting the tracking of interest with your sales tool will allow you to automate most of the hard part -- qualifying leads. One of the first things you need to think about is your definition of qualified lead. Once both marketing and sales buy into it, or you as an experienced entrepreneur know is the moment in which the lead is qualified to have a purchase consideration, every content experience we're describing in this post, will lead you to that (no pun intended).
When marketing and sales agree on the definition of quality lead, tools will help you with the process of nurturing, or serving up useful content to customers until they're ready to have contact with a sales rep. The tools automate what you can do yourself by asking, or taking good notes through interactions off your newsletter and landing pages, or on social networks and blogs.
The piece you cannot forget here is how you track leads collected during interactions in social networks. An opt-in, make that a double opt-in newsletter may do very nicely for lead generation. Do you have a process in place for leads coming from social interactions?
What if you have no budget for a software automation tool? How do you go about this stuff?Invest in building a list, at a minimum. Find a way to collect customer information and maintain it with additional insights. Social media participation allows you to learn a lot about your customers. A small business usually has the advantage of having a close rapport with customers. Capture that intelligence, and remember that typical customers don't exist.
- Are you going the automation software route, or is there an engine (for example a newsletter) or mechanism that already works for you and allows you to scale your online presence?
- What social networks are used by your customers and prospects?
- What kind of news distribution systems do you use? Pitch Engine allows you to build a social media release. Or maybe you use PR Newswire, or BusinessWire.
Then you can use a good Web site or blog, and personalized or unique URLs and landing pages to track where your leads come from and connect the dots on content -- a news release written directly for your buyers, for example.
Now that you've become really smart about the tools and have implemented repeatable processes that allow you to track interest, it's time to get people to your business.
Where social meets your content
How do you get people to stay interested in what you offer even when they don't have an immediate desire or a budget to buy? Or when people are just looking around, weighing different options. How do you get on their radar?
Marketers need to be in the creation seat. A steady pipeline of fresh content that maps to your buyer's point in time in their decision journey will begin or continue that engagement. Consider that your Web site will need to integrate information written from the customer's seat -- benefit first, or so what? -- and calls to action -- what now that I know?
There is a third dimension you can add -- customer contributions build preference. Community building is an important aspect of your Web presence today. So much so, that many organizations are thinking about actually building a community. This makes sense for a B2B customer base, for example.
Let's review what a site that incorporates all three looks like:
Amazon.com is a site built by the community that provides the content and gives customers the opportunity to rate it at the same time -- reader reviews and comments are also content, like authors videos and blogs. And the site automates the buyer's preference beautifully -- call to action embedded everywhere, and they track where you buy from, which tells them when you buy, too. Plus affiliate programs.
Writing content that maps to points in time used to be much harder. Especially when instead of a cycle, you saw that journey like a neat diagram. With digital media, people use search to get things done, and social networks to talk and connect, potentially about the things they'll search. Which means they self select or help you find other potential buyers through their networks.
You need to know how to write for this digitally connected environment, and tie it all together.
Content for consideration phase
[chart from McKinsey Quarterly on The Consumer Decision Journey]
Here's where banner ads, search marketing and search engine optimization through Web sites and blogs come into play. In PR, you could think about news releases, articles, industry events commentary, and thought leadership pieces overall.
Use ads to make offers -- they can be a valuable PDFs to download to build your list -- or promote something you want to drive traffic to and use online ad networks. Your destination may be a Facebook fan page where you have a contest going -- that will cost you, or you could be looking at simply engaging fans on Facebook for a specific purpose.
You can drive traffic to your blog by writing great headlines, or creating an attention grabbing idea and owning the keywords on it. I was in attendance when Tim Ferriss explained how he did this and this. Ferriss came up with the title of his book by picking the words that got the most traffic off several.
You've got to create something unexpected and original, do your leg work on keywords for search, cross comment on blogs that run those types of stories, or even more automated, drive keyword ads, and make your content pop for networks like Stumble Upon or Digg, and that's how you drive traffic.
Write news releases directly for your buyers. Announce offers, exclusive access to content or people, explosive new research that changes the game, studies, tools that will make your customers smarter and more efficient with budgets. Track link codes to optimized landing pages offering a grab it now opportunity in exchange for permission to continue the conversation.
What many call thought leadership, is really marketing ideas on trends and industry commentary or sharing your knowledge to gain permission to be considered an authority or credible in an area of expertise. And build trust in the process.
What's your content diet plan for this phase?
Checklist for social:
- curate the experience with your content
- build consistent touch points or outposts in relevant digital spaces
- integrate tools to extend reach
- test, tweak, repeat
Today you need to think integrated and connected for your online presence to bear fruit. Here are some thoughts from what has worked for me and my customers. Social media is great for the consideration phase in the buyer's decision journey.
Many still feel there is a gap between social media and lead nurturing, others wonder about the marketing to sales hand off. Hopefully this post will help you think through both connection points.
What have I missed?
Bonus reading: The Pepsi v. Coke Brand Challenge Where it Counts
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.