Although it is a concept that have been around for a long time, content marketing is quite a new ideas to many organisations. It’s clear from talking to people that are busy building and implementing strategy that there can be a lack of alignment between content marketing strategy and an organisations overall business goals.

The ultimate goals of a business are (I hope) to make sales, gain clients and grow. So the most important question to ask as a content strategist is “how can I ensure we are creating the sort of content that helps turn website visitors into leads into prospects into happy customers?”

I thought it worth scribbling down a few thoughts about the journey your customer goes through and how your content can help at each stage...

Website visitors: the first step in someone’s journey to becoming your customer, whether they find your site via google, social etc…

How can your content help? Grab their attention and keep it! Your content is what ensures people who are interested in what you do visit your site. It gives you collateral for your social media team, search engine visibility and gives your prospective customer a first impression of you as an organisation.

Things to think about: Have you considered talking to your sales team? It might sound strange to anyone not in sales, but these are the people that are talking to prospects and customers on a daily basis – they know what questions your customers ask, they know the reasons leads become clients and they know what specific problems your product solves for your clients!

Combine this with your analytics of what search terms your customers use and where they come from and you can hone your content strategy to ensure everything you put out there is relevant, useful and helps bring the right visitors to your website – and keeps them coming back for more!

Turn them into Marketing leads: these are website visitors that have indicated interest in your company’s products or services by engaging with you in some way. From a web point of view, they have engaged with your content, downloaded something, watched your video, joined your mailing list etc. The more they engage with you, the better qualified they become.

How can your content help? At this stage your content needs to be highly valuable to them, you are trying to nurture them and starting to work out which ones are likely to move to the next stage. Some visitors will read one blog post which solves their problem and never come back – great! This means your sales team don’t waste time talking to people that would never have bought anything and can concentrate on those that might!

Things to think about: Expert viewpoints! - You probably have a lot of experts in your business. Find a way to get them involved and contributing – they are the people that answer the questions and solve the problems your customers have. Adding in-depth gated content can be very powerful here, videos, white papers, ebooks, podcasts and webinars. Just make sure they are useful because no-one wants to spend time downloading a pointless white paper or fight their way through a dull video.

Turn them into Sales leads: Most sales people have worked for a manager who laboured under the delusion that a name on a list was a “lead” – but a qualified lead is much more than just that name and a phone number. You need a lot more information on the person, information that qualifies them and makes it worth your sales team talking to them. (A well-qualified sales lead has budget, authority, need and is likely to buy within a reasonably short timescale.)

How can your content help? Your content serves to reassure people that they are making the right decision, deal with possible objections before they arise, keep them interested and (perhaps controversially for some old-school thinkers) weed out the people that are not going to buy anything before they talk to sales!

Things to think about: At this stage you should be talking to your sales people again! Ask them about the common questions and objections they get from prospects – then make sure you are creating content that addresses each and every one.

If you are really savvy you can also help to qualify people with FAQ style content that helps people work out whether it’s worth talking to the sales team. For example; if you don’t work with smaller organisations a blog or article explaining why and offering advice on alternatives can save a lot of time – you have weeded out a prospect that won’t buy, but given them useful advice.

Make Sales: Quite simply, clients signing on the dotted line!

How can your content help? At this point you are rather hoping your sales people will take the lead you have given them and convert, however not everyone that speaks to sales will buy!

You can help the sales team by ensuring you have things like testimonials from happy customers, case studies and FAQ style content that could help prospects make that final decision.

There are also people that won’t buy immediately – you can keep them warm with updates, news about new products and interesting blog posts that will keep them engaged with your company and make sure they come back when they have a need that you can help with!

Key takeaways:

Work backwards! - How many sales do you need to make a profit? How many leads do you need to make a sale? How many web visits do you need to generate a qualified lead etc… How can you get your departments working together to achieve this?

Look at shared KPI’s and goals! See above, 10,000,000 web visitors is a meaningless stat if they are all coming to look at a cute kitten (unless you are selling cute kittens or cat food) Make sure everyone is clear on what defines the right kind of visitor/lead/prospect.

Get everyone involved and collaborate! - Drive alignment between departments! Experts, salespeople, marketing – you are all working towards the same goals - so work together!

Cover all the bases! – People digest content in different ways, so be sure you have lots of different ways for them to digest your content

Review, learn, evolve, repeat! – Your strategy should be constantly evolving as you find out what works and what doesn’t. Sales should be constantly feeding back data on what made a prospect buy and you should be able to adapt as you learn.

People don’t buy the way they used to, statistically buyers of products or services are 67% of the way along their buying journey before they even talk to your sales team. They have done their research, looked at your competitors and may have had several quotes already! Aligning your content strategy to your business goals means that you can take back some control of the process, empower your sales team and have a really positive impact on the bottom line.