“Marketers are publishers,” proclaim content marketing experts. But creating sales with blogs, video and other content still remains elusive for most of us. That’s because most content ends up creating lots of sharing activity at best. Yet Iâ€™ve been using platforms like LinkedIn and blogging to generate actions that can be tracked back directly to a lead or a sale. And I’m not alone. As it turns out, success is mostly about giving prospects confidence, getting them to take action (beyond sharing) and moving them off of social media altogether.
Contrary to what â€œthe expertsâ€ say, being highly engaging within LinkedIn Groups or telling compelling stories on your blog is not the key to generating leads and sales. In fact, most content marketing plans fail because they’re invested in popular wisdom that is fatally flawed. Stories about your brand or business don’t create salesâ€”provoking customers to come along on a purpose-driven journey with you does.
Successful Content Provokes A Response
If you want to keep your job, gain a promotion or grow your business, your content marketing strategy had better do one thing really well: Provoke aÂ RESPONSE. Telling compelling, transparent, authentic stories about your brand wonâ€™t help you make sales unless the approach is accompanied by a focus on making those remarkable stories actionable.
Youâ€™ve got to give prospects a relevant, compelling reason to ask for more content. Because when they do, you have a shot at bringing them into your sales funnel.
As social media expert Jay Baer describes it, your business is not in the publishing business but rather in the “action business.”
The success formula is quite simple.
Step 1: Create content that solves a problem in a way that gives customers confidence in themselves as buyers.
Step 2: Locate and/or attract qualified discussions to join-in on, using the content you just created to help customers gain confidence.
Step 3: Lure prospects into taking an action that gives them more of what they want and connects to your sales funnel.
#1 Create The Honey: Useful Content
Pick an itch your customer has and scratch it with a blog, a video or some other form of content. For instance, solve a common problem that relates to the end goal your customer is pursuing. Whether youâ€™re a service or product marketer, this is the best content for blogs or any B2B content marketing vehicle you publish.
In my case, I published a handful of stories and audio interviews on my site featuring a niche, subject matter expert. My guest told readers/listeners how to take action on a burning problem, one that related to a specific solution I sell.
The idea is to use content to give confidence to buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger. You want them fully equipped to do what they want to doâ€”buy.
#2 Attract the Bees
Next, it’s time to locate qualified conversations with prospects. You can hunt them down inside LinkedIn Groups (as I did) where your target market is actively hanging out, asking questions. Or you can blog in ways that attract search engine traffic based on questions (keywords) your prospects are asking. Either way this is your task.
In my case, I blogged an interview-style story and created a two-part podcast of the interview itself. Then I decided to dive into LinkedIn Groups, but in a new, experimental way. They payoff was fantastic.
After waiting patiently, I spotted a discussion on a niche LinkedIn Group. I simply answered a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering, but not in the usual way.
#3 Provoke an Action
I did not link back to my content. Instead I quoted my expert’s best sound bite. He was genuinely provocative because he shared a new perspective and an original remedy.
In other words, my expert’s insight was enough to cause a reaction,Â to move people to click on my image, to begin exploring my LinkedIn profile and, upon scrolling down a bit, run smack into my syndicated blog post featuring the interview with my expert! This drove traffic to my blog, and I quickly discovered a much more effective way to start using LinkedIn for sales prospecting.
You see, once prospects got off of LinkedIn, it became easy for me to invite them to join me on a journey, one where they would receive more useful content if they opted in to my offer. If they gave me their email address and agreed to have an ongoing conversation with me, I would give them what they were hungry forâ€”answers to their questions and confidence they’d found what they needed.
Of course, this moved them towards (or away from) what I’m selling.
The Power of Confidence
In the end, we’re only human. Many times we’re motivated by fear. But fear is often just a lack of confidence. Sometimes customers are skeptical that success can happen for them. Other times, they’re scared stiff about making decisions that could cost them a promotion, their job or their entire business.
Heck, prospects have so many worries that ultimately making the sale often isn’t about cost or the quality of services. The biggest obstacle to closing the deal is getting clients to believe that they can have what they want without stressful problems!
That’s why your content should tell a good story AND give customers a reason to believe that it can happen for them,Â that they can act on.
These are the two parts most content marketing strategies are missing.
Take action today by leveraging the remarkable experiences your company delivers. Create confidence in prospects. Find ways to dramatize the success you create (e.g., video). Give existing customers the opportunity to spread the word of their confidence on social platforms in ways that compel new prospects to reach out and ask for more content.
Remember: Without a compelling reason to take action (ask for more content) you’ll leave your customer hanging every time and not generate a lead.
Donâ€™t let all the hype about storytelling torpedo your content marketing strategy. Youâ€™ve got to go beyond telling a good story. Start netting leads by creating content that is provocative and compelling enough to cause prospects to sign up for more content that theyâ€™re craving. It can be a webinar, ebook, downloadable tip sheet, self assessment or educational video series (like free sales training videos) that solves a common problem or addresses a popular fear or myth.
Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell and corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like IBM and Brazilâ€™s energy company, Petrobras. Heâ€™s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. Heâ€™s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola Universityâ€™s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.