Content marketing can be an effective strategy for any type of ecommerce business, but it can be especially effective when selling something that is complex, or expensive, or both.
When selling something online that primarily appeals to businesses, or has a higher price point, one of the first challenges that many business owners face is how to market and sell visitors on something that takes a lot of time to really sell.
Whether it’s a piece of manufacturing equipment, a luxury item, or a laptop, when facing a long sales cycle for your ecommerce business, there are a lot of ways that you can involve content and email marketing in your sales cycle to convince customers and partners to complete a purchase.
What is Content Marketing?
It’s more than a buzzword your marketing company throws your way to sound cool and modern. Content marketing is the practice of putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, and trying to make things that they can read, watch and use in order to better inform their purchase, and get them excited to buy something from you.
Combined with a strong brand identity, content marketing makes your website memorable and useful to visit. The ideal content marketing website may not convert every customer into a buyer, but it is likely to convert visitors into recurring readers, who will also act as a word of mouth reference for your company to others. The visitors that convert to buyers are more engaged with your company and better informed about what they are buying, making them a much more stable long-term customer.
How Can Content Marketing Support Ecommerce?
If your sales have worked great for you offline, and you’re looking to bring them online, the options can be overwhelming. The secret is to start small and work your way up, as you gain knowledge and confidence (and, ideally, staff hours to create new things!).
Here’s a guide to getting started with adding content to your website that’s going to make your marketing easier, and grow your ecommerce success.
Week 1. Choose Your Weapons
If you already have an ecommerce website, you probably also already have the capability to build a blog. If not, you’ll want to get one started on your website. Make sure the layout is easy to read, and add information to your sidebar about how to subscribe to new posts and how to contact your company on social media.
Decide how you are going to collect information from customers, where you will store it, and how you will sort it. Good beginner tools for collecting this information are Gravity Forms and Mailchimp. I prefer Mailchimp for its auto-segment and RSS email rules, which I will discuss in depth in a later post.
Set up your Mailchimp account. I recommend the $10/month plan, which provides better personalization and the full suite of mailchimp’s segmenting and list features.
That’s all for Week 1! Great work.
Week 2. Know your customers
Week 2 is about looking at the people your company has already served. Go through email chains with prospects who are customers now, and pull some of their questions into a master list of topics. As you read through these emails, themes will emerge that you can use as writing material for your blog posts, email marketing, and other resources.
Discuss the makeup of your customer base with your sales team. Who do they sell to most often? What type of prospect do they lose a deal with most often? What’s the most common dealbreaker for leads? Add all of this information to your master topic list.
Other sources of customer knowledge are:
- • Demographic Data on your customers, if available
- • Social media questions directed to your company
- • Comments and questions in forum posts about your company (google “company name why”, for example)
- • Yelp and other reviews of your company
Week 3. Build content around pain points
This week, start writing! Add blog post writing time to your calendar. Blogging is a great way to start building content for your company. Write a blog post that is about 5-600 words long, and focuses on one topic only. Try to avoid being very sales oriented. If you write something good, you’re going to sell – far faster than if you write something that’s too focused on making someone buy from your company.
Week 4. Begin Collecting Information
Add a tool to your website that allows for blog subscriptions, and connect those signups to your Mailchimp account, or the account you are using to keep track of your subscribers and their identities. Start building this list now, so you can use it to offer more comprehensive content (and ask for more contact information!) later.
Build a segment in your Mailchimp account just for your blog subscribers, so you know where they came from. As you continue to add different types of content to your site, subscriber segments will become very useful.
Continue your schedule of weekly blogging. Remember to share your blog posts on social media, and encourage (but do not require) your employees to do the same.
Week 5. Enhanced Email Marketing
Discuss email marketing with your sales and marketing teams, and encourage them to come up with ideas for marketing to your customers via email. Email marketing is a delicate balance of interesting and intrusive content, but when you make it work, you’re going to see better results than almost any other digital marketing effort.
Come up with plans for email marketing. It’s probable that your email marketing plan will be to add a call to action to your products or services at the end of your blog subscription emails. That’s the right place to start! It’s important to take things one step at a time, and not spread yourself too thin.
Continue writing a blog post every week! Once you get into the rhythm, it gets a lot easier, and your writing will become more interesting and engaging.
Week 6. Start Providing Solutions
By now, you have three (or more!) blog posts under your belt. Awesome! If not, don’t start this step until weekly blogging is a regular part of your schedule. This step could take a couple of months, depending on how busy things are around your company.
Once you are blogging regularly, it’s time to start thinking about other kinds of content you can put on your website to bring customers in and teach them more about what you do and why they should be interested in it. Blog posts are great, but there are a lot of ways that you can engage with your audience!
- • Video. Can you put a personal face on your company, highlight some interesting features about your product, or provide insight about ways to use or maintain your product?
- • Social media chats: block off an hour to host a social media discussion with interested followers.
- • Long-form writing. Can you build a short e-book or guide to something related to your industry?
- • Utilities and tools. Can you build a checklist or other tool that people in your industry can use to make their lives easier?
- • Art and Creative. Would your customers find infographics or other creative illustrated pieces engaging?
Once this new piece of content is built, think about the value that you’re providing to the customer, and whether it is worth a short form an e-mail sign up for the reader to get full access to it. Be realistic here – ask yourself if you’d give your information for a similar piece from another company. If it is, though, build a landing page form and collect information (and maybe earn a blog subscription!) from your visitors so you can stay in contact.
Week 7. Every Request is a Content Generator
Encourage your sales and marketing teams to come up with ideas for new posts and content pieces, either adding those to your master topic list or tasking them with taking their idea to the next level. Every question or pushback from a prospect can be the catalyst for new site content!
Week 8. Integrate Your Content
You’ve done a lot of hard work and now have a blog and one piece of longer-form, rich content. Now that you have a nice base of information, start to integrate your content into your site. If they fit into product descriptions, FAQ items, contact pages, or more – add that link to your website!
Week 9 and Beyond… Keep Going!
If you follow one of these steps each week, you’ll be well on your way to winning in your industry with content marketing. Any time you think of something interesting or quirky about your product or your industry, add it to your list of blog post ideas and write it up! Continue to build valuable content pieces and make them part of your website. Ensure that you put them where customers will come across them as an answer to a question or problem they are having.
Content marketing takes a lot of work, but every piece you build becomes a piece of your company and brand. Over time, you will have a library of writing that you can refer back to in order to educate and solve problems for your customers before they end up contacting your sales or service teams.