Turning audiences into buyers

buyersIn my book, Content Marketing Revolution, I focus on the five crucial steps to building a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with your customers. It’s no secret that in the digital age content marketing is key to attracting, engaging and retaining an audience. But your audience only becomes valuable when you start converting them from people who read, watch and listen to your content to people who buy your stuff. This is where content that aims to nurture shifts to content that aims to sell.

Later this year, I’m publishing a book focusing on per-campaign transitions from content marketing to sales content, so I’ll be talking more about this over the next few months. But right now, I want to look at what it actually means to sell in the content age. Specifically, why does content play an increasingly important role in the customer’s journey towards a purchase?

Over the last decade, the entire journey a buyer takes when they make a purchase has fundamentally changed. In the digital age, 24 hour/365 day access to information via websites, apps and social media has revolutionised buyer behaviour. In the past, consumers had to work a lot harder to get reliable information to help them make a decision – to a greater extent they were guided through their journey by a salesperson, more overt marketing or simply a combination of need and lack of knowledge.

These days though, the buyer can be just as savvy and informed as the seller on the benefits and disadvantages of a product, how it compares to competitor products and even which vendor offers the cheapest price on the planet. The likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook have pulled the wool away from the buyer’s eyes – through product searches, ratings and millions of conversations – more than ever before, the consumer is going into a sale with eyes wide open.

While this information provides the consumer with more power, by using content strategically, the seller can channel this power and use it to inspire a purchase rather than block it. Using great content in the transition from content marketing to sales in a way that contextualises the buyer’s knowledge actually contributes to the sale, rather than complicating it.

There is a stage on your buyer’s journey that your content marketing must be accompanied by more sales-focused content if you are going to efficiently convert your audience into customers. During this stage, you must start to use your content to tell customers to buy – your content marketing should make the reasons why obvious.

In my next post, I’m going to talk about identifying the transition period between content marketing and sales content, highlighting the methods that will help you to start directing customer actions.

In the mean time, take a look at my book Content Marketing Revolution, which dissects the buyer’s journey and guides you through the five crucial steps that lead up to the big sell.

By Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

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Let go, start selling

sellingSelling isn’t a comfortable gear for most people to shift into. For a lucky few it comes naturally, but if you’re not a born salesperson, you probably find the whole idea of selling yourself, your ideas or your products unsettling.

Why is this? For some people, it comes from an inherent distrust of salespeople and the scenarios and types of persuasive messaging associated with them. We’ve all been in situations with salespeople on the phone, in person or online that have been uncomfortable or annoying. But equally, we have all been helped by salespeople that have encouraged us to buy great products that we genuinely wanted or needed – the difference is we probably didn’t think of them as salespeople.

Whether your job involves selling products or not, if you don’t adopt a sales mentality, you’ll struggle to get what you want in business, your career and your life. We all know people who seem to get everything they want more easily than everyone else – most often these people are just great at selling. Whether that means shifting more stock, securing promotions, or even getting to choose which restaurant you meet them at.

Start by changing the way you think about selling in general. Let go of any negative perceptions you may have about the ‘S’ word. Remember that the people who make you feel uncomfortable or pressurise you into making a poor decision are not selling – they are bullying. For me, selling isn’t about persuading people to doing something that isn’t right for them; it’s about making a robust and highly-personalised case for all of the genuine benefits the buyer will reap.

Ultimately, at the sharp end of any decision, the person in the hot seat needs to be clear on the reasons to act and have confidence in you and your proposition. There’s no room for uncertainty at the point of closure – so you must be ready and willing to persuade. It’s time to start selling.

Here’s why your content marketing doesn’t ka-ching

You could say I’m a content marketing evangelist. I’ve written a book about it (Content Marketing Revolution) and I’m just finishing my second book on the subject. I believe in it. I help other businesses to do it. It works.

But not everyone gets it right. One of the reasons that some content marketers fail to see an increase in actual customers is that they get so lost in the idea of “not selling” that their activities stop moving prospects along the buyer’s journey. Regardless of how engaging your content is, if you aren’t selling later down the line, your efforts may be all for nothing.

Don’t loose sight of the fact that selling is the ultimate aim of all marketing activity, so it makes sense to be thinking about the endgame throughout all of your activities. Even if the purpose of your content marketing is to attract or build a relationship with your audience, you always want it to lead to a sale.
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If you’re creating great content without thinking about how it contributes to a sale, you might as well be blasting it up into space and expecting a return.

In my book, I talk a lot about identifying your audience (or target customers) and building your content efforts around influencing these groups. A big part of this is getting to grips with the buyer’s journey and working out exactly what they need at each stage. If you align all of your content marketing activity to the journey you want customers to travel, your content will be working for both the customer and you.

Whether you realise it or not, your content already appeals to specific stages of the buyer’s journey, so it’s important that you acknowledge these milestones in the way you deliver it: from tone and purpose, to considerations about branding and calls to action, etc.

While the principles of content marketing might be right for hooking in your audience and building a long-lasting relationship at certain points in the journey, the same principles might not be right when you get closer to the sale. Take a logical approach to how you communicate with your customers and remember that there comes a time in every buyer’s journey that more direct, sales-led content is crucial. Don’t allow content marketing to cloud certainty about your product at the sharp end of the sale.

The bottom line is: if you want to improve the impact content marketing is having on sales, it is crucial that you recognise when to use apply the principles of content marketing and when to use content to all out sell.

By Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

If you build it, will they come?

Last week, I caught a bit of the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. If you haven’t seen it, the story starts with the main character hearing a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come.” As the story progresses, Costner feels compelled to take action and ends up building a baseball field in his yard…and of course, he does come.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAaXAAAAJDc0MjZmMzZiLTYyN2MtNDhhYy1hOTE4LTZhYzZmM2I0ODE5YwThis got me thinking…

I meet a lot of businesses that have built great products and services, yet are struggling to succeed because not enough people are coming. This is because, generally, businesses don’t sink or swim on the quality or utility of their product alone; it’s only when there’s a sense of appeal that customers start switching on. In reality, the product’s existence isn’t ever reason enough to attract the volume of customers you want.

When these businesses realise nobody is coming, they often turn to special offers, discounts and even drop the price in a bid to attract customers. But this thinking is fundamentally flawed if the overall objective is to attract new customers – especially if they aren’t be aware of the product (or its value) in the first place. The actual problem is the product’s obscurity in the customers’ world – it isn’t inside the bubble they’re living in yet. If they don’t understand the value of the product, a drop in price isn’t going to create appeal.

Appeal is built on attraction, urgency and perceptions of demand. For some businesses, creating product appeal using content marketing will be easier than others, but the same basic ingredients usually apply:

  1. Attraction

Attraction in this context is the power of evoking interest in or liking for your product or brand. Here, you need to think about how you can attract customers without just telling them that you think your product is great.

My book, Content Marketing Revolution, talks about how today’s consumers are increasingly making decisions based on useful information, valuable engagements and brand affinity. To expand on this, I strongly believe customers hardly ever make decisions based on the product itself – in most cases customers don’t buy products – they buy brands. It’s usually more about the way they feel about the seller, brand or provider.

Think about how you can use informative and educational content to demonstrate how your product or service is solving a problem or making something better. Whether it’s hard facts, tutorials or user-generated content, you need to make sure your content delivers the message clearly and is appealing or relevant to your target customers.

  1. Urgency

In sales and marketing, urgency is often created with time pressures and scarcity. When attraction and urgency are paired, swift action naturally follows. Think about how you can create a sense of immediacy in the content you create. For example, you might make a download available for a limited period for a limited number of people, or maybe schedule a live webinar or Periscope talk on a specific date and time. The idea is to encourage your audience to take some kind of action before the opportunity passes.

  1. Demand

Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of (the buyer seeks to end “demand” by making a purchase). Often, this is heightened when their peers, influencers or even competitors also desire or advocate the product. Think about how you can use content to demonstrate demand within this group – endorsements, user-generated content and social conversations are a good starting point.

“Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of.”

Beyond this, how can you fortify the connection between the brand and the buyer to increase demand? A great way to do this is to create an intrinsic connection between the content you’re creating and the buyer’s relationship with the product. How about creating exclusivity with a club, a newsletter, or a social profile that offers exclusive content, advance access to offers and information?

Whatever your product, whether it’s a new idea, an improvement to an existing one, or even just an offering that’s new to your business, the product’s existence isn’t enough to attract buyers. Instead, be proactive and start creating your market right now with valuable content that directly appeals to your prospects.

If you set your target and build the content, they will come.

 

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

Content Marketing Revolution

For the past 8 months, I’ve been writing a book called Content Marketing Revolution, which aims to helps businesses and individuals to attract more customers, increase sales and excite brand loyalty…all using highly-targetted content.

It’s no secret that traditional marketing tactics have been struggling to deliver the same results as they once did. Today’s consumers are looking to make more educated decisions based on information, trust and brand affinity. This is where content marketing comes in…

“Dane Brookes inspiringly guides you through the five key steps to success. This book is a must for marketers of all levels.”
Mark Langshaw, Digital Spy

Over the last decade, I’ve worked in marketing andcontent strategy in a variety of sectors, from small one-man-bands to FTSE 100 companies, from local traders to television companies in Nashville and New York. The book shares everything I have learnt along the way, with examples of tried and tested campaigns.

The book guides businesses through my five key steps towards developing, executing and monitoring a content marketing strategy to take control of their market. It also includes contributions from a selection of leading content experts I’ve worked with over the years, including Olivier award-winning writer, Mark Davies Markham, Emmy award-winning television producer, Debora Fougere and the University of Liverpool Media Relations Manager, Samantha Martin. The icing on the cake comes in the form of the foreword by Matt Warnock, Digital Editor in Chief at Philips.

The book is published by Giant Leap Media and is available in paperback and Kindle format. Find out more on the Content Marketing Revolution website or get a copy on Amazon.

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New content marketing hub
The book represent the first step towards a new content marketing hub Group Dane is creating in Liverpool. The hub will pull together a collection of the best content producers and strategists in the UK.

The new hub will pull together content specialists from all over the world, providing a range of services and resources to businesses of all sizes.

Sign up to find out out more about our new content marketing hub, Content Kicks.

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Dane Brookes, Author and Director at Group Dane

Hotel guest experience starts online

If you ask any independent hotel manager what their priorities are for the next 12 months, increased online bookings and better reviews will figure prominently on the list.

Yet the solution most managers will come up with will be around increasing traffic to their website, increasing marketing initiatives and encouraging more happy customers to review the hotel. But what are the decision-making factors behind a booking? What are the reasons people leave good reviews? The answer each time is guest experience.

If your website visitors have a good experience online and they like the like what’s on offer, they will book. If your online experience isn’t great – if the booking system is clunky – if the site doesn’t work well on a mobile – if it’s hard to find the deal-closing information – visitors will not book. No matter how much web traffic you get to your site, you won’t hit your booking target unless you focus your attention on the guest experience.

hotelBut most hotel managers don’t realise that the customer experience doesn’t start when your guest arrives at the hotel – it starts as soon as they search Google or hit your homepage. According to Trip Advisor research, 87% of guests use the internet for the bulk of their travel planning and nine out of ten people will have some form of digital contact with the hotel prior to staying there. Yet, how many hotels are still failing to invest time and resources in digital channels like their websites, booking engines and social media profiles?

Whether it’s the hotel website, social media pages or profiles on third party sites, huge opportunities to influence customer decisions remain untapped. If you want to get ahead, keep the customer experience at the heart of everything you do, starting with your online front of house.

Below we’ve put together the top three considerations for your website and your social media activity…

Top three website tips

  1. Think first impressions

If your website is out of date, poorly designed and not fully functional, your visitors will expect the same when they arrive at your hotel. Your website is likely to be the first contact you have with customers, so make a good impression with strong content (including good quality photographs and clear, concise copy), a fresh professional design and no broken links or defunct features.

  1. Be mobile-friendly

It’s 2015; your website simply must work well on mobile devices like phones and tablets. If your website doesn’t look good or work effectively when your guests are on the move, they’ll more than likely move right on past you to one of your competitors’ websites.

  1. Keep structure and calls to action

So your potential guest has come to your website for a reason. Either they will are looking for information or they have come to book, so help them out and make your website structure as logical as possible. The big aim of your website is to either get them to book or get in touch, so wherever they are in the structure, make it obvious how they can do that.

Top three social media tips

  1. Be present

You really need to be where your customers are. If you aren’t using social media, you’re missing out on connecting with new customers and keeping in touch with current and past guests. The best sites for hotels are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  1. Always respond

Social is another communications channel, so treat it like one. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, make sure respond to it. Remember to be gracious with negative comments – don’t forget that everyone else is watching and judging how you respond to criticism. In this case, the best defense is never offense!

  1. Don’t just sell

Don’t use social media solely as a sales vehicle. People will quickly be turned off by overly sales-led messaging. Sure, talk about offers and encourage people to stay with you, but you’re going to need to be a bit more creative if you want people to listen. As a guide, only posts things that are in some way valuable, useful or interesting.

Hotels can get a free digital report from Guest Core which provides a full review of the hotel’s online performance, including booking engine, website and social media performance.

 

Posted by Kyle Brookes, digital sales and marketing specialist at Group Dane.

Plan now for Facebook and Twitter buy buttons

As Facebook and Twitter near the end of testing new buy buttons, businesses must start planning their social sales strategies.

The new social ecommerce functionality will revolutionise online buying behaviours, allowing businesses to sell products and services directly via status updates and social advertising, without the customer ever having to leave the platform.

The most digitally savvy businesses are already setting up social sales strategies that will position them competitively when the functionality is released.

take-actionBusinesses are set to enjoy a more tangible and measurable return on investment from social media activity in the form of direct buys rather than just likes and followers.

Traditional websites and ecommerce stores are likely to become a less important (even redundant in some cases) part of the sales journey, as social profiles are transformed into ecommerce sites.

Buy buttons not only signal the beginning of a shift in the way we use social media, they also further demonstrate the increasingly consolidated nature of our online experiences, as more and more traditionally separate elements are built into central platforms.

Over the next 12 months, we will see social media managers taking more of a merchants role, directly driving revenue and closing sales. This will create a whole new hybrid breed of social salespeople, with the most successful being those who can maintain the communities they have built without killing their influence with pervasive sales tactics.

Is your business ready to get competitive? Get in touch for a free social sales consultation.