Posted on January 16, 2018
Everyone talks about “content marketing” but very few eCommerce merchants ever truly pull it off. Here’s how you can do it.
Good internet content is always going to engage people – the way that a human salesperson does it. It’s not the same as an advertisement or even a sales pitch. It’s just a way of saying, “Here’s something valuable. Enjoy it.”
If you’ve never worked with a good human salesperson, you may just be at a slight disadvantage. In any industry, a salesperson spends 80% of his or her time on marketing – and just 20% on sales.
Working websites are set up the same way, with about the same ratio of marketing content to sales content.
Your eCommerce site should be showing solutions to life’s problem and positioning your brand as the answer to those problems.
Content marketing is already working in every industry, and with every kind of product and brand.
But what all of them start with is a good understanding of your customers. That understanding is probably easier in any kind of B2B sales. We’ve spoken in these pages a lot about Niche Marketing and Understanding your niche, but the point of understanding your customers, in B2C sales, really can’t be under-estimated.
Your niche, your clients, your buyer personas: everything starts with them.
Their desires, wants, needs, and problems should motivate every bit of understanding that goes into your site. And thinking about them as a media audience, rather than as customers, is a great way to get yourself moving.
Hopefully by now, you’ve put some effort into understanding your audience in terms of “Personas.” The information you need to compile in order to understand them may come from all of the following:
Lots of marketers will assume they know basically all of the above, but keep your eyes trained on spotting the surprises, the subtelties, and the “out there” kinds of ideas.
Searching broad keywords on Google allows you to see who is also doing a blog about plumbing, a blog about sailboats, and a blog about air filters. We’re generally going to be looking at blog content rather than the commercial pages selling plumbing, sailboats and air filters.
But in every case, we want to see the most successful content examples. We want to see who and what kind of comments are coming up, and which social media channels are really being exploited. This process can and probably should be a regular part of your ongoing market research, but don’t leave it out altogether.
Some marketers will tightly control every topic and title and compile them into spreadsheets. Lots of quick-witted people can do a lot of this research on the fly and still compete well, but the more you get down on paper, the easier it is to make it into a process and to communicate it to anyone helping you out.
In examining the competition, we want to look specifically at how their content is affecting their online eCommerce success. That might seem obvious, but it’s a lot clearer when you look at a list of actionable goals that any eCommerce merchant is facing in the first year or so of serious content marketing.
Goal 1: Organic traffic.
Goal 2: Referral traffic.
Goal 3: Social traffic.
Goal 4: Email subscribers.
Goal 5: Sales.
Goal 6: Repeat customers.
Goal 7: Referred customers.
This list keeps your KPIs pretty simple to track and follow. But it also affects the kinds of content you should be producing (however you’re producing it) and should inform the content calendar we’ll be putting together below.
Now you start to see why this is a “Heavy Content” marketing model.
Goals #1 & #2 are often among the chief concerns for eCommerce sites that simply aren’t getting enough traffic. We’ll return to content specifically for SEO in a couple of articles. We’re also assuming that your working with content creators and writers who understand the basic principles of SEO. If you follow the basic guidelines laid out here, you will be getting the SEO benefits to adding content to your blog (or otherwise to your site), even if we haven’t gone into too much SEO here.
A good content marketing agency is doing this all the time. But for non-creative types, this can be a huge stumbling point to really taking off and flying. Don’t let it be.
If you’re only working with a writer or two, 9and not with an agency) then communicating to them exactly what you’re after has become a lot easier as a result of the work you’ve done above. Below is what is often delivered to bloggers and writers at the beginning of a content development campaign.
Often a content calendar will put out scaffolding so that you can predict what a full year will look like, and more detailed plans are scheduled one month (or so) in advance.
Very few content marketing calendars leave even a single day blank now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need long-form content, articles or podcasts every day. A good calendar will be continually recycling older and more evergreen content on a regular basis. The advantage to the calendar is that you can see it!
A content calendar is often one of the first things you’ll request, either from an agency, or even from a couple of freelance writers. It doesn’t need to be heavily technical, but it should probably span an initial 3-month period if not a full year of planned content.
Most Content Calendars now show also the social and paid (advertising) campaigns intended to support content as it’s released and in the days or weeks soon after. After a three month period, good managers will start to recycle some of that content so that it continues to work and so that analysis that have found successful articles aren’t sacrificing it to something so simple as time.
Filed under: Blog
Tagged with: Buyer Persona, Digital Marketing, eCommerce, Funnel Analysis, SEO, Shopify, Websites
James is a technology and marketing writer with 20 years experience in advertising, media relations, and eCommerce. His articles have appeared in numerous publications around the web.