Dec 16, 2013 10:00:00 AM
Posted by Lauren Totin
A question to ponder: Why does your business have a website? Some answers may immediately spring to mind, like, “To help customers learn about our business!” or, “To generate leads and sales!”
And those are good answers. But here’s another question: How is your website actually accomplishing those things?
If answers don’t readily spring to mind on this one, you’ve got a problem. There’s an all-too-common leap in logic that merely having a website assures that you’ll see some kind of return on your web investment and that just having a presence will contribute to your leads, sales, awareness and bottom line.
That attitude has been around since the web was still in diapers. When the web first launched, businesses weren’t sure what to make of it or how to use it effectively. The thought at the time was that a website was like an online brochure – a place potential customers could come and poke around the business’ content. Little thought was given to the process between “Customer sees the website” and “Customer makes a purchase”.
One last question: If you treated your website like a sales employee whose continued employment depended on performance – would that employee still be working for you? If not, let’s talk about how to put your website to work and make it an asset.
Start With a Content Strategy
Few great business successes happen by accident. If you want your website to start bringing home the bacon, you need to begin with a sound content strategy.
Content strategy is rooted in the market you’re trying to reach. You need to understand your audience and frame your business tone, voice and messaging within that context in order to reach those you want to. That process begins by creating buyer personas:
Who is your audience? What are their demographics? This basic information is a launching point into more important questions, like:
What are their pain points, frustrations and problems they want to solve? What are their needs – and what are the events that help to trigger awareness of those needs?
What are their buying cycles? When you map out the average customer buying cycle for each of the personas you’ve created, you can begin to associate different needs and questions they will have at each stage of the cycle.
Now that you know who they are, what they need and when, you can also create content resources that help to answer those questions, alleviate those pain points and solve those problems while also helping to push the customer further down in the funnel to the next logical stage of the buying cycle.
To plan out this effort, you’ll need to create a thorough and detailed editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar will help you plot out not only what to create, but who that creation is for. Editorial calendars should encompass not only what should be published when, but who that piece is for, what the objective of the piece is and what the appropriate associated calls-to-action will be. Of course, there’s one more important piece…
Content Marketing & Amplification
Critical to any content strategy is an understanding of how that content will be marketed and amplified to reach its intended audience. This needs to be taken into account when planning your content creation – not after it’s already been made. Whether it’s through organic search, social media, referrals, guest posts or pay-per-click text ads, a content amplification plan is what will help you to generate leads.
As those leads come in through the content you’re creating, landing pages and calls-to-action will be at the core of your efforts to turn what could have been passing traffic into long-term customers.
Lead Generation & Nurturing
When visitors come in, you’ve got to convert them. A well-written and designed landing page will help make this happen. Landing pages need to be persuasive and void of other distractions (like a navigation bar or completely separate offer), establish credibility and mitigate the lead’s feeling of risk. If you're having trouble creating landing pages that guarantee high conversions, refer to this post that covers the best practices for landing page creation.
Don't foget to carefully consider your offers and value-adds and ties these into a means of capturing information about the leads – the most important information being their e-mail.
Remember how you mapped out the customer buying cycle?
Well, as a lead comes in on an asset you’ve already mapped to a stage of that cycle, lead nurturing kicks in to help move them along. Create content assets that help them do exactly that. For example, a visitor who downloads an informational guide (not specific to your product, but to their need) is likely in the “Awareness” stage of the cycle – they’re trying to learn more about their problem and how to solve it. If you’ve capture their e-mail when giving them the guide, you can follow up with assets that help educate them further before hitting them with an offer to check out your product and showing them how your specific offering can make life easier.
Monitor & Measure Everything
In the question we posed earlier about whether or not you’d keep your website on staff if it was an employee, we mentioned a criteria for determining performance: sales.
The truth is, even when businesses embrace content strategy, they often forget to measure meaningful metrics and performance along the way. You’ll need to set out and determine the key performance indicators you want to measure. Some metrics to consider:
Traffic – and traffic sources – to key landing pages. Monitor not only increases and decreases, but where those visitors are coming from. What are your most successful promotional channels?
Traffic to lead ratios. How many of those who come into the website actually convert into a lead? This is where micro-conversions, like downloads of guides or informational resources, are helpful.
Lead to closing ratios. Of the leads coming in, how many actually buy from you? This will give you some sense of how well you are nurturing leads. This can also help you identify content gaps where leads are losing interest or failing to find the persuasive information they need to keep going.
Web visibility Are your content assets ranking well? Are they leading to additional links, social shares and brand mentions in the media?
It’s Not a Brochure – it’s a Workhorse
Your website exists to do more than look pretty and show off your brand. With the right content strategy, carefully crafted nurturing program and ongoing monitoring, you can turn your business into the most successful salesperson you have.
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