It's easy today to buy a domain name and find a website hosting company (We recommend U.S. based InMotion Hosting). Neither of those things will do you much good if you don't have good content on your site. That's the hard part. You need to develop content for your site that will attract, engage and convert visitors into prospects and ultimately customers. There is a tried and true framework for developing a content plan to make sure that your site can attract qualified visitors and will engage those most likely to become customers. Our object here is to help you evaluate your business and customers, while developing a plan that helps you meet the needs of your target market, and also your own business objectives.
Four Steps to Building a Successful Content Plan
Let's walk through a planning process to build a content plan that is based on the needs of your target market. Instead of the usual virtual brochure and marketing speak, our aim here is to help you develop content that answers questions and helps potential customers reach the decision to buy from you. When you're through with this process, you will have created a content plan designed to attract and convert the most qualified visitors to your website.
First: Determine the Buying Cycle for Your Business
Your business' buying cycle is simply the journey your customers follow in order to buy a product or service. Of course, this is different for different industries, longer or shorter depending on the nature of the product. A buying cycle generally follows this basic process: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase Decision. So, what does the buying cycle in your business have to do with content? It may make more sense by looking at the buying cycle from both a customer's and content strategist's perspective:
- Customer Behavior: A potential customer becomes aware of a problem or a need in their life, something they want to overcome or fix. They may not know you can help yet, but they are starting to look for solutions. They'll start by asking around and searching online for answers.
- Your Content: What are the questions that a potential customer might start researching related to the problem they are experiencing, and what content could you develop that might help someone with such problems? By answering these questions you can position your content as a solution and you can also influence the potential customers buying criteria when they start comparing specific options.
- Customer Behavior: Next, the customer has decided that they need a product or service similar to yours to meet their needs. They set about evaluating alternatives and comparing different companies to find the one that best meets their needs.
- Your Content: Your sales content should address all the likely questions and objections a buyer might have. Think also about the types of keywords that customers would use when comparing products, and then what kind of content you could produce to address this comparison using those keywords. Comparison pages and product reviews are a great example that applies to almost all categories of product. Reviews and testimonials from happy customers means you can rank for such terms but also provides excellent social proof which is proven to boost sales.
- Purchase Decision
- Customer Behavior: The consumer has decided what type of product or service they want to address their need and they are ready to purchase.
- Your Content: Buying keywords like discounts or cheap might apply for certain categories of product, while other approaches such as product bundles and bonuses might work for others. Thinking about the typical consumer in your industry will help you figure out the most appropriate content to attract the buyer and convert sales.
So, your first task is to think about the types of information that customers in your target market will be looking for at different stages of the buying cycle. You should also think about the best mediums and channels to address these stages. For example, some industries (like DIY) generate loads of how-to type traffic and in this case video is probably a good option. The volume of 'how to' queries on YouTube is huge and so it makes a great way to reach potential buyers.
Second: Development of Personas
Developing buyer personas is another way you can better understand your customers, and thus deliver more value. In essence, what you're trying to do is to define your target audience. This helps you determine what kind of content to create for them. It is recommended that you make three to five personas to represent your audience; this number is big enough to cover the majority of your customers yet small enough to still carry the value of specificity. Many of these templates include the same basic information. You want to know who the person is, what they value, and how best to speak to them. Some of the fundamental questions you'll want to cover in the development of buyer personas are:
- What do they do? What?s important to them?
- What are their goals, values, and fears? Where do they congregate online?
- What problems do they have? What do they struggle with?
- What's their go-to resource for solutions? What mediums and channels appeal to them?
Once you understand your target audience and what they expect from you, you can better create tailored content for them that will prove to be relevant to their needs and meet their expectations. There are a couple of sites that can help you understand and create the personas for your website:
- BufferSocial has a good primer on how to build a persona.
- HotSpot Academy gives examples of personas that were built for various companies.
- Hubspot also has a free downloadable template to help you create your personas.
Third: Understanding the Keyword Market
An essential part of your content strategy is keyword research. This allows you to determine whether the market you're targeting is viable or not, while gaining insight into buyer intent and what your potential customers actually search for in relation to your products. You should also do keyword research around different stages of the buying cycle. This helps you to uncover relevant research terms which may be used at different stages of the buying cycle. Doing keyword research thus allows you to leverage that information by creating content that our potential customers are looking for and guides them in making a more informed purchasing decision. There are some great resources to help you do your research:
- Backlinco has a great definitive guide on the different kinds of keyword research that you need to do as well as an why it is important to your search engine optimization efforts.
- One of the best ways to find your keywords is to use the Google Keyword Planner tool to uncover the most popular and relevant keyword terms. It takes some time, but you can start with some of the obvious terms and expand from there. One feature of the Keyword Planner that is often overlooked is the ability to enter a URL and let Google tell you what keywords it thinks are relevant for that page. Try using this feature on your competitor's pages to see what terms they are targeting.
- There are also paid tools like SEMRush which are also very useful for doing competitor keyword research.
- Another great resource for understanding the questions people are asking Google is www.AnswerThePublic. Just enter your product terms and it will return all the how, what, why, where, who and when queries that real people are asking in relation to your product or service.
Fourth: Map Your Content to Channels and Mediums
You've now outlined your customer's buying cycle, developed personas for them, and done valuable keyword research to determine what your target market is asking in search engines. With this insight into who your target audience is and what they're looking for, you can now move on to building a content plan for your site where the goal is to deliver just the right content in the most appropriate format to engage your target market.
Start by mapping your content to appropriate mediums such as infographics, whitepapers, e-books, videos, presentations, webinars, or podcasts. Certain types of content will suit different mediums, but in many cases you can use the same content across different mediums. For example you might write a detailed blog post to accompany an infographic, or you might write a blog version of a video presentation or webinar that you have recorded. Or, if you have developed content such as a video it can easily be repurposed across multiple channels like Facebook as well as Youtube in order to reach more people.
You should choose the channels where you are most likely to find your target audience and identifying the medium where your strengths and your target market's preferences overlap will give you the best bang for the buck. You should be able to make an educated guess into what medium and which channel would deliver the best results based on your product or service. For instance, if you have an interior designing firm, your target audience is more likely to have a preference for videos and presentations as opposed to podcasts or long form articles. Or if you are in the DIY field (selling power tools for instance) then how-to videos on home DIY projects will be an excellent want to help your customers and show off your products.
A Final Word
Quite honestly, developing content for your website that connects with your potential customers takes a lot of practice, and at the beginning involves as many misses as hits. But, you stand a much greater chance of getting the mix right if you focus on the buying journey and developing content to meet the particular needs of your target personas. Keep track of what works and what doesn't and you'll quickly learn to build a website where content is king, and carries your customers along to the final purchase.