Category: Advice

Mapping Your Content Marketing to Your Customers’ Journey

In an earlier post, I talked about defining the journey your customers take from being casual browsers to your biggest fans. Now, I want to look at how that’s useful when it comes to actually mapping  your content marketing to your customers’ journey.

When you define your customer journey, you start to get a clearer idea of what your customers want out of your content — which means you can be highly targeted in delivering it to them.

  • You can get them your “how-to” videos when they’re looking for DIY solutions
  • You can get them your thought leadership articles when they’re hunting for a new way to approach old problems
  • You can get them your most “sales-y” content when they are on the verge of buying

In order to do that, you need to thoughtfully map out how each piece of content fits along your customer journey. This creates a robust content marketing strategy that deliberately leads potential customers through each stage of the journey, ending with them purchasing your product or service.

The best way to think about creating content is as a series of laddered services leading from free to premium, with each rung on the ladder taking your lead that much closer to converting into a customer.

But right now, you may just have a pile of ladder rungs with no rhyme or reason.

We’re going to fix that.

 

Step 1: Audit Your Existing Content

Chances are, you already have a great library of existing content out there in the world: a blog, guest posts, podcast episodes, LinkedIn Pulse articles, newsletters, etc. But if you haven’t been creating it with your customer journey in mind, it may not be converting the way you want it to be.

Sometimes, the reason is because you’re targeting the wrong audience. You may have a popular blog series on how to land an interview out of college — but if your core service is coaching small business owners, you’re speaking to the wrong crowd.

(For example, I still own an abandoned hobby blog about crafting and bicycling that still gets almost 10,000 hits a month — but it’s never convinced anyone to hire me for content strategy or copywriting.)

Other times, the content may be perfectly geared toward your audience, but you’re presenting it to them at the wrong stage of the journey. For example, you may be aiming a masters-level summary of your consulting method at an entry-level prospect who doesn’t yet know what problem they need solved.

Or, your content might be perfectly targeted — you just don’t have a clear call to action (CTA) telling your lead where to head next.

It’s tough to tell until you can take a step back and look at the big picture. Take an inventory of all your existing content. What topics have you written about, and where? What videos have you made? Where have you been interviewed?

Gather all this in a list. It’s time to see how it measures up.

 

Step 2: Grade Your Existing Content

To help you evaluate the content you’ve already created, I’ve created a handy content audit rubric that grades content and indicates where it fits along the customer journey. (You can get that for free here.)

When you run your content through the rubric, it will help you prioritize what content needs updating, understand where to cut the fluff, and identify gaps in your content marketing funnel.

As an example, let’s look at a common customer discovery path for a consultant or service-based business: casual browser —> email newsletter subscriber —> customer.

Take a look at the type of content that moves people along that journey:

  • They may discover you on your personal blog, through a guest post, podcast interview, or social media post. (I call this type of content your Billboard content — it alerts passersby that you exist.)
  • They decide to sign up for your email for some reason, perhaps because of a freebie you’re giving away in the form of an ebook, guide, or email course.
  • They decide your list is valuable because your autoresponder series provides them with interesting insights and helps them to get to know you better.
  • They’re intrigued by an offer in one of your emails: to join you for a webinar, or take you up on the offer of a free call.
  • They enjoy the information you provided in the webinar or free call so much they decide to hire you.

For this example, you’d want your Billboard content to have a fairly low Journey Score; it should be free to your target audience and easy to consume in order to attract the widest number of potential subscribers. Your freebie might score a bit higher, depending on how you want prospects to engage with it, and your initial emails should be a mixture of low to medium scores. Your webinar should have a higher score, since you’re targeting people who already know a fair amount about your topic.

Everything should have a high Relevance Score.

 

Step 3: Optimize Your Content

Now that you have your existing content organized in terms of where it fits in to the customer journey, it’s time to optimize each piece to make it perform its best.

At this stage, you may end up junking old pieces that no longer align with your current content strategy or business mission. It’s natural to want to keep up irrelevant blog posts and other pieces that no longer fit — especially if they’re a big traffic driver for your business. But remember, even if they bring in more hits than the rest of your efforts combined, they’re not doing you any favors if they’re not attracting the right audience.

Take the remaining pieces and ask yourself:

  • Does each piece of content have a clear signpost pointing to what your reader should do next?
  • Is there a strong CTA leading each customer further down the content marketing funnel?
  • Is each piece written to the right level of understanding for the stage you’re using it?
  • Does each piece of content relate fundamentally to a service or product you offer?

Going back to our email example, does your Billboard content tell people to “sign up now” and explain why they should? Is your lead magnet geared at the right knowledge level for a prospect at that stage? Does your sign-up form explain exactly who will benefit from your freebie, and tell them to “click here”? Does each email in your autoresponder series invite the reader to stay tuned for the next bit of correspondence, or encourage them to hit reply to get in touch?

 

Step 4: Fill in the Gaps

At this point, you should clearly see the gaps in this content funnel. Maybe none of your Billboard blog posts, podcasts and guest articles are along the same topic as your mailing list. Maybe your freebie is attracting the wrong type of subscriber. Maybe you’re not nurturing them with an autoresponder series. Maybe your monthly newsletter articles don’t really relate to the core service you’re trying to sell.

It’s time to fill those gaps. Use what you’ve learned about targeting your audience at each stage of the journey to write compelling content perfectly tailored to draw potential leads further into your funnel.

You’ve got this!

For a more in-depth look at this whole process — and a guide to writing content that fills in the gaps — check out my book, Get More Leads: How to Create a Constant Flow of Inbound Leads with Content Marketing.

Define Your Customer’s Journey

Think back for a minute to the last product or service you bought.

(For me, that was the impulsive purchase of an ebook boxed set about a supernatural catering company. It looks hilarious.)

At some point, you’d never heard of this product or service — but now you’re a customer. Ask yourself: How did you first hear about it? How long has it been on your radar? How much research did you do before buying? What prompted you to finally pull out the credit card?

If you think hard enough about the steps you went through, you can probably see a coherent journey from completely unaware to a (hopefully) satisfied customer. You may even be telling your friends about it already. That path — from Awareness through Consideration, Purchase, Retention and Advocacy — is your customer journey.

The customers of your business go through that same series of steps. If you’ve ever wondered how your customers are finding you — and how you can get more of them to do so — it helps to understand their journey.

Why?

  • More effective content marketing: When you understand what information your customer is looking for — and where they’re looking for it, you’ll have a better sense of whether your blog, YouTube channel, podcast, or lead magnet is doing its job.
  • More effective advertising: Along the same lines, you’ll also be able to better gauge the ROI of taking out an ad in a specific location.
  • Better conversion rates: When you understand your customer’s journey, you can identify moments of conversion between stages and work to optimize them with better CTAs, education, and incentives.
  • Improve you sales funnel: You’ll also start to see where customers are falling out of your sales funnel, so you can start filling the gaps.

But the main reason is that when you spend time thinking about your customer journey, it creates an important mental shift in the way you look at your business. Rather than thinking about your content marketing and advertising strategy from an internal point of view, it forces you to look at it from your customer’s point of view.

Defining the customer journey

There is no one singular journey. Every business is different, so while the latest social media trend or advertising fad may be drawing customers into your sister-in-law’s construction business, it may not work for your software startup.

While there may not be a single path to purchasing (even within your own customer base), there are five common stages that every customer goes through:

  • Awareness: Your potential customer learns about your brand or product. They may already be aware of the problem you solve, or they may not have realized their need until they learn about your product.
  • Consideration: Now that they know you exist, they need to figure out if your product or service is for them. They’re taking a look at your benefits, your pricing, and your competitors. (This stage may involve deliberate research, or a more subconscious thought process.)
  • Purchase: Success! They’ve decided to buy. Often, the initial purchase is something smaller that they can use to validate whether or not your company is a right fit.
  • Retention: Once they’ve used your product or service for a bit, the customer becomes brand loyal. They’re more likely to purchase other products or services from your company, because they trust your brand’s quality.
  • Advocacy: They’re really digging the experience they’ve had with your brand. This leads to them referring your product or service to others, whether in person, on social media, or through your referral program.

Every customer goes through those same stages, whether you’re selling books about supernatural catering companies, software-as-a-service, or high-end architectural design. The trick is in finding out what those stages look like for your specific customer.

One way is to scope out your competition. Where are they focusing their marketing and advertising efforts? Are they taking out ads on certain websites? Do they have an active blog? Which social media platforms are they using? Don’t simply copy their marketing plan or you’ll still be behind the curve. But seeing what they do can help you understand how customers in your industry think.

You can also look for hints in case studies and industry research put out by big firms like Deloitte, Accenture, or whatever the big name is in your particular industry. Sometimes these customer trend reports can be pricey, but you can often find press releases or articles in industry trade journals that can give you the highlights.

My favorite way is to simply talk to your customers. Get in the habit of asking new customers how they found you, and send out periodic surveys to your email list quizzing them about their buying habits. You can also invite some of your best customers to have a heart-to-heart about their experience, whether in-person or over the phone.

Once you have a good idea of your customer journey, you can focus your advertising in places your potential customers hang out, use content marketing to help them through the consideration and purchase stages, and then give them a stellar customer service experience to retain them and transform them into brand advocates. We’ll cover that in a later post. Stay tuned!

The Tipping Point of Brand Awareness: A Q&A with Cara Chace

Welcome to the latest blog post from CC: PDX, your Portland copywriting experts.  Terri Wangle, CC:PDX member and owner of Spotlight Ink, recently discussed social media, brand awareness, and practical business strategies with Cara Chace, a go-to professional in the digital marketing and social media strategy realm.

Terri Wangle: How do businesses pick the right social media platform?

Cara Chace: “First, business owners need to have a very clear picture of their audience and to research where their audience is online. Start by searching for ‘social media demographics.’ Besides Google, just ask people.”

TW: List must-do first steps when launching your social media account?

CC: “Decide how you and your employees will share online as a brand, and make a decision tree for who and how you answer clients’ questions. Consistently engage on platforms where you find your clients and interact with them, answer questions, and share valuable information. Remember timeliness is the rule of social media.”

TW: Explain the 80-20 rule.

CC: “Nobody wants to see your sales. If all you’re posting is a 20-percent-off promo, they won’t care. Make sure you’re sharing valuable, interesting, or entertaining information 80 percent of the time. You’re earning the right to share that 20 percent of sales pitches. Remember, the same people are engaging on different platforms for different reasons, like Facebook is a brain break and LinkedIn is for networking and expanding professional expertise. It also helps to expand your definition of ‘valuable.’ It could be that you make someone laugh—but the content always needs to align with your brand voice and your company’s two or three predetermined subject areas.”

TW: The fear of encountering an upset customer sometimes keeps business owners from using social media. How do you recommend businesses plan and proceed?

CC: “It goes back to the foundation and knowing how you talk and engage online, like the type of words we use or don’t use. You want to make sure your team is on the same page and that you’ve empowered your people to answer clients. Another way of looking at this scenario: Instead of freaking out, like deciding someone is just a jerk, remember that people who are upset will often become your biggest advocates when you (the business owner) make it right.

My biggest recommendation: take it off-line as soon as possible. For example, a restaurant responds quickly and publicly to an unhappy customer, showing others that they care and are paying attention. The restaurant provides directions and immediate connection the decision-maker who can make it right. Make sure everyone on your team knows the key person and how the plan works. Don’t just list ‘customer_care@restaurant.com’ or an 800 number. Also, never call attention to the ‘negative’ review by asking that person to change it. Hopefully, you’ll have gone above and beyond, and they will probably change the review themselves. Final thought, the absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore somebody. So, check your social media at least once a day.”

TW: How would you recommend dealing with an abusive commenter?

CC: “Depending on what platforms you’re using, you have different tools and approaches. Like if you’re on a Facebook group, you should have very specific rules for what is allowed and not allowed. I’ve adopted an idea that I heard from another expert: ‘I’m not here to give you a warning.’ There’s different ways to polish that message to match your brand voice, but if they are a jerk, they’re gone. At this point, customer service is protecting your ‘tribe,’ the people who are there because they want to consume your content. Some specifics: if someone is just being ridiculous and cursing, just delete the comment. There’s nothing wrong with that … there’s no obligation if someone is coming at you and your tribe with that kind of attitude. They are responsible for being a decent human being. And, if they continue to come back, block them.”

TW: What is the most helpful rule of thumb for using social media as a business or nonprofit?

CC: “Consistency! It’s the only thing that will ever get your business to the tipping point of brand awareness that social media is designed for. Your business needs to build that know-like-and-trust factor with people. It has opened up our world, and it lets people have a relationship with your brand. They are giving you their time and attention. Don’t take it for granted. It is invaluable. Also, don’t think of social media in terms of likes: ‘I only got two likes on my post.’ It’s more quality instead of quantity. So, challenge yourself and give the best—Remember? Valuable, interesting, or entertaining—and people will see that value and follow your brand. Another practical note about the importance of consistency: algorithms! Most platforms are based on algorithms. Facebook. Instagram. And they won’t show your stuff when you’re not consistently present. Start small and get your flow and system … don’t go crazy and burn out and drop off. The same goes for your website. If someone goes to your website and you’ve not updated it (especially your blog), it shows that you’re not serious. If you’re not consistent, people automatically wonder if you’re still in business. Be consistent!”

Need more help with your social media? Check out Cara’s “Top 5 Ways to Make Your Social Media Kick Ass in 2017.”  Need help crafting content? Contact a member of the CC:PDX.

Earning Your First Freelance Writing Job

Earning your first freelance writing job can be a frustrating experience. When I first moved to Portland, writing was the only thing I knew how to do well. The jobs or gigs listed on Craig’s List or the classifieds required 2-5 years of experience. I couldn’t get experience without, y’know, any experience.

I did earn a few freelance writing gigs in a short period of time, but it took me a year and a half to find a writing job, which is what I wanted at the time.

That’s all well and good for back in the Internet Stone Age.  What would I do now?

I’ll create three different scenarios for three different types of writing career paths:  a gig freelancer; a salaried professional writer; and a business owner.

The Gig Freelancer

Here’s some good news:  if you don’t have much experience as a freelance writer, you still have options.  Here’s a couple of ideas:

  1. Networking. This is a great way to meet people in the creative community. Networking can be as simple as going to happy hours or meetups, or it can mean attending conferences, seminars, and events. I’ve gained plenty of gigs this way. LinkedIn, your local chamber of commerce, and Google are the best ways to find the creative social gatherings to meet the right people.
  1. Join a creative staffing firm. Different firms have different criteria, but Creative Circle is a great first step. Amber James has written an overview on why you should or shouldn’t work for a creative staffing agency, and Cathy Chang has written a post on what it’s like to have a regular creative staffing gig.

 The Professional

If you want the security of regular income, the current economic climate is favorable for salaried writing jobs. Content developers, copywriters, and editors are in high demand at companies of all sizes.  Here’s some thoughts:

  1. Make a list of industries and companies you admire. Check the Career pages of those companies to see if they have openings for entry-level copywriters.
  1. Scheduling informational interviews can be helpful. My friend Balki Kodarapu also has an excellent strategy for job seekers with his frequent “I want to work for ____” meet-ups.

The Business Owner

This is my current path.  Gigs let you build a portfolio, and a salaried job can provide benefits, but schedule flexibility is important to me.  This is what I do:

  1. Develop prospecting strategies. Referrals are honestly the best way to earn repeat business. I am always grateful for referrals, and I recently wrapped up a project that came as a referral from my dynamite web designer, Leslie Bourke.
  1. Follow-up. I actively prospect in the industries I want to work within. It can take a long time to get an assignment, but a regular client in the industry I want to work within is worth the effort.

***

All of these paths take a lot of work on your end. You must research, listen, and keep your skills updated. It also takes a lot of work to maintain the relationships you develop. When you have work to do, stay communicative with your point(s) of contact so they know when to expect your copy. Pace yourself so you never over-promise and potentially miss a deadline.

There are far more resources available to you now than I had when I was starting out. If you are willing to do the research, then you will earn the copywriting work you desire.

This article is part of our ongoing series helping new copywriters. Please see the new copywriters page on our website for more information.