The current atmosphere is the first time many companies are evaluating a digital strategy or doubling down on those efforts. And that can be an effective approach even when we're not facing a global pandemic.
For example, Influence & Co. pivoted from an outbound focus to doubling down on inbound strategies in 2018 and saw some great returns over the course of one year. By 2019, we improved our close rate from 7.7% to 10.84%, and we saw a 47% increase in marketing-generated revenue.
So I held a live Q&A webinar where our audience had the opportunity to have their burning content marketing questions answered. If you missed it, don't worry! In this blog post, we've outlined some of the biggest questions we covered.
Now, let's dive in.
Moving to digital doesn't mean taking everything you can do in person and putting it on a website. It's about determining how you can meet your audience's needs through digital means. Sales and revenue are still important, but right now it's crucial to focus on customers and how you can service them. (Forbes published a great article that provides advice to help small businesses pivot to digital.)
To do that, you'll want to zoom out and take a look at the buyer's journey:
A great way to start taking a digital approach to marketing is creating content across your website, external publications, and social media that speaks to people who are at each stage of their journey.
This is a low- to no-cost endeavor, so don't leave these opportunities on the table. In fact, unless you're using a paid strategy, social media efforts will be free, aside from your time. You don't need to pull in an expert, and you probably won't need any fancy equipment aside from your computer or smartphone.
Video content and live videos are great ways businesses can tap into social media to reach their audience with engaging content — without making a huge upfront investment. For example, finance, accounting, or real estate businesses could do live how-to videos on Facebook, share general practice videos, and post videos that directly answer common client concerns.
LinkedIn's publishing platform is another valuable tool that can be used to amplify your executives' personal branding and thought leadership through social media.
Even if your social media audience is mostly made up of your employees and their families, you can still get started on a social media strategy and work on building your audience over time. The important thing is this: No matter what type of content you're sharing across social media, make it valuable, relevant, and helpful.
If I hear "unprecedented" one more time, I'm going to lose it. While you want to be empathetic, you don't want to default to boilerplate messaging that everyone else is using. Think about the messages you get that make you roll your eyes, and don't use those tactics. Ditch the clichés, and come up with a fresh angle you can take that will resonate with your specific audience.
You might be asking, "But what if I don't know what my audience needs?"
Do keyword research.
SEO is a powerful tool that can help you show up in search results when your audience asks a question that's related to your business. To know which keywords to target, you'll need to do some research. (We published a blog post that can help you get started.)
When you're doing your research, my advice would be to focus on long-tail, intent-based keywords. For example, the people an IT company is wanting to reach are more likely to search something like "How do I support my team when working from home?" or "Should I use Zoom?" than something like "IT companies in Charlotte." Then, once you've done your research and chosen your target keywords, create content that answers your audience's questions.
SEO isn't the only way to make sure your content is relevant to your audience, though. Have a meeting with your sales team to learn what questions leads are asking and what their objections are. Create content surrounding those pain points.
You can also host a virtual happy hour with your top five customers or customers who left but wish they could've stayed. Chat about the biggest things they're facing and what they're concerned about, and then cater your content to those things.
I recently wrote a blog post on this exact topic! Give it a read to learn how you can take a cancelled speaking opportunity and turn it into a virtual event instead.
The digital approach isn't limited to cancelled speaking opportunities, though. We're also hosting virtual happy hours with clients of ours who are venture capitalists and clients of ours who are in a funding series. This is a great way for us to provide additional value to our clients, and it's an awesome opportunity for these two audiences to connect.
If you're not sure whether you should use Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or one of the other virtual meeting platforms, check out this article that can help you make that call.
A great first step to adding earned media to your content marketing strategy is to look at publications that allow contributors to submit direct-upload guest content or that have a guest column where you can find contributor guidelines. Pitching a full-length article to an external publication can allow you to discuss your industry with a wider audience and potentially give you the opportunity to include an educational link back to your website.
Thought leadership-style content coming directly from leaders at your company can be a great branding and marketing tool. Use this opportunity to showcase how your company has adapted to this particular time. Point back to the ethics, morals, and values of your company and what it's like to work with you. This way, you can leave people with an impression of what it's like to work with you so that when they have budget for the types of services you offer, you're the first company that comes to mind.
Launching a blog is a great way to provide valuable content for your audience, and it can drive top-of-funnel traffic to your website. In other words, it gives people a reason to visit your site even when they're not ready to buy.
Before you start writing, make sure you think through and write down your blog's stylistic guidelines (Will you use the Oxford comma?) and your brand voice guidelines. Then, come up with a campaign of some blog post topics and start writing!
Create evergreen content that will be relevant down the line so you can keep seeing value from the blog content you create today, and sprinkle in some timely blog posts to keep your audience on their toes and on the lookout for what you might publish next.
When people are looking for thought leadership content, they want to read content that dives deep and takes a stance on something. That stance doesn't have to be controversial, but taking a position and having something unique to contribute to the industry conversation will help your brand cut through the noise and have an impact.
People have less patience for repetitive, generic content. So don't share baseline knowledge that others in the industry are already talking about. Share unique perspectives rooted in firsthand personal and professional experience. This is what will set your company apart as an authentic voice in the conversation.
This isn't everything we covered in the webinar, but it can provide a great jumping-off point to help you start making the shift to a more digitally focused marketing strategy.
I'm a VP at Influence & Co. I like my coffee black, my whiskey straight, and travel when I can afford it. I think most people just want to feel heard, and I’m happy to comply. I've also taken a sworn oath to never eat sushi.