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Are you converting your blog readers into paying customers? You might be doing it wrong.
It’s the greatest misconception in content marketing – that people are going sign up for whatever it is that you are selling immediately after reading your content.
That’s not how it works. In fact, that almost never happens.
Here’s how we usually think about content marketing:
But sadly, this is not how it works.
The way it really works may be a bit more complex, but in the end it is a lot more effective.
If you are writing your blog to convert customers then you are doing it wrong. The same probably goes for getting them to sign up for your email newsletter. That just isn’t the way it works.
It is so easy to think about marketing in a linear fashion. First they will see your ad, and then they will buy your product. Wrong! Marketing isn’t linear, despite the necessity and existence of the inbound marketing funnel.
The goal of your blog shouldn’t be to convert customers – at least not right away – it should be to build advocates.
Think of it like this: advocates first, then customers.
When we position ourselves in this way, we take the pressure off our content. It no longer needs to be mechanically linked to our call to action, it can exist on its own, and that’s a good thing.
The process of finding advocates is all about building trust. Content marketing is a process of creating and sharing content with an audience that will build trust and gain customers over time.
I like to think of it as a 5 step process that we take our audience through one step at a time. At the end of the day, this is the process you will use to turn blog readers into paying customers.
The first phase of the process is the reader phase. It basically means that a visitor has come to your site to read and consume the content that you have created. At this point, they probably aren’t yet familiar with you or your brand, so it really is just the beginning of the process. During this phase, readers are essentially cold leads, and probably don’t have enough trust in your brand to properly convert. Despite this truth, we often try and fail.
The second phase of the process is to get the reader to share your content. Usually this happens via social media with a share, comment, or like. This is the most basic form of support, but it is sensible for you to consider each one a vote on behalf of your content. When a reader has moved to this phase, they have a officially become a promoter of your content. They will probably cycle between phase one and two several times before building enough recognition of your brand to move onto the next phase. This is really a process of building trust with your readers.
The third phase of the customer acquisition process falls into the role of a subscriber. Here, a casual reader will become a devout consumer of your content. The most common method for this is a subscription to your email marketing plan or RSS feed, although it can come in other forms such as a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook. Either way, this person has moved to the point where they not only recognize your name/brand, but they look forward to receiving and consuming your content as it becomes available. A simple way to look at this is that they have opted in.
As your subscriber receives your content over and over, they should slowly transition from a casual reader into a content advocate, frequently recommending your content via social media, and regularly participating in your comments section as new content is published. The difference here between a subscriber and an advocate is usually the level of engagement that they have with your content. In other cases, advocates will simply be the folks that “look forward” to your content each week, dropping everything when it arrives. This is an important step, and will only develop when you regularly focus on high-quality content with a purpose.
After months of blogging, tons of emails, and probably a comment or two, your advocate may actually be ready to become a customer. While they may have tried your product during an earlier phase, they have never been more prime to buy than now. The beauty of this stage is that they have so much trust in your brand that the buying process should be much easier for them. I often say that customers buy things from those that they know, like and trust. Content marketing is a great way to work through this process with customers that you don’t always get the opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with.
One phase that can come after your reader has become a customer is the ambassador phase. This is a bonus element of that process and is often more reliant on your products ability to deliver than your content itself, although in some cases readers will become a major ambassador for your content. This is a good thing too.
You may have thought that the real secret to turning blog readers into paying customers is the size of your pop-up banner. Although it may help, it probably won’t lead to long-term sustainable growth all on its own. Creating great content and building trust, on the other hand, can do just that.
The problem is that we often look at the customer conversion process on a very condensed timescale. We like to think in terms of minutes rather than days, months, or years, when this is really what it takes.
In my days as a marketing consultant I saw this process at work all the time. I distinctly remember one customer who signed up on my email marketing list shortly after a free-luncheon talk that I gave to a handful of non-profits in my community. I never met her or discussed her program directly, but without me even knowing it she slowly went from being a reader to becoming an advocate.
This future customer was consuming my content, reading my newsletter, and sharing it with everyone that she worked with day to day. Over several months, her trust in our brand and advice became infallible. We had earned her respect.
One year later when it finally came time for her team to look for an online marketing consultant, I was the first (and only) person that they called. I had a record-setting deal in place after one meeting and a weeks worth of time.
No selling was required. They already trusted me. My content had carried them the entire way.
So often, we don’t like to give our content the time and resources that it takes to really become effective. We like to see fast results and immediate feedback on our funnel, but this is the wrong approach. To do it right, we have to give our content the time and resources that it really deserves.
Good content marketing takes time, it’s simple as that.
So many times, I see teams give up on their content way too soon, failing to embrace the slow, but deadly-reliable process of using content to turn readers into customers.
Rather than focusing on converting a customer right out of the gate, start focusing on high quality content, a great experience, and an opportunity to build trust. Watch your funnels over the long term, and sit back and relax as your blog becomes the biggest source of new business that you’ve ever had.
October 16, 2014
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