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From its inception in the early 90’s with the advent of the basic commercial website, to the evolution of blogs and email marketing in the early 2000s, to the rich variety of interactive content you find on the web today, a full nine out of 10 marketers -- whether they’re B2B or B2C -- use content marketing as a key strategy in their marketing mix. And they’re doing more of it. According to the Content Marketing Institute, approximately 60 percent of all marketers are increasing the amount they allocate to content marketing in 2014. In fact, 30 percent of B2B marketing budgets are allocated to content marketing. We’re talking big bucks!

But what good does all that time, energy and money do if, once the visitor is on your website or blog, you’re not able to turn them into a prospect or customer? Don’t miss that opportunity, your career may depend on it. If you tailor your website visitors’ experiences to what you know about their needs and interests, you will show your commitment to their success. In doing so, you’re much more likely to captivate, engage and convert them along the way.

Content Marketing Meets Real Time Relevance

Chances are good that your content marketing efforts will lead potential buyers to your site. Understanding who these visitors are and presenting information in a way that is customized for them will help them navigate the research, evaluation and purchase process and keep them from leaving. Importantly, it will also help you optimize your content marketing spend. Follow these three steps and you will see.

1. Engage Them Right Away

Just because someone is new to your site doesn’t mean you can’t capture their attention in a meaningful way. Even if it’s their very first visit you can still give them a warm welcome by acknowledging where they came from or what drew them in.

For example, if they came from a particular social network or clicked through to your site from a pay-per-click campaign, you can greet them accordingly. Such as, “Welcome Pinterest user, we have a special offer for you today.” Or, “We noticed you were searching for information on how to build a better mouse-trap. Check out this white paper that will tell you everything you need to know.” Also, make sure you understand your referral sources. Referrals from certain known, reputable sites might get a particular “welcome offer,” while others are treated differently.

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If the website visitor has browsed your site before, you may have some previously known data about them. You may know what they looked at in the past and for how long. Perhaps they already subscribed to your email newsletter or registered for one of your webinars?

Armed with this information, you can welcome them back and guide them with new, relevant information or resources based on their browsing history, or serve up recommended content based on the types of blog articles they previously consumed. But be careful not to show them the same things again, especially if they’ve already registered for that upcoming webinar!

For previous purchasers, you can lead them to content -- like a tutorial, tour or ideas for using the product they bought, helping them get more out of their purchase. Or present them with a three question survey to learn more about their current interests to build out a more robust profile. Then use that data to serve up additional relevant content in real time.

2. Keep Them Engaged

Once you’ve gotten a new website visitor’s or returning customer’s attention, you want to keep it. Increasing time on-site or number of pages viewed will give you more opportunity to guide them through to conversion.

Use dynamic content to cater to returning customers, based on their previous relationship with your brand, their customer type and their visit intent. If a visitor came to your site researching “website development” you can actively display case studies highlighting relevant customer stories and why the prospect should sign up for a demo today. Additionally, encourage them to comment on a blog post, review a product or share a video with a pre-populated Tweet.

3. Get Them to Convert

Once a visitor has shown a considerable amount of interest in your website or content marketing assets, make them an offer they can’t refuse based on the insights you’ve gathered from their browsing behavior. Or if you see that someone is idle on a conversion page, take the opportunity to guide them to some relevant content that will educate them more about the topic at hand.

If a visitor doesn’t show signs of making a purchase, then perhaps invite them to view a related previously recorded webinar where you can capture their contact information. For those engaged customers on your site, provide them with a relevant upsell, cross-sell or renewal offer. And if it looks like someone’s going to leave your site (perhaps because they’re confused or not seeing what they expected) then trigger a message asking for feedback on their experience.

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Don’t Rest on Your Laurels

It seems obvious, but to make content marketing successful, creating great content isn’t enough. The content must be organized, distributed and promoted in a manner that allows the user to find it at the moment they could use it. Why not help them along the path to not only find relevant content, but to guide them toward a purchase as well?

By adding these components to your content marketing strategy you will boost the value of your content and see a higher return on your investment. And remember: test, test and test! Know what works and what doesn’t, and continuously look for areas of improvement.

Title image from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) by Paramount