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Using content marketing for leads-to-sales optimization

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The growing importance of content in online marketing is nearly matched by the increasing competition for prospects' time and attention. According to Intel Corp., every minute there are 3,000 photos uploaded, 100,000 tweets, 1.3 million YouTube video views, 2 million Google search queries, 6 million Facebook views and more than 200 million emails sent. Fortunately, the intersection of SEO, social media and content provides an incredible opportunity to optimize for customers' attention during their journey through the sales cycle from awareness to purchase. With the right goals and measurement approach, an optimized, “socialized” framework for content marketing can help marketers deliver more qualified and motivated prospects to sales. That framework begins with better defining customer segments while understanding customers' pain points and goals that allow you to develop a content plan. Keyword optimization and social media promotion are essential pieces of the content-marketing process. By optimizing and socializing content relevant to the stages in the buying cycle, prospects can find solutions through search and be inspired to share what they've found through social media. Business value from optimized and socialized content marketing comes in different forms. To get a good picture of what that means, it's important to understand the role of content across the customer life cycle.
  • Awareness. Content marketing contributes to the development of brand awareness by helping people find your product or service through search, social media or wherever content can play a role as an information source.
  • Consideration. Once a prospect knows about your brand and solutions, content can educate them on your unique selling proposition. Content provided on your website, blog, social media net-works and other online platforms should make it easy for prospects and customers to understand the advantages and key benefits you have to offer. A strong search and social media presence can boost credibility and shorten sales cycles.
  • Purchase. Once you've gained customers' trust and respect, and they have decided to purchase from you, it's not the end of the line for content marketing and optimization. There's more work you can do in terms of refining the effectiveness of your content's ability to produce inquiries and sales. Website statistics analysis and online sales paths that track the content your customer viewed before purchase can assist in refining everything from the keyword focus of your search and social media optimization to optimizing for improved conversion performance.
  • Service. Content and social applications encourage customers to have a great experience on your site, even when they aren't making a purchase. Content like FAQs and other information about your brand offer customers a baseline post-purchase support service they can turn to any time to find answers without having to contact one of your customer service resources. Making it easy for customers to find answers to their questions can save on your support costs and lead to improved customer satisfaction.
  • Loyalty. People love your products, they visit your website and they engage with you on social networks. Each of their interactions with your content offers even more insights into their motivations and interests. Newsletters, webinars, helpful how-to articles and similar content that helps customers get more out of their purchases and the brand relationship can foster loyalty above and beyond the competition.
  • Advocacy. Your customer base is sharing your content, singing your praises online through social media and raving about how useful they find your website and social presence. With each new person they tell about your product or company, the whole cycle starts over again through word-of-mouth and more awareness.
  • The value of content marketing goes beyond attracting leads and sales. It also fosters good will, brand value and fan empowerment to refer products and services they like to others. As you develop and implement your content plan, consider the holistic impact of content on reaching and engaging with your customers throughout the relationship. Excerpted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from the book "Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing" (Wiley, 2012) by Lee Odden. Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing (www.toprankmarketing.com), and author of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing” (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).
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