Content marketing can influence search engine optimization, increase social engagement and position a brand as an industry thought leader. However, is content marketing effective in generating leads and revenue?
In a way, marketers are being asked to serve two masters. First is the knowledge that to “win mind-share”, they must create, publish and optimize significant amounts of content. The second is the “encouragement” from management to justify ROI on every marketing expense.
To leverage the investment in content marketing and use it to increase overall key metrics, such as conversions and revenue, an explicit link needs to be made between the content and products. As you read that last sentence, you may be thinking “Absolutely not. The point of content marketing is not to "hard-sell' our products.”
You're correct, but the way to establish this relationship is not to include products in the content itself, but rather to use recommendations to make the connection. You can do this in a way that complements and does not intrude on the online research or shopping experience by recommending relevant content on product pages.
How is that done?
E-commerce teams, and all online shoppers for that matter, are familiar with the “People who bought this item also bought ...” message as well as “Other products you might like ...” that appear throughout most e-commerce sites. These recommendations serve the purpose of cross- and up-selling products, or encouraging customers to go deeper in the product catalog with the overarching goal of increasing order values.
These recommendations are either manually programmed by internal teams based on merchandising strategies or they are powered by sophisticated software programs that observe customer behavior on a site and deliver personalized recommendations based on customer-implied intent and preferences.
The same strategy is applied to the content/product recommendations relationship.
- On product pages, some site real estate might be dedicated to recommending content from your “vault” that, even tangentially, relates to the product. Recommending content in this way not only gets more eyes on all of the assets you've invested in creating, it might even encourage the purchase of that product. It gives the shopper confidence in your brand and positions your organization as more of a solutions seller, as overused as that term may be.
- Likewise, on a content page, products can be recommended that relate, even slightly, to the content. This could appear along the right-hand side of the page or vertically along the bottom under a header like, “Products related to this article.”
Here is how the strategy might play out on a b-to-b site:
One of the largest publishers of children's books has published hundreds of articles for teachers and school administrators by experts in childhood development. If a teacher is browsing books on the publisher's e-commerce site around a topic like bullying, for example, content on the subject of bullying could be recommended alongside the products.
On the other hand, if a teacher enters through a content search and is researching the topic
of bullying, books on the subject can be recommended unobtrusively on the page.
It's a win-win. Content gets more play. Products get related to content in more of a “helpful adviser” than “pushy salesperson” kind of way. And the customer is more informed about the industry and your offerings.
Pairing content and product recommendations takes what marketing teams know they should be doing to win search, be social and improve the overall value of the brand, tying that into the bottom-line key performance indicators that cannot be ignored.
It's content marketing 2.0.
Eric Tobias is president of website solutions and predictive analytics company iGoDigital (www.igodigital.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.