How to Use Content Marketing to Actually Sell Stuff

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One of the things I help my clients with is content marketing. And I often get asked exactly how they can use online content in a way that goes beyond brand and profile-building, to actually help them meet more tangible marketing goals, like data capture or sales.

So I’ve put together a quick guide to creating content that does just that. Here’s my 4 step how-to.

1. Pick a goal for your content

Every good piece of online content has a purpose; something it wants its audience to do.

So first up, consider what your goal is. For example, should your content:

  • Persuade people to buy a product?

  • Get signups for your newsletter?

  • Generate leads you can sell your services to?

  • Capture browser cookies to grow your audience for online ads?

Got your answer? Note it down.

2. Know who you’re targeting

The next step is to define your audience. I’m not talking about complex segmentation at this stage, but simply:

  • A new audience - people who don’t know your brand


  • A ‘warm’ audience - people who do already know you and keep an eye on your website/newsletters/social feeds

Pick the one that best supports the goal you’ve chosen. If you’re looking for quantity of visitors, new audiences could be the way to go - you’ve got a bigger pool to draw from.

If you’re looking more for quality traffic - say you want to get people to commit to a more long-term relationship with your brand - you might want to start with your ‘warm’ audience.

3. Consider how they’ll find you

Thinking about where your target website visitors will be coming from can help you get some insight into how to meet their needs. As a general rule of thumb:

  • If you want to attract new audiences and are going for quantity of traffic, you’ll be primarily targeting Searchers.

  • If you want to get deeper engagement from warm audiences, you’ll be primarily targeting Followers.

Here’s what you need to know about each group:


How they’ll find your content

They’ll type a query into a search engine, and click on your link because it seems the most likely to answer their question.

What they want

Most people typing a query into a search engine already want to do one of four things: know, do, go, or buy. They simply want information, and don’t mind where it comes from (as long as the source seems reliable).

What they’ll do when they get it

The great thing about this audience is that, if you give them the right content, they’ll be quick to act on it, because they’re already seeking information to help them take an action.

On the flip side, they are likely to be looking for a one-off interaction, so are:

  • Just as likely to give their business to your competitors as to you

  • Harder to establish an ongoing relationship with

  • Probably not going to share your content and introduce you to new customers

TIP: To target a searcher, think: How can I give them the info they need to make it quick, easy and appealing for them to complete their task?


How they’ll find your content

This audience already keeps an eye on your brand, so will probably find your content through your owned channels - on your social media feeds, in your newsletters, or because they regularly visit your site on their own initiative.

What they want

Followers are likely to be looking for ongoing connection, perhaps even reinforcement of the way they see themselves - after all, your social media followers know that their own networks can see that they follow you, which means they believe that their connection with you reflects positively (or at least not negatively) on them.

The best thing about this audience is that you know they want a long-term relationship with your brand.

What they’ll do when they get it

If you meet their needs, followers will likely:

  • Turn into repeat customers

  • Pay more for a product or service offered under your brand

  • Be less inclined to ditch you for a competitor

  • Share your content and introduce you to new customers.

The down-side of targeting followers with your content is that they’re not necessarily in a conversion mindset right now - they are looking to connect rather than take action. So it will probably take more steps to get them to move beyond just reading and enjoying your content.

TIP: To target a follower, think: How can my content help them feel closer to the brand, and/or be seen in the way they want to be seen?

3. Understand what they want

Now you’ve got an idea of who you’re targeting and what you want them to do, you need to make a list of specific questions that your audience is looking for answers to.

Here are some ideas on where to find this information.

For your current audience (Followers)

  • Your site search data (a list of terms/keywords that people search your site for, from most to least commonly-searched)

  • Your content analytics (if you don’t have regular reporting on this, start with two lists: the 10-20 most-visited pages or articles on your site, and the 10-20 least visited)

  • Your social media feeds - note down any common queries that come up when people are interacting with your brand online

  • Audience research insights from user testing, surveys, focus groups - gather any key findings from these.

For new audiences (Searchers)

  • Keyword research - use tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer, Google Keyword Planner, and to find common search terms related to your business.

  • Social media and forums - note down any common queries that come up when people are discussing topics related to your business or interacting with your competitors online

  • Other people’s research - have any competitors/sector bodies published findings that would be relevant to your audience too?

Use as many of these tools as you have available. If you are aiming for a new audience, do the keyword research at the bare minimum - without good SEO, your chances of attracting new audiences are slim.

4. Meet their needs

Once you have this information, you can use it to plan content that matches your audience’s needs AND progresses them toward the action you want them to take.

Start with most common audience question you found in step 3, and work out how you can answer it in your content.

Then frame your call to action so that it moves visitors on to a ‘next step’ that helps meet the same need.

Here’s an example:

Step 1: Setting your goal.

Your company offers marketing services to small businesses in the hospitality sector.

Your goal is to get more potential customers signed up for your monthly newsletter.

Step 2: Choosing your audience

You decide to target followers in your ‘warm’ audience; they seem more likely to want to commit to hearing from you every month than people who haven’t heard of you yet.

Step 3: Finding out what your audience wants

While researching what your followers want, you check your site search data to find out what your current visitors look for on your site.

You can see that your site receives a lot of searches for terms related to ‘networking’. Two of the most searched-for terms are ‘networking tips’, followed by ‘networking opportunities’. But there isn’t much content on your site to meet these needs.

Step 4: Plan content that meets their needs

You create an article: ‘5 tips for getting the best out of networking opportunites’, and optimise it for the relevant keywords.

Within the article, you add a button prompting readers to to sign up to your newsletter to receive a monthly roundup of the best networking events for small business owners in the hospitality sector.

Step 5: Make yourself a cuppa.

You browse the teabags on offer and select a posh-looking fruit one to celebrate a job well done.

To talk more about how to create content that help you meet your business goals, or find out more about my content marketing services and training,
drop me a line.