(Editor’s note: Bill Flitter is CEO of dlvr.it, a content syndication service. He submitted this column to VentureBeat.)
The explosive growth in social media is forcing today’s marketers to ditch their hard sales pitches and flashy page takeover ads. While we’ve all heard the gurus say brands need to create relationships with their customers, the reality is brands need to look at themselves as publishers.
Creating content is the key component in starting a relationship with a new customer or retaining an existing one. But starting a blog, creating a Facebook fan page or launching a Twitter feed is not the be all/end all.
Social media is no field of dreams. The siteless web is the new reality, meaning businesses need to live in many places, because customers and potential customers are all over the place, all the time.
Wonder why your ad’s CTR is less then half of a percent? Don’t blame the ad network for not performing. Look in the mirror. Think of what your success rate would be if you asked every first date if they loved you.
You would never do that, right? So why do the equivalent with your advertising? A strong content strategy can bring emotion and context to your brand and bring in customers.
Put another way, the traditional – or, rather, old – model of a sales funnel went something like this: Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Convert.
Using content, though, today’s sales funnel has a vastly different model: Educate. Syndicate. Reinforce. Convert. Here’s a closer look at each step:
Educate: (or… tell before you sell) – Google Adsense works well because it makes an attempt to understand intent. But when you are trying to target customers outside of search, intent is harder to understand.
When a CTR on a display ad is low, it’s usually because it is placed in an environment where user intent is not well understood. Take control. Bring potential customers to you with great content that they are interested in and will seek out.
Think of content as a welcoming mat – it transcends websites, social networks and formats. Content connects consumers to you, and it’s all the more effective when it’s viral.
Syndicate: (or… sharing is caring) – Your blogs, Twitter accounts, videos, etc. might be valuable, but if nobody consumes them, they’re worthless.
You can (and should) also leverage content that you may not immediately identify as ad copy. Sharing information that’s useful is much more appealing and effective than jumping in their face.
When an ad with valuable content appears on a site where prospects are already in the mindset of consuming content, it’s an easy transition for them to click-through to your website and learn more.
Added bonus: Interesting content increases the multiplier effect. Fans and prospects are more likely to share content than ads. This increases word of mouth – and best of all, it lessens your marketing spend.
Reinforce: (or… trust is a must) – Once a potential prospect is aware of your brand or offering – whether by reading your blog, subscribing to your newsletter or following you on Twitter – then ask for the sale. Present them with a display ad and ask them to buy whatever you have established is going to be of use and valuable to them.
Remarketing techniques that present your offers as they travel to other websites are effective here as well. Once you’ve planted the seed, keep watering, remarket and make the sale bloom.
Convert – Using content as a key part of your sales funnel will improve your CTR and overall conversion. Need proof? Ask the folks at Louis E. Page, Inc., a wiring and fencing company just outside of Boston.
Simply by starting a blog, which offers tips and advice on how to use fencing products, the company has seen an 850 percent increase in leads.
Not a bad return for thinking outside of the traditional advertising model.