The internet has proven to be one of the most effective sales tools of the 20th century…in fact…it is the most effective tool of the 20th century. Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma have changed the game not only in the consumer market retail space, but in the retail space in general.
There is a slight difference when one moves away from the fast moving consumer goods market into companies that offer specialised products and services. Here, it takes a bit more than posting a picture of a product with a discount attached to it. There is an art to content marketing.
Get them to buy.
Advice on content marketing always talks about getting people to your blog. But, what about once they’re there — how do you get them to then buy from you?
The TechCrunch article points out first, they read. Then, they buy. When visitors read your content (which could come in the form of a blog post), three things should happen:
First, they must start reading — instead of bouncing;
Next, they should keep reading until at least halfway through; and
Finally, they should be enticed to read more or convert: sign up, subscribe or purchase
The article added that Demand Curve’s data shows that when readers complete this full chain of events — as opposed to skipping step #2 — they’re more likely to ultimately buy from you. Why? People trust your brand more after they’ve consumed your content and deemed you to be high quality and authoritative.
But content marketing is not easy. Anybody can write, but not everybody can write well.
Most of the time, readers get halfway through a post about about the need for a product or a service and then stop reading before you are able to market your product or service. This is problematic. This is referred to as bouncing. The best way to combat this using s tactic called drop off optimization.
The author of the TechCrunch article points out that sometimes, when he writes a post on Julian.com, he finds few people actually finish reading it. They get halfway through then bounce.
The authors of the article discovers this by looking at my scroll-depth maps using Hotjar.com. These show him how far down a page an average reader gets. Then he pairs that data with the average time spent on the page, which he gets from Google Analytics.
Whenever he notices poor read completion rates, he spend ten minutes optimizing his content:
he refers to the heatmaps to see which sections caused people to stop reading; and
he then then rewrites those specific sections to be more enticing.
This routinely achieves 1.5-2x boosts in read-through rates, which can lead to a similar boost in conversion. Never just publish a blog post then move on.
A measured approach
The author of TechCrunch article points out that he treats his posts the same way he treats every other marketing asset: he measures and iterates.
For some reason, even professional content marketers publish their posts then simply move on. That’s crazy. Not spending 10 minutes optimizing can be the difference between people devouring your post or not being able to get halfway through.
The article adds that there is a specific process for rewriting a post’s drop-off points to get readers to continue reading.
First, record a scroll heatmap of your blog post. Any heatmap tool will do.
The article points out that whenever you see, say, 80% of readers getting midway into your post but only a fraction then make it to the end, you know you have a problem in the back half of your post: it’s verbose, uninsightful, or off-topic.
The article adds that your job is then to find these drop-off points then rewrite the offending content using four techniques:
Brevity: Make the section more concise: Cut the filler and switch to a bullet list like the one you’re reading now. Or, delete the section altogether if it’s not interesting.
Inject insights: Perhaps your content is self-evident and boring. Rewrite it with novel and surprising thoughts.
Make headlines enticing: Make the next section’s headline more enticing. Perhaps readers bounce because they see that the next section’s title is boring or irrelevant. For example, instead of titling your next section “Wrapping up,” re-write it into something more eyebrow-raising like, “What you still don’t know.”
Cliffhangers: End sections with a statement like “Everything I just told you is true, but there’s a big exception.” Then withhold the exception until the next section. Keep them reading.
Once you’ve ironed out drop-off points, perhaps 35% of your readers finish the post instead of 15%. This reliably works, and it’s the highest-leverage way to achieve conversion improvements on your posts.
At the end of the day. The quality of your content drives your readers forward.
The article points out that one of the biggest factors driving marketers to rethink their content strategy relates to just how prevalent thought leadership has become. Our agency published a study that found 96 percent of the top 100 global fintech companies produce thought leadership on a regular basis.
The article adds that this study followed our research last year that found 88 percent of the world’s largest asset managers utilize content as part of an integrated PR and communications strategy. This has created something of a flood of thought leadership, making it more difficult to stand out just by producing content, alone.
The article points out that, to be sure, regular and consistent thought leadership provides an important cue to show that asset managers and fintech providers are investing in their business and that they have a position or view on relevant trends in the market. In fact, the ubiquity of content marketing across asset management has also made it conspicuous when firms don’t produce thought leadership in any capacity.
The article adds that, at the same time, the explosion of content marketing across finance—and most industries for that matter—has raised the bar for those who expect the effort to show a material impact. For one, it’s only become that much more difficult to reach decision makers without a very targeted strategy. When just about every RIA and asset manager offers an annual and mid-year market outlook, for instance, marketers are hard pressed to reach an audience that extends beyond existing clients.
Amid this flood of content, if the topics and themes covered or the views conveyed are designed to appeal to “everyone,” it’s unlikely it will resonate with or influence anyone. Thought leaders in finance—from Howard Marks and Warren Buffett to David Rubenstein and Ben Horowitz—didn’t gain a following by parroting conventional wisdom.
The article points out that another consideration that has marketers rethinking their content strategy reflects the effort required to create compelling thought leadership. This generally isn’t a problem for the world’s largest asset managers, who may employ an entire “newsroom” of ex journalists to churn out new articles, videos and infographics on a weekly or even daily basis.
The article adds that, for smaller operators, who don’t have these resources available, content can demand a lot of time and effort from key executives, who obviously have other day-to-day responsibilities. Even firms that hire an outside content-marketing agency will generally dedicate time to brainstorm on topics, conduct interviews with ghostwriters, and then iterate new content pieces before they’re ready for publication.
Given the effort required, those who move the effort forward will want to know that the “juice is worth the squeeze.” Web analytics can track how many people accessed the article and how long they may’ve spent on a given page (the implication being they’re actually reading the content). Online forms can also be used to augment lead-generation activities and track specifically who accesses a given article.
The article points out that, the catch is that it’s difficult to measure the extent to which a content campaign actually influenced a new client conversion. This kind of feedback generally stems from anecdotal evidence, when a new client proactively tells their relationship manager that they read or accessed a particular piece. It’s just as rare, though, that this positive affirmation ever makes it back to the marketing team.
Take dead aim
The article points out that these are issues aren’t unique to content marketing; but it underscores why it’s so important to have a very specific objective in mind when creating a content strategy. Communications teams need to identify not just the audience they want to reach, but also the actions they hope to trigger. The more specific they can be, the easier it is to assess the results at the end of and throughout a given campaign.
The article adds that most private equity firms, for instance, raise a new fund only every four or five years. So, their goals around content may be as simple as providing a touch point to stay in regular communication with their current investors, informing them of new developments and market trends and remaining top of mind for when the firm returns to the market to fundraise for subsequent vehicles. Other PE firms, however, may use content to reach business owners in specific sectors and facilitate deal sourcing. In this case, they can develop content that speaks to a very specific niche within a given sector. They can then pinpoint the desired audience for distribution and through a targeted email campaign, gain instant feedback in tracking open rates, inbound inquiries and ultimately new investments. Most investors would agree that if content helps secure even one deal, it’s well worth the effort.
As part of a recent panel on the topic of content marketing, one participant in the venture capital industry highlighted that they’ll go so far as to create content with one specific prospect in mind. He added that generally they operate under the philosophy that the firm’s partners will be “hand delivering” content to as few as two or three prospective founders in a specific industry. The ROI, in this case, is black and white: whether or not they’re successful in securing an investment. This kind of hyper-focused approach allows the marketing team to prioritize the topics being covered, the messaging or views that are most likely to resonate, and the specific call-to-action they hope to stimulate.
Value is value
The article points out that content doesn’t necessarily need to reside at the very bottom of the sales funnel to be effective. Even in the middle of the funnel, content can be an effective tool in stimulating or fostering a dialogue that allows the sales team to have more impactful conversations as they descend down the funnel.
With one client, for instance, we were able to create content that zeroed in on a very specific audience and need state—asset owners who are insourcing their investment operations. We then distributed the article through a sponsored campaign on LinkedIn that pinpointed the specific institutional investors who could access the thought leadership in their feed. Without realizing exactly how targeted the effort was, the targeted audience responded because the content spoke to a very specific scenario. The campaign, in turn, was able to deliver a measurable and material impact.
The article adds that it’s also important to keep in mind that even when a piece is created to address a very specific goal, it can still ascend “up the funnel” to catch a wider audience over time. Once a content piece is created, for instance, it can then be repurposed as a contributed article in a third-party publication, published as part of a curated quarterly newsletter, or distributed widely across social media or at conferences and events.
But to truly speak to a decisionmaker and drive business outcomes, content marketers should first have a sense of who they’re trying to talk to in order to be effective. This is why the focus is gravitating to the bottom of the funnel in conceiving and publishing thought leadership.
“Content marketing can be very effective for a company if it is don e right. It is just another example of how technology is not only making our lives easier, but is making products and services more consumable,” said Bradley Geldenhuys, Co-Founder and CEO of GTconsult.