You plan out a whole range of topics for your business blog, or content-marketing plan but when you publish the pieces, your customers just flat-out ignore them.
No blog comments, no downloads, no social media love.
How rude, right?
You start to think…
I missed the mark somehow, I’ll try harder next time, maybe the topics need to be more controversial, or a bit wacky to catch their attention.
You return to the drawing board a little bruised, a lot frustrated, but determined to figure out how to make your content topics appeal to your target audience.
Well, you might just be trying too hard.
A content planning tip you won’t believe… at first
I work with a lot of companies planning content marketing campaigns and blogging strategies and a common request is:
How do we create lots of content ideas that are compelling and interesting to our customers?
And after I share my tip, there’s usually a little pause where they wait for me to give them the real answer, because what I propose is so flippin’ simple:
For a shortcut to compelling content, answer your customer questions – Tweet this!
Of course there’s more to it, but this simple process has helped business owners create 100s of blog post ideas in minutes, and small digital communication teams quickly generate (and draft) enough blog posts to fill their editorial calendars for 4 months.
What’s more, the subject of these content marketing pieces are ‘on-target’ content that appeals to customer interests AND business objectives of promoting services.
Maybe it seems a little glib that you just have to answer your customer’s questions to create compelling content for your marketing, so let me give you an example of how questions can make your content more interesting to your reader.
Creating content from questions during the sales cycle
You know what’s cool about content marketing? It can guide your customer toward your business before they’re even ready to buy from you.
That means you don’t have to narrow your marketing focus on “who wants to buy my product right now?” This can cause high-pressured, overly salesy tactics because your audience base is narrow and time sensitive.
But when you leave a trail of content which engages people much earlier on in the sales cycle you increase the number of people you can reach who may convert into customers.
In the days before the Internet, the sales used to look like:
- Problem / Trigger
- See advert / look for company in a directory
- Approach sales person
And many businesses only marketed to customers actively seeking their particular solution.
However, the sales cycle now looks a little like this…
- Problem / trigger
- Researching solutions
- Narrowing down the options
- Selecting a company / product
And at each of those stages, there are lots of questions your customer is having. For example:
Questions around the problem / trigger
Think about your customer at the point where they have a problem they want to solve or a goal they want to achieve. What questions are they asking?
Look at some of these examples:
- How do I avoid a repeat injury when training for a marathon?
- How do I study abroad?
- How do I get my business accounts organised?
- How do I attract customers online?
Once you start thinking about it, you will probably find a whole range of content ideas that relate specifically to this stage of the buying process.
Next up you have…
Questions when researching a solution
Your customer isn’t happy, she decides she’s going to solve this problem, or take action to achieve her goal. She moves forward in the buying process, and with that she has a whole host of other questions.
Let’s take the above questions and see what questions they might have when they start to search for solutions.
- What exercises can prevent repeat injuries for marathon running?
- What exams do I need to pass to study abroad?
- How can I keep a better track of my receipts and invoices?
- How can I improve my SEO ranking?
Grab your pen and paper and think about what questions your customer has now that they’ve moved into the research phase.
Questions about making a selection
In this stage your customer is better informed than when she started. She knows there are solutions out there, and now she has to start narrowing down the choices.
Following on with our above examples, we might have:
- What are the best marathon trainers in [LOCAL AREA] dealing with injuries?
- Which colleges offer [exam name] exams to study abroad?
- Which accounting software is best for small businesses?
- Should I hire an SEO company or do it myself?
Once you’ve hashed out a whole bunch of questions around this stage, you move into the final part of the buying process which is:
Questions about working with your company
In the past, this is where some businesses have started their marketing campaigns, but as you can see, if you wait until people know they want to work with you, you miss out on a whole range of people who may become your customers.
Still, this stage is very valuable because answering questions about your company is a way to build that like, know and trust factor. So here we might see questions such as:
- What is this personal trainer’s experience?
- Does this college offer scholarship programmes?
- Can I use this accounting software on multiple businesses?
- Will this SEO company guarantee me results?
If you take this approach to generating ideas for your content-marketing you might find that when you look at your current content, there are gaps of knowledge that you need to plug such as content for absolute beginners.
And if you want to see how some businesses are using content to answer questions after the sale, check out this example.
Have a go and let me know how you get on!
What do you think? How many questions have you come up with using this technique? Have you noticed gaps you can plug in your current content marketing plan? Let me know below…
Thanks for explaining this simple way to generate ideas, Amy. “Answer customers’ questions” sounds easy, but if you’re new to business, you may not have a quiver full of questions to draw from. Thinking about what questions customers ask at a given point in the sales cycle makes it all clear.
That’s true, when you’re first starting out it’s hard to know what questions they might be asking. Sometimes putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and actually going through the search process of finding a company that offers your service, and noting down what questions you might have along the way can be quite useful.
As far as content creation is concerned it’s interesting to see how so many companies and even individuals prefer outsourcing. An owner of a certain webpage chooses photographers, filmographers, and graphic designers whose job is to come up with interesting ideas that are consequently put into practice. After a certain time he or she may gradually take over that task and generate high quality content himself or herself. I’ve just read an interesting article about a guy who set up his business here in Canada and then decided to penetrate the online insurance market. He found a little company whose main area of interest is real estate and he entrusted its team with the given task and after a few years the guy runs a multimillion-dollar business. So this website was actually created by a company whose members didn’t know the interests of his customers in detail but anyway they were successful in the end.