When it comes to content marketing, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. From researching keywords and brainstorming topics to writing and distributing articles, the details can distract you from your long-term strategy. It’s worth taking a moment to remind yourself of the reason you’re producing content in the first place. In other words, let’s pull back the lens so we can see the forest.

First, content marketing has always been an indispensable tool for promoting products and services. This was true long before personal computers even existed, and will still be true a hundred years from now. Second, there are numerous ways to offer content to your target audience. Submitting articles to build backlinks to your site is merely one of them. Third, your content must earn. If it’s not driving a profit, there’s no reason to create it. The key point to remember is that your content can drive profit in a lot of ways, some of them very subtle.

Using those three principles as a launch pad, we’ll explain why you should focus – or refocus – your content marketing on three critical objectives.

#1. Push Prospects Through Your Sales Funnel

A lot of business owners think of content marketing as a straight line from introduction to purchase decision. That is, they write an article with the goal of motivating a person to visit their website for the first time and buy something. Here’s why that approach is shortsighted.

Think about the process you go through to buy a product. You may not be entirely convinced that you need the item. So, you explore the company’s website, and read articles that explain and demonstrate the need. If you’re unfamiliar with the company, you might join their newsletter, download a few of their white papers, and subscribe to their blog, where they occasionally offer case studies.

This type of high-quality content is essential to moving you toward a purchase decision. That’s the reason the company creates it. But notice that most of it is focused on increasing your comfort level, not hard-selling their product. The company is moving you through their sales funnel. The more exposure you have to their content in its various forms, the more likely you are to buy.

Use this same approach in your own content marketing. Realize that every person in your target audience is at a different stage of your sales funnel. Some are just discovering you, and need to be nurtured. Others are at the point where they just need to know how to send you money.

Different stages of the funnel need different types of content.

#2. Provide Useful Information Your Target Audience Will Appreciate

Clearly, you want to leverage content marketing to increase your revenue. It’s tempting to mention your company in your articles, blogs, and case studies. But doing so isn’t necessary. In fact, it comes across as overly-promotional, which is more likely to turn off your target audience than engage them.

The key to building your audience’s trust is to make sure every piece of content you create is useful. There are a lot of ways to do this depending on where your readers are in your sales funnel.

For example, suppose your company offers credit repair services. Someone who is unfamiliar with credit scores and how they are calculated might appreciate a short article titled, “7 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score Today.” This person is at the beginning of your sales funnel, and needs a gentle introduction.

On the other hand, someone else might have read your blog, along with a few of your case studies, and as a result, is much closer to buying your services. This individual needs something much more specific. An example would be a special report titled, “How To Improve Your Credit Score By 250 Points After A Foreclosure Or Short Sale.” The report would end with a push toward your services, along with the benefits of hiring you. Because this person is further along your sales funnel, “useful” content means something different to him or her.

This is the reason it is important to know where your prospect is in terms of being ready to buy. The wrong type of content will have little effect. The right type can clinch the sale.

#3. Publish Engaging Content Consistently And Frequently

One top-notch whitepaper isn’t enough. A single case study, no matter how good, won’t do the trick. A blog updated once every month or two will lose readers. You need to produce superior content on a consistent and frequent basis to engage your audience.

Think of your company as its own publishing house. Each piece of content you produce is focused on moving people through your sales funnel, ever close to buying:

– You create articles to build links to your site
– You send a weekly newsletter to your email subscribers
– You publish your blog two or three times a week
– You submit guest posts to influential blogs in your niche once a month
– You create case studies and white papers, and make them available on your site
– You send monthly press releases with news about your company

We’re merely touching the surface. The important thing to remember is that content marketing can be so much more than just submitting fodder to article directories for links. Major brands, including some of the biggest companies in the world, are increasingly using content to attract, engage, and ultimately move their audiences to buy their products.

Content marketing is more important today than ever. The key is to create material your audience craves.

Your Turn!

How have you used content to attract leads and build sales? How do you keep yourself on track to produce content on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments!

photo credit: An Archer’s Mess via photopin (license)