Every day the impact of COVID-19 is being felt more and more. The hospitality and tourism industries were the first to feel the force of it. But now, as the dust begins to settle, and the new reality of self isolation is taking shape, every business is realizing that this is going to hurt.
By now, for most companies, sales have come screeching to a halt, prompting business owners to wonder, “Is it time to cut marketing costs?”
Don’t turn off the marketing valve.
The reason CEOs and executives are considering putting a hold on all marketing activities at this time is because of a severe misunderstanding of what marketing is. They think it’s about selling. And while the end goal of marketing is to generate revenue for the business, selling is just a byproduct of effective marketing. It’s not the objective.
The objective of marketing is to build an audience.
This is why, over and over, content marketing proves to be one of the most effective ways for businesses to promote themselves.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is connecting with your audience by providing valuable, informative or entertaining content that gives them the tools to solve the crisis they’re facing now.
By providing insights and answers, you as an organization start to build trust with your audience.
As you continue to deliver what they’re looking for and exceed their expectations, you become top-of-mind for them when they’re ready to make a purchase.
To understand marketing, you need to understand the buyer’s journey.
What is a buyer’s journey?
A buyer’s journey is a framework to understand your customer’s mindset at different stages of their path towards making a purchase.
The majority of purchases aren’t made in the spur of the moment, in a eureka moment, where a customer feels a pain point and knows the exact solution they need and where to find it.
Generally a customer will spend time trying to identify and make sense of their pain point, asking lots of questions. Then they’ll start identifying potential solutions and comparing those.
Finally, the decision will be made based on which of their top solutions can stand out and make an offer the prospect can’t refuse.
TOFU, MOFU and BOFU.
The buyer’s journey should be thought of like a funnel. That’s because you have the most prospects in the awareness stage and a smaller and smaller segment progress to each subsequent step.
These stages are often called top-of-the-funnel for awareness (TOFU), middle-of-the-funnel for consideration (MOFU) and bottom-of-the-funnel for decision (BOFU). This is where the misunderstanding of what marketing is originates.
Most marketing initiatives focus solely on the bottom of the funnel. Executives and CEOs want to know how successful your initiatives were at making sales.
But successful marketing is about getting prospects in all stages of the funnel and, in fact, organizations that focus as much on TOFU and MOFU as on BOFU initiatives often find that their conversions rates improve and sales grow.
That’s why marketing is about growing your audience.
Why growing your audience now is important.
Today we’re in a situation where the number of people in the decision stage has dropped off. This is temporary.
By putting a halt on all marketing activities, you’re putting yourself in a position where, when things go back to normal (and things will go back to normal), you’ll have to build momentum.
Instead, you can come out ahead of your competition by building your audience and cultivating a list of qualified prospects that are ready and likely to buy from you.
A used car salesman is dependent on people walking onto his lot. So he’ll pull all the stops to get them there and once they’re there, he’ll do anything to keep them there.
When you build an audience, you’re building a steady, reliable stream of business for years to come.
And a pandemic like COVID-19 might slow that stream, but it won’t shut it off.
Build marketing personas.
Marketing starts with your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? What problem are they facing that your products or services are the solutions to?
If you don’t understand your target audience and the various personas that make up that audience, if you can’t empathize radically with them, see the world from their perspective and understand their fears and anxieties and what’s at stake for them—your marketing initiatives will always be relatively flat.
They come to life by radically understanding who you’re talking to.
Properly structure your website.
Structuring your website properly is going to be an important part of rolling out your plan. There are user experience (UX) implications, of course. But there are search engine optimization (SEO) implications as well.
First, understand what part of the buyer journey each page is designed to address. Some pages will be better suited for the awareness phase, others will be conversion pages.
Second, for each conversion page, like individual service pages, link a related cornerstone (or pillar) piece of content. Cornerstone pages examine topics in detail. For example, if you had a service offering of SEO, you’d link your pillar content, The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2020, to it.
Your pillar content is the page that will likely generate more traffic by its nature: it will rank higher because it’s richer in high-volume keywords and it will attract more links from other sites because its purpose is to inform.
Both of these (links and keywords) are important SEO signals. In the middle, you have the pillar page, with every other page in the topic cluster linking to it. The pillar page links to the conversion page at the top. As part of your pillar cluster, you might have pages that are designed for different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Third, around each pillar page, publish additional content on the topic itself, for example, SEO for eCommerce Stores, 5 SEO Trends You Might Not Know About, SEO Reports You Can’t Afford to Ignore. Link each of these back to the pillar content.
By structuring your content this way, what will happen is your pillar content will naturally grow what’s called its page authority more than the other pages.
By linking your topic clusters back to pillar content, any SEO equity those pages gain they will pass to the pillar content. By linking your pillar content to your service page, you’re passing on that equity that you’ve built to the important high conversion page.
Finally, in growing each page’s authority and funnelling that authority to your pillar pages, you are enhancing your entire site’s domain authority, which will make other pages easier to find in organic searches.
Create a content plan.
With your marketing personas and your site structure in hand, create a content plan designed to provide valuable content that meets your personas’ needs at different levels of the buyer’s journey.
1) Create content offers
Content offers is how you grow your list. You provide people with something valuable that they’re willing to give their email address to access it.
2) Choose a primary content delivery channel
Blog posts, YouTube (or Instagram) videos, podcasts. Which of these are you going to focus on to connect with your audience? Understanding who your audience is might be the deciding factor. The content you create will support and lead your audience to the content offers.
3) Build an editorial calendar
Strategically plan your content at least one quarter at a time.
4) Develop your content
Creating quality, valuable content takes time.
5) Publish your content
Make sure everything you create is properly optimized for SEO. If your strategy is to focus on videos or podcasts, transcribe them and publish them in written form on your blog as well so you can benefit from this cross-posting.
6) Promote your content
Your promotion should include social media, email, ads, as well as outreach for backlinks.
Nurture your audience.
Once people join your email list, this is a bit of a privilege people give you. Take time to think through how you’re going to provide value to them with every correspondence. Go back to your marketing personas and the problems they’re trying to solve and endeavour to give them solutions to their problems, over and over again.
At the same time, you don’t want them to remain status quo. You want to encourage them to take the next step with your business, not just because it’s good for your business but because it’s good for your customer.
Create drip campaigns designed to coax your subscribers to the next phase, leveraging unique, time sensitive offers that are crafted from their moments of crisis.
Keep your marketing going.
When you’ve built a list of subscribers who regularly engage with the content you create, you’ve taken control of the flow of potential business that’s in your pipeline at any moment.
Because you’ve taken the time to build trust, that’s an asset even a pandemic can’t shatter.
You were expecting a sassy blog from our Creative Director weren’t you? Nope, this brilliant article was written by our Digital Strategist, Thomas Gage.