When businesses decide to enter the online marketing sphere, one of the first things they’re bound to notice is how crowded with content the web is. And while the bulk of that content is garbage, garbage is loud. Online content marketing programs help firms avoid becoming a part of the mindless static of the internet. It’s hard work.

When you’re developing a program that rises above the noise of competitors clamoring for buyers’ attention, it boils down to this: If you want to get and hold customers’ attention, you need compelling, purposeful content and effective, scaled distribution. And you must have both. One without the other won’t work.

Creating the right content

It’s not enough to start a company blog and shovel anything that comes to mind up on the site. For content to do what it’s designed to do —generate better leads and ultimately spur more business— it needs to speak to a target audience in meaningful ways. Know your customer. Know what motivates them. Know the questions they ask and supply the answers. Know their pain points and illustrate how you can alleviate them. Also understand that leads come from different niches or disciplines. If you develop content that covers all buyers’ bases, you cast the widest net possible and increase the chance to drive more business.

Tailor content to the sales cycle

The best way to hold buyers’ attention against competitors is to become more guide than salesperson. That’s where developing content to target different stages of the buyer’s journey comes in. It might look like this:

  • A possible lead researches a topic and comes across an informative article on your blog.
  • The lead is intrigued and wants to know more, so she downloads a white paper with more in-depth information.
  • Now she wants to see real-world examples so she can apply your product or service to her specific needs, so she reads real-world case studies.
  • Maybe she’s not ready to pull the trigger, but she can stay up to date with news and trends by subscribing to your newsletter.
  • If she’s ready to talk numbers, she requests a quote.

Not all buyers’ journeys are identical, so you’ll need to adjust what you offer to make it as useful for the folks you’re targeting as possible. But the point is to have information available for leads at all stages of the sales cycle. For example, if a potential lead comes across useful information about your product or process but can’t fully understand how she can apply it to her business, she may abandon you for someone else who can clearly illustrate what’s next.

Using email effectively

A smorgasbord of useful content that targets leads at different stages of the sales cycle is only as useful as its delivery. Data keeps showing that the return on investment for email lead nurturing is astronomical in relation to the cost to maintain it. Even the bare minimum —a monthly newsletter and nothing more— keeps the line of communication open between you and your leads as they make their way through the sales funnel.

But you can drive serious business when you drill down deeper, applying email marketing strategy to your content marketing program. For example, when a lead fills out a form and downloads a white paper from your site, you can set up a trigger to send an email to the lead with additional information about your related products or services.

Similar triggers can be applied to RFQs, supplying leads with additional educational content they can consume while they wait for a contact from your sales team. Simply put, for just about every stage in the sales cycle where there is targeted content and a call to action, there is an opportunity to send a targeted email. Setting up these programs requires some time and resources, but the opportunities that come along with them are too good to ignore.

Analysis: Is it working?

All this may sound logical in theory, but theories don’t keep businesses afloat. Results do. Web metrics provide critical information about the traffic on your site while email engagement metrics can determine whether your emails and content are effective. For example, open rate and click rate tell you whether your contacts find value in the content you send them. Armed with this information, you can then tweak your program to better serve the leads you’re trying to guide through to sale.

Stick to the program

The hardest part of having content and email marketing programs is keeping them going. The intended results won’t be instantaneous. But a cardinal rule in content marketing is that if you want it to work, you have to give it enough thought and enough time. It’s far more than just saying “Hey, we’re here!” over and over.

Outsourcing to a marketing agency may be the answer, and its benefits are clear:

  • Full-time marketing agency staffs aren’t juggling between marketing duties and other tasks the way in-house employees might be.
  • Agencies have experience with many different clients, bringing experience and insight into what works to each new customer.
  • These teams are well-versed in analyzing data and using it to continually improve clients’ content marketing programs.

There’s no learning curve—the expertise, experience and measurement capabilities are all built in.

Looking to learn more about content and email marketing strategies? Check out our Hardworking Inbound Marketing Guide for a comprehensive outline on driving qualified website traffic, turning that traffic into real leads and nurturing those leads into customers.