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3 Essential Elements Needed to Turn Content Consumers Into Customers

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These days, everybody is focusing on content marketing, but the cold, hard truth of the matter is that very few people are doing it well.

So where is the disconnect? Why is it that companies can spend hours upon hours investing in content creation, only to have their efforts fall flat with the audiences they’re trying to reach?

In my experience, the secret is that it’s not that their content is bad -- it’s that they aren’t crafting their content for conversions.

Think about it for a second. The reason you’re building content is you want people to take some action after consuming it, whether that action is sharing it socially, completing a lead-generation form or even making a purchase. With that in mind, it stands to reason that your content needs to encourage viewers to take these actions, whether through a subtle encouragement or an overt ask.

Related: 5 of the Most-Read Headlines -- And How to Write Your Own

If you’re currently creating content for the sake of creating content, asking yourself the following questions -- and acting on your answers -- will help improve your conversion rates and boost your overall content marketing return on investment:

Do I know who my buyers are?

Certainly, we all know that a big part of any effective sales program is knowing who you’re reaching out to and how to appeal to them specifically. But the same thing holds true for your content campaigns.

Imagine that you run a website that sells facial beauty products. As a shop owner, you’re proud of your environmentally-sustainable sourcing products and ethical manufacturing processes -- so you decide to create an infographic depicting these aspects of your business.

But what if it turns out that your target customers don’t really care about product sourcing or manufacturing methods? What if their biggest concerns are actually how to use your products and how your products will help resolve their skin issues?

Knowing who your buyers are and what their needs are will help inform your content-creation process, just as it can improve your sales conversion rates, and the best tool to help you here is the buyer persona.

There are plenty of different ways to create buyer personas (which, essentially, are hypothetical depictions of your target customers and include their demographic information, thought processes and more). Here are a few resources to help get you started:

Do I understand where my buyers are in my sales funnel?

That said, it’s not enough to speak to who your buyers are. You also need to craft content that appeals to them at each stage of the buying process.

Traditional sales models depict the buying process as having the following stages:

  1. Recognizing the problem
  2. Searching for potential solutions
  3. Evaluating the alternatives
  4. Making the purchase decision
  5. Evaluating the purchase decision

Keeping with our example beauty products retailer, suppose he sits down to brainstorm a list of potential blog post topics for the upcoming month. Since blog posts are an important part of any content-marketing campaign, he wants to be sure to use this space to engage with his readers and persuade them to purchase his products.

Related: 3 Fatal Content-Marketing Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Throughout his brainstorming session, he comes up with the following topic ideas:

  • Everything You Need to Know About Why Wrinkles Happen
  • Got Zits? The 30-Something Problem Nobody Is Talking About.
  • Moisturizing 101: 10 Tips for Winter
  • Are “Facial Scrubbing Beads” Bad for the Environment?

On the surface, these all look like interesting blog post topics, but do you see the problem? They’re all topics that appeal to the first stage of the buying process!

While our retailer could use the end of each blog post to suggest his products as potential solutions, there’s nothing in this list that would help a would-be customer compare his products to others. Short of the calls to action he might include, there’s nothing that will move readers further down the buying process by helping them to either make a purchase decision or feel good about the decisions they’ve already made.

Any of the following topics could help our retailer to round out his publishing calendar:

  • How Our Docosahexaenoic Acid Is Sourced (And Why That Matters)
  • Do You Know What’s in Your Cleanser? How Our Products Stack Up.
  • Sara’s Story: A Case Study on Natural Cleansing
  • Our Environmental Commitment: 7 Ways Our Company Gives Back

Have I incorporated an effective call-to-action for my desired action?

In the section above, I mentioned the potential for calls to action to help move customers through the buying process using content that appeals to each sales-funnel stage. But since this topic is so important to the success of your content campaigns, it deserves special mention here.

If you want your content to achieve something, you need to ask for it. There’s no beating around the bush -- either you ask directly for what you want, or you miss out on the potential your content has to impact your bottom line.

So what should you ask for? Every piece of content you create should have a desired action attached to it, including any of the following:

  • Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social site share
  • Email newsletter opt-in
  • Referral to others
  • Whitepaper download
  • Video view
  • Call placed to your company
  • Purchase

Obviously, you’ll want to match your desired action to the type of content you’re creating. As an example, you’ll get better results asking readers to share an infographic on Facebook or Twitter than you will asking viewers to make a purchase at the end of your image. But once you’ve decided on the appropriate target action, include a call to action that’s clear as day. If your viewers don’t know what you want them to do, there’s a very good chance they won’t do it at all.

Getting to know your buyers, appealing to them at different points in the buying process, and then asking them directly to take the actions you desire will all help improve the effectiveness of your content-marketing campaigns.

Now, I want to hear from you. What other steps have you taken to help craft your content for conversions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Related: 6 Predictions on the Future of Content Marketing for 2015