When you're marketing to an audience that believes "what I've always been doing works just fine," it's hard to get the point across that there's a better way to live life or do business. Even when a business creates a product or service that solves a problem or opens an opportunity, sometimes, the market still doesn't realize that there's a problem in the first place.
This came up in a recent conversation with a small business owner. Once prospects sign up for a demo, his product has a high close rate: around 70% of demos turn into sales. Yet his sales staff wastes a lot of time making inefficient cold calls. Prospects just don't realize they have a problem until they see a solution in action.
This challenge can be answered with demand generation through content marketing. Demand generation is defined at length on my favorite resource, but here's the short version: demand generation is using sales and marketing tactics to help your potential customers or clients realize that they need what you provide.
Sounds great, but sadly, there's no giant "demand generation" button you can push to magically drop qualified leads from out of the sky (or the search engine). Demand generation takes work-namely, well planned content marketing, including a healthy dose of social media marketing and community engagement.
While generating demand through content marketing takes time and expertise, these 5 steps are a good start:
1. Before you speak, listen. In order to generate demand, you have to know who your prospects are-not their names and emails (though that's nice), but what they care about, where they're talking, and how they think. So dig around on places such as LinkedIn, Twitter, conferences, and networking events (yes, real life events), to find where your target audience is already engaged. With any marketing strategy, and especially social media marketing, it's important to listen before you speak. That way, as you create content, you'll know how and where to engage your audience.
2. Start simple. Approach your audience about the issues they already care about. Build a relationship with them both through social media and in offline communications so that they trust your business as a source of information and advice. Blue Sky Factory, an email marketing service provider, is excellent example of this. Their blog offers a wealth of free email marketing advice. While Blue Sky Factory's service and value proposition is complicated, posts like this one on how to successfully ask for and get email opt-ins focus on smaller problems that their target audience is already aware of. Regardless of what you're selling, focusing content such as blog posts and videos on smaller problems that matter to your audience will help you build a relationship with your prospects. Make them want to engage with you on social media because you're there to help them learn. Soon, your audience will view your business as a thought leader, and become your best marketers.
3. Distribute your content online. Posting videos on your website or articles on your blog is a start, but it's not enough. Find out how you can join the conversations you identified in step one. For Facebook, this could be an advertising campaign to drive fans to your Facebook page, on Twitter, this could be identifying the right hashtags to use, on a forum, it could be answering other's questions so that they'll respect you in return. Each online community has its own unique rules of etiquette that you'll need to understand before using that community to grow your business.
4. Get to the point. Now that you've got the attention of your audience, you can start building up the value proposition for the service or product you offer. Keep your messaging audience-focused-don't talk about why what you do is great, but why it's awesome for your audience. It's ok to include a call to action in this type of content, just make sure you balance content that's heavily focused on your product and service with educational content. You don't want to lose your audience's attention with too much self-promotion--that's poor social media etiquette.
5. Build a demand funnel. Your content should always give your audience, in real life and on social media, a way to learn more about what you do. This doesn't have to be-nor should it always be-a call to action. Instead, point readers or viewers back to a hub that includes a call to action. Whether that hub is an "About Us" page on your blog or your company website, here is where you make your pitch. Generating demand for your solutions with content marketing should result in connections that turn your audience into leads that can be nurtured, converted, or used to grow your brand's position as a thought leader. Of course, this doesn't happen instantly, but you should have a plan and a structure in place so your audience can reach out for more when they're ready.
These five steps are just the beginning, and each step could be broken down into its own post. We'll save tracking and analysis, another vital step of the demand generation, content marketing, and social media marketing process, for another post.