There is a big misconception that content marketing doesn’t drive sales. But if it didn’t work well, none of my companies would exist.
Content marketing is an absolute necessity for brand survival and I’ve grown each of my businesses through content marketing.
If you want to generate hordes of sustainable, long-term traffic without spending too much money, content marketing is the way to go.
At its core, it’s very simple:
Create valuable content for your target audience, and give it to them.
You’re on the right track if you are currently creating and distributing content. But for those of you not seeing results from these marketing campaigns, it can be frustrating.
If you’re putting so much time and effort into this, why aren’t you seeing results? What’s the issue?
I see this problem a lot when I’m consulting businesses. They don’t have a clearly defined content strategy. If this sounds like you, it’s important you read this post carefully.
It’s great that you are continuing to publish new content. But this isn’t effective if your sales aren’t increasing.
Sure, content marketing can be used for many different things. Primarily, businesses use content marketing to:
- generate leads
- acquire new customers
- increase brand awareness
- establish credibility
- engage with an audience
All of these are great and critical for success. However, you need to learn how to create content that directly drives sales.
That’s why you got into business in the first place, right? You wanted to make money.
I want to show you what types of content you should be producing in order to generate strong sales from the rest of your content marketing efforts.
Some of these might overlap with the content you’re already producing to generate traffic, but some will be new.
If you’re starting to see a solid level of website traffic but aren’t sure how to turn those visitors into customers, this post should help you a lot.
Let’s get started.
1. Understand how the conversion funnel works
Before you can create highly relevant content, it’s important for you to make sure you’ve got a firm grasp on the conversion funnel.
You’ll see different variations of this funnel depending on the marketing website or expert. It can also look slightly different depending on the industry and business model.
But for the most part, the conversion funnel can be broken down into three stages:
The top of the funnel occurs when a prospective customer becomes aware of your company. They’re conducting research or looking for an opinion. Basically, they need an answer to something, and they are seeking insight.
Once a consumer knows your brand exists, they enter the middle stage of the conversion funnel. This is the evaluation phase.
They are still conducting research, but now they are taking it one step further. Consumers are trying to decide whether your product or service fits well their specific needs.
Finally, the consumer reaches the bottom of the funnel when they enter the purchasing or conversion stage.
This is the area of the conversion funnel you need to focus on the most when it comes to creating highly relevant content.
The bottom of the funnel is your chance to explain to your customers why your product and service is the best for them. Show them how you differ from the competition.
Educate the consumer. Explain what it will be like for them if they become a customer.
Marketing campaigns that entice customers can include demonstrations, free consultations, free trials, estimates, quotes, coupons, and pricing. Basically, it’s anything to give them an incentive to buy.
Once you understand the conversion funnel and, more specifically, the bottom of the funnel, it will be much easier for you to adjust your content strategy accordingly to drive sales.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a B2C or B2B company, you’ll still need to evaluate your funnel.
Yes, you’ll notice some slight differences between the business models.
But ultimately, the funnel can still be broken down into the three stages I just discussed.
2. Create a customer journey map
Journey maps are a great resource because they take you through the buying process even further than the conversion funnel.
Your journey map will focus on events that take place after the purchase, instead of just before. While awareness and consideration will still be part of your journey map, you’ll also focus on your customer retention strategy.
Analyze how the customer behaves after their initial purchase. This is very important when it comes to driving sales.
That’s because you won’t always focus all your efforts on ways to acquire new customers.
In fact, you shouldn’t be. Yes, of course, new customers are great. But it’s less expensive and more effective to target your current customers. A journey map can help you accomplish this.
You’ll put yourself in the minds of your customers. Once you’re able to do this effectively, you can adjust your content strategy accordingly based on their points of view.
3. Track leads and conversions
Where are your leads coming from?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s a big problem. This is one of the reasons why your content isn’t relevant and driving sales.
Knowing how customers discovered you can help you understand why they made a purchase. Based on this information, you can create content that’s more specific to their needs.
Since the majority of the customer journey is done on the Internet, it’s easy for you to track their behavior.
The best way to track your leads is with UTM parameters.
Not sure what a UTM parameter is? Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple. In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen this before.
If you’ve ever clicked on a link from an advertisement, the URL will be long and somewhat complex looking even if you’re just on a company homepage.
That’s a UTM parameter. It’s a way for websites to determine where a lead came from. For example, did it come from Facebook, Twitter, Google Ads, a social influencer, or email marketing campaign?
You’ll have different tags for each distribution platform to know precisely where the lead came from.
Furthermore, you’ll have tags for each post within a specific platform. For example, knowing it came from Facebook is great. But where on Facebook? Which specific post?
You’ll be able to figure this out with your UTM parameters. It’s easy to set these up with Google Analytics.
Just navigate to the “Demos & Tools” menu and select “Campaign URL Builder” from the list of options.
Another reason why UTM parameters are important is because they can help you accurately measure your ROI.
You know how much you’re spending on each campaign, so you’ll be able to see direct sales results to measure how successful everything was.
Just make sure you accurately fill out the entire form so you don’t get confused:
After you fill out the required fields, this tool will automatically generate a custom URL you can use.
I could go on and on about this topic. But I want to stay focused on creating content that drives sales.
4. Promote diverse ads on social media
Now it’s time to take this process one step further. I’ve explained what you need to know about UTM parameters, but now you’ve got to put them to the test.
Social media is a great place to do this because you’ve got lots of options.
You can use paid promotions to target specific audiences. You just need to come up with ads that use different types of content.
Start with a hypothesis. What types of content do you think will have the highest conversions?
This will vary based on your industry, business model, target market, and other factors. But you need to make sure each campaign is different.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to waste money on irrelevant ads. But it’s important that you rule out content that doesn’t work early on. Remember, we’re focusing on relevancy here.
Then you’ll use the UTM parameters that you’ve previously set up to track how effective different ads were.
Now you can appropriately adjust your content strategy based on which ads had the highest success rates and directly drove sales.
5. Develop a customer persona
Now that you know which content speaks to your audience the most, you can develop a customer persona to improve your conversion rates.
This will help you learn more about the people you’re selling to. It’s similar to what we did earlier with the journey map, but a customer persona offers more detail.
Again, based on your findings, you’ll continue to adjust your content strategy.
Look at the factors associated with whom you’re selling to:
It’s much more specific to your broader target market.
That’s why you won’t just develop one customer persona—you’ll be building several of these.
Each one depends on many different factors. But ultimately, customer personas will help you develop relevant content strategy.
6. Take advantage of different formats of content
Don’t just stick with one type of content. Mix it up.
Some different strategies to consider include:
- case studies
- video content
This will vary depending on the platform you’re using and the audience you’re trying to target.
But based on the research you’ve conducted on your conversion funnel, customer journey map, UTM parameter tracking, and customer personas, you’ll have plenty of information for each type of content.
The best type of content is personalized. You can even use tricks such as storytelling to enhance your content. This approach will ultimately lead to more sales.
Research shows that generating traffic and leads are the top marketing obstacles businesses are struggling to overcome:
By diversifying your content strategy, you’ll increase the chances of your content appealing to a wider audience.
That’s because it will be relevant to their wants and needs.
7. Keep up with the latest news and trends
To stay relevant, you need to keep your finger on the pulse.
Understand what’s happening locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Keep your eye on important news.
Also, keep track of news and trends within your specific industry. Analyze your competition. Did someone else beat you to the punch?
If a competitor is having success with a strategy, you need to know about it. Find some accurate news sources. Subscribe to industry newsletters and attend events.
Whenever something major is happening that’s trending, you can use it to promote your content.
For example, do you remember the ALS ice bucket challenge craze?
If you were manufacturing buckets or selling ice, you could use that as a marketing ploy for your content strategy. Even if you were selling bathing suits, goggles, and such, you could get creative.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should try to take advantage of charities. I’m just trying to show how you can capitalize on trends and other newsworthy headlines.
Just be creative, and apply it to your content strategy.
8. Teach and make sales with webinars
I want to make this clear right away:
Just because a piece of content is geared towards helping you make sales doesn’t mean that it has to be a “salesy” piece of content.
It can still be highly educational.
The key difference, however, is that these types of content are suited better for making a sale than a general “X tips about Y” article.
I started this post with webinars because it is an incredible type of content.
Not only is it better from an education perspective (compared to most content), but when done right, it’s also better for sales—it can yield crazy numbers.
Let’s look at a few examples.
KISSmetrics has used webinars for a long time.
At one point they produced 77 webinars, which had a total of 155,386 signups.
Although only half of those who signed up actually attended the webinars (74,381), we were able to convert 16,394 of them.
That’s a 22% conversion rate (of the people attending).
Those results are pretty typical for high quality webinars.
A few other businesses, such as Adobe and BuzzSumo, have revealed the results of their webinars. Adobe reported a 19% conversion rate, and BuzzSumo gets a conversion rate of about 20%.
You might not get that high of a conversion rate right away, but it’s not improbable either.
There are few types of content that convert as highly as webinars.
I’m going to outline how to create a webinar right now.
What a typical webinar looks like: In case you’re unfamiliar with webinars, let me give you a quick rundown of how they are typically made and run.
A webinar is essentially a video conference.
The video feed comes from your screen, and only your screen. Then, your audience can join the “call” at a set time, and you can do a live presentation.
Typically, the only sound will come from your microphone, but you can have multiple people do the presentation or even unmute certain viewers if they’d like to speak.
The whole point of a webinar is to teach the audience about a specific topic. Usually, it’s how to do something.
In general, webinars range from 40 minutes to 2 hours.
Take a second to realize the power of webinars: you have most of your viewers’ undivided attention for over 40 minutes.
You can’t get that anywhere else.
Finally, most webinars focus on high level topics—strategies, not tactics.
So, while you won’t get a super detailed step-by-step breakdown of how to do one specific thing, you will get a blueprint of how to create a strategy to accomplish something much greater.
The key parts of a webinar: There are five main parts of a webinar slideshow that you’ll need to create for your webinar.
I went into much greater detail in this guide to webinars, but this outline will give you a higher level view of the whole process and clarify things.
First, you have the introduction slide(s). Something I haven’t really mentioned is that webinars can attract viewers who aren’t part of your regular audience.
So, while you’ll have some super fans on the webinar, there will also be some people to whom you should introduce yourself.
This reinforces that you’re someone who they should listen to and that it’s worthwhile to spend the next hour or so of their lives paying attention to you.
This is also the time when you re-introduce the topic.
Then, you move right into the core content, which is the meat of the presentation. It can take upwards of 80% of the total presentation time.
During this part, you walk the viewer through whatever process you’re trying to teach.
The most effective webinars are highly transparent, which is why I share a lot of personal company information with my viewers.
Transparency is especially needed when you’re addressing a high level strategic topic. With tactics, it’s obvious whether something will or will not work.
But with a strategy, viewers need real numbers and experiment results to prove to them why each part of the strategy is included.
Once you’ve spilled the beans and given everything you have to give, you need to look at some overall results that can be achieved if they put your lessons into action.
Finally, you can take a minute to make them an offer. It’s typically an exclusive offer that they can’t find on your website.
The more the offer is tied to the topic, the better your conversion rate will be.
The last component is the question period. You could do this before or after the pitch—it’s up to you. You could even do two question periods, one before and one after.
9. Get your product reviewed by influencers
One of the main reasons why your typical content won’t bring you any sales is because it doesn’t tie in with what you’re selling in any way.
For example, you might sell coffee.
And you might publish content like “The 5 mistakes you’re making when brewing coffee.”
Your readers might read the article and enjoy it. But what does learning about brewing have to do with buying your coffee? Not a whole lot.
And that’s okay—not all content needs to have a sales angle, but some content should.
The most direct type of content that sells is a product review.
But it’s also something you can’t really create yourself. If you make a new post reviewing your own product, of course your readers will assume it’s biased (because it is!).
Instead, you need to find bloggers, freelance writers, and journalists who are willing to review your product.
How to find content creators who will review your product:
To begin with, you’ll need a list of people who might be interested in reviewing your product and have an audience that contains your target audience.
For the rest of this section, let’s pretend that you’ve just released a new time management tool.
Now, you’re trying to get reviews for it, which will drive sales.
To start with, search in Google for “top (type of product)”:
Go through the results on the first page, and write down all the alternatives.
Next, we need to build a list of all potential sites and writers who might review your product.
To do this, we want to find sites that have already reviewed time management tools—specifically, those tools that you just wrote down.
One by one, you need to search for “(name of competing product) review”:
For popular products, this could bring up hundreds of reviews.
You’ll see that the top few reviews for a popular, established product are on big authority sites. In this case, they are on PC Mag and PC World, which are both huge.
It would be awesome to get a review on those sites as well. However, unless you have a well-known brand or a strong existing relationship with writers on those sites, it’s going to be difficult.
Unless you have a product that is very different from all the rest and revolutionary, I wouldn’t suggest trying to land reviews on those sites right away. You can try, but expect a lot of rejection.
Instead, I propose a more methodical and strategic approach…
How to maximize your chances of landing a successful review:
When you’re starting from scratch, it’s difficult to get a lot of attention.
You need to be able to prove that (1) your product is of high quality and (2) that your target audience likes it.
Essentially, you need social proof.
How do you get it?
You start at the bottom and work your way up.
Forget about those top few results when you search for your competitors’ reviews. Instead, dig into the 3rd page, 4th page, 5th page, and deeper results to find reviews on less authoritative sites.
Writers on these sites are sent hundreds of review requests every week, and they are much easier to convince to review your product.
Down on the 5th page for our example search, I found a Rescue Time review on an unknown blog.
They probably don’t have a ton of readers, so it’s not going to spike your sales. However, a review on a small blog can still yield a few sales, so it’s not like it’s a waste of your time in the short term.
Additionally, smaller bloggers often have a tight-knit group of subscribers. Sometimes, smaller blogs drive more sales than larger ones.
The best part about reaching out to a blogger like this is that there’s a good chance they will be happy to review your product.
I would find their email address and then send them something like this:
Subject: Content idea for (blog name)
I came across your blog recently and was impressed with your (competitor’s tool) review.
So much so that I’d like to offer you a free copy of my own tool.
It’s called (product name), and it’s a lot like (competitor’s tool), except that (how is it different in a good way?).
If you’re interested in checking out the tool or have any questions, just let me know!
Thanks for your time,
There are three things in particular about the outreach email that you need to understand:
- The differentiator – It makes sense to relate your product to your competitor’s so that the blogger sees why they might be interested in reviewing yours. But it’s important that you explain how your product is different and in which ways it’s better. Otherwise, why would the blogger try just another copy of a tool they already like?
- The free product offer – Let’s face it, the review is primarily for your benefit. You need to provide some sort of incentive. The most common incentive is a free copy or sample of whatever you’re selling.
- Not pushing the review too hard – Don’t make it a condition for them to post a review when you offer your free product. They know that’s what you want, and if they genuinely like the product, they will post a review.
Send out as many of these as you can to lower-tier sites.
Not all of them will agree to do a review, but you’ll be able to get at least a handful.
Next, you start to target larger sites.
If you started on the 5th page of results or lower, now you might want to try the sites on the 3rd and 4th pages.
The outreach emails should be similar, but you should also include a line near the end like:
Our product has already been reviewed on sites such as (site #1) and (site #2) and has been well received by their audiences, which is why I think your audience would also be interested in getting an in-depth look at it.
This type of paragraph introduces the social proof that you need so badly at this point.
The bigger the two sites that you include are, the more effective it will be. In addition, you’re providing reassurance that their audience will enjoy it.
Again, this will get you another handful of reviews if you contact 100-200 sites (10-20 sites for 10 competing tools).
Finally, you just repeat this whole process.
As you get reviews on better and better sites, start using their names in your outreach emails.
By the time you get to the top few results on the first page, the biggest sites, you should have some decent sites to include as social proof.
Note that this entire process can take months to complete. However, during this time, you should still drive an increasing number of sales with the initial reviews you land.
10. Design an email sales funnel
People put a lot of value and trust in emails. When they get one from someone they know, they usually give it their full attention and expect to take some sort of action. It could be just replying to the email, but it could be clicking a link and buying something as well.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s one of the reasons why email marketing is by far the most effective selling channel.
If you are going to leverage content marketing, you need an email solution. Without it, you won’t see a big ROI. I’ll share the numbers below, which will help you understand why you need to sign up for an email service provider…and you don’t have to pick one that is expensive either.
We don’t spend any money to acquire emails… our only cost is for us to send out emails.
We spend a bit under $2,000 a month for our email service and we send out an email blast every time we release a blog post. We also use it to announce webinars and send out email drip sequences to users. But if you are strapped for money, you can use MailChimp, which is free.
On average, we post one to two articles a day, and we try to publish a few infographics each month.
The end result each month gets a lot of traffic from our efforts.
How to get sales through emails:
The best way to sell most products through email isn’t by sending a random email saying “buy our stuff” even if that feels like the easiest thing to do.
Email gives you the opportunity to send a series of connected pieces of content to your subscribers.
You can use these to educate your subscribers, help them understand their problems, and then finally introduce solutions (your products).
A series of emails like this is essentially a mini sales funnel:
And it’s incredibly effective.
There’s no right or wrong email funnel. You might have three emails in it, or you might have 20. It depends on the complexity of your product, the cost of it, and even how advanced your email marketing provider is.
However, there are three general types of emails that you will want to include in the following order:
- Educational (first 1-5 emails) – You want to send lessons to your subscribers so that they fully understand their problem. For example, if you sold high end coffee, you might want to send emails about the health benefits of high quality coffee as well as how to tell the difference between low and high quality coffee.
- Product introduction (1-2 emails) – Here, you want to offer a solution to their problem (not being able to find high end coffee). You don’t need to give a hard sell; just make your readers aware of your product.
3. Product offer (last 1-5 emails) – Finally, you want to offer your limited time discounts or bonuses. This is more important if you’re selling something like a course that is only available during a certain time period.
While it’s not required, I think it’s also a great idea to add at least one email where you follow up with anyone who purchases something from you. It’s one small thing you can do to gain lifelong customers. By thinking of a sales funnel as a whole, you can combine all these emails to take your audience one step closer to a sale every email you send.
11. Use content to get access to your target audience
Blog posts aren’t the greatest places for selling products.
People reading them aren’t in a buyer’s mindset.
The same goes for many other types of content, like social media posts, YouTube videos, slideshows, and more.
The better plan is to use your content on these other channels to get attention (traffic) and then get that traffic onto an email list. Then, you can sell much more effectively through email.
Option #1 – Start with blogging: I love blogging because I’ve seen the power it can have to help just about any business. I’ve built multiple 7 figure businesses mostly through blogging.
But I rarely sell in blog posts. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I even mentioned my services in a post.
The key is that I have signup forms on my posts—any visitor can sign up for my email list.
If you haven’t already been doing that, I can help you.
I’ve written many posts on how to create blog content that gets attention and that will help you effectively convert that traffic into email subscribers::
Option #2 – Social media has one purpose: There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, selling on social media doesn’t work.
You won’t be able to tweet out a link to a sales page and get people to visit the page expecting them to be in a buyer’s mindset.
However, it is possible to send them to a blog post or a landing page where you offer a lead magnet, which will help you get them onto your email list.
That is the purpose of social media from a sales perspective (it’s good for other things as well).
Some social media sites, such as Facebook, even allow you to integrate your email list with your profile so that your followers can sign up right on the social networking site.
Otherwise, you can always just link to your content and drive your followers to a page that has some sort of an opt-in form on it:
Option #3 – Slideshows and videos: Besides your blog and a select number of social media sites, there are many places where you can find traffic that you can get onto your email list.
In fact, there are thousands.
However, two in particular are more commonly used for business, so I’ll focus on those.
Those two are Slideshare and YouTube, which focus on publishing content in slideshow and video formats respectively.
Getting a popular slideshow on Slideshare isn’t easy, but if you can achieve that, you can expose your slideshow to tens of thousands of people on the site.
Then, you can put a link to a page on your website (hopefully a landing page with a lead magnet offer) either on the last slide of the slideshow or in the description:
YouTube is similar. If you produce high quality videos consistently, you can get thousands of views on each of them.
If a video goes viral, you could get millions of views.
You drive traffic back to your site by linking to a landing page or blog post in the description of videos:
12. Focus on the types of blog content that convert
Although many types of blog content do not produce any sales, some types of content actually do.
If you’re looking to increase sales from your blog itself, start producing more of these types of content on a regular basis.
Content type #1 – tutorials: There are two main types of tutorials, both of which are great for selling.
The first type is where you explain in-depth how to use a specific product.
For example, I did this in one chapter of my advanced guide to link building when I covered how to use the tool ScrapeBox.
The key is to not only include incredible detail but also make it useful. Show readers how to actually accomplish something with the product:
In this example, I showed my readers how to find free proxies and build links with the tools.
This type of tutorial works best when you have a fairly well-known product already (most SEOs know ScrapeBox even if they haven’t used it). Because of this, this type of tutorial often lends itself to selling products as an affiliate.
The other type of tutorial involves showing your audience how to accomplish something. Then, you include your product in one of the steps of the tutorial.
A great example of this is Ann Smarty and her product MyBlogU.
She routinely writes tutorials on her own site and others and includes MyBlogU as a tool that will help the audience accomplish their goals.
For example, she wrote a post about how to write newsworthy content:
In the article, she mentions the tool as a way to accomplish a specific step in the process:
Content type #2 – product reviews: A good product review can convince just about anyone considering it to actually buy it.
However, you need to understand what a good product review is.
Most reviews suck. They’re incredibly biased, contain no actual detail of the product in use, and are obviously written just to generate sales.
A good product review is authentic and as unbiased as possible, and it’s clear that the writer has used and tested the product.
There are four main steps to creating a great product review:
- Pick a type of product in your niche (e.g., link-building tools)
- Buy the products you’re comparing (it costs more upfront but will allow you to write a credible review)
- Test the products (test the performance of each product in the way they are meant to be used)
- Quantify the results, and share them in a detailed review
Content type #3 – case studies: Finally, case studies are a great way to get new customers.
They consist of a detailed account of how a past customer used your product or service successfully.
They are best used for complex products, where it’s not clear to potential customers if the product is right for them or not.
HubSpot is a company that produces a steady stream of new case studies because they know they work:
There’s a lot that goes into writing an effective case study, which is why I wrote an entire post dedicated to showing you how to do it.
Content marketing is arguably the most effective type of marketing at your disposal today.
However, you need to make sure that you are using content not to just generate traffic but to convert that traffic into sales.
You need to make sure your content is relevant if you want to generate sales.
Figure out how to leverage different elements at the bottom of the conversion funnel. Then, create a customer journey map to give you a better understanding of the consumer’s wants.
Use UTM parameters to track their behavior and measure the success of different campaigns. Promote those ads on social media.
Once you realize which promotions had the most success, you can build customer personas to dig even deeper into the minds of your customers.
Use the resources, tools, and analytics I mentioned to identify the type of content that speaks to your customers the most. Adjust your content strategy accordingly.
Stay up to date on the most recent news and trends to stay relevant.
If you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this guide, making your content more relevant, you’ll see a significant impact on your sales numbers.