These days, a blog isn’t optional. It’s the core foundation of an effective direct response social media marketing strategy.
To turn marketing into revenue, you must engage your audience with content that’s useful before you start to sell. Use your content to build trust, bring attention to a problem, agitate the problem, and then sell your solution. This works much better than agitating first, which more closely describes Thanksgiving dinners with an ex-boyfriend’s family and not how you want to market on social media. Creating a content plan isn’t difficult if you first set some goals, stick to a schedule, and commit to it throughout the year.
Let’s see how it works.
1. Set goals.
With an integrated content plan, setting goals for what is to be sold requires a specific, detailed approach. It’s important to begin with a clear vision of your desired outcome, then create content that supports it.
Do you want to fill a workshop or seminar? Encourage prospects to schedule a sales conversation? Book your catering orders? First decide your overall goal for your content. In this step, also determine the date the sale request will take place and any incentives you’ll offer to drive the sale home.
You can use your blog to offer value to your audience, establish yourself as an authority in the marketplace, share case studies to build trust, and get more leads for your business.
After you develop your goals, create a schedule and stick to it. Whether it be once a day or once a week, consistency and commitment are key. Create your schedule based on one you can stick to in order to build your audience and generate those all-important raving fans.
2. Create an effective blog.
To blog in a way that’s most effective and will give you the best end result, begin with the end in mind.
First, think of a blog as the editorial in your media channel. This is your owned-media. You control it, and you can use it any way you like no matter how big or small your audience is. This is where you can appropriately express your opinions on a subject as it might affect your target audience. Content should focus on your prospects’ interests and pains to zero in on what they find important.
Be sure to create a blog brand “voice.” A blog should have an overall tone or theme, or be presented in one person’s voice. Focus your brand around your Unique Selling Proposition to reinforce why you’re different from everyone else and how you can help solve your prospects’ pain.
Don’t spend time trying to be everything to everyone — that won’t create raving fans or turn traffic into buyers. Align yourself with a specific message that reaches a specific market.
Create an editorial calendar to plan topics that are complimentary to your overall sales goals and communications strategies. Entice the reader on each blog post with a sneak peak into next week’s blog topic. Make sure to stick to your schedule and post consistently.
After you’ve established your goal, create a theme related to your sales topic. For example, look at magazines. Each month, many magazines have a certain theme. For example, a sports magazine might have a preview of March Madness in its February issue. And while that February issue has lots of other things in it, it has a whole bunch of material related to college basketball.
In order to achieve your ultimate goal of a sale (or many sales), your role will shift to that of publisher and content provider while your prospect gets to know you.
Your next step is to develop four subtopics that relate back to the overall theme of your monthly topic. Each week will focus on a different aspect of your overall theme, and all will lead toward week four (or day four if you conduct this for four days in a row) when you’ll make the offer to your audience with a call to action. This weekly content planning will ensure fresh, relevant content is always being added to keep readers interested and engaged up until the point of sale. Each blog will lead to the finale of the item you’re going to sell.
One of the first things to do before writing any content is to make sure you do some research. Take a look at Quora, LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers, or other similar Q and A networks where you can find lots of people asking questions that relate to your specific industry. Identify their frustrations, objections, and pain points to address in your content creation. Bonus: You get the exact copy that people use when describing their pain points. This is usually quite different than the way those in your industry refer to it. Researching these questions may create some ideas and directions for content Also, take a close look at the links to content within the answers to these questions. Follow these links to see what others in your industry are doing with their content online. (Spying can be fun and profitable! Just keep those dang binoculars hidden.)
You may also want to set up and conduct a survey, or call your existing customers and prospective customers to find out what needs are unmet. When you begin to write your content, keep those unmet needs in mind. Use the information you collect to create a veritable library of remarkable content that’s designed to help your customers get what they can’t get anywhere else. Storytelling, testimonials, and providing something of value that meets people’s needs should all be included in your content.
Each post can be anywhere from 350 to 2,000 words. The length should depend on how long it takes to fully get your point across. Test what works best for your specific market, and be very wary of anyone who tries to tell you there’s one end-all-be-all for every market.
3. Write social media posts.
Once you have your content written, use this content as the source for your social media posts for the month. Engage your social network in an ongoing conversation focused around your topic theme on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other networks. This way, all your content is created with your sales strategy in mind. All your posts and articles are about walking your prospect towards the sale.
A guideline for content/sales online is that your content should be 85 percent PBS and 15 percent QVC, meaning that you shouldn’t self-promote or sell more than 15 percent of the time. If you post one update per day (recommended), then in each month, you should have no more than four self-promotion posts.
4. Automate publication.
On-time and consistent delivery is an essential part of making this plan work. To ensure this, schedule all content in advance. The last thing you want is to have a blog post or social media deadline sneak up on you with no idea of what content to use. Use a service like TweetDeck or HootSuite to pre-program all your content on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Schedule your blog posts and emails ahead of time in your application as well.
For blogs, you should post new, relevant content at least once or twice a week. Your readers should also know the day you typically post and keep to that schedule. Alert readers via email about any new posts on your blog and promote these posts in your social media network.
This blog is inspired and written by our friends at Entrepreneur.com