As the Co-Founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media, Andy Crestodina’s worked with over 1000 businesses to help them develop their content and conversion strategies for the web.
He’s also a highly in demand speaker and author, having written over 170 articles on content marketing topics for the Orbit blog and as a contributor to sites like Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger, KISSmetrics, Marketing Profs and many others.
It’s fair to say that very few people around have the impressive credentials Andy has when it comes to understanding content marketing and conversions.
While Content Marketing is on a lot of people’s radar these days, few have a good understanding of how content affects conversions. After reading the insights Andy shares in this interview, you’ll have a better understanding than most about this all important intersection of content marketing and conversions.
To start off, can you talk about why and how a business’ sales funnel influences the type of content they use to drive conversions?
The funnel is filled with your prospects, right? But if you look at it from another perspective, it’s filled with something else: content ideas.
The key is to understand who is in there and what they’re looking for. Think of it this way, prospects move down the funnel when their questions are answered and their objections are addressed. In other words, if they find the right content, they continue on down the funnel. If they don’t, they slow down, stop or leave completely.
So the funnel is really the secret source of your best content. Here are some examples of the questions that prospects in your funnel may be asking themselves:
- Who else uses this product/service? What do they think of it?
- Do I really need this? What happens if I don’t use this product/service?
- What are the costs, timeframes, alternatives, competitors, etc?
The problem is, they may not be asking these questions out loud to your sales team. Or they’re asking the sales team but the marketing team never hears about it. So these questions never lead to content and the answers never get published.
To take advantage of it, you need to connect two dots: sales and marketing. In a small business, these might be the same dot. But in a bigger company, you may need to formalize a process. Either way, this is online/offline conversion optimization. Few companies do it well. Most companies don’t do it at all…
What do you see as being the biggest difference between the companies that do online/offline conversion optimization well and those that don’t? Can you share an example of a company that does it well?
The companies doing it right are usually the ones that have done great offline marketing for years. We work with a division of Prudential that has a printed quarterly newsletter that their audience loves. People get mad if it comes late. Now they’re moving some of that content online, breaking it up into rank-able, sharable assets. We used the Periodic Table of Content as a guide to help them “atomize” their content.
They break up articles and send industry-specific content to subsets of their list. These emails always come from the investment professional who has a relationship with those subscribers. So it’s targeted and personalized.
Ironically, taking a traditional marketer online is easier than moving an online marketer into offline marketing.
You mentioned that prospects move down the sales funnel when their questions are answered and their objections are addressed. Let’s start talking specifically about the different parts of the funnel. Can you talk about the top of the sales funnel and what content works best there to get prospects moving on to the next part of the funnel?
The main top-of-funnel question is What do you do? …and amazingly, lots of sites get this wrong. Every homepage needs to answer this question quickly and in plain English, what product or service is offered. And since your website’s navigation is so prominent, this is a good place to start.
If you’re a dog walker and your website has a page called services, why not rename it dog walking? If you do more than just dog walking or work with lots of pets, you can rename this page pet services. This communicates faster, lowers your bounce rate and increases your conversion rate. It’s also a good thing for SEO.
If your website navigation looks like this: home | services | about | blog | contact …you’re missing a chance to answer a top-of-funnel question. This is one of many reasons to use descriptive navigation labels.
After you make your site’s navigation more descriptive, what would you recommend focusing on next? How else can a business clearly and effectively communicate what they do to prospects? Are there any specific content formats that are particularly effective for this part of the funnel?
Visitors in the middle of the funnel typically need two things: evidence and answers. The evidence that you’re legitimate is usually provided as social proof such as testimonials. The trick here is to put them as close as possible to the product or service they relate to, ideally on the same page.
This way the “what you do” is right next to the “how well you do it.” Don’t expect visitors to connect the dots themselves, finding services on one page and then clicking over the testimonials, scrolling down and finding some evidence that you provide that specific service well.
Never make a testimonials page. Make every page a testimonials page!
Visitors in the middle of the funnel also need answers to specific questions that vary from business to business. If it’s a transactional sale, they may want pricing up front. If it’s a consultative sale, they may want numbers and data showing ROI. It all depends on the business.
The idea is to get common questions from the sales process answered up front in the marketing content.
Finally, the bottom of the funnel really benefits from trust-building content. Here’s where upgrading the format can really help. Video of company leadership is really powerful, because it brings the non-verbal aspects of communication into your content: body language and tone of voice.
This works well on an About page where the content explains why you’re in business. This is where storytelling comes in, that ancient and powerful form of content. Tell visitors what you believe. Your culture, passion and values. Make them feel something.
Combine the format of video with the voice of a storyteller and you’ll build trust… and conversions.
At the bottom of the funnel, you want to drive visitors to action. You mentioned video and storytelling already, what other types of messaging and content formats work well at the bottom of the funnel?
I believe that team bio pages build trust that can impact conversions. People buy from people, so humanizing your site is good for lead generation. Content on these pages should have a very personal voice and get to the passion for the team member. Here’s some advice that literally came off of a motivational poster…
“No one cares what you know until they know that you care.”
Cheesy, yes, but also important for building trust! Here are a few other content types and formats…
- Buying Guides: rather than having them go look at the competition, show them the competitive set right there on your site.
- Video Testimonials: the atomic bomb of trust-based content.
- Scarcity: anything that shows a limited time or limited supply will increase conversions.
- First Person Calls-to-Action: I don’t have data on this, but my gut tells me that a second-person voice is great for copy (See visual reports of your visitors’ behavior) and than first person voice is best for conversion buttons (Show me my heat map).
If anyone has seen a study on that last point, please share!
Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. You are welcome to connect with Andy on Google+ and Twitter.
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