Most content marketers don't generate sales, but here's how the top 1% fix it
Author Terence Leong
For the past few years, I have been hearing some business owners say things like:
- Not sure if it's worth paying for content when I can just do Facebook ads to get the sales running.
- Every month, I am spending $x on content, but no reach so far, so I am thinking if I should just kill the project.
- I am maintaining a blog, but I can't tell if these content are bringing in sales or leads
P.S. If you are a drop-shipper, commodity or e-commerce seller who serves an existing demand, probably content marketing might not be something you want to focus on at the moment, as there are more pressing issues at hand such as product sourcing, distribution, price points, promotions etc, and you know that as long as you get all these right, your product will sell by itself because there's already existing demand.
But if you are selling complex products and services or big-ticket items, your customers will have more objections and require more education. These are usually products and services like specific healthcare products, financial services, advisory services, property, educational courses, fitness programmes and so on.
If you are wondering why your content marketing doesn't work, you might want to read on more.
The explosion of affordable beginner-level viral content
In the span of the past few years, some of you might have discovered the magic of outsourcing work to freelancers on Upwork, Fiverr and other freelance platforms where you can pay less, save more time and get more done.
And the digital marketing scene has probably never seen this explosion of content before the rise of social media. We are all too familiar with content along the lines of "7 things ... you never knew". During the heyday of listicles, at the digital media we run, one listicle could easily bring in 100k traffic a day and hundreds of bookings a month.
Fast forward to now, you might have noticed that this type of content is producing less results for you and it might not even be bringing in sales.
So what happened?
1. You are producing the 10,000-th article people have read before. You need a precision strategy.
There is just way too much beginner-level content lying around, too many companies gravitate to hire freelance writers who are not smarter than their customers and expect to use that content to drive traffic and sales.
We are all guilty of this at one point.
For example, "7 tips for buying your home" – you probably already know what the content is going to be about: Find a property agent, choose a good location, assess the condition, assess the price, etc.
Your readers are not dumb.
How can they learn something new from your article?
Actually, each point about buying your home, for example, can already be a topic on its own. Give insider tips about assessing a good location with good rental yield, explain the signs of a bad property agent from the perspective of an experienced home buyer and more.
So don't produce generic content. Have a "precision strategy" and share content that provides your readers with knowledge beyond what they already know.
This "precision strategy" has driven millions of monthly traffic for us for the past few years even when there's a ton of listicles/content competition out there. Most of our content rank top 10 even for competitive keywords that are usually dominated by giants like Agoda, Booking.com and other high domain authority sites.
This is one of our top-performing articles on our site that generates 10% more conversions than other articles:
Being precise and giving insider tips add value to your prospective clients and helps build your authority.
2. Most people create content to drive traffic, few have a good strategy to build demand for their products and services
Many content creators (including us) tend to focus a lot on our engagement numbers and visits and are proud of it. But when we try to assess the sales, we often find it difficult to trace.
We used to think that content is just for branding and awareness, and somehow the sales will come later. We often have no idea where the sales come from and find it challenging to figure out what's the customer acquisition cost (CAC) from content creation.
While it's true to a certain extent, over time, it has become more apparent to us that this is a very dangerous way of thinking. It's not enough to just track bookings, report the conversion rate and call it a day, all while letting content creation have free reign, hoping that sales will go up.
This is a classic spray and pray content creation approach and we ourselves have also been guilty of this for years. Traffic and engagement numbers are good, but if they don't bring in sales, these vanity metrics are as good as nothing – we learnt this the hard way.
Something struck us when we were trying to help our clients do content marketing to drive sales (when we have a constraint on resources and a smaller booking window). We can't afford to create content that just drives traffic without a clear definitive strategy to convert traffic to sales.
So how do we create content that drives demand?
a. Instead of creating content based on keywords, focus on customers' pain-points
SEO strategists have been trained to look at keywords. There are also tools like SEMRush, MOZ and all. These tools may tell you what your customers are Googling for, but they don't tell you WHY they Google it.
Instead of jumping right into content creation, understand your customer pain points and intent. By doing this, you will be able to better relate to your customers and create a sense of urgency to induce immediate action from them. Content creation becomes much easier when you know what questions they are asking to solve their problem and why.
Reminder: Use content to build not awareness but demand for your products and services.
b. Instead of a spray and pray approach to generate traffic, focus on creating content that closes the knowledge gap
In this crowded social media space, we all tend to gravitate towards something that generates reach and traffic. But this can be a dangerous strategy. Why?
Because if the content you are creating is not relevant to what you are selling, you will be collecting many irrelevant followers who will not be interested in the products you are selling, thereby driving down conversion rate and increasing your ads cost. This is a great mismatch and one of the main reasons why some keep complaining that their leads are junk.
Instead, try to focus on creating content that addresses and closes the gap.
For example, most of us have heard of insurance or financial planning before, but few understand the exact lifetime benefits vs cost, if we are overpaying for our policies, or when should be the right time for us to make the purchase (and 101 other questions).
In short, we are not sure if we will be scammed.
This is a knowledge gap that has not been addressed (it mostly stays with the agents) but most insurance agents (and some financial advisors) are desperately trying to sell their products before the gap is closed. This will then be a hard sell and it rarely works.
However, if you create content that addresses and closes the gap, it will make your customers aware of the problems they are facing, handle their objections and concerns and when they are ready to buy, you will be the first one on their mind.
And the good news is that usually, besides building trust and demand, this type of content would also earn quality traffic. We call it "Top of funnel" content because even though your customers are not ready to buy yet, they are still qualified leads because the content is relevant for them.
Some common topics of content that addresses and closes the gap might be along the lines of:
- Addressing their common mistakes
- Addresses misconceptions and myths (why xx is not true)
- Address their fear/objections/uncertainties
c. Instead of creating content for keywords with high search volume, do so for keywords with low volume but high purchase intent
Most of us are taught to do our keyword research and shortlist keywords with high search volume, create great content and see if does its magic to bring in sales, right?
If you have been doing so, you have been doing your content strategy the wrong way.
One concept that I learnt previously from Grow & Convert totally upended my view on content marketing. I was totally blown away by how much sales it brought for their SAAS clients with this one strategy.
They are the top 1% of content marketers who generate enough sales that their clients are willing to pay USD $15k a month for their content marketing services.
Most content marketers skip keywords with low volume. Imagine the number of people who are searching for "Home fire insurance that is not Allianz".
The search volume may not be high, but clearly, this person who is searching for these keywords is someone already familiar with the products with a strong intent to buy (albeit looking for an alternative solution). It's very close to the bottom of the sales funnel, and it definitely makes sense to create content that serves their needs and position how your products can be relevant.
And according to our data, that's one reason why some of our high purchase intent content, while bringing in less traffic, generates conversion rates that are 10-20x higher!
Some common types of posts that target audience with high purchase intent will be something like:
- Comparison posts (A Vs B Vs C, which is better?)
- Posts that talk about pricing breakdown
- How to spot a good X (products and services that you provide, i.e. insurance policies, properties, accounting services, etc)
- How to solve a problem (where your products and services or methods can provide an easier way to solve it)
3. It's not good enough to just put a link in your content and pray that people will buy
You need a good lead magnet, non-leaky sales funnel, qualifying content that addresses buyers' objections along their customer journey, and retargeting mechanism to turn your cold leads into warm leads so that they will be ready to buy.
Here's an example of our lead magnet – a free content marketing e-book that gives our audience tips on how they can be successful in their content marketing journey:
This is not something new, but it's rarely talked about openly in the digital marketing scene, and few know how to implement a funnel that converts well.
They don't even teach this in a USD $1400 NUS Digital Marketing course (or at least not extensively mentioned for such an important module, please correct me if I am wrong about this).
I guess it's also because so far no one has really developed a well-established framework or blueprint that works across different industries or products, because well, each has its own customers' behaviour, and according to one friend who has been in this business for years, everyone has their own funnel secrets. But I wish it can be discussed more openly.
Content marketing is not a get-rich-quick formula
In conclusion, content marketing takes time, and it's not for people who want to generate quick sales or sell undifferentiated products.
So for consultants, coaches, agents, advisors or complex products sellers, if you are looking to build your authority, trust for your products and services, the next best time to do content marketing is now.
Reach out to us if you are interested to work with us to do content marketing for your business or if you want to get one-on-one personalised consultations with me on your business or digital marketing strategies.
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At Academy T, we execute on digital content marketing campaigns that stand out from others. Drawing from our experience of: ✅ 6 years running a digital media company TripCanvas that has attracted 70 million visitors ✅ Referring USD $2 million annual booking revenues for our 120 clients (including Airbnb, Marriott and more) ✅ Consulting dozens of established entities, including Indonesia Tourism Board and Malaysia Tourism Board Our expertise is in tourism, hospitality, and F&B, specialising in content marketing.
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