How Great Content Marketing Can Create a Repeatable Sales Cycle

Great content should attract more prospects and push current prospects further down the sales funnel.

Written by Joe Procopio
Published on Apr. 19, 2023
How Great Content Marketing Can Create a Repeatable Sales Cycle
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I wouldn’t say that content marketing is overlooked as a sales tool, but it sure gets done wrong a lot. In almost all the cases where I’ve seen content marketing fail, the primary reason for the failure was the lack of a coherent plan. And the ironic thing is, a content marketing plan is dead simple to develop. 

2 Things Good Content Marketing Accomplishes

  1. It persuades more prospects to opt-in to the email list.
  2. It push the prospects already on the email list further down the sales funnel. 

Content marketing is not a boilerplate exercise. It has meaning and purpose that goes beyond cookie-cutter blog posts and paid email lists.

But there are essentially just two parts to a content marketing plan. The first part I’ll talk about in this post: creating content that leads to sales. In my next post, I’ll cover the second part: tracking the effectiveness of the marketing.

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Why All Businesses Need Great Content Marketing

In 2023, I think we can all finally come to the conclusion that digital ads aren’t economical. They don’t work unless you have a ton of data and an equal amount of expensive data science. Social marketing has become, for lack of a better term, a dumpster fire crapshoot. Viral marketing and word-of-mouth can only take a business so far into its target market, and it does so painfully slowly.

For startups and other innovative companies, content marketing should be mandatory. Innovation, by definition, requires new methods, new perspectives and belief in new potential. Achieving that potential requires customer education, engagement, and trust. 

So let’s educate, engage and build trust.

 

The Sales Cycle Starts With an Email List

In a previous post, I outlined the value of a well-developed opt-in email marketing list

TL;DR: An opt-in email list is the flypaper that traps prospects at the very top of your marketing funnel and pushes them down that funnel to a sale (in a good way). The content is what makes the flypaper sticky. Without good content that educates, engages, and builds trust, you’re just building a trap with no bait. Good content marketing should get more prospects to opt in to the email list, plus push prospects already on the list further down the sales funnel. 

If done right, the result is a repeatable cycle of a perpetually growing list of prospects who are perpetually drawn closer to a sale. You feed this cycle with great content. 

 

Getting More Prospects to Opt In

Your content marketing can’t just speak into the echo chamber of your existing subscribers. The first step in bringing new subscribers to your list is delivering your content to the places those new subscribers can be found. That means that a public outlet for your content is a necessity, and the broader the reach to an audience that includes your prospect type, the better. 

The solution is rarely your own website. That’s just another echo chamber. 

At the very least, your content should be posted to a low target/low barrier-to-entry blogging platform like Medium or Substack. These platforms can expose your content to a large number of potential subscribers. Low barrier-to-entry means you just set up an account and fire away. However, low target means that, outside of some basic categorization, you’re just one voice out of hundreds of thousands, all loudly clamoring for attention to that broad and large audience. 

Other platforms and even social networks will allow you to reach a narrower target, like industry professionals and decision-makers, but the narrower you get, the smaller the audience. And usually, the more valuable that audience, the higher the barrier-to-entry in terms of who will let you publish where. 

The highest barrier-to-entry outlets are industry specific press and blogs, where you might be able to submit guest posts. The opportunities are limited and the hoops to jump through can be numerous, but the result is access to a larger number of high target prospects. 

Regardless of the publishing outlet, your content must include a link to a landing page on your website. And the first thing a visitor to that landing page should see is a form to opt in to your email list. 

But what about the content itself? What’s your focus there?

 

Pushing Prospects Down the Sales Funnel

The bulk of your content — everything outside of the title of the post and the SEO description — is where all the pushing happens. While the content should be high-level enough to attract curious new subscribers, it must first and foremost be valuable enough to engage, educate and build trust with existing subscribers.

I’m not a huge fan of the term “thought leadership,” because it sounds like hokey science, but I am a believer in the tenets. The content that a good “thought leader” produces focuses on the same thing your product should focus on: An elegant and innovative solution to an expensive and difficult problem. 

I can’t write great content for you. In fact, outside of you and your team, there will be very few people who can grasp the nature of the problem and the value of your solution. Can other people make your words more eloquent and effective? Sure. But the bulk of the content starts with you, your product and your company.

The scope of your content should be as limitless as the reasons you started your business. 

Write about the problem, its scope, how it manifests itself, the challenges, the costs, the flaws you’ve found in traditional solutions, why you offer your solution, how it works, what it does and why it’s better. The scope of your content should be as limitless as the reasons you started your business. 

If you are indeed offering a valuable solution to a broad and complex problem, the very nature of that kind of discussion and deep dive will educate, engage and elicit trust from your readers. 

But what about the new folks? How do you convince them to stop what they’re doing and listen to what you’re saying?

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Work Backwards From Your Content to Your Title

I’ve been producing content for more than 20 years, and I can tell you without hesitation that writing a great title is the hardest part of the process. 

I can write clever titles. I can write concise titles. I can write provocative titles. And I can write titles that perfectly summarize the content found underneath them. What I and every content producer has trouble with is writing a title that does all of those things at once. 

And the problem is, that’s exactly what the title has to accomplish. Because the goal of that title, along with the SEO description, is to attract new subscribers to your content and your email list. 

Executing a successful content marketing strategy takes time. Success doesn’t come with one blog post, or a few, or even a dozen or more.

On a personal note, I find it next to impossible to generate titles according to SEO rules – i.e. titles that read like every other cookie-cutter blog post title you might find in the wild. And while I believe that an SEO-focused title might produce the occasional one-in-a-million shot that brings in a viral windfall of traffic, I’ve found that the chances of that happening are quite low, and even when it does happen, the traffic it brings is usually low value, i.e. not a lot of those eyeballs stay on my content for very long. 

Executing a successful content marketing strategy takes time. Success doesn’t come with one blog post, or a few, or even a dozen or more. What you’re making isn’t a market, but a community that’s invested in your solution. So you’ll need to develop a cadence, and you’ll need to front-load your arsenal of content with half-a-dozen or more posts before you begin executing your plan.

In my next post, I’ll talk about that execution: How to implement a content marketing plan, track the results and expand the community, and I’ll also roam into other content areas like podcasting and video.

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