Bad blogs and content marketing
The sound of the word alone is enough to make marketeers who managed to get in a boardroom wince and feel like they're just playing.
It doesn't have a chance does it?
The most embarrassing of marketing tools.
You're not even sure why you keep it or what it does.
And that's the problem.
What is a business blog?
When someone interested in hard numbers asks what the blog does for your business, you'd probably mutter something about brand awareness or personality.
No. A blog exists to attract new customers or leads.
Never lose sight of that. Be bold in that assertion.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking about how your blog has barely produced a reader, let alone a customer and then you'll automatically justify that by saying well, it never has any budget anyway and we get most of our actual leads from Facebook, or mail lists or wherever. The blog supports that.
You really wouldn't be alone with those thoughts.
In the digital dollar world of multi-channel marketing, acquisition feels like some sort of Tinder swiping game. Thousands upon thousands of companies flash across your screen for an ill-fated second, competing in any way they can for your attention.
No matter what channel, they want to attract you, make you want to know more about them. Like if they're cheap, or have good reviews, or were caught doing some really freaky shit by the local paper.
The vast majority of these companies simply pass you by. You know this, you've seen your clickthrough rate. It's estimated that 89% of ads aren't even noticed
Look at the competition for attention.
The viral campaign
The influencer campaign
Then, languishing in the distance, way down the scale of attractiveness is this poor soul, destined to the subject of much mirth in the groupchat:
In this vanity-driven acquisition arms-race, there's no chance of your blog standing out. It doesn't fit in. How could it? It's a bunch of stuffy words in creaky, half-optimised Wordpress CMS.
There's zero chance they can ever compete against Zac Giest the Meta Stunt, for attention right?
What do blogs do? What adverts do
So, you now know that your blog's an acquisition tool. But that in the modern-day acquisition arms-race, there's no chance of your blog standing out. And in fact it doesn't even fit in.
It doesn't fit in.
That's right. That's the point. It shouldn't try to fit in.
Repeat after me: Belinda, shouldn't be on Tinder.
Digital apps ain't the only way to meet someone. And digital channels aren't the only way to acquire customers.
Let's quickly cover states of awareness. You can't really understand acquisition without them.
They may be dressed up as funnels, customer lifecycles, context, but they're most insightfully described as states of awareness and have been since the classic musings of Eugene Schwartz.
His book Breakthrough Advertising generally sells for extortionate sums when a copy becomes available on Amazon.
After reading it you realise there's no single line of copy or rinse-and-repeat formula, nor acquisition channel capable of selling every time.
Your advertising efforts need to be focused on understanding what triggers your audience; different strokes for different folks, basically.
To codify that or make it a bit easier to work with, he divided the whole audience by their awareness of your product or service, their state of awareness.
If you want to know more about ad copy, stages of awareness and what to write in them, go here.
Here, we'll do a quick overview.
This person's useless. Conveniently ignore them. They don't belong in the genepool, but rather primordial soup.
Your prospect reckons they've a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
The key to acquiring these attention starved problem-aware people is pain. Share it. Let them know you know about it. If you do that it's much easier to make them believe there's a solution.
If you do that, it's much easier to make them believe there's a solution.
These lucky people know there's a solution, but don't know your product provides it.
Social proof or USPs are the chat up lines of choice.
Do that well enough and you move people to product aware.
Your prospect knows what you're selling, but isn't quite ready to commit.
Most digital ads look to acquire these people.
The copy flirts with features and benefits to show you're more attractive than the competition.
Do it right and you'll seal the deal.
Your prospect wants your product, and is about to get it. This person means business. They want to take you home.
This person means business.
They want to take you home.
Because Mr Schwartz was plying his trade in the 60s he discusses the nuances in terms of print advertising. But he pontificates at length about understanding the needs of the reader and delivering it to them. Visionary quotes that now define copywriting and advertising:
Ads... take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires into a particular product…. You just need to pick the most urgent desire.
The copy writer in his work uses three tools: his own knowledge of people’s hopes, dreams, desires and emotions; his client’s product; and the advertising message, which connects the two.
Basically he is saying on one hand, you have people with needs and on the other, you have companies with products. The copy then connects the two in the most natural and obvious way depending on their awareness. A match made in marketing heaven.
Sounds like ad copy and blogs could do the same thing, then? Like your blog has the potential to be an acquisition tool after all?
In fact, blogs should do it better than any other acquisition channel.
Blogs, lube and funnels
So, back to Belinda Blog. Who, remember shouldn't be on Tinder.
She's most appealing to the problem-laden. And LOTS of people have problems. Just ask 2020.
The numbers look something like this:
People with problems your product can solve
People trying to buy your product
And because of the lack of attention they get, the problem-aware audience is cheaper and easier to acquire.
That's simple funnelling right?
But moving them through the funnel is rarely simple. Ask another acquisition channel to move people through all 5 stages of awareness for you.
Want to try and nail a viral stunt 5 times in a row? Just use that luck to buy a lottery ticket instead.
Want to run five targeted TV commercials? Can I have your budget, please?
Want to go through the five stages with PPC? Maybe, but watch out you don't get cockblocked by an adblock.
Want to teach an instagram influencer to count up to five? Not me.
It's part of the reason CRM programmes are so expensive.
In Mr Schwartz's time all the funnel sliding happened simultaneously. It was the halcyon days of direct response ads.
In the halcyon days of uber precise digital targeting, we'd call that spammy and clunky and ultimately ineffective. Well, we'd call it offensive misogyny, but from a format point of view, we'll stick with spammy.
Spammy and clunky to the ad-savvy sceptic it may be, but outdated? It's not. (I'm talking about the format again!). Direct response landing pages like this still exist. In fact they're highly effective and convert problem-aware audiences quicker than lysol kills germs. Seriously, they're tested to death and have some of the highest conversions you'll ever find on a cold audience.
This is how we acquire customers. This is how marketers sell.
They move people through the stages.
They get people to know you.
They get people to like you
They get people to trust you.
Any marketing acquisition has to be set up to at least play it's part in this selling process.
Now, I love direct response copywriting . I've done a few of these money-making mammoths, but I'd rather use a butt-ugly blog for the purpose of moving people through the stages of awareness, from the cusp of being totally unaware, to the cusp of purchase.
Your business blog is the best way to get people to know, like and trust you. And that can take you beyond attraction. Beyond acquisition. You can seal the deal with that.
That's right. Your blog that you tell the moneymen you use for brand *cough* awareness is the BEST acquisition channel you have for persuading anyone who can actually buy from you to buy from you.
So, why are most blogs so rubbish?
There are 2 really big reasons most blogs are a waste of time and why they don't garner attention nor acquire customers.
The first we've already touched on. Marketers don't plan to acquire customers with their blog. In fact they make every excuse to not acquire customers with their blog. You'll find even if there is a strategic thought put into acquisition, the blog is relegated to some sort of support role.
"Ooh, we can write a blog and put a link in."
At the risk of being the only person less sexy than Belinda Blog, I'm gonna misquote Benjamin Franklin: If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail.
Plan to acquire customers
We'll talk about content strategy in detail another time, and you can get Topic and Cluster SEO basics here, but just one simple single pain-point planning session, could identify any number of high-intent, low volume longtails.
One afternoon could produce a linkable asset capable of getting you 30 or so juicy backlinks and referral traffic.
Getting a few analytics goals set up to track content journeys and inform the site design you need to move people down the funnel doesn't take long at all.
After finishing the post. Take an hour or so to actually read it. IS it dull? Even if it's informative. Why would you not write posts in a voice that strives for familiarity and builds mentality availability?
It all seems like extra work. Just for a blog.
But you'd do it for other acquisition channels. You'd do it all if you were spending a budget (hopefully) and hoping for immediate ROI. Well, if you don't do it for your blog, budget or not, you'll also simply be hoping for ROI.
The second problem is a direct result of short-term, instant hit, Tinder thinking.
How to sell in your blog
You know blogs. You know that they are meant to acquire customers.
You've done your marketing job right? You've taken everyone who could possibly be interested in your product and made them aware of it in a timely manner. All that is left now is to do the deed. Seal the deal.
Have you ever looked at your blog's conversion rate? Have you ever even tried to work it out?
It's probably pitiful.
Marketing managers, MDs, money counters have so little time for content marketing and blogs because they don't understand their purpose as an acquisition tool.
They just see the blog's conversion. So little. So, so little compared to ad/landing page combos.
But you can't blame them. You probably have the same thought niggling in the back of your mind - even if you understand what you are trying to do with your blog strategy. It's hard to argue with numbers, isn't it.
In a bid to boost that rate, some really desperate stuff happens.
Ever read a blog that's basically a landing page? They get really cunning and let Belinda keep her same longtail title locks and Shutterstock smile, but stuff their high converting body text under her blouse and festoon her face with flashing CTAs?
It's one of the most common issues with converting via content. You do all the hard work, make all the connections, build all the trust and then shatter it by having a huge break in tone between your content-led approach and your conversion landing page.
You can understand why it happens, right? The prospect is ready to be sold to, so let's roll out our hottest, drop-dead gorgeous conversion copy. Cor, look at the size of those CTAs.
In fact that's one of the only ways you can mess it up.
Think about acquisition like the dating game again.
Your prospect and Belinda have been spending a lot of time together. It's going well. They think they may have a future with her, perhaps some ugly kids and a dog.
The prospects sat there, in a quiet booth in a pub, fingering a bottle of overpriced cider waiting for Belinda to meet them. Then WTF. An obscenely attractive girl slides in and bounces to a stop.
After dropping their bottle in a klutz of fizz and taking a few seconds to find her eye-level, your prospect asks… 'er… ahem...gulp... where's Belinda?'
Yes, ok, everyone else in the pub may be thinking: holy shit look at her. I really want to seal the deal with her.
But your customer is thrown off. They were expecting Belinda. They wanted Belinda. They're also thinking... 'Sure, she's amazing to look at. Why is she interested in me?'
'What's the catch?'
'Is she gonna screw me over?'
And that's the crux. Suspicion is THE great enemy of conversion.
Consistency is king when it comes to conversion. Know. Like. Trust. You cannot switch tone or technique at the crucial moment. Trust broken. Relationship over. Acquisition ended.
It happens because marketers are thinking like marketers. Especially like digital marketers. They want that sweet, sweet instant gratification. But that's just not how all acquisition has to work. Remember, Belinda shouldn't be on Tinder. And you shouldn't bolt-on the direct tactics that work elsewhere in acquisition land your blog.
How do you sell in your blog tone then?
It's really simple. Just be yourself, Belinda.
Even at the most-aware stage, when the customer really wants to take you home, just keep doing what you have always done. Maybe emphasise the reasons they have got to know like and trust you. Just remind them, that you've gone from not knowing each other to thinking about each other all the time.
Again, it's copywriting basics, just in your own words.
- Remind them of their initial problem
- Get them to imagine the future with you and without that problem.
- You could even try a subtle whisper in the ear to emphasise their freedom to choose
It’s up to you. Whenever you’re ready. The customer still feels in control, there's less psychological reactance, they'll have a stronger desire to act. Really want to go full blog?
- Mention your imperfections
Honestly. Even if it seems counterproductive. It works on two levels. It's an emotional tug of the heartstrings. Research shows logical, two-sided arguments are more persuasive.
I'll write more on closing the deal in the future, for now I just don't want any of your hard work with content strategy to go to waste, and these few tips should be enough to help convert without resorting to your normal landing pages.
There's someone out there for everyone
This isn't a content marketing love letter. For many businesses it's not right (as we've seen it takes commitment) and a well-written ad for an impulse purchase in a product or solution aware market can provide more, or certainly quicker, ROI.
But understand that your blog is an acquisition tool, and it's not like the other acquisition tools.
Think back to what Eugene Schwartz said about companies using advertising to connect your product and your prospect in the most natural way – your blog gives you a whole world of opportunity to do that.
Just look at the first touch point you'll have with a customer; that crucial first date.
When you acquire at the problem-aware stage, your blog is there in the customer's moment of need. You provide value. They seek you out. You leave a good impression.
Compare that to a digital ad. A pop-up or post in a feed that is simply in the way. It's the acquisition equivalent of the ego-inflated irritant who won't stop talking about themselves.
Blogs give you a chance to develop long-lasting and meaningful relationships with them. It's how passionate companies with great stories to tell can outperform those with big budgets.
Content marketing efforts don't simply result in a Tinder one-time lay. You're building lasting relationships that will keep people coming back for more and more – and the trust you build may even mean some will get their friends involved (always the quiet ones isn't it, Belinda).
It's not gonna be a quick, dirty transaction, but a long-lasting romance.
There are 152 million blogs on the internet. And yes, most of them are embarrassing. But if you get it right, the don't only get attention and acquire customers. They build massive businesses.
Over 80% of top 30 websites are content sites, not commerce sites. The number is even higher if you include the sites that'd make Belinda blush.
It can't be that bad for business can it?
Let's chat about your SEO and content marketing
Nothing wastes money like chasing after free traffic and leads. The sooner you start your topic and cluster model, the sooner you'll get organic growth.GET IN TOUCH