Content marketing has been a popular buzzword in the past few years. As true “editorial” inbound links, then later social shares, have become more important factors in driving traffic, marketers and SEOs realized that publishing interesting, noteworthy, and remarkable free content was a great way to attract visitors.
The idea of a content-marketing-driven funnel is pretty straightforward…
- Publish good content that promises value, and give it a promotional push.
- Visitors appreciate the content and choose to link to it or share it on social media, which in turn drives more visitors.
- You promote additional content, which could be an email sequence, video series, webinar, or free download, etc.. These are typical examples of lead magnets or ethical bribes.
- Require prospects to enter their contact info (usually email) in order to get access to the new, better content.
- Once they’re on your list, you can push a series of communications, which help to lead them down the path towards conversion.
So far so good. It means that businesses and marketers have invested a lot of thought and energy into creating “good content” that their target market should like, with mixed success.
But there’s a problem. It is perfectly possible to do all the right things, following the steps above perfectly, and to get zero business benefit (i.e. conversions).
How? Well, first you need to understand that not everyone in your target market is equal.
What’s your target market? Let’s say you’re a web designer, and you decide your target market is, “Small businesses in my town.”
You get to choose your market, right? But you also need to consider that there’s a difference between everyone who could hire you and those who should hire you.
- For example, in your town there are probably plenty of businesses that already have websites that they paid for recently. They don’t want a website right now. So are they in your target market? Not really.
- How about small home-based businesses that are only turning over a small monthly figure? If you want to sell websites for $1000 upwards, you are not going to persuade a business that only makes a few $100s profit per month to invest several months’ profits. So you should discount them as well.
- And there may be businesses that deal only in e-commerce, or with a foreign-language market. Unless you specialize in those niches, those guys are not in your target market.
- What’s more, if you were to take a step back and look at how much time you spend on those $1000 websites compared to the $2000 websites you’ve built, you may realize that, in fact, it simply isn’t worth your time to offer those $1000 sites, because they take just as much time and ballache to deliver as one that delivers far more profit. So perhaps you should be refining your target market more.
If we started with a broad description: “All small businesses in my town” as your target market, that represents the whole archery target. But if you hit the edge of the archery target, guess what? You don’t score anything! You’ve wasted your shot!
What we’re doing here may seem negative, but in fact is very positive. By carefully restricting your highest-value target market, you will be able to get maximum value from your marketing.
Who’s Your High-Value Target?
What you should be doing in business is identify the subset of your market that represents your ideal clients. Your ideal clients may be the ones who will…
- Be easier to sell to
- Cause the minimum trouble
- Pay higher fees
- Buy more frequently
- Make great case studies
- Fit your skillset and experience
- And be great referrals in future
Once you get picky and start to distinguish your most profitable targets from your less profitable (or unprofitable) ones, you’re in a position to do better targeting.
Better targeting really means shooting for the bullseye with a laser-targeted sniper rifle, instead of settling for aiming for the whole target with a blunderbuss or splurge gun.
It may seem counter-intuitive to constrain and reduce your target market — but it isn’t!
Speak to any AdWords consultant, and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest mistakes beginners make in pay-per-click is to aim too broad.
In fact, fine-tuning your target market can make all the difference, helping to get you more sales, as well as dramatically driving up your average sale value and your profits.
>> See Ben Hunt’s article that demonstrates several reasons why a more focused target market can help boost your profits.
I call this principle “polarizing” because it works like a magnet.
Magnets have positive and negative poles. A weak magnet has a weak positive and weak negative, but a powerful — more polarized — magnet has strong positive and negative.
Here’s the thing… When you have the conviction to say, “This is exactly what we do, and exactly who we do it for, and this is what we don’t do and whom we don’t serve,” two things will happen…
- First, you will positively attract your ideal target prospect. They will identify themselves in your sales message, identify what they want, and be more likely to believe that you can help them (because you are specifically saying you can).
- And, in equal measure, you will also repel the people you don’t want. They will not identify with your message. And that can also help your bottom line, by removing time wasters and unprofitable (or loss-making) customers from your pipeline.
Bait Your Line
Now you know who you’re really targeting, how can you apply those insights in content marketing?
The goal is to publish offers that, by their very nature, will automatically identify your preferred prospects.
Speak to an expert fly fisherman, and he’ll tell you why certain lures (or ties) are perfect for attracting certain types of fish in particular conditions.
The same goes when you’re fishing for sales. You need to use the right bait to attract exactly the prospect you want.
Lots of people use a generic bait, that’s designed to appeal to the whole archery target. That’s a mistake. Because you’re investing your time, your energy, and often your cash to drive traffic to your content. And, because the content isn’t polarizing, you’ll likely get a lower proportion of your ideal prospects.
I’d like to share with you a simple process that I’ve been working on with my Inner Circle group, which is designed specifically to generate perfect topic titles.
The “Perfect Topics” Method
One of my favorite marketing techniques is to picture the ideal customer, after they have bought what I’m selling, and then to play the movie backwards in time and imagine what must have had to happen, and what must have been true, to set the scene for the successful conversion.
That trick can be really helpful when you’re planning content marketing topics.
What will have attracted your future ideal customers — the ones who are going to buy? I’ll share my thoughts with you here.
- Clearly, they must have a real need, and it must match a solution that you can provide. The need must be compelling and motivating enough to cause the prospect to take action.
- You must have earned their trust by delivering real value. (Guys, no “bait and switch” tactics, please. You may have heard that your free content should be “Interesting but incomplete.” However, if you promise you’re going to tell someone exactly how to do something, then tell them or you’ll burn your trustworthiness.)
- Your topic should specifically identify your prospect…
- By job
- By experience
- By gender, age, location, religion, interests, etc.
- Your announcement should be valuable and important news…
- Perhaps you’ll have offered to reveal something they don’t know, something that is new, or that has changed.
- Maybe there’s something they can do now, which they could not do before.
- Or there’s a constraint that they can remove.
- Or is it something that can now be done more effectively, cheaply, profitably, quickly, easily, or reliably?
- Could you show them how to avoid a risk or danger?
- Is there some pain or stress they don’t have to accept anymore?
- Of course, it should imply that you have useful knowledge and experience to impart.
- The problem that your topic identifies should be something that your solution can address.
- Overall, someone who is interested in the topic you offer must also by definition be in your target market.
So ideally you’re looking for a single line, your topic title, which does all these things.
Brian McFarlane is an expert marketer, and also one of my Inner Circle group members. In our meeting this week, we tried out the “Perfect Topic” method on one of Brian’s marketing propositions.
Brian’s business is ProfileSpring, which helps business professionals to sell themselves and/or their products and services more effectively on LinkedIn. He does this through helping craft compelling LinkedIn profiles and by training his clients in social selling.
We worked through the steps above. We started by identifying Brian’s ideal customer.
The broad archery target we started with was “salespeople or sales managers”, but we realized we could work inward, focusing down to a smaller group.
In fact, Brian’s ideal customer would probably work for a medium-sized enterprise. Smaller prospects probably would not be willing to pay the fees (from a few hundred dollars for profile work, up to several thousand dollars per month for on-going LinkedIn campaign management). And really big enterprises tend to play safe and not hire small outfits like ProfileSpring.
They also tend to be involved in B2B or corporate sales.
Furthermore, Brian communicated that his perfect clients tended to be pretty experienced in their field, with typically at least ten years of sales experience under their belts. These guys had seen many changes in the marketplace over the years, so they had a degree of pragmatism and wisdom, and their common motivation was often that they wanted to find new, effective ways of selling.
Then, Brian hit on the seam of gold! As he was describing the scenario his ideal prospects find themselves in, he said,
“Their traditional sales methods are dead.”
That was the hook we were looking for! There was a problem, and it was time-based. Something used to work, and doesn’t anymore. Perhaps we could explain why those methods no longer worked?
We needed to include “corporate sales” specifically, so it became…
“Why Your Traditional Corporate Sales Methods Don’t Work Anymore”
But then we wanted to isolate those sales professionals who had been in the business for several years, so we adapted the topic title further…
“Why the Traditional Corporate Sales Techniques You Used Successfully in 2005 Don’t Work Anymore”
(You could always add a sub-title, perhaps promising a positive benefit with something like, “And what you should be doing to grow your sales organization in 2015.”)
Let’s analyze this final topic title.
- Is there a real need? Yes, it’s for people who have been successful in sales, but who are finding it more difficult today.
- Are we promising to deliver real value? Yes, we’re going to explain the reasons why they are struggling, and what they can do about it.
- Does it identify the prospect? Yes, we know they’re sales professionals with over 10 years of experience.
- Is there valuable and important news? You betcha!
- Does it imply we have useful knowledge to impart? Yup!
- Does it describe a problem that is a natural fit for our (eventual) solution? Absolutely!
We managed to achieve all that with a single topic title. This topic could be delivered via a webinar, an ebook, a video, or a variety of other media.
Anyone who is attracted to this topic will naturally be someone who has a lot to gain from solving their sales problem, and that means they’ll probably be happy to invest!
It took us maybe twenty minutes to arrive at that title. But it gave Brian bait that will accurately laser-target his promotions at exactly the right people…
- Not just the people who might be interested.
- But the people who’ll be sufficiently motivated, who’ll have the desire and the means to be a great fit for Brian!
How To Create Your Perfect Topic Titles: Walk-Through (32 minutes)
You can also see the Google Slides presentation here