If you want to use online content to grow your business (and you absolutely should), your content needs to be smart — enticing, even. The web is so saturated with online content — blogs, websites, emails, videos, infographics — that whatever content you produce and unleash on the internet is as likely to be found as the proverbial needle in the haystack. That is, unless your content is strategically planned, crafted and disseminated.
Just like any other form of smart writing, your online content needs to follow a carefully conceived plan and outline. For businesses, this translates to a clearly defined content strategy that aligns your business’ goals, your target audience and communication format. Consider this the holy trinity of strategic online content:
PURPOSE + AUDIENCE + FORMAT = STRATEGIC ONLINE CONTENT TO TARGET LEADS
What’s your purpose?
The quick answer for anyone producing or investing in online content: to generate inbound traffic. Online content can help you attract potential leads, capture lead information, usher qualified leads through the later stages of their buyer’s journey, and ultimately, convert leads into customers.
Generating inbound traffic and converting leads to customers is the end game of strategic online content. But it’s not the whole game. In order for content to engage potential leads in the first place, it needs to be of value to them. So ask yourself, ‘how can I provide something of value to my leads so they will be motivated to eventually become a customer?’ Answer that question, and you have your purpose for any given piece of content you set out to create.
Who is your audience, and what motivates them?
To deliver authentic content that directly speaks to your ideal customer (aka your buyer persona), you must know who your ideal customer is. Consider age, gender, communication channel preference, their stage in the buyer’s journey, and above all – what they need or want as it relates to your business. Identifying your buyer personas’ needs and wants means finding a way to engage and motivate them to take further action.
A Senior Living Buyer Persona: Carol
If you're in the senior living business, one of your buyer personas is likely a female adult child of an aging parent. We'll call her Carol. What are Carol's wants and needs as it relates to your senior living services? She may have recently realized that her aging mother can no longer safely live in her own home, so she needs to start looking into assisted living options; what she wants, in this early awareness stage of her buyer's journey, is to figure out what exactly assisted living encompasses, and whether her mother is suited to assisted living given her specific care needs.
So give Carol (and all the Carols out there) what she needs and wants: post a blog, infographic or checklist on our business' website that outlines assisted living services and helpful tips relating to shopping for senior living services. Give Carol this, but ask her for something in return: encourage her to sign up for your email newsletter to get other helpful tips. If your content was relevant, helpful and valuable to her, she's likely to take that next step.
What format should your content take?
How you package your content should also be a strategic decision, and should consider your buyer persona and the purpose of your specific piece of content. Let’s go back to Carol. Carol is in the early stages of her buyer’s journey, and wants quick answers to some basic questions so she can decide whether she should dig deeper into assisted living research. A short blog post, infographic or checklist are therefore ideal formats for engaging Carol.
When Carol makes it past the awareness stage of her buyer’s journey to the consideration stage, she’ll want more detailed information about specific assisted living programs. When she’s ready, give her a whitepaper — something more meaty that provides answers or solutions to challenges Carol may be facing in these later stages (e.g. Carol is aware her mom needs to move into assisted living, but how on earth is she going to afford it — enter a white paper on financial considerations of long-term care).
Content Formats for Senior Living
Educational blog post:
What is assisted living?
10 Signs It’s Time to Move to Independent Living
Alzheimer’s Disease 101
Questions To Ask When You Call or Visit a Senior Living Community
Senior Living: How to Start the Conversations with Mom
Comparison White Paper:
Independent Living vs. Assisted Living
Home Care vs. Assisted Living
A Day in the Life of a Senior Resident
Is your online content strategic?
You may have carefully planned, crafted and deployed your content, but that in itself won’t guarantee success. Once your content is out there, you should track and analyze whether it’s achieving its purpose and your business goals: is your content engaging potential leads, and are leads converting to customers?
Use Google Analytics, social media insights and whatever other reporting tools you have at your disposal to track open rates, click rates and conversion rates. If people are finding your content and clicking or engaging with it, you know you’re hitting the mark. If your content isn’t engaging your target audience, you need to reevaluate one of the essential three components of your content strategy — your purpose, your audience (buyer persona), or your format/ communication channel. Continue to try new things and test different strategies, but avoid revamping your strategy all at one — test one element at a time so you can track specific results.
As a business operator or marketer, your natural instinct will be to create content that promotes your business’ services. But we’ve told, you the traditional sales pitch is dead. Instead, anticipate your audience’s wants and needs, then deliver content that checks these boxes. In doing so, you will (indirectly) be pitching your business, because you position yourself as a credible expert in your field.