In content marketing, there's always an "and then."

Content Marketing: Remember to Ask “And Then?”

One of the most important questions a content marketing team can ask when charged with developing a new press release/blog post/case study/white paper/video/etc. doesn’t come from a marketing textbook or TED talk. It actually comes from the lowbrow movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

At one point the two not-so-bright main characters (played to perfection by Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott) pull up to the drive-through speaker at a Chinese restaurant to place an order. Each time Ashton Kutcher says what they want, the voice on the other end asks a simple question: “And then?” Even after he tells her they’re done ordering, which leads to a very funny scene.

When you think about it, though, there’s a lot of beauty and wisdom in that simple question for marketers. Often when there’s a new development or new idea to convey we get caught up in thinking about what’s needed immediately.

We say “we need a press release on such-and-such a topic” and we spring into action. A message is developed, subject matter experts interviewed, the release is written and revised, the pitching plan is developed and so forth until finally the release sees the light of day – and maybe generates some interviews.

Yet considerably less time is spent answering the question “and then?” As in “what happens after the target audience reads the press release?”

Is there a landing page to refer them to? If so, what’s on it? If they’re really interested in the new product or service is there a way for them to gather more information about it, such as a data sheet, video, blog post, white paper or other piece of additional content to keep them interested and moving toward the narrower end of the sale funnel?

The thing to consider is that the period of active promotion around a press release, or any new piece of content for that matter, tends to last for just a few days. Then you’re on to something else. But the period after the initial release is infinite. If there isn’t somewhere else for your target audience to go, or something else for them to do after consuming the content, you’re losing opportunities.

Here are some of the content marketing best practices for ensuring you’re maximizing the value of everything you’ve worked so hard to produce.

Provide a destination
Think from the prospect’s point of view. I’ve consumed whatever content was produced. I’m intrigued by what you’re saying, although I still have questions. But I’m not quite ready to speak to a salesperson. How do I get my answers? This concept is particularly important given studies that show that 60 percent of the purchasing decision is already made before any conversations with a supplier take place.

For general topics you may just want to point prospects to the appropriate page on your website. You can do that through links embedded in the text, or with a more obvious call to action such as “For more details on…”

For more significant topics such as a new product/service, you may want to create a specific landing page that offers more detailed information.

And then?

Create content in different forms
Often landing pages offer up content in one form – usually more text, either on the page or offered as a download. If that’s what you’re doing you’re again limiting your own effectiveness.

Keep in mind that some people prefer to read more formal presentations of information while others like the easy accessibility of a blog post. Then there are those who like FAQs, or prefer video over any sort of reading. Having options that present the same information in different ways helps you avoid losing any part of your audience.

And then?

Use gated content
Most healthcare and health IT products/services aren’t purchased directly from a website like a retail transaction. They require interaction between the prospect and someone on your team. A good way to move that along a little faster is to use high-value, gated content such as a white paper or executive summary to entice the prospect to let you know they’re interested by giving you their contact information.

When you get to this point, of course, determining whether to provide the information is a big decision. The best thing you can do is keep the amount of information you’re asking for to a minimum. If you can limit it to the person’s name, job title, company and email address you’ll find you capture far more prospects than you will with a lengthy qualifying questionnaire.

As long as prospects believe what they’ll be getting from you is of greater value than what they’ll be giving to you, they’ll be willing to make the trade.

And then?

Incorporate lead nurturing
If you’re lucky, once they go through the gated content they’ll have a high level of interest and are ready to buy. More often than not in the real world, however, there’s still work to be done.

That’s where an email-based lead nurturing campaign comes in. (Also the reason you want to capture that email address in the first place.) Think through the sales process – what messages people need to see at which points in the sales cycle in order to nudge them forward. Then develop a series of emails to provide that nudge.

One thing to keep in mind is don’t automatically start the program at communication #1. Determine as best you can, either by their messages to you or their interactions with your content, where they are and pick up from there.

It’s kind of like calling plays in football. You don’t want to try to score the touchdown on the first play every time. Work the ball down the field in increments and you’ll find it’s easier to score more consistently.

And then?

Look for holes
You may think you’ve thought of everything. But if the program is consistently breaking down at some point (meaning you’re losing prospects or sales) it’s time to determine why and fill in any gaps that lead to disengagement. There’s always something to tweak.

And then?

There really isn’t much of an “and then?” after that. You will have done all you can do.

Clearly, not every announcement or piece of content will require all these steps. But use this as a guide to determine which steps it needs.

The most important thing is to cover all the bases that need it. Otherwise you may find yourself wandering around in daze, wondering “Dude, where’s my sales?”

Ken Krause
Senior Account and Content Director
An award-winning writer for his work in advertising, marketing and public relations, Ken Krause has a diverse background that includes more than 30 years of combined agency- and client-side experience. Ken has in-depth experience in technology products and services, healthcare, supply chain, consumer electronics and other vertical markets. He previously served as Vice President of Content Services at Tech Image, where he spent 14 years. Ken also served as Marketing Communications Manager at ASAP Software (now a part of Dell). His earlier career includes stints as an Account Manager at Marketing Support, Inc. and McKee Advertising and as a Senior Copywriter for Meyer/Fredericks.
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