An eCommerce Beginner’s Guide to Content MarketingApril 27, 2017 - 16 minutes read
5 steps to creating content that drives revenue
If you’re in the world of eCommerce, chances are you’ve heard about content marketing and all of the wonderful benefits it can bring. Depending on the source in question, you might believe that content marketing is a waste of time and money, or it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
We’re not going to claim that content marketing is the answer to all of your problems, business related or otherwise. However, as an eCommerce company, content marketing is one of the most powerful forms of leverage you have in this world, thanks to the internet.
Why Is Content Marketing So Powerful?
Content marketing is fundamentally different from other forms of marketing you could execute as a small business compared to 15 years ago. Think about it this way: content marketing lets you invest time and effort and get revenue in return (if you play your cards right).
Not only that, each piece of content you produce has a very small – but not impossible – chance to “go viral” either on Google organic rankings or through social shares.
Compare that to earlier forms of marketing, where unless you got into a trade magazine, your marketing efforts as a small to medium sized product business couldn’t have anywhere near the reach that content marketing can have. What’s more, radios and television stations don’t let you put up your content for free. (Whereas posting content on the web is almost free unless you have some massive traffic numbers – which is a good problem to have.)
We say all of this to make the following point: content marketing is NOT the holy grail for all businesses. But for an eCommerce business, content marketing is one of the most effective ways you can make your business more successful.
What This Guide Will Help You With
Covering all of the ins and outs of eCommerce content marketing in a single blog post is impossible. This is a subject that entire careers and conferences have been devoted to. However, in this blog post, we’ll give you a 5 step action plan that you can use to get started right away. And once you’re on your way, you can continue to learn as you go.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.” – Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Knowing your audience well is by far the most important step towards making effective content marketing. There are two big reasons for this:
- The overarching goal of content marketing is to provide value to your readers so that they trust you and spend more money with you. If you don’t know what type of questions and content your readers will get value from, you can’t do this.
- In your content, you want to use the language that your customers use so that they feel connected to you. This is much easier when you know your customers.
In other words, you want to flesh out your customer avatar BEFORE you start your content marketing. To do so, ask yourself the following questions and then think long and hard about the answers. Or, even better – call up or email current customers and ask them:
- What is the main problem that your company solves?
- Why would someone choose your company instead of another to solve that problem?
- What would your happy customers say about your product?
- What are the passions and interests of your customers?
- What magazines, websites, or social media accounts (other than your own) do your customers regularly engage with?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Like a lot of the things we’re talking about in this guide, developing a useful and thorough customer avatar can be a deep rabbit hole indeed.
However deep that rabbit hole goes though, this step is important because it will give you the fodder you need in later steps to decide what topics your content marketing covers.
Action step: Based on your customer avatar/interviews, create a list of 5-10 problems and solutions or topics that your readers/customers would be interested in learning more about.
Step 2: What Type of Content Will You Enjoy Creating?
“Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.” – Seth Godin
Right now, we’re assuming that you, the reader, are going to be doing most of the content marketing for your eCommerce business. If someone on your team will be doing your content marketing, shoot this article over to them and ask them to look at this section specifically.
Now that you know a bit about your customers and what topics they might be interested in (based on the challenges they face and how your product helps them), it’s time to think about sustainable content production.
And by that we mean: how are YOU going to produce high-quality content on a sustainable basis? This isn’t meant to be a put down – instead, it’s more of an exploratory question. Because there are a lot of different ways to make great content… you just have to choose the format that works best for you.
For example, you can:
- Write blog posts if you enjoy writing/editing and know how to use WordPress/are willing to learn.
- Create videos if you’re good on camera and enjoy video editing or know someone who does.
- Do a podcast if you enjoy speaking at length about your industry and know how to produce the high-quality audio necessary to do so.
- Take photos and create captions for them to put on your website or Instagram.
Blog posts are a great form of content marketing – not to mention the most popular – but you shouldn’t base your decision on that criteria. What matters is that you create high-quality content that serves your readers, and that can’t happen unless you enjoy the way you produce your content.
Action step: What content medium will you choose for your initial content marketing experiment? Choose one very specific form from the above list.
Step 3: What’s Your Goal?
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” – Andrew Davis, professional Speaker, Monumental Shift
Now that you have some topics that matter to your customers and a medium that you will use to spread those topics, it’s time to set a specific goal. Yes, the overarching goal is more revenue – but that’s true for pretty much any business, at any time.
So let’s get more granular. Here are a few specific goals you can have:
- Do you want to get traffic via google? If so, you’ll need to get good at keyword research and on page SEO.
- Do you want to boost your sales of certain products? Designing content marketing with them in mind would be a good idea. Not hard pitches, but informative pieces that have a soft pitch.
- Do you want to get more email subscribers to market to via your funnel? Content upgrades are a great way to accomplish that.
Action step: Choose one of the above goals or create your own. Make sure that you only have ONE goal in mind for your current content marketing effort, as that will make it much easier to measure how successful you are.
Step 4: Make A Content Calendar
“More content is not better. What’s the worst case scenario if we slow ourselves down and do some analysis?” – Kristina Halvorson, CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, a world-renowned content strategy consultancy
Now you know everything you need to except for the specifics of delivery: when you’re going to post what content. The accepted wisdom of the content marketing world is that “more content is better”, but we want to challenge that a bit.
As a small to medium sized eCommerce company, you’re not going to be able to create massive amounts of high-quality content like Shopify or other companies can who have entire teams devoted to content marketing.
Instead, you should aim for quality over quantity.
Other brands may be doing 4-7 blog posts a week, but you probably can’t sustain that. And honestly, if you’re just getting started in eCommerce content marketing, it’s not likely that you’re going to pull a ton of traffic via your content marketing alone. However, your content marketing will bring in some traffic and help to convert your existing users… so make sure you’re really proud of each and every piece of content and that’s it is really valuable to others!
If you’re really at a loss, try to commit to just two high-quality pieces of content marketing per month to begin with. You can always do more later as you start to have fun, get some results, and get used to the processes involved with content creation.
Action step: Create an editorial calendar for your content marketing, with the topic and the medium (blog post, video, etc) clearly laid out. Remember: if it’s not on the schedule, it won’t happen!
Step 5: Execute!
“Anyone, anywhere, with any budget can develop a valuable audience over time and make an impact. In other words, there are no excuses for not doing (content marketing) well, as long as you have a plan and execute against that plan.” – Joe Pulizzi
There’s a saying that the Armed Forces often use which goes something like, “No battle plan survives first contact.”
Now, content marketing isn’t a war. And your customers obviously aren’t your enemies. But it’s safe to say that your content marketing plan will change over time as it comes into contact with reality. Multiple things could happen. Maybe you don’t enjoy your chosen mode of content creation as much as you thought you would, or maybe your customers don’t resonate with the material you’re putting out.
Just remember: content marketing is a skill just like anything else. And you might have to suffer some “growing pains” until you get better. That’s completely OK – just keep going.
Here are some tips that will help you to keep the content machine alive:
- Do your best to have at least a two to four week buffer so that if things get hectic or somebody gets sick, your content will still go out regularly.
- Make sure to HAVE FUN with your content marketing. Otherwise, it’s a lot less likely that you’re going to do it.
- Read other brands’ content in your niche or in niches that you’re a consumer in for inspiration.
There’s a ton we didn’t cover in this guide. We didn’t cover things like content promotion, content upgrades, keyword research, how to fully build your customer avatar, and on page SEO.
However, the most important thing to remember is to create content that your customers actually find useful. If you do that, and learn about the other skillsets when you can, you’ll be on the right track.