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Content Marketing in a New COVID World Part One

By: Thomas Young

Part One: Compelling Storytelling and Clear Website Flow

While fewer sales and marketing activities happen in person following COVID, you can bet people are using that time to read about your company online. COVID accelerated online buying, research and usage in numbers not seen prior to the pandemic. This massive change has made digital content more important than ever. Although we are seeing a return to in person interactions, many people continue to research online and meet on Zoom. This is a convenient habit that is unlikely to change. Let’s take a look at how to get a greater impact from your digital content and best meet the needs of online researchers.

Clear and Direct Digital Content is the Starting Point

It was true before COVID, and it’s still true after the pandemic, clear and direct content is at the crux of digital marketing success. People must understand your message before they can get value or take action. Your message must make sense to anyone who interacts with your brand online. One of the best ways to do this is by following the “10 out of 10” rule. Ten out of 10 people coming to your website must clearly understand what you do and how they can get value.

Be Empathetic, Understanding and Knowledgeable about Your Customer’s Experience

Write and layout digital content in a manner that best reflects the way your reader’s lives have changed in a post-COVID world. While each individual’s experience of the pandemic has been their own, everyone has experienced one degree of change or another. They may have lost their job, experienced an overwhelming spike in their workload, dealt directly with COVID, or faced challenges related to quarantining. Empathy about, understanding and knowledge of your customers COVID experience provide guidance on how to best tailor your message to meet their unique needs.

Tell a Story to Help Solve Customer Problems

People remember great stories. These stories are impactful because the reader will put themselves in the shoes of the hero in the story and bring home lessons that add value to their lives. Stories are one of  the best ways to show empathy, understanding and knowledge in our post-COVID environment.

Write and layout your digital content so you position your customer as the hero of a story where they are seeking a solution to a problem that your product or service can fulfill. In this story, you will play the role of the trusted guide who brings your hero, aka., your customer, to a beneficial solution. Humans are hardwired to remember stories, and they’ll be more likely to remember your story if they see the end results being a solution that brings them value. Read more about this in our recent blog post on this topic.

Use Benefit-Focused and Problem Solving Content

You can list a number of great things about your product or service. However, those great things tend to be the features, not direct benefits. If your customer can’t see how those features are benefiting them, you will lose their attention. That’s why you need to look at the benefits of your product or service instead of features.

It will take time and money to understand how to match the benefits your company offers to the buying research of your customers, but the end result of leads and sales will make it worth the investment. Remember, each target market segment will look for different benefits according to their individual buying journey and process. You must tailor your benefits focused digital content to each market segment or buyer persona.

Write Content to Connect with your Target Audience

A surprising trap many marketers fall into is being so close to their product or service they can’t see their company through the eyes of their customers. They know in great detail what their company does and how they do it, but struggle to communicate these strengths as benefits for their prospective customers. Don’t fall into this trap, make your website for the website visitor, not an online brochure about your company. Knowing your thought leadership is a step in the right direction.

Know your Pillars of Thought Leadership

Pillars of thought leadership are the key areas where your company excels in the marketplace. They may include your people, the product or service itself, your processes or other qualities that bring value to the marketplace. List out your main strengths and use them as the core of your messaging. These thought leadership concepts drive benefits and are what makes your company successful.

Customers will be able to see what benefits you are offering immediately, and how you are better and different than competitors, when you clearly communicate these thought leadership areas. Read more about how to build your pillars of thought leadership in our recent blog post.

Build Scalable, Easy to Edit Websites that You Own

Your website shouldn’t be something you “set up and forget.” Make regular content additions or updates to stay in sync with what your customers are looking for in this rapidly changing post-COVID environment. In order to do this, it’s best you own the website and have access to add and edit content. When you review the website data in Google Analytics, you will find the more content you have on your website, the more visitors you get. Develop a content plan that includes regular website updates built around campaigns, email marketing, blogs and social posts. We prefer WordPress websites because they are easy to scale and edit and our clients own the website.

Google Ads with Landing Pages Drive Leads

Google Ads are very effective in driving traffic to your website. You must be intentional and consistent with how the ads are written and in the design of the ad’s landing pages. The content of your ad must precisely match the intent of the user and the content on the landing page. This is critical for lead conversions and online sales.

This may mean creating a unique landing page for each Ad Group. This is often the best approach to align user intent with the content you serve them based on the keywords they search in Google. Targeted and strategic Google Ads going to excellent landing pages are an excellent marketing tool in our post-COVID world.

Tell Your Story on Your Website

Once you have a thorough understanding of your customers’ problems, which your  benefits-centered story will speak to, it’s time to bring the story to life on your website, starting with the homepage.

It’s estimated that half of all people who experience your brand start with a Google search. Those searches will most likely result in a visit to your company website and your homepage will be the most popular page.

Post-COVID, your website is a more vital sales and marketing tool than ever. The buying journey visitors take on your website must be aligned with the story you have created for them. Whether you are B2B or B2C, the following flow puts your customer in the position of the hero and you in the position of the guide. It does this with a focus on benefits and clear content.

Navigation is an Anchor for the Website User

People will generally review your website’s navigation early in their visit and use it as an anchor to know where they are on the website. It must be simple, easy to understand and show visitors exactly where to go to get value and understand the benefits of your products and services. Keep in mind, confused researchers often give up and leave your website.

There are four key areas to include in your navigation. The first is “products/services,” the second is “resources,” the third is “about us” and the fourth is “contact us.” All your website content can be found under these four “buckets” of content. When possible keep your navigation to these four areas. It is also useful for mobile users.

Homepage Header Tagline Must Be Direct and Clear

The website homepage tagline is like a newspaper banner. It is the most important content on your homepage and must be clear and visible. The website tagline will most likely be the first thing people read.

Align your homepage website tagline with the photo or image you use in your header, and follow the 10-out-of-10 rule. What does your company do and how does it add value? How does your company make a change for the better in your customer’s lives?

This starts your website visitors on their story or journey to understand how to take the next step with your company and either solve a problem or enhance the quality of their lives.

If people don’t understand your tagline or know what you can do for them, they will very likely leave your website. There is no downside to being direct in your website tagline. In fact, it’s the best place on your website to be the most direct and clear. Here is a blog post where you can learn more about how to write excellent website taglines.

Calls-to-Action (CTA) Drive Lead Conversions

Many companies focus on CTAs at the bottom of the sales funnel such as, “speak to a sales rep!” This may result in missed opportunities to move people through the funnel. Mid-funnel CTAs and contact buttons give website visitors who aren’t ready to speak to a sales rep a way to stay in touch with your company. Those visitors may buy later on down the line. Webinars, eBooks and other gated content, you exchange for an email address, are all tools to keep a prospect’s attention as middle of funnel CTAs. Don’t ask people to speak to a sales rep if they are still researching and not ready to talk.

Benefits and What is to Risk

This is where you put your customer understanding, knowledge and empathy into action. You show your prospects exactly what is in it for them if they choose to buy from your company, and you show them what risks they’re vulnerable to if they don’t. These risks are the villains in your customer’s story. People want to avoid pain and reading about the risks of incorrect action, or no action, will help them research buying options.

Service and Product Information Follows Benefits

Your prospects are primed and ready for what they will gain from working with you after they clearly understand the benefits and what’s at risk. This section of your website homepage highlights your featured products and services. It links to website pages with more details. Usually three to five featured offerings can be listed here. Keep the content brief and use either images or icons as design elements. Make sure the complete product and services listings are found in your main navigation menus.

Your Plan to Get Started Brings Clarity

Stay present in your role as the customer’s guide. Lay your map out on the table and show visitors three to four steps they can take to get started working with you. This is your plan as the guide to help the hero reach their goals and defeat their villains. This is very helpful for people who want to know the steps and what it is like to buy from you.

Customer References and Resources

Reinforce how you are qualified to lead and guide your prospect by showing testimonials, customer logos and case studies. These are used to demonstrate how you have guided other “heroes” to reach their goals. This is more powerful towards the end of the homepage because it helps you build your case.

Also, provide additional resources via blogs, whitepapers or downloads to demonstrate authority in your area of expertise and express your pillars of thought leadership.

See this blog post for more on homepage layout and content.

Conclusion

It’s vital you are crystal clear and direct with your homepage layout and content. Your content is best when it is focused on the benefits you provide to customers.

Taking your customer on this journey with your content all boils down to understanding where they are coming from, the story they need to hear and how your solutions can help them find their happy ending. Understand these things and you will have many of the tools in place to create marketing content and website flow that best appeals to your target audience’s post-COVID needs. This will drive growth for your company in a post-COVID world.

Author profile
Thomas Young

Thomas Young is the CEO and Founder of Intuitive Websites. He is a consultant, award winning Vistage speaker and author of Winning the Website War available on Amazon. Tom has helped thousands of companies succeed online and has over 20 years digital marketing experience.

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