This is the second article in a series of excerpts from the book Get Content. Get Customers.
Many hvacr contractors may not have the financial resources to create a glossy custom magazine, but all companies can initiate an effective content- marketing program that works to acquire and retain customers.
The most important part of the content- creation process is developing a strategy that makes sense. Many contractors rush into creating an eNewsletter, or basic Web content for their Web site, without understanding how it works to ultimately drive the business. Before you waste any time or money on content initiatives, hvacr contractors need to review the following four steps that will ultimately help you create a relationship with your prospects and customers.
1. Determine which organizational goals will be affected by the content program.
To be successful, an effective contentmarketing program must directly tie to your organization’s overall objectives. In other words, create content because it truly helps your customers and, in turn, your business. Here are some reasons we’ve actually heard before from hvacr contractors who want to create their own content:
• “We want to drive more traffic to our Web site.”
• “Our competitors are doing it, so we need to do it too.”
• “We have tons of great information in this company — we need to tell the world about all the wonderful things we’re doing.”
These are certainly reasonable reasons for creating content. However, they are not measurable and don’t really consider the customer. Ask yourself, how does driving more traffic to your Web site accomplish your organizational goals? Additionally, will telling your company’s story bring you more revenue? Not in and of itself. Remember, the ultimate goal here is a behavior change. Once you get folks to your site, you must have them do something.
Organizational goals must be two things: specific and customer-focused. Here are a few examples of organizational goals:
• Increase our number of service customers by 20%
• Sell service agreements to 100 new customers in 2009
So, before you launch your program, be sure to list your key organizational goals. Once that is complete, understand which ones you are trying to affect with the online or off-line content program.
2. Determine the informational needs of the buyer.
Businesses create specific content so that customers react in very specific ways. Without a clear understanding of the customer’s information needs, any reaction that is close to the end goal is pure dumb luck.
Successful hvacr contractors already have a pretty good understanding of their core buyers. In order to create an effective content program, you need to take it a step further. Contractors with content-marketing programs create content that is supposed to do very specific things. Just think how pointless this would be if you didn’t know what information customers need to make better buying decisions—buying decisions that ultimately lead back to the organization’s overall goals.
Understand your customers by doing comprehensive research. Comprehensive research does not necessarily mean expensive. Think of your research as including the following:
• Phone calls and in-person meetings with customers — include people that you think should be customers (what we call “shutouts”).
• Send e-mail surveys to customers and prospects. Two good survey providers are Zoomerang (www.zoomerang.com) or SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com).
• Discussions with your customer service and sales personnel.
By doing the above, you’ll be able to create a buyer persona (a vision of who your target customer really is), and a true understanding of what information they need, which will effectively get you to your goals.
3. Determine what you want your customer to do and why this helps the business.
Before you initiate and create the content for your content marketing plan, make sure:
• The content plan specifically drives your organization’s goals;
• The action(s) you want the customer to take are in some way measurable;
• The content is based on your research about the buyers’ informational needs.
If you have each of these components, you can create very specific goals for your content program. Some of these goals will be easy to link to your overall goals (e.g., achieving a business transaction). Others will just be pieces of the overall pie that keep you going in the right direction. Examples of these may be:
• Downloading a white paper to extract more customer information;
• Signing up for an eNewsletter to begin creating a relationship with a prospect;
• Trial offer or service that begins a conversation between you and the customer.
Today, most organizations call these instances a conversion. Whatever you call them, make them specific and measurable in some way.
4. Determine the product and content mix.
There are a number of content products to choose from — and this list is growing longer every day with the spread of technology. By mixing your knowledge of the customer, your organizational objectives, and, frankly, your budget, you should be able to determine an appropriate content mix of products. Remember, even though there are leading content products (for example, a print or electronic newsletter may take the primary role), your content-marketing program should be well-integrated with your Web site, ancillary content initiatives, and other collateral. Make sure all touch points speak to each other.
By following these four steps, you will give yourself the best opportunity for marketing success. Remember, this doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but must happen before you launch any kind of content marketing initiatives.
Now that you have the strategy part complete, our next article will talk about how to create content that your customers love, and that you can measure as part of your overall business growth strategy.
Joe Pulizzi, a veteran HVACR marketing expert, is founder of Junta42 Match, a free online service where businesses can find the best vendors to help them create their own content. Joe blogs at blog.junta42.com. For more information: www.jhunta42.com/match
Newt Barrett is president of Content Marketing Strategies, a marketing consultancy that helps small and medium-sized businesses implement the content practices from the book. For more information: www.ContentMarketing.net