Now that you know what content marketing is, it’s time to understand how to use it well!
Have you been churning out content like it’s going out of fashion to no avail? Are you wondering when the magic is going to happen? If you’ve been religiously posting to your social media channels, consistently publishing fresh blog posts, and sending regular newsletters — but not getting an increase in income, maybe you’re missing this vital piece of the puzzle…
Asking for the sale.
Yep. Sooner or later you have to include sales-y stuff in your content marketing — at least, you do if you actually want to make money from it!
So how do you do that? How do you bridge the gap between offering great content that your audience LOVES, and also move them towards being paying customers? Well, it depends. (Dog trainer’s favorite answer to everything!) There are two strategies, depending on your situation. Let’s look at the most common one first.
You Already Have an Audience
Let’s say you’ve been a content production machine! You have a ton of content: blog posts, social posts, Youtube videos, whatever your medium of choice is. You’ve successfully built an audience but you didn’t have something to offer at the time the content was created. What do you do now?
Email Sign Up
The easiest thing to do is add an email signup box to the sidebar of your blog. Getting a web visitor’s email means you can stay in touch with them, send regular newsletters — and let them know when you have classes or offers that might be of interest to them. (You can find out more about email marketing for dog trainers here.)
As an aside, you can also use an email signup to find out what content your audience appreciates the most. Google Analytics will tell you which blog posts people are signing up from — and you can use this information to create sellable products such as classes, courses, or webinars that will interest your audience.
Retrospective sales Pitch
Alternatively, you can retrospectively add a short, simple sales pitch to the end of relevant existing blog and social posts, or Youtube videos. Let’s say you’ve just opened a new recall class. You can add a sentence such as: “if you’d like to know more, I have a recall class opening…” to the bottom of any relevant content — and even re-share that content so it gets seen by your audience again.
Content doesn’t have to be directly related to your offer for this to work. If you have a piece about recalls, great! Add your sales blurb to that. But if you have content that’s tangentially related, maybe a piece on adolescent dog problems, you can add to that too.
The other strategy is to plan your content around offers you’ll be making in the future.
Build Your Audience to Fit Your Offer
If you have a plan for what you’ll be offering and when it’ll be available, you can use the content you create to raise awareness about it — and build anticipation in advance. This is a really effective sales strategy! Here’s how you do it:
The Lead Up
A couple of weeks before your offer (the thing you’re selling) goes live, start publishing content that’s related to your topic. For example, let’s go back to your recall class. During the lead up, you might publish a few short blog posts about different aspects of recalls. At the same time, you would be posting content around recalls to your social feeds. These might be video snippets of you teaching the very first steps to a puppy. Or a few tips on managing recall problems. Or you might ask your audience about the sort of recall problems they experience. Maybe get them to share video snippets of their own training; or relate stories of failed recalls!
The options for posts are endless — but the aim is to open a conversation around the topic of your offer with your audience. During the lead up to the offer being available, you’d be aiming for 70–80% of your total posts to relate to the topic. At this point you’re only raising awareness and getting people thinking and talking about your topic (i.e., recalls) — no sales pitches just yet!
Don’t worry that you’ll give too much information for free. Most people won’t see or read all of your posts on the topic; they’ll get enough to stimulate their thought processes and get them engaged in your conversation. Your aim is to have people asking themselves “Hmm. How good is my recall, really? Do I have reliability?”
Adding Your Pitch
A few days before what you’re selling becomes available for purchase, start making your audience aware that you will have an offer related to the current topic of conversation. A great way to start this process is to offer a live video chat about the topic. During the live, you can give short answers to questions — but mention that the question will be covered in greater depth in your upcoming ______ which will be available for purchase on __day. (i.e., “I don’t have time to fully answer that right now, but we’ll explore that issue in the course/workshop/webinar I’m offering on …”)
Be sure to give enough real information for people to get value from taking time to join you on your live video, otherwise they’ll be left with a sour taste and feel tricked into listening to nothing but a sales pitch!
Use an Email Sequence
Not everyone in your audience will be on social media, so you can also run an email series on your topic to widen your reach. Use the same concepts to get your email subscribers thinking about recalls (or loose leash walking, or house manners etc.). Aim to build a conversation with your email audience, as you would on your social feeds. Your final few emails would include information about your offer.
For your final sales email you might ask your reader “Under what circumstances would you bet $100 your dog will come back when you call?
Would you bet it in the house?
Would you bet at the dog park?
What about on an off-leash walk?
Would you bet if there were bunnies in the distance?
And under what circumstance would you stop betting $100 your dog is going to come when you call?”
Once you’ve got people thinking about when their dog’s recall might fail, you can tell them about the offer you have that will help them improve that. You tell them how you can help them have a faster, more reliable recall — without them having to shout multiple times, jump up and down, while waving their hands in the air and running in the opposite direction. Because, let’s face it, most people prefer not to look silly in public.
Get the Balance Right
Whatever medium you choose to promote your offer, be sure to give enough value for free (to build interest and engagement around your topic) before you mention the sale. Ideally, you’re looking for a ratio of two thirds content to one third promotion. This prevents you from looking sales-y and pushy; you’re just offering a way for people to access your expertise in the topic if they want to learn more than you’ve already given for free. This is very different to bombarding people with “BUY MY THING NOW!!!” messaging right off the bat – which is a huge turn-off!
Of course, the fact that all your targeted free content has left your audience in no doubt about your expertise, isn’t a bad thing either. Win-win.
It also pays to cover multiple channels if you can: use blog posts, multiple social platforms and email sequences to reach as many people as possible. Make sure the content you share is appropriate for each channel you use, otherwise it’ll just bomb and you’ll have wasted your efforts. Social posts, especially, need to have useful content, not just a sales pitch. That means you include a story, video, or some other material that makes the post interesting in a way that’s typical for the platform you’re using.
The Dog Trainer’s Mantra: Think, Plan, Do
Every dog trainer has heard this: Think. Plan. Do. Think about what you want to achieve, plan how you’re going to achieve it, then action your plan. The same process works very well for marketing and can make your efforts far more effective than throwing marketing spaghetti at the proverbial (Facebook) wall.
If you took part in our most recent Dog Trainer’s NaNoWriMo, you probably have a whole bunch of content created (well done!!). So, rather than throwing it out there without consider how or why, plan how you’re going to use each piece to support something you intend to offer for purchase. This allows you to be strategic about what you post and when you post it for maximum impact.
Content marketing is a great way to build your business — as long as you remember to offer something of value upfront and tell people how they can continue to get value by buying stuff from you!