Does Your Content Support the Entire Sales Cycle?

Young businesswoman sitting at the office reading business report.

Warning: this post gets a little complex.

But, once you understand the information within, you’re going to be much smarter than most companies who use internet marketing.

You’re probably at least a little familiar with the concept of a sales cycle, right?

Your customers, whether businesses or consumers, have a certain set of steps they take before they finally purchase. For businesses, this can be up to 2 years. For consumers, this can be as short as 2 seconds.

Most websites focus on “bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)” content. In other words, this is the content a customer consumes right before they call, email, or click and order.

Nothing wrong with doing that. But you leave a ton of sales on the table if that’s all you do. Typically, you can think of your product or service pages as “BOFU” content. Your customers will read through that right before acting.

How Focusing on More Steps in the Sales Cycle Wins You More Sales

But long before your customers actually act, they already are unwittingly engaging in the sales cycle.

It all starts with a problem, right?

Your customer has something wrong in their personal life. Or a business has a big problem, like not getting enough leads.

For example, a consumer’s home seems too cold in winter and too hot in summer, despite the fact that they have a new HVAC system.

So if you run an HVAC company, you can engage them right at that point with content. They might search something like,”Why is my house so cold?”

Then, you create a blog post that answers that question. For example, it could be because they have the wrong size of HVAC system installed in their home. Or maybe their crawl space isn’t insulated properly.

Then, at the end of the post, you conclude it’s impossible to tell without a firsthand inspection.

When they read the post, the customer is at the beginning of the sales cycle. If you like acronyms, it’s called “TOFU” or “top-of-the-funnel.” They’re aware of the problem and beginning to understand it.

During the post, you’ve moved them to the “middle-of-the-funnel” or “MOFU.” They have a solid understanding of their problem, and now they need to research other HVAC companies who do the same thing.

But since you’ve educated them on the problem, while most HVAC companies don’t in their blogs, they’re much more likely to bookmark your website, or remember you. And they’re much more likely to actually call you.

It’s because they know you understand the problem and solution. Other HVAC companies might too, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate this in their blog. So the consumer is left with some doubt.

That’s How Content Marketing Works

That’s a simple example of content marketing in action. You can push customers along the sales cycle fast, and they’re happy to walk along with you because they’re solving your problems.

This is why you need to care about the sales cycle. And since many other small and local businesses don’t, you’ll uncover a gold mine of customers they wish they had.

How to Build an Engaged Online Audience


Recent statistics released by social media Examiner and quoted at Convince and Convert show social media results maximize after marketers have 5+ years of experience.

Did you just get that? 5+ years!

Now, that’s an awfully long time. Can you remember what you were doing with your online marketing 5 years ago? It probably looked nothing like what you do today…if you were doing it at all.

With social media, you want to aim to build an engaged community. In the short-term, each post you make simply contributes a very slight bit to each sale you convert. In the long-term, you build brand advocates who happily share your posts and drive plenty more sales for you.

How do you build that more engaged kind of community and shave time off that 5-year expectation for results?

Read these tips to find out:

  1. Publish Content That Gives Your Customers a Compelling Reason to Change

Content’s available galore. Any company can find gobs of it to publish at any given time. You’re not doing your audience any favors by promoting the same thing everyone else does.

Instead, find content that challenges what your customers do now and gives them good reason to use you instead. If you’re a local HVAC company, for example, instead of giving the same old AC maintenance tips, show your customers precisely how they can solve a low refrigerant problem. Take a video (it can even be a simple one with your smartphone), show them what to look for, and how to do it.

Do it for different models of ACs – ones your customers are likely to have. Some will do it themselves. Others will put a lot of trust in you and be more likely to call you when they have a problem. The net effect will be additional sales for you.

  1. Find New and Different Content to Produce and Promote

This is simple. Just find other HVAC companies in your area. Visit their websites. Find their social media profiles. Watch what they publish and promote.

Don’t publish or promote any of that! Instead, find new and different content that most companies don’t promote. Maybe that means you go to websites like and find HVAC-related content because they go out of their way to go super in-depth. You know it’s always going to be really good stuff.

Few Companies Use These Tactics to Build Engaged Communities!

These two tactics attract attention like crazy because most companies, whether a local HVAC contractor, a high-power law firm, or a super-high-tech software company, focus on one thing: volume. They want to cram their social profiles with as much content as possible.

That gives them ordinary or dismal results.

When you focus on challenging what customers think, and teaching them new and different things, you stand out. And that’s how you engage in 2016. Plus, these marketing tactics are time-tested by the smartest marketers, and they will work for decades to come.

4 Great Ways to Turn Customers Off in Your Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-459153121 (1)

Sometimes, it’s a little fun to turn things upside down and talk about what to do if you want to fail. It’s a different way of looking at mistakes to avoid.

With that in mind, here’s what you can do to scare your customers off in your digital marketing:

  1. Not Wanting to Make Anyone Upset

Here, we’re not saying you should aim to irritate your customers. But, many small businesses struggle with the idea that everyone can be a customer. So, they get timid in how they describe the value of their products and services, not wanting to scare anyone away.

By trying to keep everyone happy, you actually hurt your business. Remember how you got into your business to serve a niche? That’s what marketing’s all about too. So in your marketing, you should focus on a specific kind of customer.

And if you want other types of customers, you’ll have to write specifically for them with separate messaging.

  1. Buying Lists to Market To

If you do a little old-fashioned marketing via mail, buying lists can really cause you a lot of trouble. Why? Because many bought lists aren’t nearly as accurate as they claim to be.

If you do direct mail marketing, build your own list to get a higher level of accuracy. It’ll be well worth your time.

  1. Talk about Your Products and Services

This one’s actually more of a timing issue in your marketing. Early on in the marketing process, you don’t want to talk about your products and services yet.


Because customers don’t want your product or service right away. Instead, they want a solution to their problem. So first, you talk about their problem, which shows them that you understand their situation.

That builds a connection. Then, once you have that connection, you can start talking about how your products and services solve their problem better than any other competing solution.

  1. Using the Wrong Channels

With online marketing, one of the keys is making sure you’re present where your audience is. If you target consumers, for example, LinkedIn likely wouldn’t be the place to do your marketing (although it can be used for consumer-based marketing in some cases).

It gets more difficult than that because some channels serve multiple audiences. For example, while Pinterest primarily appeals to women, it has a growing male segment too.

Facebook could appeal to nearly any audience, but it continues to force marketers to pay money to get their content in front of their audience. It may only be a good option for businesses with big budgets going forward.

In 2016, those are key mistakes you can make in your marketing that turn your audience off. Avoid them at all costs, or make sure you have an experienced SEO on your side.

Do You Know How the Consumer Buying Journey Works?


Marketing your products or services at the small business level is tough, unforgiving work. You have to know your customers as well as you know your spouse, or even better.

When you know them that well, you know what problems they have, the best answers to solve those problems, and exactly when to deliver those answers.

But most small businesses simply talk about their company and what they do. That’s a start. But your customer has to have confidence you have the best solution available for what they’re willing to pay.

So let’s talk a little bit more about the customer’s buying journey.

  1. There’s 4 Stages – Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, and the One Almost Every Business Forgets…

During the awareness stage, consumers have a dim idea they have a problem they need to solve. They’re not ready to buy yet, so you can’t sell to them. Instead, you show them you get their problem, and then you can start to talk about the solution.

The evaluation stage works as it sounds. Consumers compare your product or service to all the other options available.

Can you guess what happens during the third stage, the purchase stage? One of the key things to do at this point is to ask for their e-mail address. You know they like you. And they might want to buy more from you if your product or service rocks their world.

During the final post-purchase stage, you maintain the relationship so you’re top of mind when they’re ready to buy again. As an example, that could include something simple like an informative e-newsletter.

  1. You Need to Deliver content at Every Stage of the Cycle

The form of the content can vary. Could be a blog post, a video, infographic, special report, case study, e-mail autoresponder series, newsletter, or even just an image.

Whatever it is, it has to be simple, valuable, and useful. It’s a good idea to switch up content formats to see how your market responds. Maybe you repurpose the exact same type of content into several formats.

If you’re wondering about what to make, simply think of the questions your customers ask you the most often. Or ask them in person what they’d like to know more about.

Then create a piece of content that answers that question.

Yes, creating content that works really is that easy.

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools, But You Do Need to Do Hard Work

You’ll hear about all kinds of fancy SEO and marketing automation tools you need to make online marketing work. Yes, you do need some of these, and it’s good to outsource your digital marketing.

But you don’t need to be super-fancy and elaborate. Old-fashioned hard work by listening to your customers and solving their problem better than anyone else wins their business.

And just a couple of carefully selected pieces of content per month can make that happen.

Google Release 160 Pages of Search Quality Guidelines


Google apparently thinks you and I like to read. They didn’t release a succinct version of their search quality guidelines.

Nope, they had to give us 160 pages.

What’s different about these guidelines is they’re specific and clear. We’ve known generalities for some time.

And they outline what their human reviewers should look for. Google’s made no secret that they use humans, as well as their algorithm, to help review websites. After all, you can get “manual penalties,” which are those placed on your website after a human checks it out.

So what’s revealed on Google’s guidelines? Nothing earth-shattering, but some helpful clarity:

  1. Big Business and Small-Business Websites are Judged by Different Standards

Many SEOs have long complained that SMBs get the short end of the stick in the search world.

They may be right. But as Search Engine Watch outlines, Google does not expect SMBs to have as good of a website as a global corporation.

Fair enough, right? After all, WalMart has millions of more dollars than you or I do to build out their website.

  1. The Best content Should Be Written from Those with Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

With 4 million or so blog posts written daily (check this link for a live count), you wonder how many of those posts contain something new, original, or helpful. Wish we had stats on that, but sorry, we don’t.

What pages are actually considered to meet this standard still remains a mystery. But take a look at it in this common sense way:

Someone researching your topic on the web, an average person with little knowledge about your area of expertise, should get the impression you are an expert at what you do. So that means if you write content, it should be in greater depth than everyone else who does the same thing you do.

Remember the golden rule of the internet: be more useful to your market than anyone else because most websites aren’t useful.

  1. The Experience for Smartphone Users

Nielsen released data last year that showed the average US adult spends 34 hours per month on the internet with their smartphone. That compares to 27 hours with their PC.

But, the problem, according to Google, is that many websites aren’t set up well for smartphone users. Buttons need to be bigger. Some pages require the user to scroll left to right to read. Some still use Flash, which smartphones have a hard time displaying. Images might not fit on the screen. Data entry (such as into your website’s contact form) might be difficult.

Those are the major obstacles your website needs to overcome to keep ranking well on Google.

By the way, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, you can read all 160 pages of Google’s search quality guidelines here.

Is Your Content Marketing Effective?

“I need lots of high-quality content.”

That’s what many businesses think.

And it’s true to an extent. But it may not be as true as many would like to believe.

Content Marketing Institute is THE thought leader on everything content. Each year, they do extensive research and publish a report:

Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America

This year, their goal was to figure out what effective content marketing looks like. Yes, even though everyone’s been hyping “content” for years, many businesses are just now figuring out how to do it.

  1. Define Your Goals – What Success Looks Like

CMI’s first point is that companies say being clear on what success is report a higher rate of being effective at content marketing (55%). That compares to 30% of all companies saying they’re effective at content marketing last year versus 38% this year. That’s an increase of 25 percentage points for companies who define success.

Success can be as simple as checking your overall search rankings. You could also look at traffic increases.
Businesses that get more sophisticated with content marketing check things like brand perception, leads generated, and additional sales closed. They’re all difficult metrics to track.

  1. Have a Documented Content Marketing Strategy

This is CMI’s second point for businesses effective at content marketing. They have an overarching mission statement, hold regular meetings, and use a calendar.

At the small business level, this doesn’t need to be elaborate or sophisticated. A “mission statement” only needs to be 1-3 sentences long. And a “regular meeting” might be the monthly one with your agency or writer. And they might take care of the calendar for you.

It’s kind of like when you write something down, you’re more likely to do it. And that’s all you need to be more effective than many businesses at content marketing.

  1. Engaging Ideas Are All Around You

This one isn’t in the CMI report, but it’s a huge problem for businesses of all sizes. You can create just any topic, and that’ll be enough to help you hold your search rankings.

But you can get even more from your content by finding engaging ideas for your customers. Most businesses have a hard time with this.
It’s easy though. Ask the employees at your office who interact with customers most what their top problems and concerns are. Those are blog post ideas. Go to Forbes and Entrepreneur to see some of the big headlines. Visit, enter your keyword, and write on similar ideas to the leading results.

That’s more than enough for most businesses to start.

…And here’s to a vast improvement in your content marketing campaign’s success!