The Ecommerce Executive’s Guide to Content Marketing
Content marketing. It’s one of those buzzwords every marketing guru throws around, but no one really knows what it means. That is probably because content marketing for ecommerce can take a variety of forms across different businesses.
Despite a vague definition and a questionable return on investment, content marketing is something marketers will say that you “should” be doing. But as an executive or leader of an ecommerce business, you need to know what that entails, what type of budget is required, and what you can expect in return. Right?
In this article, we’re going to talk through what content marketing for ecommerce really is, what its value is, when it should be used, and how to put together a simple plan for leading a successful content marketing program.
Everything You’ve Heard About Content Marketing Is Wrong
There’s essentially no chance that you don’t have an idea in your head about what content marketing is and you probably are currently doing some form of it. Let’s just be clear, if your content marketing plan is writing generic blog posts and posting on social media daily, you’re not going to see any return.
Contrary to what you’ve been told, content marketing is not about writing blogs that rank in search engines. It’s not about creating “lead magnets”. It’s not about making videos for Youtube. Those are all great, but they are not the point. If your focus is on these activities you are missing the point.
To really rationalize content marketing, you have to understand HOW it will give you a return, and in order to believe it will generate a return you have to first have a mindset shift. Rather than thinking about it by the pieces of content you create, think about it as the brand voice that you are developing. This may seem small, but it’s a massive shift. Like your customer email list, a quality brand voice in the marketplace is an asset. It’s something you develop over time, invest into, and then use to generate sales. A successful content marketing strategy will be centered around developing a high-quality, influential brand voice that will be an asset for a long time to come.
Every long-standing, successful business has a quality, authoritative brand voice and they use that to influence the market. In order to be bought in on content marketing, you must believe that your brand voice is an asset worth developing, because like any asset it will require investment and curation that brings a return in the future. In the Eisenhower Matrix this would fall into the important but not urgent category, which is what we call the money box (similar to R&D).
Stop Doing “Content Marketing”
So, what does this mean? Essentially to really execute an effective content marketing strategy you have to stop thinking of it as content marketing and start thinking of it as your business becoming a media company. That’s right, you need to start producing great content that is informative, aligns with your values, builds your unique brand voice, and entertains your audience among other things. This will never come from writing blog posts stuffed with keywords.
Where Content Marketing Fits in Your Current Ecommerce Strategy
When it comes down to it, marketing falls into two different categories: marketing that has an immediate return on investment and marketing that brings results down the road. Immediate results are important, but if you want to grow, you must also be investing in long-term results. And content marketing is one of those long-term wins.
If you’re just starting to think about long-term investments, we recommend starting small. Take 10% of your marketing budget and start investing that into long-term marketing strategies with no expected return. This, like innovation, are investments you’re placing on your future. Over time you can grow this to 30%. You can continue to increase that percentage the more these long term efforts start to pay off.
What’s the point of content marketing for ecommerce (and can it actually make money)?
Content marketing involves creating really great consumable content for your customers or potential customers that grows your relationship and builds your authority. A common misconception many people have is that content marketing only comes in the form of writing blogs or articles. It doesn’t always have to be that way. In fact, we have some examples of other types of content marketing further on in this post. Before we get there, let’s be sure we don’t miss the point of content marketing.
When it’s done well, content marketing is a key element in creating emotional connections with customers. This is exactly what you need since emotion drives a person’s purchase decision, not facts. Connecting with your customers on an emotional level is also what generates raving fans, which is the secret sauce to long-term, stable business growth.
With that in mind, content marketing does in fact drive revenue when it’s executed well and with the right mindset.
How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Program For Ecommerce
1. Define your brand and your story
Your brand is not your product; it needs to be more than that. A brand is actually the emotional connection that you can build with your customers through your product and its purpose. If your business is strictly transactional, you will make money, but you won’t have loyal customers that come back. True fans only come with a well-developed brand, and your story is a big part of that.
If you’re not sure what your brand’s story is, take time to do some soul searching and define it. Find the genuine reason your company exists and own it, bleed it. The more authentic you can make your story, the better. Sometimes brands manufacture a narrative for themselves, but these days consumers are very good at sniffing out inauthenticity. If you don’t love your product and your brand at some level, then you need to NOT do any content marketing (and, arguably, you might need to get into something else). A brand voice can only be developed through content that connects with people.
2. Decide where to tell your story
Once you have your brand story dialed in, it’s time to tell it. This can be woven throughout your brand’s blog, but it doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, we recommend other places such as:
- Sections of your site, such as the homepage
- Paid advertising for brand awareness or brand education
- Video content, on either your website or in ads
- Email marketing, through welcome sequences or post-purchases sequences
- Blogs, articles, and other written content on your site
3. Produce helpful content
You might be tempted to write based on what you think you need to rank well on Google. Don’t do that. SEO absolutely has its place, but when you’re thinking about the purpose of content marketing, writing to connect with your customer is more effective than writing for a search engine. Write this down, if you create content for search engines you will lose. It’s not about them, it’s about your customers. Make content for humans, and particularly your customers and the pain points they have.
Here are three types of helpful content we recommend including in your content marketing strategy:
A. Tell your story
Again, customers want to know why you created this product. If it’s a story that resonates with them, they will buy more. Having a strong “why” behind your business and for your customer is a competitive advantage.
Educating your market (including both potential and current customers) will help you sell more products. Offer information on the primary features and benefits of your products, as well as what makes your product unique. Address common objections as topics to eliminate potential customers’ concerns about purchasing. If you’re marketing a new product, make the audience aware of their problem or needs and of your solution.
C. Empower for success
Make sure your customers know how to use your products well. Even if you sell clothing, there are tips you can share. The point is that the more successful your customers are with your products, the more often they will use it, tell others about it, and buy from you again. One of the most effective ways to do this is in post-purchase email sequences.
4. Leverage a team
Who should be writing all of this content? An owner, founder, or someone very involved with the core of the brand should be a big part of it, but they do not have to be the actual writer. We recommend hiring a writer and discussing topics with him or her. Share your story, provide all the tools and background needed, and then let the writer create the content. Then, that same stakeholder should review and provide feedback on the content. When it comes to things like video, get creative (even if you think your product isn’t very interesting). For example, here at Metacake we have a video team dedicated solely to our own video content where we educate execs and owners on ecommerce principles. That can be kind of boring, so we work really hard to have fun with each video and entertain while we educate. Check out our YouTube channel to be entertained and educated :).
Pretty soon, there will be enough messaging finalized to serve as a central hub of brand-related content. The rest of your team can use this to reiterate more content without the same level of involvement from the stakeholder.
5. Distribute in priority order
It will take time to distribute your content everywhere it needs to go. We’d recommend working in priority order as follows:
A. Write blogs and articles
Go ahead and get started with a few cornerstone pieces of content such as your brand story, product education, and how to use your products. It’s important to write these first so you can reference and link back to them wherever else you use content marketing.
B. Homepage and other areas of your site
Next, sprinkle important content throughout your homepage, collection pages, and product detail pages. For example, Nisolo Shoes does a great job of incorporating a video and a link to learn more about their brand’s impact on its homepage. We’ve outlined it in red here:
C. Run advertising
Start running Facebook, YouTube, or other types of advertising that lands on your cornerstone content pages. By directing these to new audiences and traffic that has yet to purchase, these content ads can become a strategic part of your ad funnel. Use these ads to introduce cold traffic to your brand, or to build trust for site visitors who have not purchased yet.
D. Send emails promoting the content
Hopefully you are already running the three most important automated email sequences: pre-purchase, post-purchase, and abandon cart. If so, incorporate your core content within these emails. This is a great way to tell your story, provide education, and help customers be successful, while also seeing an immediate return from it.
As an example, check out the makeup brand Beauty Counter’s email detailing just how clean and safe their products are.
E. Create mailers
Personalize the unboxing experience with a branded postcard with more information about your brand. A well-designed mailer can be a great place to briefly share your brand’s story, tips for use, or ideas for their next purchase.
F. Produce videos
Video is one of the best ways to communicate emotion, which is what will move visitors and customers to actions. Remember, emotion does not mean you need to be a tear-jerker. Your goal is to create content that makes your customers feel something— it can be as simple as excitement over how cool your product is, renewed energy to tackle their workweek, or laughter over something relatable. High-quality video production is not cheap, but it can do wonders for your brand, whether you’re posting organically on social media and YouTube, or you are using these videos for ads. For more info on creating amazing video ads, read more about it here.
As you see, content marketing is much more than writing blogs or articles and pushing them out to subscribers or cold traffic. The goal is to grow an influential brand voice as an asset by dialing in your brand story and other content that will be helpful for forming relationships with your customers and then distribute that content across a variety of channels. Leveraging good content in your marketing strategy and customer experience is a long-term play, but will help generate more revenue in the long run.