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I’ll be honest: I sometimes struggle with creating content dedicated to driving sales for business-to-consumer clients. Not that it isn’t fulfilling or that I don’t believe in what I’m putting out there; it’s just that finding the right voice to talk to the customer can be taxing and is particularly difficult when multiple companies are offering the same product.

For example, let’s say I’m writing for a retailer about televisions which the customer could buy from Best Buy, Target, Amazon, Walmart, and so on. It can be hard to create effective content when I’m living between two worlds.

There is one world that is the seller. They have a product or service that needs to be bought or they go out of business. They offer content as a marketing tool to reach a new breed of customer. This customer is doing research for themselves and using online content (reviews, blogs, etc.) to help make informed decisions.

The other world is that of the buyer. The buyer could be at any stage of the customer life cycle when they interact with a blog, a tweet, a status update or a video.

I really started thinking a lot about this when I wrote a recent blog post for Raidious, and I created this diagram:

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That sweet spot in the middle is what I’m aiming for, producing for a customer that also takes into account the seller’s goals. But compare this to a website that isn’t as focused on driving sales but is instead solely focused on getting hits and being an authoritative voice in their field. Their content diagram would look something like this:

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It seems like the deck might be stacked in their favor when it comes to creating engaging content. Their success or failure is measured in time, eyes and clicks; mine is measured in time, eyes, clicks and action/dollars. That means my content must be more focused, more engaging and more monitored to create more value because in the end we are asking for more from our customer.

In a fantastic article Are Sales Pitches Dead in the New Buyer Economy?, Tony Zambito writes that buyers are responding to four things that companies are providing online: Networking, Educator Role, Media Integration and Advisory Role. I particularly jumped on this Educator Role statement:

“…companies today must see themselves in the role of educators because buyers are expecting to learn a thing or two. And if they are not learning anything at all, well, you will have no value to them.”

Educating the audience is the key. In other words, focus on telling the buying message. Take an educational voice about the product or service you are marketing and give the buyer information that will drive them to you when they are ready to buy. Call it Brand Journalism if you want, but if you aren’t trying to educate about the brand as well then you are probably not creating content that is going to drive sales–at least not where you want them.

Educational content for brands has to be more than one call to action and a name drop hidden inside block of text that is not successful for the client.

I find myself fighting against the desire to create content like the second diagram but justifying it by throwing in a shout-out for the client as an afterthought. The problem with doing that is the content runs the risk of becoming indistinguishable from other brands selling the same product. I call this the Interchangeable Void; if your information is too generic it becomes relevant to all brands and is much less effective.

Content should be organized by a strategy that revolves around multiple customers at the same time. The customer who is in the early stages of buying is part of an audience that is scattered around multiple sites researching a lot of content from different sources at the same time. Then they begin to narrow their focus to a few sites offering specific and relevant information. Being able to produce content that fits both of these stages greatly increases the effectiveness of it in terms of end sales. If your content is too generic and interchangeable they might be using it solely as information gathering. If you are not educating the customer into the next step, you could simply be helping someone else make the sale.

You have to educate not only the product but your brand as well. What makes your brand so special? What do you offer that no one else does? These are the questions you must answer. Educating and informing across the customer life cycle is the key.

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