Words, words everywhere. Except you can’t drink words, try as you might.
Though authors, journalists, and other writers making a living from the written word, businesses do also. As consumers’ appetites for information grows, businesses are faced with the challenge of giving them the information. Except, the information can quickly blur into words and lots of them. So what is the best way to placate the hunger?
It depends on what stage of the buyer’s journey the customer is in. If they’re aware of their stated problem and know of possible solutions, an ebook could be the trick. But if the customer is starting out, they’re going to want a general overview, usually provided by a blog.
What Are These Words I’m Looking At?
Blogs are everywhere these days, but what is a blog? As a business, yours will be a different style – or not – from the weekend warrior blogger. At the core, they are user generated content that helps fuel the internet. What they aren’t is a website. Blogs and their content are updated periodically, such as many times each week. Web sites may go weeks between content updates.
There is a social aspect to blogs, starting with the common comment section. Readers engage with the author through comments, questions, or other feedback related to the specific blog. Authors often reply, thanking the reader or answering a question posed. Then, you can also think of blogs as the 21st-century version of the worn journal stashed under your mattress away from prying sibling’s eyes.
How Is a Blog Used by a Business?
Many companies use blogs as a direct communication channel with customers, along with giving the company a voice to its brand. Blogging content can be built around comments, questions, and concerns posed by your customers. After all, they’re the ones who buy your products and services. This also shows an understanding of your customers and expertise in the business and finding appropriate solutions.
Think of blogging as a short-term investment that will become a cost effective return-on-investment in the long term. Each time you blog, it’s another page for the search engines to index and give you credence in the search engine result pages. Being strategic in your usage of keywords when blogging will also boost the SEO efforts of your company.
A Blog Goes Where in the Buyer’s Journey?
They are found in the awareness stage given their flexibility to cover nearly any question your customers and others may have. The questions cover the problem or issue which might sound difficult to create a blog for. You can probably guess it’s not. A trick for the awareness stage is to think like your readers. They’re entering uncertain search terms into search engines, hoping to find something that could start answering their questions. Google Trends is a good tool to start your query and get the ball rolling on blogs for the awareness stage.
Blogs used in the consideration stage should grow from addressing pain points to providing solutions to them. This is the time to get a little bit salesy, showing the reader how your business can solve their problem. But keep in mind during this stage is when customers are comparing your information with another company or several. Be specific in your content.
In the days when ink jet printers and clip art reigned, so did newsletters. These omnipresent pieces of paper were used monthly, quarterly, or any other predetermined amount of time by businesses, clubs, religious organizations, and anyone else who wanted to share their message with the public.
Today, newsletters have become digitized, found in email marketing by the same groups who before ran out of ink at regular intervals. The mission of the newsletter still remains the same. Tell, announce, inform, remind, instruct, and communicate.
How Do I Use a Digital Newsletter?
Even in digital form, sent by email instead of postage, newsletters harken back to their printed days as a way to keep in contact with customers. They’re often a reminder to those who have dropped off of your business and what it can do for them. Newsletters can be and should be personalized to customers; think authentic marketing. Specific customer segments can be sent a newsletter about their interests.
Where Is a Newsletter in the Buyer’s Journey?
Since they are so precise, newsletters aren’t used until the decision stage. By then, your customers have realized their problem, research solutions, and determined that yours will best fit their need. Since they’re so far into the buyer’s journey, chances are you know which buyer persona the customer will fit into, allowing you to add persona specific information into a newsletter.
If the newsletter and dog-eared pages of a journal could go digital, it’s no surprise books have also. An ebook is the electronic version of a printed book. One or many can be read on a computer, tablet, smartphone through an application or on a dedicated e-reader. A true ebook has text and images which will automatically reformat to whatever device screen is being used. This means they were properly designed in the first place. Users can change font size, serif or sans serif, margins of the page, and more in the device through user preferences and settings. Even if you increase the font size to as large as it goes so you don’t have to find your reading glasses, the integrity of the book stays the same.
So how long have ebooks been around? To most people, the answer is likely between 10-15 years, when brick-and-mortar publishers began releasing prose in digital form. Officially they’ve been around since a University of Illinois student used copies of the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents and typed them into a machine used for data processing in 1971. Using an early form of the internet, Michael Hart let others know the text could be downloaded. Hence, the ebook was created.
The ebook has grown from its beginnings. One area that has had the most is its foundation. The International Digital Publishing Forum, the organization “dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing and content consumption,” used HTML as a building block for ebooks. From there, the epub format was conceived. This format is responsive to readers across devices and platforms. You’ll see PDFs as ebooks, but they are an example of a fixed format. This means the screen won’t readjust nor will you be able to adjust font size. Most ebooks can be highlighted, pages bookmarked, text selected and saved, and many of the same notation functions you can do to a print book.
How Can My Company Use an Ebook to Help Our Customers?
Like their more focused brethren blogs, ebooks can help you and your company establish yourselves as experts in the field and thought leaders in your industry. They allow you to go much deeper into a subject than a single blog post. Ebooks can be 10,000 to 20,000 words depending on how specific you go. But don’t plan on covering everything at once; many are written with a follow-up book already in mind or the works.
The neat thing about ebooks is their versatility. They can be positioned to build readership, entice new and old customers to gain a little insight into your business world.
Where Is an Ebook in the Buyer’s Journey?
Think of ebooks as a blend of a blog and a newsletter. Their content covers a specific topic and its related information (newsletter) but goes into detail, taking more than a minute or two to read over (blog). These live comfortably in the consideration stage for consumers. Ebooks can also stretch into the decision stage if they solidify the customer’s decision and provide them with reference material to use.
White papers have their roots as a reference to any official government report or a document that was authoritative and informative. Now they’ve become a popular marketing tool as consumers seek out information using the internet. Since white papers can be written on any topic under the sun by marketers and businesses, they can be used to influence the decision making of current and prospective customers. Many are published as PDFs for the ease of sharing, reading, and printing.
How Does a Company Use a White Paper?
Since they can be page upon page of detailed information, it would be easy to take advantage of this and slip in a sales pitch or two. Resist the urge. White papers focus on the customer’s problem or issue. They provide background information on the topic along with facts and evidence to show your expertise on the subject. Advocating a particular position is the best solution to solving a problem or issue.
Where Is a White Paper in the Buyer’s Journey?
White papers aren’t for the faint of heart. Packed full of analysis, facts, and more information than a consumer starting the buyer’s journey would want, these are found in the consideration and decision stages. When a consumer has reached this point, they know exactly what they want and are seeking a way to get it. Enter the white paper.
Inbound Marketing Words
The thing we love about words, or in this case, how they’re used in marketing, is the ability to go wild creatively. Walking through the office with a fresh cup of coffee and a solution to a customer problem comes to mind. It’s a snippet, but you know something is there. The customer you thought of wasn’t the first to approach with this problem, and likely won’t be the last. A few hours of scratching out more related snippets and falling down the research rabbit hole follow. Before you know it, you have one or several pieces of content at your fingertips. Using the power of the written word to help your customers and others, while leveraging your brand with all these words.