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Blast your marketing into the future: how to engage prospects online

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Any business with an online presence knows this is their biggest marketing opportunity right now. And it's only going to get bigger.

Everything you post on the web is marketing collateral, waiting to be found by your ideal customers via search engines and social media. So how do you engage prospects online and get them to the end of the buyer's journey?

At Articulate, just like the Doc, we constantly tweak and refactor our content marketing to make this happen. We set it against data we've gathered from experiments and then blast it into the future.

Last month we talked about getting your social media posts out of the triple zero club (no likes, shares or comments). This week we’ve brought you some tips on how to supercharge your strategy and engage your prospects online.

Getting people’s attention

‘Great Scott!’

Consumers have choice online, so your content marketing needs to work harder to cut through the noise and shout their name. Here are some ways to spark engagement with your prospects from the very first click:

  • Hang out where they hang out. Don't obsess over Facebook when your ideal customers are on LinkedIn. It's the same for hiring somebody to post on Pinterest if it's a channel your customer hasn't even heard of.  Understand your niche and post where they are.
  • Match searcher intent. Publish content around concepts and words your ideal prospects are actually searching for when they hit Google. Combine this with a bit of SEO to make sure your website is found by good-fit leads (with high chances of conversion).
  • Titles and excerpts. Think of the internet like a newspaper. Blue-link titles and excerpts are your headlines. Don't underestimate the importance of these, and avoid clickbait like the plague.
  • Source good images. People are more likely to engage if there's a thumbnail image to go with your social media posts. But don't use dodgy stock photos - these put people off. Images only work if they add meaning and value to your content.

Optimising for initial interactions is crucial because they’re the bolt of lightning between you and your customers.

social media marketing guide

Pitching your big ideas

‘Wait, Doc, are you telling me…?’

Blast your content marketing into the future: how to engage your prospects online - Samuel Johnson confused, trying to read When people click-through and land on your website, you should be able to talk about your high-tech products and big ideas, right? Yes. But it's common for businesses to get carried away and forget about their customers’ needs in the process.

It takes 20-30 percent longer to read on a laptop than it does on paper, so people read online by skimming and scanning. If your content is difficult or confusing, people will bounce.

To get your prospects past the first click, use a format they can digest on their lunch break. Here are some ways to make content easier to read and absorb:

  • Chunking. The way we read online means we're attracted to content that is easy to organise visually. Chunking information with subheadings, listicles and bullet points works well alongside good web design. More on this here.
  • Infographics and slideshares. These are a great way to talk about complex ideas and data. According to research by Xerox, coloured visuals increase willingness to read by 80 percent.
  • ‘2 min read.’ Or 1 or 3 or 10. Lots of websites display how long it will take to read an article. Medium use this tactic to good effect. Spurs you on to click, doesn’t it?
  • Reader progress tracking. This is a neat idea that encourages people to push on through your content. HBR do it well with slider-bars in their articles, but images work too.
  • Optimise for mobile. Nearly 60 percent of searches happen through mobile, so use marketing software to optimise for this. Because nothing turns your customers off like a slow loading webpage and teeny tiny text.
  • Longer posts. People engage more with long-form content on mobile. This makes sense - reading on our phones is similar to reading a book.  The sweet-spot for content length is around 1,000 words according to science.
  • Write like a human. The robots haven’t outsmarted us yet, but automatically generated content will work against your SEO efforts (Google will penalise you). And writing human is the only way you'll get through to your cynical, modern consumers anyway.

Where to next?

‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads’

Blast your content marketing into the future: how to engage your prospects online - DeLorean, Back to the Future

Your prospects don’t want to be sold down the river. To engage people online, you need to let them find their own way. If they like what they see, they'll be naturally curious about the rest of your website and your content will help them along the buyer’s journey.

So instead of the hard sell, you just need to make it easy for them to find out more:

  • Link to other internal webpages in each piece of content (this also naturally boosts your search engine presence).
  • Use call to action buttons on your pages to guide people to free, premium content.
  • Create landing pages for your premium content. These require people to fill out a form with their email address or other information before they can access the content. This converts prospects into leads automatically.

NB: Never use your leads' information to bombard them with sales calls or pushy emails. People will actively stop engaging with you and you'll lose them for good.

Data analysis 

‘If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.’

The most important - dare we say exciting? - part of a content marketing strategy is measuring and analysing performance. The trick is to look at the right metrics from the start and use the best tools to help.

At Articulate, we use HubSpot’s marketing software to collect data on website engagement. We also use Google Analytics and fuel up on Neil Patel’s Quick Sprouts and Crazy Eggs for information too.

Understanding how people are actually engaging with content (and not just how you think they are) is key to maximising growth and customer acquisition. If your website is generating leads and conversions - hurrah! If it’s not? Figure out why and fix it.

Method in the madness

All of this is what we do at Articulate through inbound marketing and growth driven design. 

Intrigued? Want a free marketing review? Need some plutonium for your website? If you made it to the end of this post, you’ll know what to do.

Discover inbound marketing - free guide

Image hat tips in order of appearance - reddit, wiki commons, f1rstborn