By Heidi Cohen published October 5, 2011

13 Content Options to Support Purchases

Is your marketing organization on the fence about using content marketing? If so, consider recent research from Cone Inc., which shows that across formats consumers are increasingly going online to find content that will help them make purchase decisions.

While Cone Inc.’s research highlights that consumers continue to turn to ratings and reviews and that blogs have gained customer interest, the reality is content marketing can support every step of the purchase process. If you don’t provide useful content, your competitors, other consumers, and the public will.

To support the purchase process effectively with relevant content, at the very least, you need to:

  • Include a relevant call-to-action
  • Include a unique promotion code to be able to track results.
  • Socialize your content marketing

Below are thirteen online options you should also consider beyond these essentials.

Your Website

Consider content-rich product information, company and executive backgrounds, location (with maps), and customer-driven FAQs.

Photographs

Here’s where your offering can strut its stuff. Remember, consumers want to see your product in action, as well as what they’re getting. Don’t forget to associate relevant text for searchability.

Videos

Increasingly, videos are being integrated into product content offerings to help online shoppers get a 360-degree view. Develop how-to videos to show prospects the basics (and even the not-so-basic ways) of using your product). Don’t overlook video’s storytelling or entertainment value, which companies like  Will It Blend (aka Blendtec), Orabrush, and Mentos versus Coke Experiment discovered and leveraged to great success.

Presentations / White papers

Presentations and white papers have long been at the core of B2B content marketing offerings. To increase their allure, include relevant, usable information wrapped in attractive graphic design. This content shouldn’t be one-sided or purely promotional. Otherwise, it won’t break through today’s information overload. Increase your reach by placing these materials on slide sharing sites that have broad visitor traffic.

Ratings and reviews

While Amazon’s the granddaddy of customer reviews, prospects are increasingly checking what others have to say about your offering through dozens of major and niche sites. Further, Cone Inc. found that prospects look for both positive and negative information. Remember, if you decide that you need to edit your comments on your own site, consumers will turn to third-party sites like TripAdvisor and your competitors to get unbiased reviews.

Testimonials

Direct marketers have used this form of customer reviews for years: “Don’t take our word for it; here’s what your peers say.” The benefit is that these customer comments can be hand-selected to highlight your products’ best features.

Blogs

While blogs should be at the center of your content marketing offerings, make sure you create blog content that can support your products with information that helps consumers use them. The goal is to provide non-promotional information, such as recipes, patterns, and helpful hints.

Discussion boards

Use product forums to answer customer questions before and after they purchase. Furthermore, get help from other consumers and the public who can answer your prospects’ questions based on their experience.

eBooks

Provide useful targeted information for public consumption that’s sexy by compiling it into an eBook. Increase your reach with strong design and social sharing. While widely used by B2B marketers, don’t underestimate their value for B2C and not-for-profit use. You can also consider creating an eBook to supplement your product manuals or to provide public information for not-for-profit (NFP) efforts.

Podcasts (audio content)

Does your product lend itself to the spoken word? If so, why not create a podcast? Increasingly, investor relations professionals are using this content format. Think outside the box, especially for kids who love to hear stories or for visually impaired audiences.

Email newsletters

While email is a core element of many marketers’ plans, you can offer a tailored newsletter that focuses on giving prospects and customers fun and useable content. Basically, you act like a sponsor of your own content and link to relevant products where appropriate. This works for all types of marketers.

Articles on third-party sites

Support your offerings by writing about product-relevant topics and submitting these articles to other media entities. B2B marketers have traditionally submitted content to trade publications; B2C and not-for-profits can also use this tactic effectively by writing about topics that address their prospects’ challenges.

Press releases

The beauty of press releases is that their keyword-rich content can attract broad audiences. To be effective as content, don’t think in terms of the traditional, must-announce-internal-or-regulatory-information releases. Go for intriguing approaches to your product.

Regardless of your target market, consider how you can provide content that your audience wants and is seeking to help them decide to purchase your products. And as I mentioned earlier, make sure you track results from each form of content to determine what’s most effective for your offering.

Is there any other content marketing format that you’d add to this list? If so, please include it in the comment section below.

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other posts by Heidi Cohen

  • http://twitter.com/Mywritingworld Fran Aslam

    Awesome article, sounds wonderful.  I enjoyed reading so many strategies for promoting contents.
    Fran A……….http://j.mp/roko5y

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing the stats. There are so many small businesses who think a FB page is enough, or barely having a website is enough, that they don’t need anything else. These stats show once again, like it or not, face it or not, people are researching you, your company and what they want online first more than 1/2 of the time. Is the money saved by not having a solid web presence worth potentially missing 60% of potential customers? I can’t imagine.

  • Steve Turley

    Thanks, Heidi. The Cone stats prove out what most B2B demand gen pros sense intuitively.

    In response to your request for other content formats, don’t overlook demos or an interactive experience with your product or service as a content medium! Flash or other platforms allow you to not only emulate your product experience, but embed useful content, such as user comments or data attributions that support the value of a particular feature or function (ex: 57% of our users found this feature saved more than one hour per day). 

    If your product or service does not lned itself to this type of interactive experience, you may also consider ROI or TCO calculators, but beware of over-simplified or canned responses; experts in your field will know how to enter data that should produce unfavorable results! If your calculator can’t come up with a scenario where your product or service is not a good fit and doesn’t save time or money, your entire value proposition can be damaged.

  • http://www.publishedin.com Yossi Barazani

    Is there any other content marketing format that you’d add to this list?It’s not a specific format but what is missing is a more controllable way to reach new potential customers with your content. By putting your content on your website, blog, social network and other sharing sites you reach mostly people who already know you, and trust google to do the work for you. I am suggesting a new way that allows you to distribute your content to web publishers relevant to your business, and reach all publishers’ readers when they write about you.  We created http://publishedin.com platform to do just that. As it’s in BETA I’d love to get your feedback ;-)