Better content equals more sales. Period.
I’ve got the receipts to back it up, but it’s understandable that sometimes it’s difficult to see.
Because, for many high-ticket coaches, course creators, membership sites, etc., we rarely put a “buy now” button on a blog post, a podcast episode, or an Instagram caption.
It’s not as simple as looking at the conversion rates on an advertising campaign or sales page — but that’s because content marketing is about building relationships, and it’s hard to put a value on a solid relationship.
Good content marketing is permission-based. It draws people to you instead of going out to find them. It builds knowledge, trust, and affinity over time and those are what translate into bigger and better profits and returns.
Why content marketing provides higher ROI for businesses
Consistently, year after year, people who survey marketers find tons of proof that blogging and content marketing demonstrate better results and return on investment than almost any other type of marketing:
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3x as many leads. Source: 99Firms, 2019
- Organizations that prioritize blogging see 13x the ROI of those that don’t. Source: HubSpot, 2020
- OKDork’s data shows blog posts are among the most shared content online. Source: OKDork
- B2B marketers who have blogs get 67% more leads than those who don’t. Source: OptIn Monster
It’s pretty hard to argue with three times as many leads and 13 times the ROI — but why is that true? How can these stats be true when people are always saying that “blogging is dead” etc.?
Whereas advertising is trying to get someone to buy something they didn’t know they wanted (even if “buying” in this case means signing up for something free), content marketing is permission marketing. The term was coined by Seth Godin in his book of the same name way back in 1999 — and, tellingly, it got him summarily evicted from a prominent marketing and advertising professionals group he was a member of at the time.
Seth Godin wrote this on his blog (way back in 2008) about permission marketing:
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there’s no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.
The channel you use for content marketing or permission marketing (and I’m using the two interchangeably here) doesn’t really matter; you could be delivering an email newsletter, a blog (via your website or RSS feed), a podcast, YouTube videos, live videos on Facebook or Instgram and so on.
What’s more important is that it’s regular, personal (to your ideal customer) and — as Seth puts it — “anticipated.”
Which, by its nature, means that the content is valuable to them in some way.
That builds a relationship by its very nature: you’ve asked for their permission to communicate with them regularly, they assent, and then they find the material so valuable that they anticipate it and want more.
It’s not hard to imagine why a relationship like that would show a higher return than advertising to cold audiences who’ve never heard of you.
The 3 content marketing channels you need to drive sales
There’s an ad I keep getting on Facebook that talks about how “they” (the gurus) told you to just make value posts on social media and you’d make sales. They go on to scoff at this notion — and try to sell me on whatever their formula is for social media posts that sell.
I find this fascinating.
I don’t doubt that people get frustrated when their social media posts don’t immediately turn into sales. Hell, I know I do!
But really, is that what social media is supposed to do in your business?
There are three jobs that your communications channels in your business need to accomplish:
- Discovery — help new people find you
- Nurture — do the work of delivering value to build relationships
- Conversion — close the sale
Now, five or ten years ago, social media might have been good for discovery; less so today. Unless you’re running ads to get new likes on your profiles or implementing a solid hashtag strategy or partnering with influencers, social media isn’t where people are likely to discover you.
And, unless you’re a real outlier, it’s not where you’re going to close the sale, either.
I’ve been following Eleanor Strong for a while, and she teaches a compelling method of writing social media posts that does seem to generate sales for her and others — but even she doesn’t close the sales on a Facebook post; she uses direct messages and social selling as her conversion channels. Her method is content marketing at its core, she’s just teaching people how to be much more clear and succinct in how they talk about their offers.
Yet somehow, collectively, we’ve gotten mixed up about which channels are supposed to do the heavy lifting in our business.
Which channels are you using — and which are you missing?
Take just a second and go back and look at that list of communications channels and ask yourself which platform (like email, social media, podcasts, blogs, etc.) you’re using for each one.
In my experience, here’s how the spread most commonly plays out:
- Discovery — almost nothing happening here. People tend to think that their podcast, blog, or social media are their discovery channel, but unless you’re putting serious effort into advertising, SEO, hashtags or something similar, those channels are probably not functioning that way.
- Nurture — they have the most channels here, because we’ve convinced ourselves we have to be everywhere, but the least strategy or payoff. They’re churning out more content, but the quality is suffering in favor of quantity. And if they suddenly disappeared and stopped producing it, few would notice or care.
- Sales — for established businesses, this is usually the most dialed in with sales funnels or sales calls set up to convert. But newer businesses sometimes misunderstand and post “sales” messages all over their nurture channels and turn people off.
In my view, a reorganization needs to take place in how much time, effort, and investment we’re putting toward our channels to balance them out.
Instead of trying to be everywhere what if you chose one channel for each?
Does that feel scary? Like you’d be missing out on people who don’t care to be in that place?
What if you produced content that was so good most of them would follow you regardless?
Do you think that would impact your sales in a positive way?
And if your content was that good, do you think you could put less time and energy into discovery, because more people would share your work and recommend you organically?
Quality content makes marketing easier and more profitable
Better content drives more sales and less investment in things like advertising.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
In fact, that’s why permission marketing is still the gold standard — because it’s not easy. You can’t fake it with growth hacks and tactics. It has to be thoughtful, valuable, and high quality.
“If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you’re right,” Seth Godin says. “That’s why so few companies do it properly. The best shortcut, in this case, is no shortcut at all.”