If you want to generate hordes of sustainable, long-term traffic without spending too much money, content marketing is the way to go.
At its core, it’s very simple:
Create valuable content for your target audience, and give it to them.
Seems a bit short, doesn’t it?
And it is. But that’s only part of the equation.
Unfortunately, that’s where most marketers and businesses stop.
They invest a decent amount of time and money to create content, and many achieve some degree of success.
They start to get a few hundred to a few thousand visitors a day.
But then they realize something….
None of these visitors are becoming customers.
They’ve wasted a great deal of their traffic by not knowing what comes next.
So, what’s the second half of the equation?
After you use content to generate an audience, you then need additional content to make sales.
And you desperately need those sales. Otherwise, how can you justify spending money to give away more content?
I want to show you what types of content you should be producing in order to generate strong sales from the rest of your content marketing efforts.
Some of these might overlap with the content you’re already producing to generate traffic, but some will be new.
If you’re starting to see a solid level of website traffic but aren’t sure how to turn those visitors into customers, this post should help you a lot.
1. Teach and make sales: Webinars
I want to make this clear right away:
Just because a piece of content is geared towards helping you make sales doesn’t mean that it has to be a “salesy” piece of content.
It can still be highly educational.
The key difference, however, is that these types of content are suited better for making a sale than a general “X tips about Y” article.
I started this post with webinars because it is an incredible type of content.
Not only is it better from an education perspective (compared to most content), but when done right, it’s also better for sales—it can yield crazy numbers.
Let’s look at a few examples.
KISSmetrics has used webinars for a long time.
While I was working at the company, we produced 77 webinars, which had a total of 155,386 signups.
Although only half of those who signed up actually attended the webinars (74,381), we were able to convert 16,394 of them.
That’s a 22% conversion rate (of the people attending).
Those results are pretty typical for high quality webinars.
A few other businesses, such as Adobe and BuzzSumo, have revealed the results of their webinars. Adobe reported a 19% conversion rate, and BuzzSumo gets a conversion rate of about 20%.
You might not get that high of a conversion rate right away, but it’s not improbable either.
There are few types of content that convert as highly as webinars.
If you’ve visited NeilPatel.com any time in the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been running webinars on a regular basis.
I’m going to outline how to create a webinar right now, but I highly recommend signing up for a future webinar just to see what an effective one looks like.
What a typical webinar looks like: In case you’re unfamiliar with webinars, let me give you a quick rundown of how they are typically made and run.
A webinar is essentially a video conference.
The video feed comes from your screen, and only your screen. Then, your audience can join the “call” at a set time, and you can do a live presentation.
Typically, the only sound will come from your microphone, but you can have multiple people do the presentation or even unmute certain viewers if they’d like to speak.
The whole point of a webinar is to teach the audience about a specific topic. Usually, it’s how to do something.
In my case, we teach the audience about our process of customer acquisition and the way they can replicate that process.
In general, webinars range from 40 minutes to 2 hours. Mine are on the high end because I like to pack in as much value as possible.
Take a second to realize the power of webinars: you have most of your viewers’ undivided attention for over 40 minutes.
You can’t get that anywhere else.
Finally, most webinars focus on high level topics—strategies, not tactics.
So, while you won’t get a super detailed step-by-step breakdown of how to do one specific thing, you will get a blueprint of how to create a strategy to accomplish something much greater.
My webinars focus on building a successful customer acquisition process (high level strategy), not how to design specific types of lead magnets (low level tactics, which is also one very small step in the process).
Then, the topic ties into either a lead magnet or a full-fledged product or service.
After I reveal everything about my proven process of building multi-million dollar businesses, I tie that into my consulting service.
It’s a natural fit. If you don’t want to learn how to do all the small things in the system yourself or you want to be sure of the result, you can just hire me instead.
Can you see how about 20% of viewers would want to pick that option?
The key parts of a webinar: There are five main parts of a webinar slideshow that you’ll need to create for your webinar.
I went into much greater detail in this guide to webinars, but this outline will give you a higher level view of the whole process and clarify things.
First, you have the introduction slide(s). Something I haven’t really mentioned is that webinars can attract viewers who aren’t part of your regular audience.
So, while you’ll have some super fans on the webinar, there will also be some people to whom you should introduce yourself.
This reinforces that you’re someone who they should listen to and that it’s worthwhile to spend the next hour or so of their lives paying attention to you.
This is also the time when you re-introduce the topic.
Then, you move right into the core content, which is the meat of the presentation. It can take upwards of 80% of the total presentation time.
During this part, you walk the viewer through whatever process you’re trying to teach.
The most effective webinars are highly transparent, which is why I share a lot of personal company information with my viewers.
Transparency is especially needed when you’re addressing a high level strategic topic. With tactics, it’s obvious whether something will or will not work.
But with a strategy, viewers need real numbers and experiment results to prove to them why each part of the strategy is included.
Once you’ve spilled the beans and given everything you have to give, you need to look at some overall results that can be achieved if they put your lessons into action.
Finally, you can take a minute to make them an offer. It’s typically an exclusive offer that they can’t find on your website.
The more the offer is tied to the topic, the better your conversion rate will be.
The last component is the question period. You could do this before or after the pitch—it’s up to you. You could even do two question periods, one before and one after.
2. Get your product reviewed by influencers
One of the main reasons why your typical content won’t bring you any sales is because it doesn’t tie in with what you’re selling in any way.
For example, you might sell coffee.
And you might publish content like “The 5 mistakes you’re making when brewing coffee.”
Your readers might read the article and enjoy it. But what does learning about brewing have to do with buying your coffee? Not a whole lot.
And that’s okay—not all content needs to have a sales angle, but some content should.
The most direct type of content that sells is a product review.
But it’s also something you can’t really create yourself. If you make a new post reviewing your own product, of course your readers will assume it’s biased (because it is!).
Instead, you need to find bloggers, freelance writers, and journalists who are willing to review your product.
How to find content creators who will review your product: To begin with, you’ll need a list of people who might be interested in reviewing your product and have an audience that contains your target audience.
For the rest of this section, let’s pretend that you’ve just released a new time management tool.
Now, you’re trying to get reviews for it, which will drive sales.
To start with, search in Google for “top (type of product)”:
Go through the results on the first page, and write down all the alternatives.
Next, we need to build a list of all potential sites and writers who might review your product.
To do this, we want to find sites that have already reviewed time management tools—specifically, those tools that you just wrote down.
One by one, you need to search for “(name of competing product) review”:
For popular products, this could bring up hundreds of reviews.
You’ll see that the top few reviews for a popular, established product are on big authority sites. In this case, they are on PC Mag and PC World, which are both huge.
It would be awesome to get a review on those sites as well. However, unless you have a well-known brand or a strong existing relationship with writers on those sites, it’s going to be difficult.
Unless you have a product that is very different from all the rest and revolutionary, I wouldn’t suggest trying to land reviews on those sites right away. You can try, but expect a lot of rejection.
Instead, I propose a more methodical and strategic approach…
How to maximize your chances of landing a successful review: When you’re starting from scratch, it’s difficult to get a lot of attention.
You need to be able to prove that (1) your product is of high quality and (2) that your target audience likes it.
Essentially, you need social proof.
How do you get it?
You start at the bottom and work your way up.
Forget about those top few results when you search for your competitors’ reviews. Instead, dig into the 3rd page, 4th page, 5th page, and deeper results to find reviews on less authoritative sites.
Writers on these sites are sent hundreds of review requests every week, and they are much easier to convince to review your product.
Down on the 5th page for our example search, I found a Rescue Time review on an unknown blog.
They probably don’t have a ton of readers, so it’s not going to spike your sales. However, a review on a small blog can still yield a few sales, so it’s not like it’s a waste of your time in the short term.
Additionally, smaller bloggers often have a tight-knit group of subscribers. Sometimes, smaller blogs drive more sales than larger ones.
The best part about reaching out to a blogger like this is that there’s a good chance they will be happy to review your product.
I would find their email address and then send them something like this:
Subject: Content idea for (blog name)
I came across your blog recently and was impressed with your (competitor’s tool) review.
So much so that I’d like to offer you a free copy of my own tool.
It’s called (product name), and it’s a lot like (competitor’s tool), except that (how is it different in a good way?).
If you’re interested in checking out the tool or have any questions, just let me know!
Thanks for your time,
There are three things in particular about the outreach email that you need to understand:
- The differentiator - It makes sense to relate your product to your competitor’s so that the blogger sees why they might be interested in reviewing yours. But it’s important that you explain how your product is different and in which ways it’s better. Otherwise, why would the blogger try just another copy of a tool they already like?
- The free product offer - Let’s face it, the review is primarily for your benefit. You need to provide some sort of incentive. The most common incentive is a free copy or sample of whatever you’re selling.
- Not pushing the review too hard - Don’t make it a condition for them to post a review when you offer your free product. They know that’s what you want, and if they genuinely like the product, they will post a review.
Send out as many of these as you can to lower-tier sites.
Not all of them will agree to do a review, but you’ll be able to get at least a handful.
Next, you start to target larger sites.
If you started on the 5th page of results or lower, now you might want to try the sites on the 3rd and 4th pages.
The outreach emails should be similar, but you should also include a line near the end like:
Our product has already been reviewed on sites such as (site #1) and (site #2) and has been well received by their audiences, which is why I think your audience would also be interested in getting an in-depth look at it.
This type of paragraph introduces the social proof that you need so badly at this point.
The bigger the two sites that you include are, the more effective it will be. In addition, you’re providing reassurance that their audience will enjoy it.
Again, this will get you another handful of reviews if you contact 100-200 sites (10-20 sites for 10 competing tools).
Finally, you just repeat this whole process.
As you get reviews on better and better sites, start using their names in your outreach emails.
By the time you get to the top few results on the first page, the biggest sites, you should have some decent sites to include as social proof.
Note that this entire process can take months to complete. However, during this time, you should still drive an increasing number of sales with the initial reviews you land.
3. Design an email sales funnel
When it comes to making sales, there are two aspects of content that really matter.
First is the type of content, which we’ve looked at a little bit so far (more to come).
Secondly, it’s the form in which it’s being delivered.
Content can be delivered in many forms:
- blog posts
- text messages
- forum posts
Many marketers don’t realize that the form matters a lot.
That’s because the viewers/visitors have a different perceived value of different content channels.
Blog posts are free, and there are millions of them. Readers are used to skimming them, learning a few small things, and moving on to the next one.
However, take emails for example.
People put a lot of value and trust in emails. When they get one from someone they know, they usually give it their full attention and expect to take some sort of action. It could be just replying to the email, but it could be clicking a link and buying something as well.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s one of the reasons why email marketing is by far the most effective selling channel.
Assuming you have been building an email list, you know that you should shift a lot of your sales efforts to selling through email. If you don’t know how, I’ll show you in the next section.
How to get sales through emails: The best way to sell most products through email isn’t by sending a random email saying “buy our stuff” even if that feels like the easiest thing to do.
Email gives you the opportunity to send a series of connected pieces of content to your subscribers.
You can use these to educate your subscribers, help them understand their problems, and then finally introduce solutions (your products).
A series of emails like this is essentially a mini sales funnel:
And it’s incredibly effective.
There’s no right or wrong email funnel. You might have three emails in it, or you might have 20. It depends on the complexity of your product, the cost of it, and even how advanced your email marketing provider is.
However, there are three general types of emails that you will want to include in the following order:
- Educational (first 1-5 emails) - You want to send lessons to your subscribers so that they fully understand their problem. For example, if you sold high end coffee, you might want to send emails about the health benefits of high quality coffee as well as how to tell the difference between low and high quality coffee.
- Product introduction (1-2 emails) - Here, you want to offer a solution to their problem (not being able to find high end coffee). You don’t need to give a hard sell; just make your readers aware of your product.
3. Product offer (last 1-5 emails) – Finally, you want to offer your limited time discounts or bonuses. This is more important if you’re selling something like a course that is only available during a certain time period.
While it’s not required, I think it’s also a great idea to add at least one email where you follow up with anyone who purchases something from you. It’s one small thing you can do to gain lifelong customers.
By thinking of a sales funnel as a whole, you can combine all these emails to take your audience one step closer to a sale every email you send.
4. Use content to get access to your target audience
In the previous section, I went over the reasons why blog posts aren’t the greatest places for selling products.
People reading them aren’t in a buyer’s mindset.
The same goes for many other types of content, like social media posts, YouTube videos, slideshows, and more.
The better plan is to use your content on these other channels to get attention (traffic) and then get that traffic onto an email list. Then, you can sell much more effectively through email.
Option #1 – Start with blogging: I love blogging because I’ve seen the power it can have to help just about any business. I’ve built multiple 7 figure businesses mostly through blogging.
But I rarely sell in blog posts. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I even mentioned my services in a post.
The key is that I have signup forms on my posts—any visitor can sign up for my email list.
If you haven’t already been doing that, I can help you.
I’ve written many posts on how to create blog content that gets attention:
And here are the posts that will help you effectively convert that traffic into email subscribers:
Option #2 – Social media has one purpose: There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, selling on social media doesn’t work.
You won’t be able to tweet out a link to a sales page and get people to visit the page expecting them to be in a buyer’s mindset.
However, it is possible to send them to a blog post or a landing page where you offer a lead magnet, which will help you get them onto your email list.
That is the purpose of social media from a sales perspective (it’s good for other things as well).
Some social media sites, such as Facebook, even allow you to integrate your email list with your profile so that your followers can sign up right on the social networking site.
Otherwise, you can always just link to your content and drive your followers to a page that has some sort of an opt-in form on it:
In the above case, it goes to a blog post I published on NeilPatel.com, which has a nice big opt-in form in the sidebar:
Option #3 – Slideshows and videos: Besides your blog and a select number of social media sites, there are many places where you can find traffic that you can get onto your email list.
In fact, there are thousands.
However, two in particular are more commonly used for business, so I’ll focus on those.
Those two are Slideshare and YouTube, which focus on publishing content in slideshow and video formats respectively.
Getting a popular slideshow on Slideshare isn’t easy, but if you can achieve that, you can expose your slideshow to tens of thousands of people on the site.
Then, you can put a link to a page on your website (hopefully a landing page with a lead magnet offer) either on the last slide of the slideshow or in the description:
YouTube is similar. If you produce high quality videos consistently, you can get thousands of views on each of them.
If a video goes viral, you could get millions of views.
You drive traffic back to your site by linking to a landing page or blog post in the description of videos:
5. Focus on the types of blog content that convert
I’ve been a bit harsh when speaking about blog posts so far.
They are still a great way to get traffic to your business’ site, which you should always keep in mind.
And although many types of blog content do not produce any sales, some types of content actually do.
If you’re looking to increase sales from your blog itself, start producing more of these types of content on a regular basis.
Content type #1 – tutorials: There are two main types of tutorials, both of which are great for selling.
The first type is where you explain in-depth how to use a specific product.
For example, I did this in one chapter of my advanced guide to link building when I covered how to use the tool ScrapeBox.
The key is to not only include incredible detail but also make it useful. Show readers how to actually accomplish something with the product:
In this example, I showed my readers how to find free proxies and build links with the tools.
This type of tutorial works best when you have a fairly well-known product already (most SEOs know ScrapeBox even if they haven’t used it). Because of this, this type of tutorial often lends itself to selling products as an affiliate.
The other type of tutorial involves showing your audience how to accomplish something. Then, you include your product in one of the steps of the tutorial.
A great example of this is Ann Smarty and her product MyBlogU.
She routinely writes tutorials on her own site and others and includes MyBlogU as a tool that will help the audience accomplish their goals.
For example, she wrote a post about how to write newsworthy content:
In the article, she mentions the tool as a way to accomplish a specific step in the process:
Content type #2 – product reviews: A good product review can convince just about anyone considering it to actually buy it.
However, you need to understand what a good product review is.
Most reviews suck. They’re incredibly biased, contain no actual detail of the product in use, and are obviously written just to generate sales.
A good product review is authentic and as unbiased as possible, and it’s clear that the writer has used and tested the product.
There are four main steps to creating a great product review:
- Pick a type of product in your niche (e.g., link-building tools)
- Buy the products you’re comparing (it costs more upfront but will allow you to write a credible review)
- Test the products (test the performance of each product in the way they are meant to be used)
- Quantify the results, and share them in a detailed review
Content type #3 – case studies: Finally, case studies are a great way to get new customers.
They consist of a detailed account of how a past customer used your product or service successfully.
They are best used for complex products, where it’s not clear to potential customers if the product is right for them or not.
HubSpot is a company that produces a steady stream of new case studies because they know they work:
There’s a lot that goes into writing an effective case study, which is why I wrote an entire post dedicated to showing you how to do it.
Content marketing is arguably the most effective type of marketing at your disposal today.
However, you need to make sure that you are using content not to just generate traffic but to convert that traffic into sales.
I’ve shown you five detailed ways in which you can use content to accomplish the second part of this—sales—which is what most businesses struggle with.
Finally, I’d like to hear from you. If you’ve used any of these methods successfully, I’d love it if you shared your experience in a comment below. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below too.