WHY YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS CONTENT MARKETING
First, the short answer: Your customer is online, waiting for someone like you to reach them with the answers they’re looking for.
Now the long answer: Consider the following journey of a real-life car buyer that was tracked online by a research team.
Stacy, a 32-year-old mother of two, and soon expecting a third, needed a new car to accommodate her growing family. During a 3-month period leading up to her purchase, Stacy’s research included over nine hundred digital interactions, 71% of which occurred on mobile.
These interactions took the form of Google searches, YouTube video views, visiting dealer and manufacturer sites, and reading online reviews.
Stacy explored fourteen brands, considered six brands, and finally decided between two brands.
Throughout the course of her decision, Stacy conducted 139 Google searches. That’s 139 opportunities for auto marketers to meet her with relevant content to help shape her decision.
Google has categorised these opportunities into five key online moments every auto buyer goes through when researching a car.
1) which-car-is-best moment
2) is-it-right-for-me moment
3) can-I-afford-it moment
4) where-should-I-buy-it moment
5) am-I-getting-a-deal moment
Ultimately Stacy leased an SUV that met the criteria she was searching for in her micro-moments. In her own words: “My most important criteria were the number of seats and cargo space to fit my whole family and all our gear.”
But these individual moments provide a ripe opportunity for you to meet your customer online, with great useful content.
So how do you meet your ideal customer online? You may already have a website, a Facebook page or even a YouTube channel. But chances are you’re using these platforms to go for the jugular and make the sale from the onset. This is the lazy way out. Sure, you’ll catch a few leads that were already at the final stage of the buying journey. But you’ll also be missing the opportunity of connecting with potential customers that are still searching for answers. And if you’re not there with the right content, your competitor sure is, building valuable trust and rapport in the process.
You may be thinking, “That’s great, Zak. But my job is to sell cars, not run an online website.” No worries! Arm yourself with the knowledge of what’s possible, and later we can identify the person or company that will help you put the pieces together. First thing’s first – let me explain what I mean by inbound marketing.
Explain ‘Inbound Marketing’ Like I’m 5
Inbound marketing is a term made popular in recent years by Hubspot inc, a marketing software company. Much of what I learnt in my inbound journey, comes from content made freely available by Hubspot. One of the first steps I suggest you take, is to join their mailing list – they provide outstanding resources to kick-start your inbound adventure.
You may also hear this type of marketing referred to as ‘content marketing’. The idea is the same – you provide solutions to your audience, not just products.
In his book, “The Marketing Imagination” Theodore Levitt made a famous statement that should be etched in stone. When someone buys a quarter-inch bit…
“They don’t want quarter-inch bits. They want quarter-inch holes.”
The Container Store Story
The Container Store is another splendid example of a company that sells products but provides more than simply products. They sell “organization”, and “efficiency”, and even “self-esteem.”
Opened in 1978 in Dallas, Texas, the company retails storage products to help organise and simplify your life. There are many companies selling comparable products. But none like the Container Store.
You see, a product can be replicated instantly. But to replicate the culture they have instilled into the company takes years of effort and direction. And that’s not easy to copy.
Just look at the comments on this page: http://standfor.containerstore.com
Are you convinced yet? I hope you are! With a little direction and dedication, you too can begin the process of listening to your customer’s pains and worries, and then meet them online with solutions. This is Inbound Marketing!
The Inbound Journey
Now I know the process above may be a lot to digest right now. So, I will focus on just one cog of the inbound machine in this essay – Blogging. Rest assured though — if you start this, your website ranking WILL improve, bringing people who are actively researching your market to you.
Grow Your Audience Through a Blog
So, what is a blog? You may not have known you were reading a blog, but I’m 99.9% certain you’ve visited several of them in your life.
They’re usually longer form articles, mixed with graphics, videos, and social sharing features. The most effective blogs are in a human voice. Usually, the authors profile is at the end of the post. And blogs encourage reader interaction by including a comments section after the post.
The king of blog platforms is WordPress. A free download that powers a staggering 76.5 million blogs worldwide. This number grows by an equally astonishing 50,000 new WordPress powered sites, every single day!
WordPress has a massive repository of free and inexpensive plugins and themes, which give it the ability to adapt to the most demanding requirements.
The plugins offer endless options and once you get past the initial learning curve, trying out new features on your blog can be fun to experiment with.
Initially, you will need a web designer to assist in customizing a theme to match your branding. It’s a fairly painless procedure, as most of the reputable theme vendors include options to upload a logo and choose a colour scheme.
I have membership with two WordPress Theme sites. One of them is Thrive Themes. The team at Thrive develop more than just themes. On an annual membership plan, you get access to all their products, which includes Thrive Leads – a nice plugin that comes with form templates used to capture leads and Thrive Content Builder – another tool I use, that makes it super-easy to design sales landing pages.
You can also try a mega theme site like Template Monster or Theme Forrest. Be warned though, it’s like setting a kid free in a candy store!
Give Your Blog a Home
Your blog will need a home under your main website address. Ideally the blog should have its own URL under the main domain. So if your website is at www.cardealer.com, your blog should either be at www.cardealer.com/blog or http://blog.cardealer.com. I prefer the first version (www.cardealer.com/blog) as in my experience it gives you better search engine ranking benefit than the sub-domain method. But don’t stress too much on this point. I’ve also seen massive companies with tons of traffic use the sub-domain method as well.
The Main Ingredient – Good Content
The crux of your inbound strategy lies here. What questions do you get asked over and over by your customer? When purchasing a car, what are their most pressing concerns? You will know better than anyone what it takes to convince an interested buyer. Now take those answers and start building content around them.
These are the type of questions you will use to get a good idea on the topics to write on. In technical marketing speak, they refer to a ‘buyer persona’. What it boils down to, is that your content needs to be written from your ideal customer’s point of view. Not yours – or your manufacturers.
Official press releases are notorious for making this mistake. They’re crammed with technical facts and official statements but lack the personality that’s needed to grab your readers’ imagination. We are bombarded daily with tons of information, and the only way to handle the overload is by ignoring the sub-par content. Or just plain salesy.
Do you want crickets on your blog, or real people consuming and importantly, talking to you? Then put in the time and effort needed, and the rewards will follow.
For example, you could go ahead and bullet-list the dimensions of the latest Honda CRV’s boot space.
Or you could throw in a few school bags, sports gear, and some shopping bags for good measure. Take photos, and practically demonstrate the real-life application. Imagine a mother of 3 school-going kids, reading your article. She’ll be like, “YES, YES, yesss…I NEED that!”
A Simple Recipe To Cover New Model Releases
There’s no rocket science here. Just a little imagination.
Get yourself a decent camera, and when a brand-new model arrives, give it a photo-shoot. Get up close, inside and underneath. Shoot it from the perspective of an interested buyer. What features do you think would interest them most? What is the model’s most striking talking point? Shoot the dash, the seats, the engine, and exterior. Activate the macro feature on the camera and zoom right into the texture of the trimmings, more so if the car has leather interior.
When an interested reader comes across photos in detail this way, they’re magically transported into the car – almost like they can touch, smell, and experience the car already.
Now you stand an infinitely better chance of attracting this reader to your dealership, compared to someone who’s just selling on price alone!
Second, you as a dealer have wonderful access to information like brochures, spec sheets, new arrivals and other insider info. USE this valuable advantage!
Dedicate time every week and scan the information for anything you feel will interest your reader. Note down key points and titbits you suspect will be educational or entertaining and can be used on your blog. You can collect the snippets in Evernote, as a bookmark, or a saved tab in Google Chrome.
Starting Your First Blog Post
I generally open with my opinion on the vehicle. I aim for authenticity and try to find something I truly admire about the car. Is this an update to an existing model? Talk about what’s new and improved then.
Next, insert an eye-catching photo of the vehicle.
Then describe the specifications of the car. There’s no hard and fast rule here. Talk about the engine and performance. People like to know if there is a power increase in kilowatts (horsepower). If you’re reviewing a pickup like a Ranger or Hilux, torque in Nm and towing capacity is vital info.
Proceed to the suspension, transmission (gearbox), fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
You now move inside and discuss the interior. Technology items like the multimedia system and mobile connectivity is a huge attraction with the younger generation.
How easy is it to pair your phone with the Bluetooth system? Does it come with GPS navigation? Is it touch screen?
All these features provide you with great angles to focus on. But again, avoid merely ‘cut and paste’ feature listings – Rather describe the benefits to your reader. For example, describe how simple it is to play mp3’s from your smartphone to the car’s audio system. Or describe in detail how people stared open-jawed watching you do the hands-free parallel park using park assist.
Picture your target customer and imagine you’re talking directly to them, showing them every feature that will somehow make their life better and more fun.
A YouTube video review or commercial makes a wonderful addition to your post. Search through YouTube for a video on your topic, copy the URL and simply paste it into your WordPress editor. WordPress automatically adds the video to the post that readers can watch without leaving.
Do this for every new model that comes into your dealership, and I assure you that you will start attracting hot prospects, that are looking online for answers. And when they eventually decide, guess who’s going to be top of mind?
Next, we will cover a few more blog post formats.
Top Reasons You Need to Write List Posts
Search almost any term on Google, and you will get a result promising “5 reasons to do X” or “10 surprising reasons to floss your teeth.”
You get my drift? You’ll notice these number post headlines a lot on viral news networks like Buzzfeed or even Facebook.
One explanation for their popularity is that they provide you with an idea of the time needed to consume the article – up front. You know you’re in for 5 or 10 ideas which shouldn’t take too long.
There are numerous ways you can incorporate the number listicle on your blog. Here are a few titles to get you warmed up:
· Top 10 fuel efficient cars
· 5 features of the new C-Class you will absolutely love
· 2022’s top 10 Buys in Small Cars
· 6 Reasons the Ford Everest is the Best SUV
· 7 Steps to Detail Your Car Like a Pro
Simply adapt to your context and provide a short intro. Then list each item going into a fair amount of detail to justify the item making your list.
Add images or videos in between.
Yes, the research takes time. But it is important to be accurate, so put in the time and gather solid data. These posts do exceedingly well on search engines. And if your post is something that solves a problem, you will earn natural backlinks and social shares, which in turn signals to Google that you are an authority.
Not too daunting right?
Have you noticed that we’re just collecting existing info and re-packaging on your blog? That’s all there is to it! Yet it’s important to get your unique take and spin on the topic. Your readers will cherish the opportunity to hear from you and connect on a deeper level than is possible on through your regular static website.
But it doesn’t end there. Let’s build your very own fan club
Soon your overall site traffic will increase. I can guarantee you that.
But you’re not in the business of website traffic. You want to sell more cars!
So how do you take advantage of the new visitors? Read on and I’ll explain.
Ask your visitor for their number!
You may have asked a few guys or girls for their phone number back in the day. This time it’s strictly business.
And more valuable than the phone number – is an email address!
You see, with someone’s email address, you can keep the conversation going. You can entertain, educate, and cement the relationship.
I’ll get into the topic of “what constitutes a kick-ass email” later. For now, let’s talk about how to turn a regular website visitor into a potential friend, fan and customer.
The Email Opt-In Pop Up
You may have seen them in action. You know that annoying window that pops onto your screen as you’re about to leave a site…
Yes, it’s annoying as hell! But the reason people use these opt-in methods is that they work!
When done properly, I should add.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t come off as tacky or cheap. Don’t plaster your site with popups and forms at every corner. I like to add an exit intent popup opt-in, mixed with a footer subscribe box and another in the sidebar.
The secret though, is to add value to your reader. Make it clear why your visitor should join your email list. Highlight the benefit to joining right now.
The great salesman, Zig Ziglar said it nicely.
“Every customer listens to Wii FM.
What’s In It For Me!”
An effective tactic to provide the final push to subscribe is an opt-in bribe. Also referred to as a lead magnet.
Below is a screenshot of a “Leadbox” I used to promote a lead magnet on our blog. A lead magnet is anything of value that you package and make available in exchange for an email address. I took quality photos of a new Toyota, added in two colour PDF brochures, and created a call to action that said – “Download Our Hilux Pack” I was able to collect 133 email addresses from 323 clicks on the call to action, at a rate of 41%.
All this for photos and brochures that are freely available! So, you see, all you need is your imagination in figuring out what your audience responds to.
Here are few of my top tips for implementing opt-in forms on your blog:
1. Make the copy on the form clear. Tell readers what they can expect to receive and what you need from them.
2. Avoid framing the copy as ME, ME ME, and use ‘You’ more often.
3. Figure out your reader’s pain points and offer the solution in exchange for the opt-n.
4. Use strong exciting language on the buttons and try wording the button text in the reader’s voice. Example, “Sign Me Up!” rather than just “Subscribe” or even worse “Send”
5. It doesn’t matter what your opt-in lead magnet is — but offer something. The curiosity alone will entice more readers to convert.
6. Don’t go crazy with popups, but also don’t be afraid of using these attention-grabbing forms. Try at least these three types of forms per page. One could be an exit intent, a static widget on the sidebar, and a footer form at the end of posts. A tool like Thrive Leads can be used to easily design these opt-in forms.
7. In the screenshot above, I used LeadPages’ 2-step Leadbox opt-in forms. Once you’ve designed a Leadbox, you simply grab the special URL and embed it as a regular link, to a text or image. When your reader clicks one of these links, the opt-in form pops up. Another caveat is that the 2-step forms have been tested by LeadPages to convert better than inline forms.
8. Remember at this stage you’re only after an email address. So don’t ask for unnecessary info like phone number or city. You want to remove as many barriers to conversion as possible.
9. Sign up for a MailChimp or ActiveCampaign account to store your email subscribers. MailChimp is free till you hit 2,000 members and ActiveCampaign has a cost-effective plan for starters too.
10. Integrate your Leadbox and Thrive Leads forms with either of these email marketing services and start growing your email list…today!
So, we’ve covered quite a lot already. How are you feeling about what you just read? Excited I hope!
Right now, you may be thinking, “well this is great, but I just sell cars – I’m no journalist or tech junky!”
I’ve heard this comment so many times at our dealership when trying to school the older salesperson. And I respect the sentiment, really. I can never do the job of the car salesperson. I’ve tried many times, and I concede that they’re the best at what they do.
Here’s the but…
The world has changed. You know that, deep down. And Google’s statistics say that 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby, visit a business within a day! And 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
So, it is impossible, or rather suicidal to ignore your online footprint.
Coming back to the point of “I sell cars”. That’s perfect, sell more cars! But get someone either from within your dealership or outside, that has a flair for writing and doing other creative stuff.
I like to tell people; every business today needs to be a mini media house too. We’re in the midst of the information age. The currency is content.
The style of the content, however, has changed drastically. It’s no more about telling the world how great your product is. You’ll just be ignored. You need to step out of the comfort zone and experiment with the wonderful new ways of reaching your customer.
Well done, you’ve made it this far! What you just read is a start. Inbound marketing encompasses much more than this. We haven’t covered email marketing, SMS marketing, writing effective copy or social media.
But I deeply believe that if you can start with publishing regular content on your blog, and begin building your email subscriber list, you will have a significant leg up on the competition. The long-tail keyword ranking benefits of a blog alone will increase traffic to your website, which in turn generates more leads for your sales team.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this essay and urge you to start the inbound process right away. Let me know how it goes or if you’re struggling with any part of the process.
I’d be thrilled if you can share your thoughts on starting a business blog – leave your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org should you need help with any of the steps!