Why Your Business Needs Targeted Content Marketing As A Sales StrategyBy Ashley Livingston on March 1, 2016
Reading Time: 13 minutes
Did you know that your lack of content on your website could be costing you some serious business?
Think about how your business functions: you spend valuable time convincing potential clients that they should hire you through proposals, meetings, emails, etc. A percentage of those potential clients will hire you for a project, and eventually you get paid.
You spend an awful lot of time thinking about how to do the best job possible on your current projects, how to keep your clients happy, how the heck to file your taxes, and where to find your next client.
You’re probably not thinking about how your website is converting.
What does that even mean, anyway? You’re a freelancer. You want to get hired for projects. What do website conversions have to do with that?
Well, a lot.
Imagine if every potential client you contacted already thought you were a good fit and had you on their short list of freelancers.
How much easier would it be for you to secure jobs? How much less time would you spend on client acquisition?
How nice would it be to skip over repeatedly explaining yourself, your experience, your process, and your work preferences and just jump right in with a client who was totally on the same page as you?
Your freelance business can start operating that way if you start thinking about conversions.
Q: So, what would a website conversion look like for a freelancer?
A: A potential client makes an inquiry about your services after viewing your website.
Q: What’s the key to making these conversions happen?
A: Targeted content marketing.
In this article I’m going to talk about how to identify your target clients and write content that both appeals to these clients and moves them through your sales funnel to a conversion.
I’m also going to show you how effective content marketing drastically increased my rate of being hired, reduced the time I spent hunting for clients, and increased my bottom line. Since I started focusing on increasing website conversions with content, I’ve been hired by every single client that’s inquired about my services.
Step #1: Figure Out Who You’re Talking To
To make this content-marketing-magic happen you have to first get to the very root of who your potential clients are.
You probably already have an idea of what types of clients you prefer working for, which of your past projects have gone well, and what your dream type of work is.
But to use content marketing to your fullest advantage, you have to be ultra-specific. You have to truly know your target client and appeal to their specific needs.
Break out a sheet of paper and create a profile that describes your ideal client – the type of client you dream of working with:
- How large or small is their business?
- What size budget do they have?
- Who would you be working with within the organization?
- What is their preferred method of communication?
- What type of work are they doing?
Now that you have a basic understanding of what your ideal client looks like, you have to dig a little deeper and figure out how they tick:
- What are your ideal clients’ business objectives?
- Who are their competitors?
- What market are they serving? Who are their customers?
- How could your services help them meet their business objectives?
- What information do they need to hire a freelancer?
This information should help you bring focus and clarity to the messaging, content, and copy that you publish on your website.
Ideally, your content should be so focused that your website actually turns off clients that don’t fit the bill. This will also increase your view-to-inquiry conversions of appropriately matched clients and drastically increase your likelihood of being hired by those clients.
Step #2: Understand The Five Stages of Client Deliberation
To know how to use content marketing as a sales strategy, you also must understand the process behind how a client decides to commit to a freelancer.
There are 5 different stages of deliberation that a potential client must go through before a conversion happens:
- Client doesn’t know he has a problem
- Client knows he has a problem, but doesn’t know what potential solutions exist
- Client understands his options for solutions, but doesn’t yet know your solution exists
- Client knows about your solution/services, but isn’t sure he’s ready for a commitment
- Client wants to use your services and makes an inquiry
A client isn’t going to make a decision or move forward on a project until she’s moved through each of these stages.
Your content should be able to take a potential client at any of those stages, and move her through to the last one: the inquiry.
Let’s use the example of Bill.
Bill owns a store selling widgets. He has a website that was made about a decade ago, back when clip art was still cool, and it’s pretty ugly. It’s not doing him any favors, but Bill’s business is an in-person, brick and mortar type of business so he doesn’t really care.
Your job, through targeted content marketing, is to help Bill realize how much better his business could be after you – and only you – build him an amazing new website. Your content should move Bill from not even recognizing how a new website could help him to being desperate to hire you.
Step #3: Use Content Marketing to Differentiate Yourself and Increase Conversions
Guess what? Most freelancers aren’t doing this. Most freelancers only have a basic portfolio site that gets limited attention in their busy schedules.
Most freelancers use time-wasting proposals and project bids to try and appeal to a wide range of potential clients with a small percentage of success.
Most freelancers are not thinking about content, their websites’ messaging, or increasing their website conversion rate at all.
But thinking about all those things – and then making them happen – is the perfect way to differentiate yourself from every other freelancer out there.
Face it, freelancers are a dime a dozen these days. Websites are commodity. Basic HTML and CSS are becoming common knowledge. You can’t appeal to clients with just a splashy portfolio anymore.
You need to start talking about value. You need to start focusing on moving people through the stages of deliberation. You need to appeal to people’s business needs and then quell their fears. That’s how you stand out. That’s how you stop being a commodity.
The good news is that you don’t need to be publishing new content all of the time to make an impact on your website conversions.
In fact, a few pieces of evergreen content can do most of your heavy lifting.
Evergreen content is long-form content, usually between 1,500 and 2,000 words, that is highly searchable, instructs or educates, and remains relevant and useful as time goes on.
You should strive to create a few stand-alone pieces of evergreen content that meet your target clients at each stage of deliberation.
Ask yourself, for each stage, what information will help move your client closer to a conversion. Since you’ve already identified your target clients and understand who they are, this part should be easy.
The key is to simply tailor your content as much as possible to your ideal clients – respond to their needs from your point of view. That’s how you create a match that leads to a conversion.
Stage 1 – Client Doesn’t Know He Has a Problem
For clients in this stage, you should create content that addresses questions like: How are other businesses in your client’s industry seeing success with new technologies and websites? How is staying with the status quo hurting this client’s business?
Stage 2 – Client knows he has a problem, but doesn’t know what potential solutions exist
Clients in Stage 2 should be educated on the types of technologies or solutions that are appropriate for their businesses. Do they need a CMS? Would they benefit more from something completely custom? What are the costs and benefits of each of these potential solutions?
This type of information is perfect for generating shareable content that will lead potential clients right to your doorstep.
Stage 3 – Client understands his options for solutions, but doesn’t yet know your solution exists
Create pieces of content that reflect the amazing work you have done in the past. Case studies on past projects are an excellent way to appeal to clients in the third stage. Documenting evidence of past successes not only introduces clients to your work style and accomplishments but also helps them visualize how your services could impact their own business.
Stage 4 – Client knows about your solution/services, but isn’t sure he’s ready to make a commitment
This is the stage in which most projects get stuck: Wanting a project to be completed is very different from being ready to commit to it.
Content pieces like “How You Know You’ve Hired a Good Web Developer”, “What You Can Reasonably Expect from your Freelancer”, or “How Will My Business Be Disrupted If I Upgrade My Technology” written explicitly from your point of view, with your unique take on the market, can help calm your client’s trepidations or concerns.
Stage 5 – Client wants to use your services and makes an inquiry
At this point, you’ve won the game. Encouraging inquiries with an easy to use contact form, friendly messaging, and a personal photo will take your fifth stage client all the way through to the conversion.
Seems pretty simple, right?
By deliberately creating content that appeals to your ideal clients in all different stages, you are priming them to work with you. Through your targeted, educational, and effective content, you’re creating a sense of trust, awareness, and personal familiarity that shoots you to the top of the client’s list.
Plus, by getting that website conversion, you’ve already fought and won 80% of the battle. Impress them in your follow up conversations and you’ve got the job.
The Proof is in the Pudding
The reason I recommend using a targeted content marketing strategy in your freelancing business is because of how successful it really is.
Since I optimized my website for conversions I have been hired by every potential client that inquired about my services. I don’t get inquiries all the time – two to three a month – but two to three major website projects a month is plenty.
By increasing conversions on my website I cut out 5-10 hours a week of time spent researching potential clients, cold-calling, pitching work, and applying for gigs on the freelance exchanges. That time saved can have a big impact.
Earlier in my career, when I was still charging hourly for website projects, the non-billable time I spent just trying to find work was lowering my effective hourly rate by around $7/hr. That’s a significant amount of money, and it also doesn’t reflect additional non-billable time I spent on other aspects of the business like bookkeeping or skill development.
You can see how automating parts of your business can have a serious positive effect on your bottom line.
Additionally, when a client contacts you because they already want to work with you, you have immense leverage and negotiating power. Think about it: When you really want something, or know the return on your investment will be high, the cost of that investment starts to matter considerably less to you.
That’s how I was able to increase the price of my website packages by over $2,000.
Content marketing and website conversions are just a small part of how I operate as a freelancer. I invite you to learn more about optimizing your freelance business, stabilizing and growing your income, and winning better clients in my new course Be a Freelance VIP.
Also published on Medium.