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Does a soft sell conflict with content marketing analytics?

I was recently leading a client workshop where I get a question that I had never heard before, “Why are you emphasizing such an aggressive use of analytics if content marketing should be a soft sell?”

Let me unpack the context of the question, so that it is clearer. When I counsel clients on content marketing, I don’t take an idea-led, “come up with some catchy headlines” sort of approach. Sure, good ideas and click-worthy headlines are important, but it isn’t where you start.

You start with the numbers.

You start with understanding what your customers want, yes, but also with what you know will move them. So you spend a lot of time researching topics that are popular, but more than that, you figure out which topics will attract the prospects who will likely buy from you. And how do you do that?

You focus on your differentiation.

If you have a product that solves ten problems, but three of them you solve better than anyone else in the market, why spread your content marketing budget thin by writing about all ten problems? If you aren’t differentiated for seven of them, then won’t many of your readers choose the competition when they start comparing?

Instead, focus all (or at least most) of your budget on your differentiation–on those three problems where you are so good that prospects would be idiots not to buy from you. That way, you are more likely to sell to the prospects who discover your content marketing, because when they compare, you win.

When I kept hammering away at focusing your marketing on attracting people who will actually buy, I was asked the above question.  To some, it might seem like these analytics are leading to a hard sell instead of the soft sell that content marketing actually requires.

But that’s not the case at all.

What’s really true is that you need to do both. You need to do a soft sell in content marketing (especially higher in the funnel) but you can use hard-nosed analytics to focus your marketing on the people most likely to buy from you. They don’t conflict–it is just a good way to use your scarce resources.

Hard on the numbers and soft on the sell–that is the formula that will take your content marketing to the next level.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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