traditional marketing tactics, impacting them to continually come back to you for advice, tips, trends, news and of course, to make purchases. Here are a few stats to back up why content marketing works:

But, content marketing is only going to grow your ecommerce sales and meet your other goals if you do it right. The following are 10 rules you need to follow to have content marketing success.

1. Research and address what customers actually care about (and actually solve their problems).

Without customers, you have no money. And in order to earn and retain customers, you have to give them what they want. How do you know what they want? First, you can ask them. Send out a survey of short questions to current customers or consumers who have abandoned a shopping cart to ask what they liked about your site, what you can do better to improve their experience, etc. But, asking questions oftentimes ends up in a no answer or an I don’t know. So you’ve got to do your own research to find out what your customers want. Stand in your customer’s shoes. Follow customer experiences on your site and see where problems arise. Follow social media mentions to see if people are expressing issues there. Have an eye for the future and try to envision what your customers will want tomorrow. Once you’ve researched what your customers really care about, address it with your content. If they want better product descriptions, more product images, a regularly updated blog that provides insightful and entertaining content that answers their questions, give it to them.

2. Create a plan.

Nothing good in business starts without building a plan. Your content marketing strategy is that plan, a plan that’s integral to business success. According to the Content Marketing Institute, your content marketing strategy should include:
  • Your business case: reasons you need content marketing, risks involved, vision for success.
  • Your business plan: content goals, values you’ll be providing customers, any obstacles and opportunities you might run into.
  • Buyer personas: describing who your target audiences are and their needs.
  • Brand story: topics and messages you plan to deliver, how yours compare to your competitors.
  • Channel plan: what platforms you’ll be using to distribute your content, objectives of each.
I’d also suggest creating an editorial calendar that you map out a month or quarter in advance, as well as a workflow plan that maps out the entire content marketing process—from creation to measurement. Be sure to check in with this strategy often to see how you’re doing. If you’re unsure how often to meet, 48% of B2C marketing teams meet daily or weekly to discuss their content marketing strategies.

3. Write for your audience, not the owners of your company.

Business owners are an important part of a company—but they’re not the ones buying products. They may have ideas on what you should create, and some of them may be good, but ultimately the content you create is for your customers. Use customer data to create content topics and types based on what your customers are interested in and what they use. Talk in their language. Answer their questions. Be solutions to their problems. Educate and entertain them. People buy emotions, not things, so also craft content that isn’t just about your products, but that connects with the heads and hearts of your customers.

4. Don’t forget the SEO.

While your content strategy needs to focus on helping consumers and not search engines, your ecommerce SEO needs attention, too. SEO is a vital part of your content marketing efforts to help your content appear in organic search results and help the search engines identify you as a online store selling specific products. Consistent, quality content that uses the right keywords and links will steadily move you up in the search results. Using keywords on site pages, as well as your titles and product descriptions, are also important to making your content efforts effective.

5. Understand the customer journey and meet buyers at the ideal time.

Most marketers divide the buyer journey into 3 basic stages: early, middle and late (also awareness, consideration and decision). Content Along the B2C Journey graphThe first stage is where customers are unaware of their problems or looking for education. This is where you get your content out to new channels and share it on social media. In the middle stage, customers know their problems and are on the hunt for a solution. Demonstrate yourself and product as the solution and your expertise through various content types to stand out from your competitors as customers do their research before buying. The last stage is where the customer has an idea of what they want and now is just doing some last-minute comparisons to ensure they make the right decision. Customer reviews and product videos are your best bet here. Too often, business spend a majority of their focus on creating content for the awareness stage. While this is great for bringing in leads, what about the rest of the buying stages? You have to provide content at all stages of the buyer journey if you want to increase customer and sales numbers. Sometimes that means finding out where your content is lacking or where you’re losing customers. Take for example They were losing leads in the middle of their sales process, so they cut their card abandonment rate by 40%—a 65% increase in checkout conversions—by creating 3 different email campaigns instead of just 1 cart abandonment email like some ecommerce sites do.

6. Choose your content types wisely.

There are a ton of content types you can create. The following image shows what content types today’s B2Cers use.

B2C Content Marketing Tactic Usage graph[Screenshot from B2C Content Marketing Trends Report]

In order to know which types will work best for your business, you have to know your audience, know what content types they prefer engaging with and which convert better. Research your target audience, test various formats and then create the content types proven to work. If you don’t have a big budget to spend on content marketing, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your ecommerce sales with the right content and strategy. Diamond Candles didn’t have much money when they started out, so they turned to user-generated content. They used customer product photos to support their site and social media marketing, and doing so they saw a 13% conversion rate increase on their product pages and garnered more than 293,000 Facebook fans.

7. Don’t skimp. Build a great resource that’s 10x better than anything else out there.

Years ago it was all about metadata and keywords. Then, the search engines favored quality content and inbound links. But today, to compete with every size of ecommerce store out there, you need to create what experts are calling 10x content. This type of content is so unique and meaningful that to every consumer who sees it they think it’s 10 times better than anything they’ve ever seen before. To produce this type of content, you need patience and time. If you rush through creating it, it won’t be a great resource. 10x content needs to come from an angle that hasn’t been done, showcase a lot of expertise, have a good style, be useful and interesting, create an emotional response, solve a problem and be shareable. Different content types for 10x content include eBooks, guides, long-form blog posts and round-ups.

8. Sell, but do it gently.

When you go to a store, you don’t want a salesperson all up in your face pushing you to buy something. The same goes with content. You can’t create content that’s super “salesy.” We’ve already mentioned your content needs to be useful and interesting, and content that screams “BUY MY PRODUCT BECAUSE IT’S THE BEST!” isn’t going to get you any sales. But soft selling works. You can do this by placing reviews on product pages, utilizing user-generated content on your site and social platforms and gently pitching small points about your product in a relatable piece of content. Another thing to note is content promotion. Content creation is only half the battle. If you create a piece of content but never share it, it’s not going to get seen. Spend time promoting your content in the right places at the right times, and your products will starting selling themselves.

9. Link, link and link some more.

Internal linking is an SEO power move for your content marketing strategy. It’s simply connecting one page of your site to another page. This strategy will give you an SEO boost and help with navigation on your site. But don’t just link to your homepage or contact us page. You have to go a little deeper and be natural with your internal linking. Good places to link to are other blog posts, related products and other relevant site pages that provide value to the readers.

10. Syndicate content where appropriate.

Content syndication is getting your content published on a third-party site. This can be an entire piece of content you let someone post on their site, or just a snippet of it. The main reason you want to syndicate is because it gives you exposure to another site’s or industry influencer’s audience. In order to syndicate successfully, you have to find the right syndicate partners, and then the content you give them permission to post needs to be topically relevant to their audience. When done right, content syndication is an effective way to grow brand awareness and develop your company’s reputation. Your content is one of the best tools you have to sell your brand, so make sure you follow these 10 rules and invest the right amount of time and money to use the power of content to boost your sales. ]]>

Greg is a member of the executive team at Stryde and a seasoned digital marketer who has worked with thousands of businesses, large and small, to generate more revenue via online marketing strategy and execution. Greg has written hundreds of blog posts as well as spoken at many events about online marketing strategy. You can follow Greg on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.