How to improve the email experience

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In today's publish or perish marketing environment, attraction-based marketing is more than just content generation -- it must also be specific, customer-focused, and engaging. Prospects are educating themselves online, and if they don't find your website informative, or at least interesting, then they will move on to next option -- your competitor's site.

To optimize your email marketing results, you not only need to create great content, but you also must map that content to the prospect and their buying stage while providing them with relevant information without selling your products (which more than likely is a big turn-off for these self-educators). While it's counterintuitive from the traditional product philosophy, to be successful you must ditch the pitch and attract prospects with insight and information from thought leaders within your company ecosystem. The payoff comes when these consumer look to you as a trusted thought leader in the space, bookmark your webpage, subscribe to a feed from your blog, and purchase the solutions that you recommend.

Get connected. Want to meet up with the companies that are leading email into the future? Check out the exhibit hall at ad:tech New York, Nov. 3-4. Learn more.

The goal of content mapping is to facilitate this process and match the right content to the needs of your prospective buyers. Content mapping allows you to customize an experience for different groups of readers or consumers.

To do this you should build a content framework based on three pillars:

  1. Establishing buyer personas
  2. Creating a content library
  3. Mapping content to persona's buying stage

Here's a closer examination of each pillar.

Establishing buyer personas
So we're all on the same page, let's get an understanding of what personas are. Here are two great definitions from industry authorities.

David Merman Scott, author of "The New Rules of Marketing & PR," refers to "buyer personas" as "a distinct group of potential customers, an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach."

Content expert and marketing strategist Ardath Albee says, "A persona is a composite sketch representative of a type of customer you serve. Personas extend beyond the traditional demographics."

Establishing personas is important if for no other reason than the process forces you to sit down, carefully consider who your customers are, then take a walk in their shoes. With a more informed and sympathetic understanding of your customers, you are then in a position to abandon clichéd product statements in favor of rich content that addresses customer needs and helps solve specific problems. What's the benefit? The consumers get content that's actually useful, and you're in the position to refer your products.

When developing personas, start by looking at the history books. Take a sample of the deals your company has won and examine who played what role in each stage in the buying process. Then focus on listening to your prospects and customers to gain a better understanding of what their problems actually are and how you can help solve them. Through this, you'll be able to speak their language, not yours.

In order to be on the same page with your prospects throughout the buying process, you'll need to determine what kinds of questions they might ask during each stage of the buying process. Buying stages should be broken down from "early" (where the customer has no awareness of a problem) through "late" (where the customers are making a final product selection):

  1. Early: no awareness of a problem
  2. Mid-early: awareness of some problem
  3. Late-early: inspired to solve a problem
  4. Mid: awareness of solution set
  5. Mid-late: understand solution needs
  6. Late: product selection

When leveraging content to nurture leads, it's crucial to think how you will encourage consumers to take the next step, from one stage to the next, rather than moving them directly from initial response to closed deal. For each stage, you should have a different set of goals. By determining the goals for each stage, you are one step closer to mapping the correct content per persona, per stage. Think about this: Would you ever go on a blind date with someone and ask him or her to marry you on the spot? Probably not, yet this is what you're doing when you try to "close the deal" too quickly. And think about how your prospect must feel.
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