The E-Commerce Column

Build a Short and Long Term Sales Pipeline With a Thoughtful Content Campaign

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We’re always looking for ways for our clients to sell more, especially since it’s always on top of mind for any ambitious store owner.  The goal is always to do better today over yesterday, and last month, and last year.  No one wants to stand still and accept the status quo.  Doing so is dangerous and could lead to sales going the other direction before you realize it.  One of the things we don’t feel we see enough of is small and midsized companies making use of content properly.  Large companies have this down, and some do it so well that they have an entire department of people dedicated to it.  Here’s some insights for the rest of you.

A content campaign can come in many individual forms.  You could have an awesome blog that’s updated frequently.  You might have a number of case studies or white papers.  You could have some product and/or customer videos.  You might be doing some webinars or hangouts online.  There’s also the trusty e-mail newsletter.  Oh, and don’t forget social media.  This could even extend into the real world – delivering some of the same content in-person at places such as business seminars or conferences.  Choosing only one of these for your content strategy could be fine, but you really would get the best bang for your buck if you do a combination of content mediums.

Select Your Content Mediums

Choosing one or many could feel overwhelming to you at first.  It could even feel like guesswork – and guessing is never a friend to any successful business.  In order to choose in a way that could have the best change of return on your investment, you should take another look at your customers.  What are they doing on a daily basis?  In fact, take some time to send out a survey or call them directly.  Ask them which ways they tend to use to get more information.  Don’t forget to ask them about some of their favorite and worst experiences too.  Once you have the answers you’re looking for, you should be able to find enough commonality to choose your direction.  Most often, I see companies doing blogs and e-mail newsletters at the minimum.

You don’t need to limit this to interviews only.  There’s a lot you can glean from a handful of searches online.  Find your customers where they communicate on other sites. Which sites are they using, and how?  What are they praising and complaining about?

All of this information and more is considered “small data.”  (Yet another buzz word.)  The more small data you have, the more you’ll begin to see where and how to engage with your customers and prospective customers.

Content Strategy

Once you have the mediums selected, you still need to come up with a strategy for your content.  What are you going to distribute?  How often?  Will the different channels do and/or say different things?  The answers to these questions will vary based upon who you sell too.  For example, you may have less success with social media if you’re a B2B business – but then again, it depends on who your end customer is.  Pretty much everyone uses social media, so you can’t just make an assumption like that anymore.

Determining your strategy can be reversed engineered from your interview.  When asking how people get their information, you should also be asking what information they usually like to get from where.  For instance, you may find that your customers don’t like to read about product information, but they rather see and hear it in a short video.  What information are they missing?  What information have they really enjoyed?  Now, you can target your resources accordingly.

Each medium you’re engaged in should be uniquely leveraged to best exploit its strengths for reaching your customers in meaningful ways.  Your strategy must keep this in mind.  Don’t do the same thing everywhere, unless you can prove it’s working.

Measure Success. Adjust. Repeat.

No matter which content mediums you begin with, make sure you don’t do anything public until you identify two things.  First, make sure you know how you can measure progress.  Second, you need to have some goals to make sure that you have something to measure against to determine success. These two things are critical to understanding whether you should continue to work on those mediums.  Some of the cool things you really should try to do is determine things like, “If I do a webinar, do we see any spikes in sales?  Can we at all correlate the number of webinar signups and attendees to the sales?” 

Everything you do in your business should be in and of itself treated like a business as well.  As a business, when we see differences – good or bad – we make adjustments.  We wait a bit to see if those adjustments had the impact we were looking for.  Then we adjust again, and measure again.  This should be the case with your various content mediums as well.

Oh, and if you can’t measure this, why do it at all?

Quick Tips for Campaign Mediums

First, whenever possible, use an existing technology to publish and process the content on your own site.  These days, there’s very little need to build something.  For example, you don’t need to build a webinar or blog engine.  You can use an existing product on the market and integrate it into your site in a number of ways.  At the minimum, people should be signing up on your site to get to something like a webinar, read a white paper, etc.


If you’re blogging, you should be able to put it on your site.  There’s a seemingly unlimited number of ways to do that.  Be sure your articles add value to your target audience, and they’re not just a sales pitch.  Work in how you’re products and services can help them, sure… but don’t make that the focus.  Also, use a comments engine like Disqus so that you can get the most impact.  Commenters can help spread awareness of your blogs that way.

White Papers

White papers aren’t for everyone.  If you’re not familiar with a white paper, then chances are that you’re probably not a company that should be using them.  These are most often used by companies selling technical products or services.  When you create them, make sure people have to submit their information to get them.  Also, partner up with a high profile customer if you can.  If that’s not an option, choose any of your customers or one of your partners.  If you have someone else telling the story with you or for you, it only helps to add credibility and value to your target audience.

Case Studies

You don’t need to treat these much differently than the white papers.  It’s very easy to get case studies wrong though.  Be sure that your case studies focuses on a real world problem, and it walks the reader through how they achieved success with your help.  Every single metric you can products – before and after – will help too.  If you don’t have a real world story and include statistics, it’s not really a case study anymore.  It’s a useless marketing handout.  Make sure you invoke the emotion of, “Oh.  If I use them, then I can increase productivity by 57% too!”


Conferences are chock full of opportunities.  They’re not all good opportunities though.  It’s like the roulette table – you need to very carefully place your bets – but with a conference you can do it without literally gambling.  Find out who’s going, and ask them what they’re planning to do.  Use that information to determine if you should be sending a speaker, setting up a booth, and more.  What’s more, they’ll be telling the content that they want to see.


When you do a webinar, it’s almost literally a live version of a case study or white paper in most cases.  Only now, you need to gather and retain the attention of your viewers online.  Essentially, you need to have and present your content in such a way that they’re not returning to their inbox.  Have people co-host with you, and keep it interesting by constantly changing the co-hosts, and have your webinars frequently.  It’s okay to focus on a specific product offering too – but just be sure that you do so in a way that adds value.  A simple walk-through doesn’t belong in a webinar.  You can use YouTube for that instead, and do it in less time, with less effort.

E-Mail Newsletters

Newsletters are a great passive way to reach your customers, but you need to get them into your mailing list first.  You should be adding them every single time you manage to get their e-mail address.  When people sign up for a webinar, case study, or anything else – add them to your mailing list as well. Marketing automation systems can make this chore pretty painless for you.  Beyond that, make sure your newsletter is worth the time of your customers.  Add exclusive content and offers that they can’t get anywhere else – in every single send.  If you can, highlight individuals, partners, and customers as well.  Think of it as the National Enquirer of your business.  Make it interesting.

Social Media

Social media can be incredibly fun and rewarding for your company, if done right.  In many cases, you can give your online profiles a personality by engaging directly with others out there whom you wish to target.  Talk to them and keep things light-hearted and positive – but don’t try to be funny.  Leave that to the comedians of the world.  This is a great use of someone’s time if they’re a student or intern.  Beyond that, be descriptive and strategic about your titles and hashtags – and use this medium to help build awareness of your content.  In turn, it will help your brand and sales, but this is a longer term plan.

BONUS TIP – Your Website

Every single page on your site should be easily shared using the social media channel preference of your visitor.

What Do You Think?

We’ve kept things a bit high level here, but there’s several tips here for your store to benefit from having a content campaign.  What are some of your tips?  Leave us a comment below.

About the Author

Will StrohlWill Strohl

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