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While sales are not and should not be the primary goal of most marketing campaigns, the end goal should always, always be sales. Without sales, no one gets a paycheck and you don’t have a business. Savvy content marketers that understand the pain points of the sales funnel can actually help move customers through it with content marketing. Marketing efforts that are not strategically planned with sales in mind can actually lead to a decrease in sales rather than an increase, even when the campaign appears to be successful.

For instance, if marketing runs a free giveaway promotion that gets 200 people in the doors of a small retail business, they might consider the event a success. They did their job by generating hundreds of leads for sales. In many cases, however, the mass of people just looking for a freebie can actually drive away legitimate customers, driving sales down rather than up. Even if the giveaway promotion brings in potential customers, it is unlikely that they will be able to get any assistance from overwhelmed sales associates. Not only will that decrease the chances of them purchasing anything that day, but may actually preclude them from ever visiting again, leading to a decrease in future revenue as well. While the promotion may seem to have been a success based on response, it might actually have done more to harm sales than help them.

Here are 4 content marketing ideas that actually help drive sales.

1. High-value informational content

While a cute cat video might get you a lot of likes and shares, it won’t generally get you sales. When you establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field, however, you will also establish yourself as the go-to supplier of your product.

Useful information can include helpful infographics, how-to videos or even Excel templates. When posting “helpful” content, ask yourself if it’s just interesting content people might spend a few minutes reading when they are bored or if it’s the kind of content they will bookmark or actually even print out and stick on their refrigerator or cubicle. If you’re going to take the time to create informational or educational content, make sure it is offering valuable information.

2. Relatable content

While we think of a business as something you own, the truth is, a business is a group of people working together to accomplish a common task or goal. Your brand is essentially the personality your business would have if your business were a person. More often than not, it is also compatible with the personalities of the people that make up your business. People buy products from brands they can relate to, but what they may not realize is that what they are actually relating to is you – or the people who make up your business.

If you’ve ever known a few people who sell the same direct market products, chances are good you regularly buy them from one person over another. The likelihood is also high you buy them from the person you relate to the most or the person who is most like you. By sharing about your business, your staff, and your personal experiences with your own products, you create a connection that will help better sell your product.

3. Cultural content

We generally relate to two kinds of people: people who act, think, or behave like us or people who hold the same values as we do. Your company culture is another way in which your consumers will relate to your business and therefore your product. Many people who don’t necessarily favor Mac OS over Windows will still be die-hard Apple consumers because they believe deeply in Apple’s commitment to beautiful design. One great way to create brand loyalty is to regularly share what your company is passionate about. If you don’t know, this is a good time to find out.

4. Interactive content

While you definitely want to post content that lets your fans and followers know who you are and what you stand for (which is how you gain fans and followers in the first place), you also want to let them know that you care about and want to hear from them. Some will simply post and engage without asking, but some will actually wait for an invitation – so make sure you are issuing one regularly.

In fact, at the end of every post, you can issue an invitation to your customers, fans, and readers to share their stories or experiences with your product or the topic of the post. When they do, however, make sure you also respond to them in return. This is what makes it interactive.

Creating content that gently moves customers towards a purchase without directly selling them a product definitely requires some skill and finesse. Any type of content marketing strategy, however, needs to always keep the end goal in mind. Simply posting content for the sake of posting content is about as effective as randomly dropping your business card on the street, and hoping someone will find you and call you. While there is certainly value in getting lots of likes and shares, that doesn’t in and of itself do anything to boost sales. While getting likes and shares can be one step in a larger content marketing strategy, if it isn’t ultimately boosting sales, it isn’t working.

Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education, and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie

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