Ugh. The dreadful question that’s always looming right around the bend. The question every blog writer and content strategist thinks almost every day.
What should I write about?
The answer is simple, really.
You should write about topics that are related to your target audience’s concerns and needs. You should also make your writing insanely compelling so it gets tons of social shares, draws in readers, and converts them to buyers.
Okay, I know. That’s a focus and a goal, and you know all that already. It’s not the real answer to the question, “What should I write about?”
The real answer is: You should write content that engages consumers at each stage of the sales funnel. Your writing should provide solutions and insights and compel readers to move forward in the buying journey.
The Content Marketer’s Sales Funnel
There are no two ways about it: Businesses create content to attract and nurture leads.
Company blogs, ebooks, social media and other digital content are all about talking to and creating relationships with consumers who are at various stages in the sales funnel.
A simplified version of the sales funnel includes three stages:
Top of the Funnel: Awareness
- People are looking for answers. Top-of-the-funnel content provides insight, solutions, and data to inform and educate people.
Middle of the Funnel: Evaluation
- People are seeking to understand more. Middle-of-the-funnel content provides research and insights that convince people your product or service, and not some other product or service, is the right one for them.
Bottom of the Funnel: Purchasing
- People are looking for confirmation. They want evidence that they’re making the right choice and they should buy the product or service from you, not your competitor.
Sales funnels naturally differ by industry, product and service, and buyer. Other factors that affect how a sales funnel works and how buyers move through its stages include:
- The complexity of the product or services. Complex topics may take longer to explain.
- The price of the product or service. People consider many more factors when they’re buying a house than they do when they are buying curtains.
- The buyer’s needs and intentions. Do they need it now or in six months? Are they comparing prices or features or are they just looking at what’s available right now?
Write Content that Meets Your Buyers’ Needs
You will need to write more or less content for each stage based on your buyers’ needs. If they spend a great deal of time in the evaluation phase, like people do when buying cars, you’ll write more informative and persuasive content. If your product is a relatively easy sell, such as ink pens or tablecloths, you’ll want to write more content that increases brand awareness.
For example, people spend much more time researching and evaluating homes for sale than they do when they’re buying, say, smartphones. People spend more time researching and understanding various smartphone options than they do when they’re looking into buying new t-shirts.
Someone who wants to buy t-shirts in bulk to promote their business will be looking for different information about clothing than the mother buying a t-shirt as a birthday present for her son. A company investing in smartphones for its sales force will seek out different information than a person who’s main concern is that they can play games on their new smartphone.
You see what I mean. You have to write for your audience.
Here’s a look at the types of content HubSpot recommends as appropriate for each stage of the buyer’s journey in our 3-stage sales funnel.;
This is a long way of showing you the answer to the original question: “What should I write about?”Write about subjects that engage and persuade buyers at each stage of the sales funnel. Click To Tweet
Consumers have different considerations, questions and needs during each stage. Write blog posts, ebooks and PDFs and create videos and infographics that respond to those questions and needs directly.
Stage One: Write Blog Posts, Articles and Lead Magnets to Increase Awareness
You are writing and creating content to attract readers and spread brand awareness. Blog posts and articles excel at drawing new eyeballs to your website. To write effectively, you should be responding directly to consumers’ questions.
Write informative articles on “how to” or “X Reasons” designed to target readers who use search engines to find answers and solve problems. Create webinars, videos and infographics that communicate your value in easily digestible chunks.
Lead magnets are ebooks, checklists, white papers, tip sheets and anything you give access to in exchange for the contact information of interested readers. Collecting email addresses and contact information is critical for growing your email list, which you will need when you are communicating with buyers in the evaluation and purchasing stages of buying.
Keeping our home, smartphone and t-shirt buyers in mind, example articles to write that increase brand awareness might look like:
- 10 Energy-Saving Features to Look for in a New Home
- Smartphone Buying Guide: 10 Tips on How to Buy a New Phone
- How to Create a Catchy Slogan for your Company’s T-Shirt
Stage Two: Write Emails, Blog Posts, Articles, Case Studies and White Papers to Convince Readers
You’ve created content that attracts readers. Now, you are writing and creating content to turn interested readers into educated and informed buyers. Writing for stage two buyers goes beyond awareness and gets people to imagine what it’s like to work with you or use your product.
Case studies are customer success stories that show your excellence in action. They reassure readers you or your products does indeed do what you say, that your claims are backed up with real action. Case studies show you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
White papers and articles that provide research, data and statistics also provide compelling evidence. People want to feel as if they are making smart, informed decisions. You have to give them the information they need to make them feel confident about their decision to buy.
Providing original research and data is a powerful way to show you are an industry leader. Clutch’s survey of 300 professional content marketers found that original research and data was cited most often as the top performing content type.
Examples of content that convinces readers who are in the evaluation stage include:
- A case study showing how your company found the perfect house, smartphone, t-shirt, whatever solution for a customer
- A chart that compares smartphone features and specs
- Survey results, data and research showing how promotional products boost business
Stage Three and Beyond: Emails, Blog Posts, and Articles that Get Buyers to Return
In stage three, the buyer is deciding that you, and not any of your competitors, are the right one to purchase from or work with. You must write content that convinces them or confirms their belief that they need or want to buy from you.
Stage three is less about creating new content or writing more articles and more about reaping the benefits of the content you’ve already created.
The content you’ve written up til now does the job of proving you are an authority in your industry. The more helpful articles you publish and the more useful guides, how to’s, tip sheets and other digital assets you offer to readers, the more they come to rely on you for guidance during the buying process.
You will still write articles, emails, newsletters, social media updates and content for people who are becoming or have become buyers. The focus of this content is to solidify and maintain ongoing relationships with them.
Examples of topics to write about for stage three and beyond buyers include:
- New trends in the real estate industry
- The latest or upcoming developments in smartphones
- Ways your company is eco-friendly or works with eco-friendly vendors
Seriously, though. What do I write about?
Okay, that’s fair. I’ve said a lot about why you should write and the purpose and goals for writing content at each stage of the sales funnel. That still doesn’t answer the question: What should I write about?
To answer that question, ask yourself more questions. Answering these questions generates writing topics for creating content that moves people forward through the awareness and evaluation stages of the sales funnel into the purchasing stage and beyond to become lifelong loyal customers.
Here is a list of questions you can ask to generate topic ideas for that ever-dreadful, nagging question of what to write about:
- What questions are people asking about my product or service?
What are the common lifestyle activities for people who use my product or service, and how do my products or services integrate with and relate to those activities?
What common problems do people who use my product or service face and how does my product or service solve those problems?
What are my successful competitors writing about?
What are the topics of the most popular blog posts and other content currently on my website and how can I update and expand on those?
What benefits of my product or service are people unaware of? What would surprise them?
How does my product or service improve the lives of buyers?
What does my target audience value (family, friends, free time, work, money, spirituality, etc.) and how does my product, service or company relate?
What future struggles do my buyers face, and how can I prepare them to deal with those?
What topics are my buyers sharing and discussing on social media?
Keep Solution Selling and Insight Selling in Mind When Finding Writing Topics
Two ideas are the driving force behind these questions: Solution Selling and Insight Selling.
Solution selling is the idea that marketers should not try to sell products or services. They should focus instead on selling solutions to problems. A person in the market for a new stove doesn’t really want to buy a stove. They want to buy an easy way to make dinner. The want to buy an appliance that cleans itself and makes them feel they are contributing toward energy conservation by using less electricity. They want to buy a sleek, modern appliance that shouts, “I make a lot of money!” They want it to help them bond with their family, save money, eat better, so forth and so on.
In solution selling, marketers sell benefits, not products or services.
Insight selling takes a slightly different angle. Harvard Business Review wrote an article, The End of Solution Sales, to describe a trend they saw developing in the sales world. It wasn’t really The End for solution selling. It just added more depth to it.
This trend, called insight selling, says hey, with all the information online, people can and usually do find their own solutions. An often quoted statistic to back this up is that consumers are 60% through the sales cycle before they ever talk to a salesperson.
The premise of insight selling is that by the time a consumer engages directly with your business, they don’t need more information and data to solve their problems. The need insights into how the solutions you provide apply to them personally. They need to learn something new that gives them a greater appreciation for the benefits you bring.
RAIN Group, who wrote the book Insight Selling, says the method works because successful salespeople are those who:
- Educate buyers with new ideas and perspectives
- Collaborate with buyers
- Persuade buyers they’ll achieve results
Insight selling goes a step beyond just saying, “Here’s the answer.” It also listens to buyers and shows them how your product or service fits into and improves their lives.
Putting It All Together
You cannot write an article or create a single piece of content that answers all the questions every buyer will ever ask. It would be too long and too difficult for people to get what they need from it.
What you can do is respond to the dreadful, nagging question “What should I write about?” with more questions. Your topics are in your answers.
Keeping the sales funnel in mind when you write helps. There are multiple stages in the buying journey. People have different questions and concerns during each stage. Your writing needs to speak to each directly.
You may not consider yourself a sales person, but your blog, social media and digital content act like one. Your blog posts, articles and lead magnets are out there attracting readers, establishing your business as an industry authority, and providing solutions and insights to buyers.