Content has quickly become one of the most popular marketing tools for companies to invest in. An effective content strategy can generate better search rankings, higher traffic and onsite engagement and ultimately, more sales.

The main issue now, is that many companies are throwing money into content without proper research, a clear strategy and measurable expectations. So how can you use content to generate more sales? These four tips will help you get on the right track.

Understand the changing sales environment.

Before we start looking at how to use content to increase sales, we need to understand the landscape of sales in today’s society. Sales professional, Dr. Shane Smith says:

“There is a focus now more on the customer and their needs as opposed to the old style of trying to sell everything to everyone. This new thinking encourages the company to learn what the customer wants/needs first and then produce and deliver it to them.”

Essentially, we have moved from a brand-centric sales environment to a customer-centric one, that requires clear understanding of customer needs. This is a critical first step. Before you can ever begin a content strategy, you need to first collect information from your customers. Here are four questions that you should consider before moving on to developing your content strategy. Keep in mind, the more research you invest on the front-end, the better chance your strategy has at succeeding.

  • What are the most important problems that my good/service solves for my customers?
  • Who are my customers (demographics, psychographics, geographics)?
  • What topics are relevant to both my customers and my company?
  • What emotions cause customers to purchase my good/service?

This changing landscape has also impacted how different departments interact. No longer can you silo your sales department from your marketing departments. To that end, you also can’t be efficient if your content marketing department is not communicating fluently with the other digital marketing channels like SEO, PPC or Email Marketing. The best way to use customer information and data to increase sales through content, is to have fluid communication across all channels.

Related: 5 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Results Without Breaking the Bank

Pull out the pain.

One of the most common tips from sales professionals is to focus on a potential client’s pain points. This is easy to do if you’ve answered the questions above. Once you understand the problem that your good/service solves, then you can focus on highlighting the problems that your clients are facing. Are you a personal trainer? Create content that discusses the health problems that comes from a lack of exercise or discuss the difficulties of self-motivation. By talking to your target audience about struggles that they are familiar with, you'll create curiosity and a willingness to listen to your solution.

Focus on conversions.

Conversions are the actions you want a customer to take when they land on your webpage, open your email, or see your off-site advertisement. It’s a critical step in the content strategy and will vary depending on the channel you’re using. If you’re creating an article for a company blog, a relevant conversion might be attaining an email address. If you’re launching an email campaign, your conversion might be further down the sales funnel, such as generating a phone call or form fill out. Understanding the conversion action for the specific channel will help you frame the content and expectations.

Use actionable language.

With an understanding of your target conversion, you can start looking at the content. One of the main things to keep in mind when you’re creating content, is to use actionable language. It can be especially useful for emails, landing pages and onsite CTAs. Actionable language can be something as simple as incorporating a verb like “download,” “call,” “buy,” “reply” and “subscribe” in your subject line or popover. Using actionable language will help you articulate to the customer what you want them to do, and the value that they’ll receive by taking that action. This is a key part of copywriting and will help you increase your sales numbers when done correctly.

Related: 4 Ways to Win at Local Content Marketing

Publish incredible content, frequently.

What’s one of the best ways to increase sales through content? Well, create a lot of high-quality content. This is probably the most difficult step because it requires investing resources. Whether that means devoting time vetting content production companies, managing a remote expert to produce the content, or allocating time and energy creating it yourself, you will need to make some commitment. Fortunately, if you are able to frequently publish engaging content, you’ll build brand equity, a trusted following, and increased traffic. Being that content production is such a vital part of this process, here are some subsequent tips to creating incredible content, with sales in mind.

  1. Length doesn’t mean value. This tip comes with a caveat. Shot-form content also doesn’t cut it. It’s hard to generate a high-quality piece of content in under 250 words. With that said, it doesn’t always take a 3,000 word article to get your point across either. Try to be concise, but informative.
  2. Try different types of content. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. If everyone in your industry is publishing blog articles, try publishing videos, infographics, eBooks, podcasts or other types of content. Don’t get stuck in your ways. Try different types of content to see what produces the best results.
  3. Recycle your content. This is an incredibly easy tip that will produce real results. If you invest energy, time, or money into having an infographic created, then take that same information and create an eBook, host a podcast or slice up the images and for a Slideshare.

Putting it all together.

Let’s take all the information above and put it together in an example. We’ll use the company I work for, CopyPress. We sell content creation and promotion to enterprise clients. The main problem we solve for our clients is that we help scale the production and promotion of content without sacrificing quality. Knowing this, we created a white paper that highlights the pain points that come with scaling content. We created a conversion based landing page that captures email addresses in exchange for access to the white paper “Pitfalls of Scaling Content.” We recycled this quality piece of content with an infographic, blog article and Slideshare covering the same material. The main conversion we're looking for is to capture an email address for people who struggle with scaling content. With an email list of target clients, we’ll creating a drip email campaign that leverages this information and uses actionable language to drive the next step in our sales process. This is a straightforward content strategy that combines customer problems, content creation and conversion-optimization.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content plays a crucial role in the sales process. Proper research, strategy, and execution can help you optimize content to perpetuate sales. The tips above are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with content’s ability to increase sales.