I’m starting a new series, Monday Challenges. Every Monday I will answer or discuss a question or challenge sent in by my readers. Hopefully, you’ll find this format relevant and valuable.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s challenge:

How can we use social media to sell and market a product that people buy very seldom? — Rebecka, Sweden.

Interesting, right? Let’s dive right in:

How Much Do Your Customers Care?

Purchasing decisions are often divided up like this:

  • Low-engagement decisions.
  • High-engagement decisions.

If you sell something with long sales cycles that are also low-engagement, then chances are your business is in trouble. You probably need a management consultant and not a spin doctor. Luckily, most long sale cycle-type products are also high-engagement.

Customer involvementHighMediumLow
CharacteristicsHighMediumLow
Number of brands examinedManySeveralOne
Number of sellers consideredManySeveralFew
Number of product attributes evaluatedManyModerateOne
Number of external information sources usedManyFewNone
Time spent searchingConsiderableLittleMinimal

From Wikipedia.

An example would be a wedding dress. In most cases, most people don’t buy a wedding dress all that often. But when they do, they really care about the product, how it looks, how it feels and what it says about the person wearing it. Obviously, in this equation, something’s gotta give and in this case, price.

So, the good news is that your potential customers care when they’re looking around for a product such as yours.

How It All Starts With Search Behaviours

Since your potential customers are buying so very rarely, you would probably waste your money trying to go wide (i.e. spray and pray) with advertising efforts. Even going with very niche trade publications could be a waste of budgets.

However, there’s an amazing trigger that’s really game-changing:

Search behaviours.

Since your product most likely is high-engagement, chances are your prospects will do their homework before buying. And these days, ‘doing their homework’ means using a search engine to learn more about your type of product.

You can test this yourself:

  1. Use a free tool that lets you check search rankings, like WhatsMySERP.
  2. Try using phrases that your potential customers would use. What comes up?
  3. If you want to know more about specific searches and monthly volumes, sign up for Google’s Keyword Planner.

Create Your List Of Keywords

Dominating the SERP (search engine results page) is quite the tall order for any business. But if you’re smart about it, it can be done. And if you succeed, your SERP can be the gift that just keeps on giving.

But being smart means that you have to focus your efforts. You must choose what keywords to conquer wisely.

So, how do you choose keywords? The baseline methodology is simple:

  • Use a tool that allows you to investigate keyword search volumes (like Google’s Keyword Planner).
  • Find phrases that your potential customers are actually using (no. of searches per month).
  • Find phrases that few are competing for (competitiveness).

Of course, the ideal keyword has tons of searches relevant to your business each month, but very little competition. Now, from this keyword research, you create two lists, your A- and B-list:

  • A-list (keywords that you naturally should dominate, like your company name, trademarks etc.).
  • B-list (keywords that are generic but still highly relevant to your business, like ‘buy Audi in Stockholm” if you run a car dealership).

Create Keyword-Rich Content

You should definitely explore adding Google Adwords to your keyword strategy, but you should focus on getting good positions in search for your content. Because paid search stops giving you relevant traffic the moment you stop paying for it. Having your content ranking high means that the search engines will serve your content to their traffic like a service to your potential customers.

Your content should:

  • Be evergreen. If someone finds your content one- or two years from now, it should still be relevant and valuable to that person.
  • Be relevant. Publishing great content is an art in itself and if you just publish texts sprinkled with keywords, then you’re not exactly doing anyone any favours.
  • Be actionable. People tend to use search engines to solve problems, so your content should, if possible, be highly actionable.

If you have actual online content that is highly valuable, your social media KPIs will sort of work themselves out. Just make sure you share your content in a way that’s native to the actual social network you’re sharing your content in.

Bonus: Create A Trigger List

Coming up with new content and finding the right keywords can be a challenging task in itself.

Personally, I find great help in creating a trigger list. Let’s say you’re selling life insurance. When in life do you think about life insurance? Are there any periods in life where this is more probable to happen?

  • When someone is born.
  • When someone moves away from home.
  • When people move in together.
  • When people marry.

And so on.

Now, can you as a life insurance company create useful content on how deal with the boring administrative stuff that comes with getting married? In which making sure, the life insurance issue is covered as well? Of course!

You can get very specific when creating a trigger list like this. It helps you with finding relevant keywords and content ideas you otherwise might not have thought of.

Going Full Circle With Inbound Marketing

Now that you’re capturing relevant traffic from potential customers actively doing research on the type of products with long sales cycles that you’re selling, traffic’s coming your way. You might also add some Google Adwords to the mix to really make sure to leverage those online sales triggers in order to attract these people to your site. Your content is doing your marketing work for you, 24/7.

Well, not quite:

[ctt title=”Getting people to your site is only half the battle (via @doktorspinn)” tweet=”Getting people to your site is only half the battle: http://ctt.ec/0tjBd+ via @doktorspinn” coverup=”0tjBd”]

Now, of course, you need to convert these people. This is a science in itself and commonly referred to as inbound marketing, i.e. harvesting the engagement that is already coming your way and by doing a good job with that, attracting, even more, people through recommendations.

But are there any shortcuts?

Shortcut 1: Pitch Online Influencers

Your content marketing strategy should include telling a few online influencers that your new content exists because their endorsements could really boost your keyword results in a big way. And you might also get some extra traffic directly from the influencer as well, which is to be considered a bonus.

Always make sure that the collaboration is more valuable for the influencer than it is for your company and you should be very successful in pitching online influencers.

Shortcut 2: Ask For A Serious Relationship

This is commonly known as list building, but it’s more than just building a list with email addresses. Few people buy at their first visit (‘first touch’) and this is especially true for high-engagement products and products with higher price points. It’s a bigger opportunity in getting people to come back again and again and to do that, you need their email address so you can entice them to visit your site repeatedly.

The good news is that asking for an email address is a smaller ask than asking for a big sale, so this should be good news for your conversion efforts.

Final Words On Customer Experience

No matter if you’re in a low- or high-engagement business, customer experience is becoming more and more critical, due to more and more choices combined with a more transparent public conversation.

Your online content is, of course, a key component in creating this experience for your potential customers. So what type of experience should you create?

A useful divider is to understand what type of need your product mainly addresses:

  • Utility choice.
  • Lifestyle choice.

For example: For some people, buying a car is a lifestyle choice. They want the product to say something about them as a person. For others, a vehicle is just a vehicle and it should solve a transportation problem. You need to understand this psychology in your potential customers.

Here’s the kicker:

You must choose between building a content experience around utility OR lifestyle. Many communication- and marketing managers complain about having to make this choice, arguing that they can do both, but if you get this wrong, none of the above will matter. As always — getting your strategy straight is key.

Do you have a challenge that you would like me to write about? Tell me your biggest challenge here.