What good is having a content marketing plan if it doesn’t create leads and sales for you? The harsh truth is most content marketing strategies fail because content marketers have been given bad information about “what works.”

Good stories don’t cause sales. Engagment does not either. High levels of confidence in buyers (created by compelling blogs, videos, white papers, downloads, etc.) and clear, compelling calls to action do.

Here are simple guidelines to ensure your digital content always creates leads and sales by super-charging buyers’ confidence in their abilities.

If you want more sales to result from whatever you’re publishing make sure you are causing customers to become confident in themselves (as buyers). Because if you do this well enough prospects will ask you for the sale.

It happens to people like Rachel Farris all the time. Rachel works at a mid-sized Austin Texas based company called PetRelocation.com and is bringing in tens of thousands of dollars in new customers each month using Facebook and blogging. 

Do I have your attention?

The Power of Confidence

PetRelocation.com helps people relocate their pets. The company is a white glove service provider specializing in helping people in transition get their pets safely relocated to overseas locations. Pigs, horses, snakes, monkeys you name it PetRelocation.com will relocate the animal safely and securely with all the paperwork. Many foreign countries require extensive paperwork on pets and quarantining periods.

The more I got to know Rachel the more I heard about all the potential nightmares for pet owners. In fact, Rachel insists that she’s not really selling a service. She says PetRelocation.com is selling confidence.

You see, many of her clients are scared stiff that successful relocation of a pet can even happen. They’ve got so many worries that ultimately Rachel says making the sale is not really about cost or the quality of services her team provides. The biggest obstacle to selling her service is getting her clients to believe that their pet can get relocated without stressful problems.

Bear in mind Graham’s report this week on common success metrics used by publishers and notice the focus on quantitative outputs most content marketers expect. Visitors, time spent on site, page views. These are mostly advertising-oriented metrics that don’t tell us much about the qualitative, experiential, goal-oriented ability of the content we produce.

Sell Your Experience

Most service providers find themselves in this exact situation: Selling an experience. Unlike selling a product (a near-term result), most service marketers sell a longer-term promise. So here’s what Rachel does to meet the challenge.

Generally, pet owners are the kind of people who get excited when something really great happens to their pet—something like a successful relocation thousands of miles overseas. There’s another thing about pet owners that’s important to Rachel’s social marketing success: People love to take photos of their pets and share them on Facebook.

When given a little bit of an incentive pet owners are happy to take a photo of their successfully relocated pet—actually being relocated by a named, PetRelocation team member—and post it on their Facebook page. Most customers jump at the opportunity to say thank you to Rachel’s company for making something that, they deep down, weren’t totally sure (confident) could happen… actually happen successfully!

Rachel uses the remarkable experiences her team delivers to creates confidence in prospective customers. She pairs this with calls to action that serve her business goals—creating more sales leads.

Create Confidence, Not Just Stories

There are a handful of ways you can approach effective content marketing plans (that create sales). The two most effective strategies are solving common problems (that customers have) and giving away mini-samples of experiences that relate to your product or service. This is the best content for blogs or any content marketing you publish.

Yes, yes, content marketing gurus… I can hear you complaining. You CAN tell a story as part of this formula; however, that story must be meaningful enough to provoke a response that gets the conversation going in a direction you can do something productive with. If you don’t get the customer to respond to what you put out onto social media you’re wasting precious time. I know some of you will cry “branding, Molander!” and I’m respectful of that. But I’m also in need of putting bread on my table too!

Response matters more than reaction (where customers share your content).

The most effective, practical way to generate sales with blogs, videos, download-able applications, etc. is to find ways to give confidence to buyers in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger… fully equipped to buy. Yet this is only step one.

Create Response, Not Just Branding

Buyers usually have questions and are seeking guidance before they buy. Or they’re yearning for a sample that gives them a reason to believe (become confident) that whatever it is they want can actually happen for them—on time, on budget, without making a mess of the place or getting them fired. They want to be confident. They want to believe that someone (you) can make that something that they want actually happen for them.

Your content should spend some time telling a good story AND always give customers a reason to believe that it can happen for them—that they can act on. That’s the part most people are missing.

Whether you’re a business-to-consumer or business-to-business marketer there is power in making the buyer feel like “yeah, I can have this in my life… I can have this situation go in a direction that gives me a promotion or won’t get me fired!” Or “I can get to that goal I want and get some help doing it the right way, on time and it without emptying my bank account.” Yet without that call to action you’ll leave your customer hanging every time.

Trust is the Outcome of a Process

The biggest beef I have with most of today’s content marketing experts is this: In the end, they claim it’s all about a good story when it’s not. You can tell the most honest, interesting, moving story possible and never get the customer to pick up the phone, send an email, make an appointment with you, click to fill out a lead form… take an action. And that’s just a waste of a good story! You’ve got to focus on the direct response marketing process piece.

Giving customers that sense of confidence is the best way to earn deeper levels of trust—espeically for service providers who court customers over time. Your business can leverage the same technique Rachel Farris uses on Facebook within platforms like LinkedIn or YouTube. It’s mainly about exploiting the remarkably good experiences your account or customers service team provides.

Once again the secret sauce is actually not a secret. Making social media sell for you is mostly about getting back to basics. Sorry gurus but being known, liked and trusted enough to earn the investment of fickle customers demands giving them confidence in themselves, then giving them something to act on—not just telling a good story.