What are your go-to customer acquisition strategies? I’m going to guess your knee-jerk reaction is probably paid acquisition, but what if I told you there was a cheaper and, quite frankly, more effective way to attract new customers?

When customers are considering your brand, they want to know that you’re going to give them the best value in exchange for their time and attention as possible. Too many brands are still preoccupied with simply making a sale, giving you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you care about what your customers need from you — not only what you need from them.

Value-add marketing focuses on exceeding customer expectations by delivering more than they asked for with every interaction.

This is where value-add marketing comes in — specifically, content marketing. With content, you can spend 62% less than with traditional marketing methods to acquire new customers and generate 3 times as many leads per dollar spent! By creating content that not only resonates but also gives potential shoppers more than they expect, you have the power to attract and acquire new customers that will turn into loyal, repeat customers down the road.

How content marketing helps acquire, engage, and retain more customers

While traditional advertising can help you acquire new customers, it does nothing to help you retain them. That’s because it lacks the power to engage customers once they’re acquired. Instead, customers come in, maybe make one purchase, and then vanish.

Smile marketing cycle

This is why having a content strategy is so important. With content, you can create a compelling reason to explore your brand, give customers a reason to engage with your over time, and motivate them to shop with you in the future. These three pieces work together to create a sustainable cycle that allows you to properly invest in every new customer you acquire instead of simply hoping they’ll stick around.

Let’s take a look at how you can create a content marketing strategy that helps you achieve each of these goals.

Acquire new customers by teaching them something new

When a customer checks out your brand for the first time, they won’t know much (if anything) about your brand or products. In fact, they might be brand new to your industry or the types of products you sell, which means they’re looking for someone to be their guide.

Stop selling. Start helping.

Creating content that makes you an expert puts you in a position to demonstrate empathy — you understand what customers want and/or need from you, and you’re willing to help them get it. This approach comes from remembering that a content marketing strategy should always be about what you can give your customers, not what they can give you.

When customers believe you truly want to help them, they are more likely to trust you, your brand, and your products.

By creating content that gives shoppers an opportunity to learn something, you paint yourself as a brand that ultimately wants what’s best for your customers. This impression has a profound impact on how appealing shopping with you is, and will be much more likely to convince a potential customer to buy from you than a traditional ad.

To give you an idea of what empathetic educational content looks like, here are three of the most effective types for teaching your customers something new.

Blog posts

Benefits: higher ranking in Google results, easy to share on social and through newsletters

Effort required: low

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you do when you’re trying to answer a question is Google it. Google is a fantastic tool for finding exactly what you’re looking for, and you can rest assured that your customers will find you in the same way if you can answer their burning questions.

Make your brand the go-to source for information on your industry with regular blog content.

This is what makes a blog such a powerful part of an effective content marketing strategy, especially in ecommerce. When you build a blog into your onsite experience, you create more pages for Google to index which increases your chances of appearing on the first page when customers search for products or topics related to what you sell.

Not only that, but a blog gives you the perfect opportunity to pitch your products and services without being overly sales-y. By helping readers reach a desired outcome, you show them what your products can do while also demonstrating your expertise. This ensures that the value is still firmly in their favor, establishing a sense of trust.

The Beauty Chef blog and quiz

The Beauty Chef’s blog is one of my favorite examples of this content marketing strategy at work. Named “The Digest,” their blog is a go-to source for all things health and wellness. They’ve even gone so far as to create a “Which Product is Right for Me?” quiz that they link to from their website main navigation.

These two types of content complement each other perfectly to help introduce new and returning readers alike to not only what The Beauty Chef is passionate about but also what their products can do for customers who make a purchase.

Videos and livestreams

Benefits: increase site traffic, easy to understand

Effort required: high with high returns

Video is by far one of the most powerful types of content out there. Studies have shown that a whopping ⅓ of all online activity is watching videos, and that number is only likely to increase over time! This is largely due to the fact that people are highly visual. The human brain can process and understand images in as few as 13 milliseconds, making videos the perfect way to capture and hold your customers’ attention.

Video content is highly shareable and easy to understand, with the power to increase how long customers spend on your site.

Not only that, but adding video to your store can increase traffic by up to 157% and increase the average time customers spend on your site by 105%! With these types of numbers floating around, it’s no wonder that more than 81% of brands are now using video and that you should, too! Including video in your content marketing strategy makes your store easier to find and enjoyable to browse, making it possible for new customers to quickly decide if they like what you have to offer.

Video is also highly shareable and super engaging, especially when it’s live. Live video has been growing in popularity as social media tools like Instagram and Facebook make it easier and more appealing for users to share their lives with each other.

SHEFIT Live Facebook livestream

SHEFIT saw the potential of including livestreams in their content marketing strategy and jumped on it early. From product launches to behind the scenes access and product shoots, the activewear brand has made Facebook Live an integral part of their ongoing value-add marketing strategy. This not only increases the appeal of their content but also makes it much more interactive and shareable, opening the door for valuable customer engagement.

Tutorials and webinars

Benefits: unmatched content experience, prioritizes value for customers

Effort required: high with high returns

Perhaps the best way to teach your customers something new is through eLearning. Webinars and online courses spending surpassed $100 billion in 2016 but are still largely untapped in the ecommerce space. As a result, you can get ahead of your competitors and establish the value of your expertise by teaching your customers something new in a profitable, easy-to-understand, and value-first format.

Emily Ley video library and webinar invite

Emily Ley decided to adopt this channel as a way of making their products easier to use. They knew that getting started with planners can be intimidating and decided to leverage their experience through a series of tutorials and webinars that are 100% free on their website. Hosted in a video library, new and returning customers can browse each piece of content at their leisure, while existing newsletter subscribers are sent personal invitations to get the most out of their Emily Ley products.

This commitment to helping their customers understand the benefits of their products makes it easier for shoppers to take the risk of completing a purchase for the first time. With this content in the back of their mind they know Emily Ley has their best interests at heart and is willing and able to help them make sure they get the best value out of every product they buy.

Create more opportunities for customer engagement by starting a conversation

Based on the content marketing strategies we’ve discussed so far, you should be confident that you’re able to acquire new customers through value-add marketing. The next step is keeping them engaged.

Customer engagement is one of the hot topics in ecommerce because it’s where most brands struggle. As I mentioned earlier, traditional paid acquisition might do a good job of bringing new customers in but it doesn’t do anything to keep them. In order to do that, you need to intentionally invest in strategies that keep the door open for ongoing engagement, and the best way to do that is by starting a conversation.

Your customers will only stay engaged if you give them opportunities to do so.

Think about your own life — if someone asks you a direct question, do you ignore it and walk away? If you’re polite, the answer is probably no. While the relationship you have with your customers isn’t exactly the same as you’d have with people offscreen, the fact remains that your customers will be much more likely to stay engaged if you create opportunities for them to do so.

You can easily build on your acquisition content marketing strategy with two simple but highly effective conversational types of content.

Social media

Benefits: increased brand visibility, high accessibility

Effort required: low

Social media has quickly become the primary way for both new and returning customers to get in touch with brands. Whether they have a question about a product, want to learn more about your brand, or need support, channels like Twitter and Instagram are often the places they’ll go first. That’s because social media is always accessible and, more importantly, is already a huge part of their lives.

Social media is a cost-effective way to meet your customers where they already spend their time.

When you seriously invest in social media as a content channel, you can take advantage of your customers’ existing behavior and routines to inject yourself into their day-to-day lives. Now they not only know where to find you but are also used to encountering you often when they’re on their phones, opening the door for them to engage with you on a regular basis.

inkbox Twitter Instagram social media content

You can see this happening on inkbox’s social feeds. With new content being posted daily, inkbox has made it easy for customers to not only explore their products but also share their experiences with them. This creates a strong bridge between the acquisition and customer engagement phases of their content marketing strategy.

In addition, they use these channels to ask questions that prompt discussions as well as introduce new products and generate social proof for their brand. By engaging with and reposting their followers’ content, inkbox consistently demonstrates their desire to stay in touch with their customers and maintain an interactive relationship with each of their followers.

Each of these pieces, combined with the fact that each interaction happens in real time, increases inbox’s ability to foster and sustain valuable customer engagement.

Contests and giveaways

Benefits: increased customer value, increased motivation to engage

Effort required: low

Few things motivate customers like the possibility of getting something extra. When something valuable is on the table, they are much more likely to want to engage with your brand and will be willing to do virtually anything for the chance to earn it.

This is what makes contests and giveaways the perfect complement to your social content strategy. By offering customers the chance to win something exciting, you increase the odds that they’ll engage. More importantly, the possibility of winning something again in the future will condition them to explore your content again in the future.

inkbox contest social media content

From NBA tickets to free products, inkbox takes advantage of their strong social following  to amplify the benefits of getting engaged. With contests happening on a weekly basis, they’ve been able to condition their existing customers to engage regularly and continue to create an enticing reason to engage for the first time. These two achievements demonstrate how a well constructed content strategy with contests can both acquire and engage new customers at the same time.

Retain more customers by offering ongoing additional value

Now that your content is helping you acquire and engage new customers, you need to use it to retain them. Acquisition only matters when you’re able to keep those acquired customers coming back to your store — otherwise, you’re throwing money away. When you view each customer as an investment, you’re able to intentionally design experiences that keep them around for the long haul.

Building reciprocal relationships with content is the key to keeping customers engaged long-term.

The key to this approach is developing reciprocal relationships with each of your customers. By offering your customers tangible value for engaging, you create a desire for them to return the favor by making more purchases, referring their friends to your store, or simply staying engaged.

The best part is that the additional value you’re offering doesn’t have to cost you anything. Each of the forms of content you’ve already included in your content marketing strategy have the power to retain more customers because they’re all delivering more value for every customer!

That being said, there is one more strategy guaranteed to make this additional value even easier for you to offer and more rewarding for your customers to take advantage of.

Loyalty programs

Benefits: increased customer lifetime value, increased customer engagement

Effort required: low (with the right product!)

Even though loyalty programs are not often thought of as a type of content, they’re actually the backbone of any successful value-add marketing strategy. That’s because they’re built using the same considerations as other types of content:

  • They need to look/feel/sound like the rest of your brand
  • They have to integrate with your existing communication tools (email, onsite, etc.)
  • They have to deliver value

That makes them the perfect complement to every other type of content you offer!

ESTHER royal rewards loyalty program explainer page

ESTHER brought all of these elements together with their Royal Rewards loyalty program. With Smile (I know, shameless plug) they were able to build a program that is not only tailored perfectly to their brand but also meets all of their customers’ needs. From exclusive VIP experiences to generous referral rewards, their program is the perfect addition to their existing social and blog content marketing strategy.

The keys to a content marketing strategy's success

When you invest in a content marketing strategy, you make it possible for you to acquire, engage, and retain every new customer that discovers your brand. Videos, tutorials, and blog posts make it easy for shoppers to find and choose you, while social content and loyalty programs create compelling reasons to engage and stay with you over time.

At the end of the day, a successful content marketing strategy puts your customers’ needs first. Applying this principle of value-add marketing to everything lets you create content your customers will care about. With this content at the helm of your acquisition strategy, you set yourself up for the kind of sustainable growth that powers the world’s biggest and best brands.