What is a marketing asset, you ask?
It’s any visual, audio, written, interactive or another type of content that achieves a marketing goal.
Marketing assets can be short and sweet like a Facebook post, or they can be epic, like this tome about content marketing.
All of them need to give something of value to the audience, even if it’s just a good chuckle (never underestimate the power of a chuckle; BuzzFeed built its empire on chuckles).
Great marketing assets are threaded into a bigger marketing strategy. They work together to harness the attention of a potential customer and gradually lure them toward your products or services.
Let’s look at each marketing asset’s role in the sales funnel, and unpack its value in the digital marketing hierarchy.
Awareness: Getting eyes on your brand
All marketing starts with traffic. Circa 1800, it was strictly foot traffic. Marketing meant posting fliers, distributing pamphlets and shouting in the streets. With the ascent of the automobile, we started to see car traffic, and the roadside billboard was born.
Today, most traffic is online. And just like the shoe shiners and newsies of the 1890s, a sale always starts by getting a potential customer’s attention. This is what the brand awareness phase is all about, and these are the assets that will help you build a captive audience:
People search for answers on the web. A blog is a fantastic medium for answering the questions your audience asks Google. Figure out which keywords your target audience uses to ask questions that your brand is qualified to answer. Then, use your blog to create posts that comprehensively field those queries.
Who’s asking the questions you’re trying to answer on your blog? Is it someone who can influence a purchase, or is it the direct buyer? You can figure out the location, age and gender of your typical users through Google Analytics. Cross-reference that with your CRM data – and the experiences of your sales team – to create a persona template.
Sometimes your audience just wants data points or clear step-by-step instructions with visual guidance. The infographic delivers the info they need on a graphic that’s fun to look at. You can post on its own landing page, embed in your blog posts, link to it on social media, etc.
People who listen to podcasts are looking for a way to pass the time, often while learning more about a particular subject. If you have knowledgeable experts in your company who can tell a story, a mic and some recording software, you can create a podcast. Think of them as verbal blog posts. Share the link to your podcast on social media, email, your blog, your homepage, etc.
Social media posts
Murder, mayhem, madness and … #marketing?
Here’s what we learned from the rise and fall of Netflix’s smash hit:https://t.co/UWSjC068ZQ
— Brafton (@Brafton) April 23, 2020
Videos, links to blog posts, memes, funny GIFs, photos, infographic snippets – anything you post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and your other social media profiles is first and foremost meant to attract attention. As you build your followers, you may have a chance to turn some of them into leads. But when you put on your social media manager hat, your first goal is to increase impressions (number of times users see your post) to hopefully earn engagements that lead to more impressions and, ultimately, more users.
Custom images and illustrations
Have you ever tried doing a reverse image search of a stock image? Man do those things get around. They’re impersonal, not terribly imaginative and definitely not well-branded. Worst of all, you have to pay for them. Custom images can seriously up your brand management game and give your blog a facelift. It may seem like a small adjustment, but it’s sort of like getting a good haircut: it can make all the difference in the world.
Calls to action
You can’t expect to keep a first-time user on your site until they buy something, but you can give them reason to return. A newsletter subscription request or a well-placed call-to-action banner can turn users who like what they’re reading into leads. These are potential customers who you now have the opportunity to engage.
Interest: Keep em’ coming back for more
Once you have a user’s attention, you need to hold it and pique it toward genuine interest in your brand.
These content assets will help you do that:
The newsletter is one of the mightiest marketing assets. It’s a non-intrusive way to deliver content straight to a lead’s inbox. Think about it: You might spend hours on keyword research, trying to optimize a blog post to perform well on a search engine. Your newsletter is a shortcut straight to a user’s inbox – a user, no less, who has shown enough interest in your brand to subscribe in the first place.
eBooks are highly engaging brand assets with limited text on each page. The visual content makes them feel like breezy reads even though they’re actually dense with information, instruction and guidance on a particular subject. eBooks are usually gated, even for newsletter subscribers. That’s because you want to know exactly who showed interest in which assets, and then try to build on that interest.
If eBooks are 50/50 on text and visuals, white papers would be more like 75/25. They house insight into highly technical subject-matter and thought leadership. They need to be authoritative and really well-researched. White papers serve a similar function to eBooks, but are more appropriate for tackling complex subject-matter in niche B2B markets.
Webinars are sort of like interactive eBooks and white papers. They have a theme, they’re gated (users need to provide an email address to get access) and they help take existing interest and compound it with information, insights and thought leadership.
Nurture emails nurture interest in your brand. They’re versatile digital assets: You can use them to distribute your white papers, eBooks and webinars among select newsletter subscribers. Or, you can create lead nurturing emails specifically for leads that have downloaded certain assets (or you can do both). Either way, they help you gauge certain leads’ interest, continue to build on it or even decide that they’re qualified to move into the consideration phase.
Explainer videos may just be the most under-rated marketing assets. They’re videos, so they’re not gated. And unlike most of the other collateral in the interest phase, they explain a brand or its products or services. If used in tandem with an email nurture campaign, they can help drive traffic to conversion landing pages (e.g., your product pages). And any lead that converts on one of those pages has made it to the consideration phase.
A paid ad on a search engine or a banner ad on a display network won’t drive traffic by the dozen, but it will do a decent job of weeding out commercial-intent conversions. A user who clicks on an ad has either a) done so accidentally or b) was actually curious about a product or service. In that sense, they sort of play a similar role to an explainer video.
Consideration: The gentle nudge
Some call it the “intent” or “evaluation” phase of the customer journey. Your leads are now becoming prospects who show intent to buy, or at least shop.
You can coax them toward a decision using the following assets:
Case studies and testimonials
Sometimes the messenger matters more than the messaging. Prospects expect you to heap praise on your products and services. But when the rave reviews come from your customers, they’ll pay closer attention. A video testimonial or a case study that tells a client’s story and the role your brand played in that story is social proof of your company’s value. Show it to prospects who have demonstrated clear interest in your brand.
Conversion landing pages
Your conversion landing pages are essentially your services pages. If someone fills in a form and then clicks a button that says “Get pricing,” they’re either shopping or considering buying. Either way, a conversion on one of these pages should be brought to the attention of your sales team, who can then score the prospect.
Consideration is not a binary thing. Some prospects show interest in your brand without reaching out directly. They’ll do everything short of asking for pricing (subscribed, downloaded eBooks and case studies, etc.). It’s possible they’re considering, but need to be convinced to take the next step. A well-crafted, non-pushy sales email that encourages a response can work wonders. The example above is a masterpiece: It’s a sales email disguised as a lead nurture email. It does enough that a passive prospect would recognize the intent and reply, but without alienating someone who isn’t quite ready for that.
Decision: The final mile of sales
At this phase, you’ve struck a dialog with a prospect. Your job is to make sure they have everything they need to make a decision in favor of your brand.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Slide decks and demos
It’s best to let your product or service do the talking whenever possible. But some services are easier to trial or demo than others. Queue up the slide decks. They can summarize a strategy proposal, showcase a pitch or outline an implementation plan. Style and substance are important here. You want something branded, professional and direct to supplement your sales calls.
Just like a menu at a restaurant, your product catalog is a content marketing asset, and one that can make or break a deal. It’s ultimately a judgement call as to whether or not you need to share your catalog with a prospect – or if you even need a formal product catalog. But some of your sales-qualified leads may ask to see it, and on occasion, it will sell products for you. (By the way: A product catalog that you post on your site doubles as a consideration-phase asset. Downloading a gated catalog is a clear sign of intent.)
Loyalty: The most valuable asset of all
Loyalty is left out of many a marketer’s strategy. That’s because most sales funnels since the early 1900s have been, well, funnels. The traffic goes in one end and comes out the other as a customer. There is no representation for what happens next.
But what happens next is arguably the single-most important part of your sales and marketing lifecycle: customer retention. By some estimates, retaining customers is 5 times more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Here are just a few of the asset types that will help you boost customer loyalty:
Product and services guides
A sale is really only the beginning of a customer relationship. Not only are you now on the hook to deliver what you said you could, but you also have to demonstrate great customer services. That means giving your customers all the information they need to maximize the value of your products or services. Provide step-by-step instructions in an eBook or a .PDF. Design an interactive webpage that walks a user through setup. Create blog posts about new ways your product can be used. The goal: Help customers get the most out of your offering.
You can tell customers how to do something, or you can just show them. Video tutorials are excellent resources for businesses that sell software, hardware or other hands-on products that can be used to achieve multiple goals. You can use them for product-specific tutorials, or to help your existing customers with bigger projects that your product might play a role in.
A frequently asked question (FAQ) page is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to automate customer service. Basically, anticipate your customers’ questions and answer them on a webpage. This puts support at their fingertips all hours of the day and night.
There are more assets where those came from …
Just because it isn’t on this list doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.
If it achieves a marketing goal, then it’s a marketing asset.
Let us know in the comments which content assets you’ve had the most success with.
Editor’s Note: Updated February 2021.