What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. So was VW’s 2014 “Game Day” commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube almost 18 million times as of the writing of this post, an ad, or content marketing? The answer is it’s both, depending on how it’s received by each individual who is exposed to it. The same will apply to any piece of content marketing you create, depending on whether the recipient received value from it or not. Of course the goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible. At this point, despite this definition and explanation, you’re probably still wondering what exactly content marketing is. We can get more clarity by considering a few examples.
There are as many types of content marketing as there are types of content–far too many to cover here. My intent is to give you an introduction to content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you. Soon you’ll be coming up with 50 content marketing ideas every day. You won’t be able to stop seeing opportunities to create content. Here are five examples to help your mind start percolating.
Infographics. These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing curated by Michael Schmitz, head of Content Lab at Publicis, Munich. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. A decent infographic will usually cost you at least 800,000 to have designed, but can cost several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time. Hey, it worked for Michael.
Those are just a few examples of content marketing. I could also have mentioned white papers, ebooks, apps, public speaking, presentations, and blogs. Entire books have been written on using each of these in content marketing efforts.
Traditional advertising and marketing is great when it comes to the second two steps. Content marketing taps into the first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and educating consumers about a product they may have never considered before.
At my own company we’ve used content marketing to grow more than 1,000% over the past year. Potential clients find our content, find value in it, and by the time they contact us they’re already convinced they want to work with us. We don’t have to engage in any high pressure sales tactics, it’s merely a matter of working out details, signing an agreement, and getting started. The trust that usually needs to be built up during an extensive sales cycle has already been created before we know the potential client exists.
The return on investment for content marketing can be phenomenal if executed correctly. We haven’t spent a dime on our own content marketing, or even that much time. 95% of the success we’ve experienced with content marketing can be traced to a handful of articles I’ve written, adding up to perhaps 20 hours of work.
Content marketing also provides additional benefits in that it supports other digital marketing channels. It provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines. In fact, for many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts should be focused on content marketing.
There are many firms that offer content marketing services, often paired with SEO or PR. If you’re simply too busy to do it yourself and aren’t ready to manage it in-house, then hiring a firm may be your best option. But if you want to jump in and do your own content marketing the easiest way is to start blogging. It will likely be hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Following tips from websites like Copyblogger you’ll quickly learn how to craft content for your website or blog that will engage readers and turn them into customers or clients. But while technically good writing and the right headlines can help, it’s not the key to creating great content that is the best form of content marketing.
Which are the benefits of Content Marketing?
We have already mentioned some Content Marketing benefits and affirm that this method may bring growth to your business. Now we will enlarge the explanation about each point mentioned to show you how they work.
Attracts visitors and grows your site traffic
Creates value for your audience
The content you create and offer to your customers is not just useful, it gives a necessary message to the right people, at the correct time they need. It will exceed the expectations and will turn you into an authority on that subject, generating value for you and your audience.
Engages your audience
When you give your audience relevant and useful content, they will consider it so incredible that they will share it with their friends and followers. And that’s not all: people will interact with your content in another way too, like leaving comments and reactions.
Generates a positive brand perception
Educates the market about your products and services
Most people don’t even know they have a problem and that it may be solved by your product or service. Content Marketing is capable of teaching the audience that your solution exists and how it works.
Drives sales to the next level
Sales are the principal goal, for sure, even when there is another secondary. Content Marketing may be present in all stages of the buying process driving your audience until the final decision.
Generates more leads
Reduces Customer Acquisition Cost
So, beyond reducing CAC, content brings more value to your business and contributes to helping your clients without the need for your sales team’s efforts, making it free to focus on a more personalized and assertive approach.
Increases the client’s lifetime value
How to create a Content Marketing strategy?
1. Create a buyer persona
The first step to creating good content is understanding who you are talking to. But it is not about simple segmentation: it demands the creation of a character with all attributes of your target audience.
2. Define objectives and KPIs
3. Consider the buyer’s journey
TOFU (Top of the Funnel)
MOFU (Middle of the Funnel)
BOFU (Bottom of Funnel)
As you can see, in each stage of the buyer’s journey, the consumer has a level of knowledge and needs different kinds of information. That’s why you have to consider the stage of the marketing funnel they are in, before producing content.
4. Set a budget
As far as how much to budget, every company’s needs are unique. However, the average company today sinks approximately 25-30 percent of its marketing budget into content marketing, so plan your content production strategy accordingly.
6. Implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices
Blog posts are the best resource to improve an SEO strategy, and that’s why they are the foundation of a Content Marketing strategy. They are responsible for attracting organic traffic from search engines.
To write a blog post you need, first, to think about the keyword of that content. Keyword research is essential to see what your audience is looking for. After that, you’ll need a copywriter to produce the text.
The infographics’ production process, initially, is the same as blog posts, but after a review, it will be designed by a graphic designer before it is published. This kind of content may be offered on landing pages to generate leads.
One characteristic of this kind of content is that it can highlight the applications and benefits that your product or service offers. You can put the case studies and testimonials on the institutional website and on the corporate blog too.
To produce a case study and testimonial you need to interview the client. Ask them to talk about the kind of problem they were trying to solve and show how your product/service helped them to overcome their issues.
#6. Social media posts
#7. Email marketing
We already mentioned that email marketing has one of the best ROI in a Digital Marketing strategy. That’s why it allows a very precise segmentation and with highly predictable results. Right?
The flow needs to have an objective and each email should drive the reader to the next until the persona receives the final message and makes the expected action, like contacting the company or buying a product.
To produce a webinar you have to plan an agenda and a presentation about the subject that will be presented. It is important to invite your audience with some antecedence and remind them of the day before.
Visual Content: Shutterstock
Social Media Content: GE
But household appliances aren’t particularly exciting as a topic for irresistible content marketing material. That hasn’t stopped GE from taking what they do best and breathing life into it in exciting new ways, though.
Content Mapping Based on the Customer Journey
I’m definitely not saying that content marketing is helpless when it comes to meaningful business events. I’m simply saying that measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy is particularly difficult.
In fact, 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience, and 86% of B2B buyers would pay more. To further show the importance of this, 89% of peoplehave stopped doing business with a company because of a poor experience.
The point is that your customers want a remarkable experience, and your content marketing efforts can give that to them. But you have to understand the way that people buy and then create content for each stage.
Now that you know what problems content marketing can solve, learn about the problems to avoid when launching your content marketing plan in our guide 8 Biggest Mistakes Content Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them.
Components of content marketing
Blog posts. Distill your content marketing strategy into your blog schedule or strategy. The company blog can and should be used to cross-promote other content, which will help keep posts on a consistent schedule. If you don’t have a marketing team member who is familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), this is one area where you might want to consult a professional.
Ebooks. Ebook content should follow some sort of narrative structure, and include a lot of good, visual design. The goal of an ebook is to educate, but it’s important to keep language consistent with your brand voice.
Video. The trick to effectively using video as part of a content strategy is keeping it as timeless as possible so that you aren’t forced to continuously spend time and money creating more. High-quality video content can also be used to expose your brand to YouTube’s large and active audience.
Infographics. Use as little text as possible and let the imagery tell the story. If you don’t have a killer in-house graphics artist, find a talented freelancer who can make something beautiful and informative.
Cheat sheets. These are short—two or three pages at most. That means there won’t be a lot of room for big images, so you’ll want to use text formatting to make them easy for a reader to quickly scan through. Link or point to other resources for more in-depth learning.
Workbooks and templates. These resources are great ways to keep your brand in front of buyers while continuing to inform. They should be designed for print and made as interactive and practical as possible.
White papers and reports. These materials are similar to an ebook in that they are primarily educational, but white papers and reports are generally less graphically designed and use language that is a little more professional. They can also create opportunities to partner with other organizations.
Slide decks. Slide decks are a great format for breaking down complex ideas into simple steps or bite-sized pieces. Keep the slides simple: Use minimal text in one font and big graphics throughout.
Demos. This is where a free assessment, evaluation, or trial works nicely to start the dialogue and to begin to fully qualify your most interested leads. If you have an e-commerce-based product, you can leverage a discount code to use at the time of the transaction to establish some urgency around making the purchase.
Owned: Sharing your content on the brand’s own social media channels—like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest—is a quick, customizable, and free opportunity to connect with your target audience.
Organic: Weaving some SEO best practices into your content will help make a good impression with Google and move your website up the rankings list. The strength of a good content marketing strategy is in providing the information and answers that your target audience is looking for, so make sure they can find it.
Paid: Most social networks allow for some kind of paid advertising, such as sponsored content, pay-per-click (PPC), search engine marketing (SEM), display, and retargeting. Matching a network’s demographics with your brand’s personas will help you determine where to invest.
Learn more about how content marketing contributes to your bottom line in the ebook Solved Mysteries: Tracking Your Content Marketing ROI.
Planning, implementing, and optimizing your content marketing program
Step 1: Create your key persona profiles. What kind of content do you need? Your buyer personas will help you define your audience—their challenges, questions, needs, and the kind of content they like to consume—while their buying stages tell you what each piece of content should accomplish.
Step 2: Understand their buyer’s journey. A buying journey maps a buyer’s decision-making process during a purchase and will help you determine what content you need. Different kinds of content appeal to different buyers in different stages of their journey. By mapping your buying stages, you’ll better understand the process buyers go through when considering your product or service. As a result, you’ll be able to develop a content strategy that speaks directly to buyers, no matter what stage they’re in.
Step 3: Brainstorm, then create your content marketing plan. Planning and creating new content isn’t just about mapping and metrics. Brainstorming and asset planning can be one of the most challenging and important parts of content creation. To catch inspiration when it strikes, you need a receptive environment, and team-wide willingness to try new things. An editorial calendar is not only where you keep track of, coordinate, and share your upcoming content, it is a strategic tool that helps your team execute integrated programs that include your content. Keeping an editorial calendar ensures that you’re releasing your content at the best possible moment, and that your whole team is aligned around the release dates.
Step 4: Produce and optimize your content . If you’re starting with original, high-quality content that you’ve invested real time and money to create, you’ll want to get the most out of every asset. You’ll also want to be sure your content stays fresh—out-of-date, no longer relevant content hurts your brand’s credibility. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your content marketing, remember the three Rs:
Reorganize: This isn’t just an efficient way to pump out new content—it’s also a smart way to reach members of your audience who like to consume content in different ways. Some people you’re marketing to may like ebooks, while others prefer infographics, and still others learn best from slide decks. Slicing and dicing allows you to reach more people with less effort.
Retire: Even the very best content doesn’t last forever. If a content asset needs help beyond a design refresh or simple update, it may be time to retire it. Content that is past its expiration date damages your company’s authority and credibility—effectively undoing all of the good work your content has done.
Step 5: Launch and optimize. Content at each stage of the funnel should be measured differently—after all, each stage has different goals. Here are the basic metrics for early-, mid-, and late-stage content:
Early-stage metrics don’t tie directly to revenue. The purpose of your early-stage content is to build brand awareness; create preference for your brand; and educate, entertain, and engage your audience. Shares, downloads, and views tell you whether your content is attracting attention, and whether people like what they see.
Mid- and late-stage metrics like pipeline, opportunity, and revenue allocation give you insight into how your content affects deals. For mid-stage assets, you’ll want to measure how your content is generating new interest and affecting your profit.