Content Marketing

Having an engaging content marketing plan means that you have a strategy to create high-quality, valuable content that will build strong customer relationships and elevate your brand strength.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the process of creating valuable, relevant content to attract, acquire, and engage your audience. Buyers and customers today are inundated by more marketing messages than ever before—more than 2,900 per day, by current estimations. This creates an environment of attention scarcity, challenging marketers with the task of producing engaging content that won’t get lost in the static. A well-crafted content marketing strategy places your business in the position of a thought leader, building brand preference as you inform and educate buyers. Providing helpful and entertaining content can form a strong bond between your brand and customers that continues to grow and strengthen over time.

Traditionally, marketers have had to “rent attention” from other people’s media through display ads on websites, booths at trade shows, or emails sent to third-party lists. For example, when a brand pays out millions of dollars for a Super Bowl ad, they are renting the attention that the TV networks have built. Content marketing, on the other hand, allows marketers to become publishers by building their own audiences and attracting their own attention. By creating and distributing content that buyers find useful, marketers increase their brand awareness and preference by establishing a relationship of trust with consumers as they move through the sales funnel. Additionally, content marketing is considered a less costly strategy than some others. It can have a bit of a slower start while your content library grows and reaches a larger audience.

Today, 41% of B2B marketers focus on content tied to the buying journey of a customer, yet many businesses fail to produce personalized content dedicated to each stage of the buying cycle. Personalized messaging doesn’t just mean targeting by demographic or filmographic criteria, it means proactively producing content that is suitable for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Eighty-five percent of consumers trust solutions that take the time to walk them through various paths toward decisions rather than just attempting to make that choice for them. This type of content shows consumers that you acknowledge and value their ability to evaluate and make decisions for themselves. 

“Successful content marketers hit all stages of the buyer journey—from start to finish. Most brands are seriously over-weighted in the bottom of the funnel. And they miss huge opportunities to meet new customers at the point of need.” 

– Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

Common problems that content marketing can solve

Content marketing is a completely unique approach to engaging with potential customers that circumvents some of today’s biggest pain points, especially in the digital space.

  • Problem: I need to increase the volume of my organic search. Your audience can’t buy from you if they can’t find you, and today up to 93% of buying cycles start from a search engine. Additionally, according to Kuno Creative, 51% of content consumption derives from organic search, so content marketing is a great way to build organic awareness. When your valuable content ranks highly on search engines, or is shared widely on social networks, you’re building brand awareness at no cost, and since your content will only be shared when it’s relevant, your audience will be less inclined to tune it out. 

  • Problem: I need to create brand preference. Engaging content marketing creates preference through thought leadership by making you a trusted source of information and education. You can also create preference through relationships, which are strengthened whenever your content entertains or helps your buyers. People are more likely to buy from companies with whom they have relationships. 

  • Problem: I have a content marketing plan, but it’s not engaging my customers. Content marketing should help your customers, not sell to them. When you freely give your audience something so valuable that they’d be willing to pay for it, you build trust, which, ultimately, is your most powerful selling tool. 

  • Problem: I need to reach more customers, while keeping my costs low. According to Forrester research, today’s customers distrust and resent marketing that interrupts or intercepts them. Engaging content marketing should be part of a natural conversation with current and potential customers, be relevant to their interests and behaviors, and build a continuous story over time. Content marketing pays dividends for a very long time, and this effect multiplies as you build out your content library. 

  • Problem: I’m not sure how to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of my content marketing campaign. In general, content marketing can help to increase web traffic, support lead qualification (especially when content is produced by stage), and, ultimately, lead conversions into sales.

 

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.

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Components of content marketing

Content marketing can take various forms, and in order to do it right, you’ll need to determine what type of content your potential buyers prefer to consume.

  • 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. 

  • Case studies. Build case studies with real numbers and complete stories. This will help keep the content focused on the value and results, not the brand. 

  • 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. 

  • Distribution channels. 

    • 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. 

    • Earned: This is the most valuable, but hardest to create. Earned social media promotion happens when your audience chooses to share your content with their network.

 

Learn more about what content marketing can offer in our Content Marketing Cheat Sheet.

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ROI of a successful content marketing program 

While content marketing ROI can be a bit tricky to measure, the value it provides is clear if you look in the right place.

  • Content marketing is essential. Ninety-two percent of marketers reported that their company views content as a business asset (Content Marketing Institute). 

  • Content marketing creates credibilityNinety-six percent of the most successful content marketers agree that their audience views their organization as a trusted resource. 

  • Content marketing brings in leads. It creates three times more leads than paid search advertising (Content Marketing Institute, 2017).  

 

Learn more about how content marketing contributes to your bottom line in the ebook Solved Mysteries: Tracking Your Content Marketing ROI.

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Planning, implementing, and optimizing your content marketing program

Content marketing is a long-term strategy, so while you may have a slow start, each of these stages is absolutely vital to making sure you have a solid foundation in place to set yourself up for success. 

  • 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.

    • Rewrite: Whenever an asset shows consistently high performance, earmark it for a future update. Eventually, the number of engagements will start to drop—a good sign that it’s time to update. 

    • 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.

Learn more about how to get content marketing working for you in The Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing.