- Content marketing is a cost-effective, long-term strategy for attracting and engaging an audience through the creation and distribution of relevant and valuable content.
- The type of content you produce is dependent on your buyer and their position in their buying journey.
- The end goal of content marketing is to ultimately drive customers to take profitable actions; be it a purchase, sign-up, or any other desired outcome.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term marketing strategy for attracting and engaging an audience through the creation, publication, and distribution of relevant, valuable, consistent content. Its primary aim is to attract and retain a specific audience, ultimately driving them to take profitable actions, be it a purchase, sign-up, or any other desired outcome.
Content marketing is useful for building trust and credibility with your audience, enhancing SEO efforts by creating content that ranks and drives organic traffic, positioning your brand as an industry leader, and supporting the buyer’s journey as they move from awareness and consideration into purchasing.
What are the benefits of content marketing?
Content marketing caters to both audiences and brands. For one, audiences are often much more receptive to content that provides them with real value (think infographics, videos, and blog posts) than to advertisements, increasing the effectiveness of content marketing versus traditional marketing in promoting action. Some statistics of content marketing benefits include:
- Per dollar, content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing, while costing 62% less.
- 78% of people perceive a relationship between themselves and a brand after interacting with custom content.
- 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after engaging with content about it.
It can increase your website’s organic traffic.
Producing high-quality content that addresses the needs and challenges of your target audience helps you increase your brand's visibility in search engines and across various online platforms. Effective content that's optimized for search engines (SEO) can lead to higher search rankings, making it easier for potential customers to discover your brand organically. As your content gets shared and linked to, your brand's reach and recognition can also expand, enhancing overall brand awareness.
It builds trust and credibility.
Trust isn't just about telling the truth about your service or product. It's about being a reliable, consistent, and valuable resource for your audience. When trust is woven into the fabric of your content marketing strategy, it becomes a powerful tool for long-term success.
Consumers who trust a brand are more likely to stay loyal, even when competitors might offer better prices or promotions.
Trust also plays a pivotal role in recommendations. Satisfied customers who trust a brand are more likely to recommend it to friends and family, expanding your audience organically.
When potential customers trust your content and, by extension, your brand, they are more likely to take desired actions, like signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.
It generates leads.
Content marketing is a powerful tool for generating leads and converting them into customers. For example, many companies use lead magnets (ebooks, product guides, webinars, etc.) to attract traffic and customer’s attention. These lead magnets build a positive brand image, add value to your company, and ideally result in more potential buyers. By creating content that speaks to different stages of the buyer's journey, you can attract prospects at every level of readiness.
It can be a cost-effective strategy.
Compared to traditional forms of advertising, content marketing often offers a higher return on investment (ROI). While creating high-quality content requires an initial investment of time and resources, once published, evergreen content (content based around evergreen rather than timely topics) can continue to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions over the long term.
It can be repurposed.
Repurposing content is a creative way to cut down costs and continue to receive returns on ideas proven to attract customers. Once a base of quality content to pull from is established, you can easily modify and mold it to fit current needs. For example, think of how this applies in the “hub-and-spoke” model. Your company will always have “hubs”; topics around which they want to establish authority; and “spokes”, supporting content that links back to the “hubs”. Pulling from your content base to fit the trends surrounding your “hubs” allows for the creation of many “spokes”, all leading back to your objective. Repurposing your pre-made content is ideal in its cost-effectiveness as well as labor efficiency.
Furthermore, you can minimize costs by repurposing content in a way that provides even more value to your brand. An example of this would be to structure existing content — supplementing with new content as necessary — using a hub-and-spoke model to build authority in a specific topic. This approach often has a great deal of SEO benefits alongside general authority building.
How Content Marketing Works
Content marketing should be guided by a strategy built around the buyer’s journey.
A buyer moves through three stages in the typical marketing or sales funnel: awareness, consideration, and decision. Marketers know these stages as “TOFU” (top of funnel), “MOFU” (middle of funnel), and “BOFU” (bottom of funnel). Each of these stages is an opportunity for content that meets your audience where they are to help them progress towards decision and purchasing.
Here’s what we mean.
At this stage, buyers are experiencing a problem or need but might not yet fully understand it or know the solutions available. Content marketing's role here is to capture their attention and provide valuable, educational content that addresses their pain points. This content should focus on raising awareness and helping buyers define and understand their challenges. Examples of content for this stage include blog posts, articles, infographics, and videos that highlight common problems and challenges within the industry or domain.
Once buyers have identified their problem and are actively seeking solutions, they move into the consideration stage. Here, they are researching different approaches, strategies, and products to solve their problem. Content marketing's role in this stage is to provide in-depth information about potential solutions and guide buyers toward considering your brand as a viable option. Content should highlight your brand's expertise, showcase case studies, and offer detailed comparisons between different solutions. Whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, and product comparison guides are effective content types for this stage.
In the decision stage, buyers have narrowed down their options and are ready to make a purchase decision. Content marketing's role here is to provide the final push needed for them to choose your product or service. Content should focus on the unique value proposition of your offering, addressing any remaining concerns or objections the buyer might have. Testimonials, customer success stories, free trials, and product demonstrations are excellent content types for this stage. These types of content help build trust and confidence in your brand.
Throughout all these stages, the key is to provide relevant, valuable, and personalized content that addresses the specific needs and concerns of the buyers.
Remember that the buyer's journey is not always linear, and buyers might move back and forth between stages. Content marketing should be adaptable and provide support no matter where a buyer is in their decision-making process.
Types of Content
Many types of content can add value for an audience. Consider what information you need to share and where your audience is to determine the best combination of content types. Below is a non-exhaustive list of content types and their benefits and features.
|Features and Benefits
|E-book and Whitepapers
|Allow brands to take a deep dive into a specific subjectMay include research and case studiesOften used as a lead magnetPositions brand as an expert
|Brands engage with audience in real-time, getting immediate feedbackRecorded webinars are easily re-purposed into other content forms Hosting guests can increase the content’s value and increase its reach
|Require participation, leading to longer engagement and increased website dwell timeOffer users personalized results, increasing perceived valueUsers often share results and tools on social media, inadvertently promoting your brand
|UGC is perceived as more authentic than brand-produced content, as it comes directly from peers or other consumers.Brands can save on production costs and resources.Fosters a sense of community around a brand, with users feeling more engaged and connected.
|Social Media Posts, Stories and Highlights
|Stories allow brands to share in-the-moment updates, making content more immediate and authenticThe ephemeral nature of stories (typically disappearing after 24 hours) creates a sense of exclusivity, urging users to view content before it vanishes
|Polls and Surveys
|Offer a straightforward way for brands to gather feedback on products, services, or content preferencesRequire user interaction, leading to higher engagement ratesResults can provide valuable data on user preferences and behaviors, guiding future marketing strategies
|Visual data representation is often more engaging than text-heavy content, capturing and retaining audience attentionInfographics are often shared across social media platforms and websites, increasing their reachcan be repurposed for other content forms, like blog posts or videos. A well-designed infographic can remain relevant and shareable for years
|Directly reach your audience via their inboxSegmenting an email list based on behaviors and preferences allows you to deliver more relevant and personalized contentEmail is effective for lead nurturingTrackable metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversions help you refine your strategy
|Podcasts attract audiences who prefer auditory learning, expanding your reach to individuals who may not engage with written content or who are multitasking while listening An audio format allows you to convey your brand’s personality and connect on a personal levelRegularly sharing information on a podcast can position your brand as an industry authority
|Combining visual and audio makes content more engaging and suitable for conveying complex informationVideos allow you to demonstrate products, services or processesVideos evoke emotions, improving brand recall
|Long-form content provides room to dive deep into subjects, offering readers comprehensive insights.Search engines often favor detailed, value-rich content, leading to improved rankingsRegularly publishing in-depth articles showcases a brand's expertise, positioning it as a thought leaderGuest authors bring new insights and expertise, enriching the content offeringComment sections allow readers to share their views, ask questions, or provide feedback, giving brands direct insight into their audienceDiscussions in the comment section can inspire future content topics or address areas of interest or confusion
Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
Creating content is only one part - and a small part - of your content marketing strategy. Follow these steps to build an informed strategy that will guide your audience to purchase.
- Identify Target Audience
First things first, you need to know who you are talking to.
Deep dive into demographics, including age, gender, and location. Understand what your audience loves, and hates, what they are motivated by, and understand their online behavior patterns. Are they avid readers? Do they prefer video content?
Even if you have personas built out for your customers, take this as an opportunity to refresh what you know - or think you know.
Platforms like Google Analytics or Facebook Insights can provide data about your audience’s behavior, preferences, and demographics. You can also jump into a more advanced tool like Sparktoro, or conduct customer surveys and customer research interviews.
Finally, be sure to group your audience into distinct categories based on their shared characteristics and behaviors. One content strategy will not fit all. Design content that speaks directly to each persona, addressing their specific needs and pain points.
- Set SMART Goals & Determine KPIs
Once you know your audience, set goals and KPIs to guide the rest of your strategy build-out.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
- Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve. Instead of “increase website traffic,” aim for “increase website traffic by 20% in the next quarter.”
- Measurable: Ensure you can track and quantify your progress. What tools do you have?
- Achievable: Your goals should be ambitious, yet realistic. Overstretching can lead to burnout and disappointment. Review current data to understand what a realistic goal is for a new program.
- Relevant: Ensure your goals align with your brand’s overall mission and objectives. If you're an e-commerce brand, driving sales might be more relevant than gaining followers.
- Time-bound: Set a clear timeline for your goals. This creates a sense of urgency and a clear checkpoint to evaluate progress. Quarterly or bi-annual goals are common in marketing. Note that with content, you may need a longer ramp to see the results that follow the execution.
- Determine KPIs
You will know whether your content strategy is successful or not by tracking key performance indicators established before the campaign launches.
Quantitative metrics may include traffic data about the number of visitors to your site, and engagement rates such as likes, shares, comments, and overall interaction with your content.
Qualitative metrics for your content plan can come through feedback and reviews from your audience. Before and after surveys can help you gauge how your content is influencing the overall perception and image of your brand.
SEO Performance goals can also be a strong indicator of content strategy success. Monitor where your content ranks for targeted keywords, and watch for backlinks. A high number of quality backlinks can improve your SEO and suggest that your content is deemed valuable by others.
Conversion metrics are perhaps the most important. Ensure that your content strategy is contributing to the overall growth and revenue goals of your company. You may want to track the number of leads generated from a content piece or the number of direct sales or other conversion types.
- Choose Content Types and Formats
The content type that you choose to use will be largely dependent on where in the buyer’s journey that content will appear for your audience.
If you’ve considered your audience’s needs and questions at each of the stages of the buyer’s journey, you can then consider what content format is best to answer those questions and communicate what your audience needs to move down the pipeline.
Consider which content formats resonate most with your audience. Perhaps you learned in your audience research that your audience has a strong preference for videos as opposed to long-form blog content. Lean into any of these insights.
Investigate what content types your competitors are using to identify any gaps or opportunities for differentiation. As you move along to implementing your strategy, don’t be afraid to try out different formats. Monitor the response and be ready to adapt based on feedback and results.
- Plan Content Channels and Distribution
Once you know what content you will create, decide how you will distribute it. Will content go out in an email? Do you need brochures or posters for an event? Prioritize channels where you know your audience spends their time. If your target demographic frequents Instagram, it makes sense to prioritize that platform.
Note that different platforms have unique nuances. Tailor your content to fit the specific channel’s audience and format. Regularly posting and engaging on your chosen channels helps maintain visibility and fosters trust with your audience.
- Create a Content Calendar
Put all of your content creation and distribution plans into one content calendar. Make a short-term strategy spanning 3-6 months.
Organizing topics and post dates in advance ensures you maintain a consistent posting schedule. Be mindful of your own budget and resources to build a calendar that is realistic and effective.
This is also a great time to consider who will be in charge of creating what content. Perhaps you have a large content team that can fulfill your strategy. But maybe you need to hire an external videographer to help with other content. Make these plans now so that every detail of execution is accounted for.
- Implement and Track Success
And you’re off! Get creating, sharing and analyzing. As your content strategy begins to reveal its strengths and weaknesses, adapt and stretch yourself to experiment with new ideas.
Build times for a regular analytics review of your content strategy’s performance. Evaluate success based on your established KPIs, and make adjustments as needed.
Leveling Up Your Content
Here are ways to build upon your content strategy to win loyalty from your audience and get the most out of your resources:
- Repurpose Content: Don’t limit your content to one platform. A blog post can be transformed into an infographic, a podcast episode, or several social media posts, multiplying its reach. Presenting content in a new format can engage different segments of your audience or re-engage those who've seen it before.
- Personalize Content: Use data to offer personalized content suggestions, enhancing user experience. Based on user behavior, segment your email list to deliver the most relevant content.
- Use Influencers: You may want to collaborate with industry influencers or partners to amplify content distribution - just make sure this partner is part of your audience’s network already.
- Stay Agile: Notice where buyers are falling off the content journey to fill any gaps. Tools like Google Analytics can offer insights into which pieces of content are performing best, guiding future content decisions.
- Integrate Strong CTAs (calls-to-action): Guide your audience on the next steps, whether it's subscribing to a newsletter, purchasing a product, or sharing the content. Position CTAs strategically within your content to ensure they're noticed without being intrusive.
- Make Content Evergreen: Crafting content that remains relevant over time ensures consistent traffic and can position you as a trusted resource in your field. Periodically update evergreen content to ensure it remains current and continues to rank well on search engines.
With this framework, you're well-equipped to create, distribute, and measure content that truly resonates with your audience.
Integrating Content Marketing with Digital Marketing
To maximize your reach and effectiveness, it's crucial to integrate content marketing with other marketing efforts.
Content Marketing and SEO
- Researching Trends: Using tools like Google Trends, SEMrush, or Ahrefs helps identify what potential customers are searching for.
- Optimized Content Creation: By integrating these keywords naturally into your content, you increase its visibility on search engines.
- Guest Posting: Writing articles for reputable sites in your industry can secure valuable backlinks.
- Shareable Content: Creating content that others want to share or reference naturally boosts backlinks.
Enhanced User Experience (UX):
- Mobile Optimization: Ensuring your content is mobile-friendly is essential as more users access content via mobile devices.
- Page Speed: Slow-loading content can deter visitors. Optimizing images and streamlining design can significantly improve load times.
Content Marketing and Social Media
Sharing and Amplification:
- Consistent Posting: Regularly sharing content keeps your brand top-of-mind for followers.
- Engagement: Responding to comments, sharing user-generated content, and participating in trending conversations can boost engagement rates.
- Reaching New Audiences: Partnering with influencers can introduce your content to their followers, expanding your reach.
- Enhanced Credibility: Recommendations from trusted influencers can bolster your brand's credibility.
- Utilizing Hashtags: Incorporating trending hashtags can make your content discoverable to a wider audience.
- Creating Trend-driven Content: Staying updated on current events and popular culture helps in crafting content that's timely and resonates with the audience.
Content is the backbone of successful digital marketing. It's the medium through which brands can inform, inspire, entertain, and connect with their audience.
Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating, publishing, and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, ultimately driving profitable customer action.
Unlike traditional marketing, which often focuses on promoting products or services directly, content marketing emphasizes providing valuable information or entertainment to the audience. It builds trust and positions the brand as an industry expert.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ensures that your content is visible to search engines and ranks well for relevant search terms. Good SEO practices drive organic traffic to your content, increasing its reach and effectiveness.
The frequency depends on your brand’s goals, resources, and audience’s needs. However, consistency is crucial. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, ensure you maintain a regular schedule.
It varies by industry and target audience. Blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, and eBooks are all popular. The key is to understand your audience’s preferences and provide content that meets their needs.
Measure metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, lead generation, and sales conversions. Tools like Google Analytics can offer invaluable insights. Regularly reviewing these metrics will indicate the effectiveness of your strategy.
Ensure your content is authentic, transparent, and consistently valuable. Avoid clickbait, address audience concerns proactively, and engage responsively. Building trust is a long-term process but is vital for sustainable success.
While the strategies and platforms might vary, content marketing is adaptable to almost all industries. It’s all about finding the right voice, medium, and message for your specific audience.
Content marketing is versatile. Start with what you can manage, like writing your own blogs or creating simple videos. As you gain traction, you can consider reinvesting in higher-quality content or diverse formats.