Content marketing has been around for a lot longer than people realise, as Neil Patel explains. It’s just that now almost all of the media we consume is digital, and there is a whole lot more content for us to choose from.
At some point, you’ve probably been bombarded with poor email content (spam) that offers no value, then promptly deleted it or sent it to the junk folder. Or, you’ve gone to research something online and been sucked into an over eager sales pitch, rather than finding the information you’re looking for.
Cold, hard sales that cut the foreplay are ever decreasing in effectiveness, as people wise up to the shtick and do their research before making purchasing decisions.
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Clearly, content itself has been around for a lot longer than the term “content marketing”. After all, it is about storytelling, and creating something that a particular audience want to read/watch/listen to.
So, content marketing is about giving your audience something valuable, that they might give you something valuable in return.
Rather than simply promoting products and services, it solves a customer’s problems, creating brand awareness, trust and a willingness to purchase from you in the future. Continually serving your customers with great content leads to loyalty, rapport and of course recommendation.
We can see that content marketing is a longer term commitment, but why is it so important that your business has a clear and well thought out content marketing strategy in 2018?
This handy infographic shows some of the statistics around usage, budgets and future trends:
Content Marketing is Nothing Without Strategy
I won’t get into the finer points of how content strategy and content marketing are separate but connected here.
However, if you decide that content marketing is one of the ways to grow your business, it is imperative to develop a content marketing strategy.
Essentially, this should set out your reasons for creating content, how it fits with your business model and what you what to achieve. Following this, it is necessary to identify buyer personas – who are they; what are their goals; what challenges do they face; what is their role in the purchasing process?
You should also identify the typical customer journey – mapping the right type of content for each stage that moves towards the eventual goal of making a purchasing decision.
The last part of this strategy is to understand how the content fits with your brand – it must be consistent in the way you communicate, how you differentiate from the competition, and of course which tactics and platforms are best for telling your company’s story.
Marketing is Nothing Without Content
Great content underpins almost every aspect of effective marketing and growth:
- SEO – as covered in an earlier post, publishing high quality content to your website on a regular basis is a pillar of great SEO practice.
- Social Media – what have you got to offer your followers on social media? Why would the right people follow if you don’t offer great content?
- PPC – content affects quality scores and ad visibility. If someone clicks on your ad and the landing page content isn’t up to scratch, they won’t take any further action.
- PR – addressing topics and issues that your audience cares about gains exposure and brand awareness.
- Inbound Marketing – great content pulls customers towards you by increasing traffic and leads.
It is plainly obvious that whatever marketing tactics you employ, they stand a much better chance of working when you furnish them with awesome content.
Types of Content
When it comes to content marketing, there are a huge range of options available to tell your story and engage your audience. The best type of content to use will depend on the subject matter, the audience and the platform on which you want to distribute it.
You can pick ‘n’ mix from the following ideas (and I don’t claim this is exhaustive!):
- Blog Posts – content curation; how to’s; lists; opinion articles; case studies; news; press releases (all of which can contain other content forms).
- Video & Audio – film; vlogs; animation; interviews; webinars; podcasts.
- Images & Graphics – photos; infographics; graphs; memes; illustrations.
- Resources – research; white papers; e-books; presentations; guides; templates; apps; FAQs.
- Interactive – surveys; polls: games; giveaways & competitions; Q&As.
By researching and understanding the needs of your customers you can find out what their pain points are. You can then decide on the content they want or need, and the best format to deliver it in.
The next step is to find people (either in-house or outsourced to an agency/freelancer) to create insightful and useful content that will engage your audience in the right place, and at the right time.
Why Invest in Content Marketing?
If it is done well, content marketing can lead to reduced costs, increased sales, and more loyal customers. I can’t think of many marketers or business owners that wouldn’t want these benefits.
The biggest challenges are in defining the right content marketing strategy for your business, creating the content itself, and measuring the impact these efforts have conversion and sales.
It is also true that a lot of companies are creating content, so how do you cut through the noise? The answer lies in making sure that you produce the right kind of content for your brand and the people you are targeting. There also needs to be a clear map as to how that content fits into the customer journey, and what it needs to achieve at each stage:
Ok, so this uses American Football to illustrate the point, but it makes sense.
When you have great content mapped to each stage of the sales process, then it is easier to measure its effectiveness.
If the goal is to attract and increase web traffic, this can be measured. If you want people to download a piece of content in return for their contact information, then you can track this as their entry point into the sales funnel.
To conclude, content marketing doesn’t require a huge budget, and can be used by all types of businesses.
It is quite simply the best way to start and maintain engagement with your customers.