Content marketing is a marketing strategy that uses relevant articles, videos, podcasts, and other media to attract, engage, and retain an audience. This strategy establishes expertise, raises brand awareness, and keeps your company at the top of mind when it comes time to buy what you sell.
What exactly is content marketing?
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of relevant, useful content to current and potential customers, such as blogs, newsletters, white papers, social media posts, emails, videos, and the like. When done correctly, this content conveys expertise while also demonstrating that a company values the people to whom it sells.
Consistent use of content marketing builds and nurtures relationships with both new and existing customers. When your target audience perceives your company as a partner invested in their success and a valuable source of advice and guidance, they are more likely to choose you when the time comes to buy.
Why is it significant?
Content marketing is a tried-and-true strategy. It also gives you a competitive advantage. Consider the following data on content marketing:
Blogs generate 67 percent more leads than non-blogging businesses.
Before engaging with a sales representative, 47% of buyers view 3 to 5 pieces of content.
Companies that use content marketing grow at a rate that is approximately 30% higher than businesses that do not.
According to 72% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers, content marketing increases engagement and the number of leads generated.
How does content marketing work?
Content marketing can help your company attract leads, make a case for your product or service when someone is deciding what to buy, and close sales.
To use it effectively, you must provide the appropriate content at each stage of the sales cycle, from awareness to consideration to purchase. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated: approaching content in this manner actually simplifies the process.
Here’s how businesses use content marketing to engage and sell at each stage of the sales cycle.
Stage of awareness
At the beginning of the sales process, your content should address your audience’s top concerns. Writing about their problems, difficulties, and concerns gives you the best chance of engaging with them. At the awareness stage, the content should be educational and provide how-to advice. Save your selling for the phases of consideration and closing.
Articles, blog posts, e-books, videos, and newsletters are the best types of content for this stage.
In the spring, a restaurant writes a blog post about how to plan a menu for a graduation party.
A bike touring company produces a short video titled “3 Ways to Choose the Right Bike Trip.”
A design firm publishes an e-book titled “Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect.”
Stage of consideration
During the consideration stage, content should provide a combination of useful information and marketing. It should inform the reader about which features or functions to look for and how different features address their needs. Of course, your content should be geared toward what your company has to offer.
Case studies, how-to articles, how-to videos, and checklists/worksheets are the best content for this stage.
A cloud-based phone system provider develops a checklist titled “8 Ways to Improve Your Phone Customer Service” that outlines the features and functions that enable great customer service.
A landscaping company develops case studies on “The Biggest Mistakes Most People Make When Hiring a Landscaper.”
Case studies of successful events with a focus on the benefits they provide, such as “How to Accommodate Food Allergies at Your Next Event” or “How to Ensure Your Caterer Uses Sustainable Practices,” are featured by a catering company.
Stage of completion
When a prospect is on the verge of making a purchase, content marketing is critical. At this point, you can concentrate on sales as long as you continue to emphasize why you’re the best option rather than just how good your services or products are.
Your main message should be your expertise, knowledge, and the unique benefits of what you sell.
Case studies, user-generated content, a buyer’s guide, a product video, and a research report are all good options for this stage.
A consulting firm creates a research report demonstrating that businesses that engage in strategic planning, external assessments, and other services—defined by the services they provide—experience higher growth.
To demonstrate its diverse expertise, a design agency creates short videos showcasing the variety in its work across various industries.
An orthodontist practice encourages patients to provide testimonials about its cutting-edge technology and exceptional service.
How to Begin with Content Marketing
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by content marketing, but it doesn’t have to be. A successful content marketing campaign must be manageable and long-term. To begin, follow these steps:
Determine your target audience. To create content for a specific reader, you must first understand their priorities, challenges, and preferences. Choose one or two segments to write for if you have detailed descriptions of them. Otherwise, before you begin, create profiles of your audience members and prospects.
Choose the appropriate formats. The appropriate format is determined by the stage of the sales cycle for which you are creating content. Another important factor to consider is what formats will best help you demonstrate value. For some, this will be a video, while for others, it will be a checklist.
Choose someone to write, edit, and proofread your copy. Your content’s quality will be judged by an audience, as it should be. Determine the best internal or external resource to create this work. Hire a professional proofreader to review anything before it goes out the door, regardless of who created it.
Decide how you will distribute. Will you publish content on your website, send it via email, or print it for an event? Begin with “where” you know your audience is most likely to be, and then select formats that make sense. For example, an article is appropriate to send via email, a checklist or worksheet can be shared on social media, and a buyer’s guide is an appropriate follow-up to a pitch.
Choose a schedule that will last. It’s easy to create an overly ambitious content marketing strategy. Create a short-term (3-6 months) plan for a realistic number of content elements you can create based on your budget and resources once you’ve identified your target readers and formats. Keep track of how long it takes you to create each piece of content so that you can plan accordingly.
Adhere to best practices. Content that is compelling is clearly written, with no jargon that only you and your peers will understand. It should also include how-to information. The best type of content is one that is brief, relevant, and actionable.
Search Engine Optimization and Social Media
Content marketing makes it simple for qualified prospects to find your company. Search engine optimization is one method for accomplishing this (SEO).
There is a wealth of SEO information available, but to get started, concentrate on a few key best practices.
Keywords are the cornerstone of your SEO strategy. When a prospect is looking for a company, product, or service, they will type these keywords and phrases into a search engine.
You’ll get more traffic if you use the right keywords in your content. The most effective keywords are:
Plain-language: the language your target audience uses to describe their problems and needs.
Relevant: keywords that are related to your expertise, products, and services.
Specific: a blend of your focus, industry expertise, prospect pain points, and other pertinent information.
Make good on your promise.
SEO has evolved to the point where search success is determined in part by how well your content does what it promises. Search engines examine content copy, determining its relevance and whether it delivers on what the headline promises.
Because search engines value copy, including keywords throughout your content is essential. Follow the guidelines below:
Concentrate on one or two keywords. Avoid “keyword stuffing” by writing about what is important to your prospects while focusing on only a few key phrases.
Make use of keywords in the title. Make it clear and explicit what the article is about.
Throughout, use keywords. Find a way to incorporate your keywords into your content naturally.
Maintain your focus. The best performing content is high-quality content that provides advice related to a headline.
The Internet of Things
Once you’ve created content, it’s time to spread the word about it. Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, and others are a tried-and-true way to promote your content. You write a post and include a link to your content and presto! People are interested.
This can be accomplished in three steps:
Concentrate on high-potential channels. The best social media platforms for you are those that your target audience uses. Consider both the big, well-known channels and the smaller, industry-specific ones that are more likely to connect you with good prospects. Ask your audience which channels they prefer and create a manageable list based on their responses.
Create copy that is appropriate for the channel. Each social media channel has its own level of professionalism versus fun, a recognized voice, and other details. Spend some time reviewing posts before writing posts for a channel to become acquainted with these details. Then, inject some of your company’s personality into your posts.
Test and tweak your strategy. A successful social media promotion campaign involves trial and error. Monitor the quantity and quality of responses from various channels. Fewer high-potential engagements may indicate that a channel is a good fit, as opposed to a flood of clicks that never result in an audience.
Put content to work for your company.
Create content to attract, engage, and sell, allowing your expertise and unique value to shine through. With some forethought and systematic content marketing, you can reach the right people and inspire brand loyalty.