What is content marketing?
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.
The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition fromone that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing.
So what is content marketing actually?
A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of onlinematerial (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does notexplicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in itsproducts or services: “social media is an integral part of content marketing” · “an effective content marketing strategy” Source: Oxford Dictionary
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with yourcustomers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruptionmarketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you aredelivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. Theessence of this content strategy is the belief that if we,as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information tobuyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
What is content marketing strategy?
A content marketing strategy (not to be confused with a contentstrategy) analyzes the different ways content marketing can be usedacross the buyer’s journey, the customer life cycle and/or the different customer (experience) touchpoints but it goesbeyond that. Essentially a content marketing strategy looks how contentmarketing (not content) can be used in a strategic way as such and forand with other marketing, customer and sales strategies.
The Benefits of Content Marketing
So let’s break down how your content will actually get your leads tothe point where your sales team is ready to convert them into customers. The following are some of the benefits that your content will provide that will assist in obtaining high quality leads for your sales team:
- Increase Brand Awareness – Obviously you want asmany people to know about your company as possible. The more often yourelease content on your website, the more exposure you’ll be providingfor your company. If someone reads a piece that they enjoy, they’llprobably come back to read more, thereby becoming more familiar withyour brand. There’s also a chance that they will share that content with friends and family. Their friends and family could turn around andshare the content with their social circles – and so on. Not to mentionthat the more quality content you release, the higher your web rankingwill be, exposing you to more potential web traffic.
- Increase Brand Trust and Loyalty – There are somebusinesses out there that release a tremendous amount of content in anattempt to draw in more traffic. But if you are writing crappy content,then who is going to read it? Readers will be able to tell if yourcontent is bad by the opening paragraph – and there’s no way they aregoing to waste their time finishing it. And they’re definitely not going to come back to your website. Your content has to be good. In order tobe good, it has to provide value to your readers. By giving themsomething they want or need, you’ll help to build both trust and loyalty over time.
- Establish Yourself as a Leading Authority – Another reason that you should focus on the quality of your content is the fact that you’ll eventually establish a reputation for knowing what you’retalking about. Not only does this help build trust and loyalty in yourbrand, it also helps foster a reputation as being an authority withinyour industry. You know you’re putting out some good stuff if otherwebsites begin linking your content to their website. Those links aregoing to help tell search engines like Google that your content is good, which will boost your website in search results.
- Increase Social Engagement – By putting up a blogon your website, you’ll allow readers to comment on your content. Evenif someone disagrees with your content, it’s a great way to get peopletalking.
- Increase Lead Captures – Good content willeventually convince readers to fill out your conversion forms, therebycapturing them as leads. This isn’t happening if they don’t trust you or your content is just bad. And obviously, the more leads you arecapturing, the more potential customers you’re getting. Read: How to Write a Quality Contents for Blogs
How to Design Engaging Content
- Design means much more than color schemes and stock photos. Theprocess will look different for every marketing team, and even for every team’s various content pieces.
Also Read: 15 Tips to Create Killer Website Content
- In general, design starts at the very beginning, as you map out acontent marketing strategy. Understanding the brand’s personas andmarketing goals will shape the basic style of each design—each should be useful to your personas, and true to your brand voice. A strong content marketing strategy includes a variety of contenttypes, so as individual pieces begin to take shape, there are somespecific things to keep in mind:
- Distill your content marketing strategy into your blogschedule/strategy. The company blog can and should be used tocross-promote other content, which will help keep posts on a consistentschedule. If you don’t have a marketing team member who is familiar with SEO, this is one area where you might want to consult a professional.
- Ebook content should follow some sort of narrative structure, andinclude a lot of good, visual design. The goal of an ebook is to educate (rather than entertain), but make sure to keep the languageconversational if that is consistent with your brand and personas.
- These are short (two or three pages at most). That means there won’tbe a lot of room for big images, so you’ll want to use text formattingto make them easy for a reader to quickly scan through. Link or point to other resources for more in-depth learning.
Workbooks and Templates
- A great way to keep your brand in front of buyers, while also beingreally helpful. These resources should be designed for print and made as interactive and practical as possible.
Whitepapers and Reports
- These are similar to an ebook in that they are primarily educationalmaterials, but whitepapers and reports are generally less graphicallydesigned and use language that is a little more professional. They canalso create opportunities to partner with other organizations.
- The name says it all: just give readers info and graphics. Use aslittle text as possible for the former, and let the latter tell thestory. If you don’t have a killer graphics artist in-house, this is onefor which you might want to work with a professional.
- Slide decks are a great format for breaking down complex ideas intosimple steps or bite-sized pieces. Keep the slides simple: minimal textin one font throughout, and use big images & graphics.
- The trick to effectively using video as part of a content strategy is keeping it as timeless as possible. Otherwise, you risk wastingresources (time and money) updating videos every year. High-qualityvideo content can also be used to expose your brand to YouTube’s largeand active audience.
- Build case studies with real numbers and complete stories. This willhelp keep the content focused on the value and results, not the brand.
Content Marketing strategy and SEO
In the same way that you take a couple extra steps to help yourcontent succeed on social, take a couple more to help your contentsucceed with search engines. Weaving some SEO best practices into yourcontent will help make a good impression with Google and move yourwebsite up the rankings list.
- Use keywords (naturally): Identify your main keyword for thecontent, a few synonyms, and a few related keywords. Then make sureyou’re actually using them in your content, headers, and page content.Don’t over-do it, though. Search engines have been cracking down oncontent that is “stuffed” with one or two keywords. Write for thereader, but do make sure those important words are present.
- Earn natural links: Links from spammy sources can actually hurt your site with search engines. Build relationships with industryprofessionals who will share your content, and link to their primaryresources in return. Links from high-quality websites will give yours aboost.
- Media: Include images and video (with descriptive titles and alttext) on blog posts and landing pages. They improve the user experience, which decreases bounce rates and improves your standing with Google.
- The strength of a good content marketing strategy is in providingthe information and answers that your target audience is looking for,but your hard work is all for nought if they can’t find it! Make sureyou’re creating content for the user, but that search engines will alsofavor.
Why Content Marketing Is Integral to Inbound Marketing
Now you’re probably wondering, “what does content marketing strategy have to do with all of this?” Because your prospects are more informed, it’s easier for your sales team to have a meaningful conversation with them. You are basically setting up more than half of the sale. Your content helps to attract readers, educate them, and exchange some information or a special offer for their personal information (such as name and email address). This means that your sales team doesn’t have to waste resources on pitching a product to someone who not only knows nothing about your solution or product – but has no interest in it either. Instead, your sales team will be dealing with educated prospects. All because of your content! This also brings us back to “human being optimization”. The quality of your content has everything to do with the person reading it. Content is no longer just about the keywords you use being tracked by search engine algorithms. What is more important is what you are writing and whom you are writing for.
Content Marketing and Social Media
Social media and content marketing may have seemed interchangeable, but they are actually quite different. While any organization can use social media to listen — and there isno downside to that — before you actively set up your social mediapresence, you need some things in place:
- A content hub: Your blog or website should be a key component of your content marketing strategy (as well as your social mediastrategy), as this is where you would direct followers to forge a deeper relationship on a media platform that you own.
- Adequate resources to keep up a consistent presence: Havingan outdated presence on a social platform looks far worse that nothaving a presence there at all. Before committing to a platform, makesure you have the resources you need to consistently update your content there.
- A content plan: You need to understand why you arecommunicating on a given platform, and what you will deliver there. More details on the key elements of the plan are below.
Key tip: If you are new to aligning your content marketing strategy and social media efforts, it’s best to start small. Considerthe top social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube), and see where the largest concentration of your target audience members are congregating.
Email Content Marketing Strategy
Email Marketingstrikes many as old-fashioned to content marketing strategy. More fashionable venues like social media and mobile marketing get all the attention, and some people will eventry to tell you that email marketing is dead. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t agree.In fact, with a strong content marketing approach, email is morepowerful than ever thanks to social media.
Because it moves the conversation about your business to a more personal environment — the in-box.
Email provides you the most direct line of communication for conversion to sales … which is why the most savvyonline marketers have no intention of giving it up any time soon.It’s also amazingly cost-effective.With an ROI of around 4,300% (according to the Direct MarketingAssociation), email practically pays for itself … and saves a tree ortwo. It’s what you use when you want to move from “conversation tocommerce.”
Essential Elements of an Effective Call-to-Action
Use actionable language
When you’re designing CTAs, effective copy all boils down to using action-oriented, second-person verbs. Use verbs like “discover, unearth, find” instead of ones like “be smarter.” In the Call to Action below, notice how we began sentences with “Learn” and “Download.” Besides empowering your readers a tad to click on your Call to Action, you’re alsoshortening your copy — which all boils down to a more effective andconcise call-to-action.
Align Call To Action copy with landing page copy
When you’re creating Call to Action copy, you also want to make sure your Call to Actioncopy and your landing page copy align. The name of the thing you arepromoting — whether it’s a free ebook, whitepaper, template, guide,crash course, or presentation — should align with the name of it on the landing page.
Call to Action Words
However cliche it may seem, action words are still a powerful way indriving your readers to doing what you want them to do. Here’s a list of action words that are meant to help you out in your Booby-Trap Contentfrom Authoritydomains:
|Download Free Trial||Last Chance||Most|
|Sale Ends Tomorrow||Money Off||Now is Your Chance|
|Buy Today and Save __%||Marked Down||You Should|
|Offer Ends Soon||Price Cut||Discover Your Potential|
|Hurry||Complimentary||Make Money Now|
|Discover||Cut||Make __ Per Week|
|Avoid||The Best||__Made me __|
|Uncover||Buy and Get||Buy Now|
Critical Note: Action words’ effectivity is minimized if you don’t build it up through the story and context.
Content marketing strategy isn’t a nice to have, it’s a requirement. Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute found that more than 80% of B2B marketers say they have a content marketingstrategy, but only a third have documented that very same contentmarketing strategy.
Past Days of Content Marketing
Online content is king: the portal way
Bill Gates was the first to use the saying ‘content is king’ online in a 1996 article. Using the WayBack Machine (an online site that is an archive of the Web and never lies), you can still read that article by Gates, called ‘Content is King‘. In it, Gates said content is where he expected the real money would bemade on the Internet. Part of the article could certainly be used in acontent marketing strategy context. Most is about the monetization of content onthe Web, however. Interesting phrase: ‘those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products-a marketplace of content‘. Note the word experiences and think customer experiences.
Future of Content Marketing
Brands will begin to lead with their purpose andvalues in marketing content as a means to establish deeper and moreauthentic connections with their audience. Many are now learning thatmerely publishing is not enough—they need to be sharing a uniqueperspective on the world they’re trying to create. Content marketerswill increasingly leverage internal data and original research topublish original insights.
Industry studies quickly become picked over,and republishing the same content with a new take holds decreasingvalue. The best marketers will establish strong connections andcommunication with the analysts and data scientists in their company,and cultivate strong data journalism skills in their team to tell thesestories.
The content marketing industry as a whole will establishcommonly accepted frameworks for content marketing strategy. Many brands havecomplex strategies but struggle to execute. Others have scatteredexecution of ideas that don’t align to a central strategy. Simplifyingcontent strategy will aid in getting organizations aligned in theirefforts and relieve the pressure to do everything.