What is Content Marketing - and Why Does
Your Business Need It?
Content marketing is a tactic based on creating and distributing high-quality content. The goal is typically to attract, inform or engage prospective customers, while building and strengthening brand-audience relationships. Examples of content marketing methods include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- How-to guides
- White papers
The Rise of Content
Over the past few years, content marketing has quickly become an essential part of a successful marketing strategy. When we look at the way marketing has changed in recent years, it’s easy to see why.
See, just a few short years ago, most of our transactions were physical. We shopped around different clothing stores or car dealerships. We spoke to salespeople and tested out products. We visited offices for consultations. We asked friends for recommendations.
Today, our buyer behavior has shifted dramatically. We don’t think twice about buying online. We proactively search the web for products and services. We research and compare and ask questions without ever leaving our desks. We have thousands upon thousands of choices at our fingertips.
We’ve also become much more marketing-savvy in the digital age. We filter out most of the 5,000 ads and messages we’re bombarded with every day, and we’re immediately turned off by overt marketing and sales pitches. For brands, that means that traditional outreach marketing methods no longer cut it.
So you can’t meet your prospective buyers face-to-face, you can’t sell to them, and you’re competing with thousands of other brands — how are you supposed to reach your customers?
That’s where content marketing comes in…
Content marketing is a long-game strategy. The idea is to create content that consistently meets your customers’ needs. That might be the need to find a product that solves a specific problem. It might be the need for more information before making a purchase. It could even be the need to be entertained or distracted. Whatever your audience is looking for, your content should position you as the answer.
Unlike traditional advertising and outreach marketing, content marketing is all about the audience — not your business. Where traditional marketing focuses on your brand, content marketing shifts that focus to your prospective customer. The emphasis is on the value you can provide for them, with no obvious expectation of anything in return.
Why is this beneficial for you?
Now selling your products and services by not promoting them might seem counterintuitive, but content marketing is incredibly effective. Remember, we filter out all of those obvious sales pitches, so content offers a way for you to bypass those filters and create meaningful engagement.
When you provide consistent value through your content time and time again, you build a positive relationship with potential customers. They learn to know, like and trust you, so when the moment comes to make a buying decision, you’re the first brand on their mind
Over time, you’ll build up a library of content that will make you a go-to resource in your area of expertise. This will continue to work for you long after you publish your content, bringing in a continuous stream of qualified leads to your business.
A bonus? People share content that resonates with them. By creating valuable, highly shareable content, you’ll extend your reach beyond your own audience and across their networks — at no extra cost or effort to you.
What results can you expect from content marketing?
Compared to traditional outbound marketing, content marketing delivers an impressive 6x the conversion rate for a fraction of the cost. Next to paid search, which was widely considered the gold standard in lead generation, content delivers 3x the leads for every dollar spent.
Businesses with a blog see 126% more leads than those without one, and they enjoy a staggering 426% boost in pages indexed by search engines like Google. Quantity matters too, with businesses that generate 16+ pieces of blog content per month receiving 3x the traffic than those putting out 0-4 pieces.
How and when should you use content marketing?
An effective content marketing strategy begins with a deep understanding of your audience. First, you should have a detailed buyer persona (or several). These fictional characters embody your typical customer(s) — their characteristics, interests, needs, challenges, motivations, and so on.
For each persona, you should be aware of the buyer journey they go through. This varies from business to business, but the journey typically goes from becoming aware of a need or problem, to evaluating your brand as a solution, to becoming a customer.
Each piece of content you create should be geared towards a particular customer persona at a specific stage of their buyer journey. The goal is to move them to the next stage of the journey. So if your persona knows they want a certain product, your goal is to make them aware that your business sells this product. If they’re already evaluating your product against other brands, your goal is to convince them to buy yours.
Optimizing Your Content
Another way people will discover your content is through search engines. In order to rank highly in the search results and drive traffic to your website or blog, it’s important to optimize your content for your audience’s most common search terms. This is known as SEO, or search engine optimization.
There are a number of steps to optimizing your content. A solid SEO strategy begins with detailed keyword research, which helps you to discover the questions your audience is asking. Let’s say they’re searching for words and phrases like:
“best SLR cameras”
“which is the best camera for learning photography”
“what is the best SLR camera for beginners”
As a camera retailer, a good idea for a blog post might be: “5 of the Best SLR Cameras for Photography Beginners”. Throughout this post, you’ll strategically spread the keywords your audience is searching for. When Google indexes your page, it will register these keywords and increase your relevance to the search query. The higher your relevance, the closer to the top you’ll appear in the search results.
SEO is quite an in-depth topic and that’s just a basic overview, but we’ll go into much more detail in How to Optimize Your Content for Search Engines.
So you’ve got a bunch of engaging content, tailored to your audience and optimized to perfection. But how do you make sure they notice it? After all, what’s the point of creating great content if nobody ever sees it?!
There are many effective strategies and tools out there for promoting your content. These include…
65% of Americans are active on at least one social media platform, with Facebook by far the most popular. Chances are, this audience includes your potential customers, so social media is a great place to get your content noticed by the right people.
Your email marketing list is a goldmine of prospective buyers. They’ve already expressed an interest in your business by subscribing to your list. By sending out teasers, notifications or roundups of your latest and greatest content, you can boost engagement and push them through the buyer journey.
This is a handy way to tap into the reach of influential people in your industry. Reach out to those whose audience shares a similar profile to your own, and let them know you’ve got a great idea for a piece of content their readers will love. They’ll benefit from sharing quality content for free. You’ll get access to a much wider audience, and you’ll gain valuable traffic and SEO points.
If you have the budget, paid advertising is a very effective way to get eyes on your content. Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram all offer targeted advertising, where you can narrow your focus down to precise audience personas. They also offer sponsored content options, where you can pay to display certain posts more prominently in the newsfeeds of your target audience.