What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating high-value information to educate your prospects and help them become well-informed.
As the prospect finds your content valuable and engaging, they are happy to engage and associate with your brand, slowly turning into your advocate.
The growing Internet consumption, especially on mobile devices have drawn your prospects away from conventional media such as TV and magazines. Today, the consumer is too smart to fall for any internet ad banners, and the growing adoption of ad blockers explains a lot has changed in the way they interact with your brand.
Maybe, the following image explains why your huge spending on billboards doesn’t yield any ROI anymore.
This is exactly why a lot of marketers have decided to invest in content marketing – a non-intrusive approach to build long-term relationship with your prospects.
Content marketing is creating a trustworthy/consumer-friendly informative guides that helps make it easy for them to make the perfect buying decisions and lead a better life.
It’s the process building prospects’ trust in your brand so they look up to you (brand recall) when they’re about to make any key purchasing decisions in their life.
When content marketing is done intelligently, sales can take care of themselves. It sure takes time – after all, you can’t build prospects’ trust overnight. But the key is success in content marketing efforts is doing things right, which is what this guide is all about.
Say you’re selling office chairs – you must first create guides for your customers; the guides that reveal how sitting patterns at work has evolved and how it impacts their health. Backed with medical research, quotes and visuals, it sure will have a major impact on their mind and they will take notice.
Potential Benefits of Content Marketing
Enhances your owned media: Valuable content enhances your owned media including websites, blog and social media pages. This in turn would add to increase in visitors and followers.
Better search engine visibility: Google rewards quality content and if your content quality is exceptionally good, there are high chances for it to rank in the top one or two SERPs ensuring higher visibility. Quality content boosts organic traffic to your website.
Higher growth rate of website traffic: Annual growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%). (Source: Kapost)
Increase in lead generation: When you content educates your consumers your brand reputation value goes up and there are higher chances for them to consider your solution offerings compared to your competitors. According to DemandMetric, content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing.
Assets for your social media campaigns: Valuable content serves as an effective material for your campaigns on various other channels including social media and email marketing.
What Content Marketing Actually Consists of?
Content Marketing can consist of any piece of content that creates value for your audience. It’s important to understand what successful content marketing campaign share in common before designing your own your content writing campaign.
While there are endless possibilities to the type of useful content pieces you can create for your audiences, only some content pieces are more suitable to and aligned with your audience types as well as your marketing goals.
Here are some examples of popular content pieces that can empower the content marketing campaign of every business.
Infographics: Infrographics are typically vertical graphics showing stats, charts, graphs and other useful information. While creating really useful inforgraphics is expensive, they can pay off if they go viral. Check out these awesome content marketing infographics from Michael Schmitz for some inspiration.
WebPages: WebPages for Content Marketing? No, I’m not kidding. Take a look at The Beginner’s Guide to SEO on Moz or the case study from Teehan+Lax, you will understand how powerful marketing tools they are. Turing your webpages into potential marketing tool has immense benefits since your prospective buyers are just a few clicks away from sales/subscription page.
Podcasts: Podcasts offer immense opportunities for brands to establish their reputation via iTunes. The podcast consumption has seen a huge lift over the past couple of years. An estimated 57 million Americans listen to podcasts which have seen a steady growth in consumption. In fact, the percentage of Americans 12+ who say they have listened to a podcast in the last month is now 21%, up from 17% last year. Earlier this year, Google announced that they will show podcasts in their search results as well.
When podcasts are done right, they can bring loads of valuable attention from your target audience.
Videos: Videos are an amazing content marketing tool to build your brand authority. They need to be short and timeless. Gary Vaynerchuk’s YouTube video channel and Rand Fishkin’s White Board Friday are some of the most inspiring examples of how to build brand around your knowledge.
eBooks: eBooks are handy guides for your audience. Typically, eBooks are designed to educate your audience and help them make better buying decisions in future. Your eBook should have a conversational tone, eye-catching visual design and quality information for the audience.
Does Content Marketing Work for SMBs?
Many small businesses have questions like this before starting out. Quit a few studies have shed light on the content marketing success rate for small businesses, proving that content marketing does fuel traffic and sales for SMBs.
Curata, the leading SaaS content curation solutions provider, surveyed a total of 1,030 marketers in March, 2016 to come up with ground-breaking insights into content marketing. It found that 74% of companies are increasing lead quality and quantity from their content marketing campaigns.
So, yes, the content marketing works for SMBs.
- Courtesy: Curata.com
In fact, 75% of companies are increasing their content marketing investments with 43% increasing staff levels.
Similarly, according to a B2B research, 36% of the companies with a documented content strategy indicate their content marketing is “very effective” or “extremely effective”.
The survey, entitled B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, was carried out jointly by Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs.
So are there any inspiring examples where small businesses have actually benefited from content marketing campaigns?
In this insightful post from Business2Community.com, the author has shared case studies of three small business in the US – River Pools and Spa, Yale Appliance and Lighting, and Skytap – who have seen their traffic surge, and leads go through the roof.
Content Marketing is the New SEO?
Nope, storytelling been around since a long time. But, it’s just the medium and consumer behaviour and awareness that shaped the way stories are told today. This amazing post by Neil Patel takes you through the journey of storytelling since 1980.
Content marketing is not something new, it dates back to late 19th century. Here is a two-minute video on the history of content marketing by Content Marketing Institute briefly explaining how content has evolved over the years.
The popularity of content marketing has reached a new peak in the last few years. As we can observe from the below Google Trends graph, the growth of content marketing has reached new heights in the period 2012 to 2015.
Why Content Marketing is NOT Content Writing
If you’re new to the SEO industry, you must be wondering if content writing and content marketing are one and the same. However, they are very different from each other in terms of their potential.
To help you understand the difference, let’s discuss the difference between Copywriting and Content Marketing.
Copywriting is the process of writing content, typically short pieces, in order move your audience into taking a positive action, e.g. join your email list, send a sales query and/or place an order.
Content Marketing, on the other hand, is not intended to make sales directly. Rather, it’s meant to build trust of your potential customers over a period of time, by offering them information via blog posts, videos, infographics, slide shows and eBook guides.
Copywriting is articulating the benefits of your products (for ex, on a landing page) to your prospective buyers and compelling them to buy your product.
Content Marketing is building and investing in a long-term sales funnel through creation of informative and insightful content pieces in order to build a positive and unique brand experience that many potential buyers can associate with.
The process of content marketing is gradually evolving with the marketing goals of many businesses. For example, the Skyscraper Technique invented by Brian Dean is designed to not only create a super useful blog post but launch an email outreach campaign to convince others to link to your content pieces. The process helps many to attract inbound links from relevant and quality sources, boosting their Google ranks within a quick span of time.
In short, copywriting is confined to creating content to boost sales on a website, whereas content marketing is building great brand experience by investing in creation of different types of content pieces over a long period of time.
How Content Marketing Works
Like in any other form of marketing, there’s an established process in content marketing as well, and there are best practices to follow if you want your content marketing campaign to succeed.
Here’s how content marketing works…
Setting Goals: The prime objective of every successful content marketer is to build a positive relationship with their prospects and driving awareness of your brand.
Therefore, you need to design your content marketing in such a way that it adds value to their life, on a daily basis. In short, your primary goal is to bring new prospects into the top of your sales funnel.
Understanding Prospects: While your goal is to win the trust of your prospective customers, there are folks who will never buy anything from you. You still need to value them because of their potential to help amplify your content far and wide.
Choosing Platforms: Depending on the nature of your business, you need to choose the right platforms where your customers visit frequently. Are you an interior designer? Share your work on Pinterest to build relationship with your prospects that look for new home decor ideas all the time.
Designing Content: Once you choose the platform, you need to focus on designing content that your prospects find valuable enough to share and engage with. Whether you write an excellent guide for newbies or create an insightful infographic about fun facts, it should be designed to help your followers.
Building Outreach: Building an outreach campaign is key to helping your content reach maximum number of prospects. Craft a comprehensive outreach campaign be it email marketing or connecting with influencers on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
Measuring Metrics: Measure the metrics of your content marketing campaign periodically to understand how you can improve the influence of your campaign gradually. Since the goal is to build relationship with people, you should be patient enough to see favorable results.
Is Content Marketing Good Fit for My Business?
With the burgeoning internet consumption, chances are you need content marketing to stay afloat. However, you can answer these questions to determine if content marketing is a good fit into your marketing scheme.
Is your audience online?
Going by the increasing number of people using Internet these days, chances are your prospects are searching for your products online. However, you still need to consider the percentage, especially if you want to improve your ROI. A couple of searches on Google Trends and Google Search will offer ample insights into the potential of your internet audience. The success of content marketing requires that your prospects are not only using Internet but spend their time reading “online content” as well.
Do your prospects need educating?
Content marketing plays a key role in the buying cycle of your prospect. It educates and enables a prospect to make an informative purchase. However, this process doesn’t necessarily exist in every niche. This is exactly why you should Google the online behavior of your consumers to determine whether there is room for educating them through content marketing.
How long is your sales cycle?
To put it briefly, products and services with longer sales cycles tend to benefit more from content marketing. If your products are something that your prospects need some guidance before buying, content marketing can help your business.
Are you pressed for ROI?
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. It’s not meant for those who want to positive ROI overnight. Building a positive relationship with your prospect is a long-term approach, but when you establish the positive connection, you can reap immense benefits.
Is your industry interesting enough?
Since success in content marketing depends largely on creating ‘interesting and engaging content’, it’s important that you should be able to create engaging content on regularly basis.
Many believe creating interesting content around boring instudy is hard; however, successful content marketing campaigns such as this and this prove that you can create interesting content around any industry as long as you’re creative and imaginative.
Is Content Marketing Expensive?
There’s no easy answer to this question -it really depends on the cost of acquisition. Assuming a content marketing is run well, its returns are visible after six months. In other words, the investment in the first six months on the campaign is likely to pay off after six months time. Since content marketing is about building brand reputation and establishing a positive relationship with your prospects, the returns from content marketing are usually long-term.
Once you build a loyal follower base who engages with you frequently, you can be sure they are more likely to buy or advocate for your products to others.
When you start off your content marketing campaign, the cost would usually consist of the following resources:
- Content Creation
- Graphics Design
- Content Marketing Tools
According to Content Marketing Institute, the estimated monthly cost of running a content marketing for a mid-sized firm is around $12,000 while the same for a larger-sized business would be $33,000.
Before you panic, I’d like to tell you this estimate factors in the following things:
#1: The size of the campaign
#2: The volume and frequency of content
#3: The types of content pieces generated
#4: The size of the organization
The cost will also vary depending on whether or not you’re a start-up or whether your existing website needs major revamp.
The scope of this article doesn’t allow me to go into the details, but for more insights into the cost of content marketing, you can read the following two articles.
Is it possible to run a content campaign on a shoestring budget?
“Quite possible,” says Neil Patel in this post where he shows you how to start a content marketing campaign without breaking your bank.
Content Marketing Resources and Tools
There are many content marketing tools for content creation, collaboration, outreach, distribution, amplification and evaluation.
With growing popularity of content marketing, many SaaS companies are launching new tools for you to choose from. Many of these services offer a free trial for unlimited period as well.
However, if you want to choose only the most popular tools for your campaign, Jeff Bullas recommend these seven content marketing tools for you.
In this comprehensive guide, Niel Patel shares 75 very effective content marketing tools that you may find useful during your content marketing campaign.
Content Marketing Best Practices
With so much money at stake, you can’t really afford to make the same mistakes as others have done with their failed content marketing campaigns. So, how do you make sure you do everything right?
Follow the content marketing best practices…
Have a Strategic Map: As per a CMI study, 54% of the most effective marketers have documented their content marketing strategy. You must have a clear, strategic content marketing roadmap for you campaign before you begin.
Design a Content Calendar: Content marketing is a team effort and it requires flawless collaboration between different team members. This is where a content calendar comes into picture. A content calendar ensures smoothness of an otherwise complex content creation process.
Create an Creative Content Mix: One of the most challenging aspects of running a content marketing campaign is to create a variety of content types for your audience. However useful they may be, you can’t just afford to invest all your resources in writing blog content. To keep your content entertained and engaged, you also need to com up with videos, infographics, eBooks and how-to guides that are easy to follow and consume.
Measure Success: The success in content marketing also depends on your ability to streamline the process from time to time. After promoting different types of content pieces on different types of platforms, you need to eliminate content categories that are not performing well or reevaluate platforms where the content assets are not getting optimum traction.
As the online marketing landscape gets noisier by the day, and your marketing message fails to reach your prospects, a strategic, customer-driven content marketing strategy can help you stand out from the rest and build a connection with your potential buyers in a holistic way.
What are you views on the challenges of running a content marketing campaign? Let us know in the comments below.
NB: I’m grateful to Soupa Soundararajan for her valuable inputs.