A Beginner’s Guide To Content Marketing
What is Content Marketing?
People today don’t connect as well as they once did with traditional outbound marketing strategies. They are looking for a more authentic and engaging experience as they search for products and services to purchase.
Enter content marketing. With content marketing, you can reach your target audience in a more natural and authentic way. By creating a narrative with your content, your audience will be more engaged with your website and your product.
Content marketing aims to create useful content that attracts the right audience to your business. By reaching your audience through channels like social media, blog posts, videos, podcasts, and even print materials, you can easily increase brand awareness, sales, engagement, and loyalty.
Reasons You Should Implement Content Marketing
Content marketing is a critical piece of your marketing strategy. With content marketing you can:
- Educate prospects about what you have to offer and how your products can solve their problems
- Build relationships with your customers that leads to repeat business and deeper loyalty
- Drive conversions – over 60% of consumers are influenced by content
- Create a community around your brand
Offering readers useful and informative content provides them with value, which is the starting place for building relationships with your prospects. Blogs, ebooks, social media posts, and other types of content help to push your prospects through your sales funnel.
Content marketing works so well for so many objectives in your business. It improves your customer’s experience, as well as generates and nurtures leads.
In addition, content marketing can be one of the least expensive marketing strategies. Content marketing costs about 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads.
Investing in content marketing will reduce your costs while bringing in more leads. This makes content marketing a must-try marketing strategy.
Using Content Marketing
Consumers today are reporting more and more that they don’t trust traditional marketing tactics. Content marketing can overcome this distrust by providing knowledge and insights that make the consumer feel more at ease.
By creating conversations and providing knowledge that helps consumers understand why they should take action, a relationship is created, which in turn builds trust.
The average customer consumes 3-5 pieces of content before converting. People want to know that they are spending their hard-earned dollars on products that not only meet their needs and solve their problems, but also resonate with their values. They want to feel confident in their purchase and know that they will have no regrets moving forward.
Content marketing boasts some huge benefits.
- Increased sales: Content marketing increases sales by providing prospects with essential knowledge and data.
- Improved customer engagement: Using content like blog posts and social media posts increases traffic to your website and engagement from potential customers.
- More brand awareness: Quality content and thought leadership can establish your brand as a leader within your industry.
- Generate and nurture leads: Keep potential customers engaged and interested with content throughout the sales journey.
The benefits of content marketing translate into virtually any industry or market. Crafting quality, engaging content supports your customers as well as your business goals.
Types of Content Marketing
There are many, many different types of content marketing that you can use to promote your business, build your brand, or increase sales. The key is to find the ones that will resonate with your target audience.
Blogging should be an integral part of any content marketing strategy. Your blog is the part of the website that will be continually updated with articles and information that will keep your visitors engaged.
Often, your blog content will be what brings new traffic to your page, either through search engine results or shares on social media.
There are tremendous benefits to establishing a blog. The largest one is boosting your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. A strong SEO game will increase your traffic through better rankings in search engine results.
You can establish your business as an authority in your market by writing fresh content about topics that your target market really cares about. When your audience finds your content relevant and useful, they will share it and create backlinks to it, which will increase your rankings within search engine results and, in turn, bring more traffic.
Your blog is your platform to update your customers about industry trends, product insights, and other information they will find useful. This in turn creates loyalty and trust with your customers.
There are a variety of ways you can measure the success of your blog.
- Traffic: Measure how many new visitors you get and how well you keep your existing visitors engaged.
- Site activity: When the customer is reading the blog, do they click on other links on your website? Where do they go? How long do they stay?
- Conversions: How many blog visitors become customers?
- Backlinks: How often do your blog posts get backlinks and from what sources?
Ebooks and Whitepapers
Ebooks and whitepapers both have their place within your content marketing strategy. While quite similar in their use for content marketing, there are some key differences between an ebook and a whitepaper.
Ebooks are electronic books and generally serve as guides for broader topics. They can include links to other supporting information or videos and are mobile responsive, meaning they can be read on any device. They make great lead magnets for both B2C and B2B businesses. For example, a business might give away a free ebook for signing up for their email list.
Ebooks are a great way to offer how-to guides to your prospects. They are shorter and have more visuals and links that support the information provided. Ebooks are also easy to share and distribute to your audience.
Whitepapers are usually a way for a company to break down a more complicated subject for the reader and help them sort through a complex solution or form an opinion about something. Whitepapers are commonly used in B2B businesses.
Whitepapers are great for expressing thought leadership and allow you to really zero in on a specific part of a broader category. Whitepapers rely on concrete data and generally have less interactive elements than ebooks.
There are many benefits to creating ebooks and whitepapers:
- They make great lead generation tools
- They help educate your customers about not only your products and services, but also important topics within your market.
- They help build your brand
- They offer valuable expertise to your audience
While both are solid mid-funnel content, ebooks excel at driving traffic and growth, while whitepapers are better for generating conversions and nurturing leads.
B2B marketers report an ROI of over 70% on video content. WYZowl reports that 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool and 93% of those report that video is an important part of their marketing strategy.
Video content is often published on YouTube or social media, but can also be in the form of webinars, courses, or livestreams. The great thing is that video production is becoming more accessible to more people. There are more and more resources available to create video content without having to hire professionals to shoot and edit.
Content marketing with videos is very effective if you’re trying to explain your product to consumers.
Consumers will be much more willing to spend money on your products when they know exactly how they work and how they will help them solve their problems.
Video can be used in many ways, depending on your goals and target audience.
- Post a video to social media as a way to reach out and connect with your audience.
- Create webinars about your products or common problems that your audience is struggling with.
- Going live on social media is an effective way to connect with your audience. Invite people to ask questions or make comments you can address during the live video.
- Record and send a quick video message to a prospect or customer as a follow-up.
People love watching videos. YouTube and Facebook both report users consuming billions of hours a day in content. If you don’t utilize video as part of your content marketing strategy, you risk missing out on one of the most popular forms of content.
Over 80% of consumers report reading reviews before making a purchase and about 95% of them say reviews influence their decision to purchase. Consumers tend to trust what other consumers say about a product or service more than they trust what the company itself says.
Case studies take online reviews and testimonials to an entirely different level. Utilizing brand storytelling, case studies are one of the most powerful forms of content you can offer your audience.
When a customer reads a case study, not only will they learn about the emotional connection that consumers have with your brand, they will also gain valuable insights into your business strategy.
Case studies are longer-form content that keep the customer at the center of the story. They go more in-depth about the journey your customer takes from their initial problem, through the solution, to the outcome.
This type of content proves to consumers that your claims about your product are true. They can include qualitative and quantitative data to back up the claims made.
Case studies generally follow a basic outline:
- Introduce the customer and provide some background about their problem/situation.
- Present the problem the customer had or the challenge they were facing.
- Describe the solution that your product/service provided.
- Share the outcome the customer achieved.
Presenting a case study in this way makes for a relatable and compelling testimonial about your business and your product or service. This will help your customer move to the next stage of your sales funnel.
Brand storytelling, if done properly, should have your customer feeling like they are in the same boat with the protagonist of the story. A well-written story will stick with the customer and keep them thinking about available solutions for their problems. Case studies often provide the social proof that a customer needs to take the next step.
When laying out your own case study:
- Start with an attention-grabbing title.
- Engage readers by using visual elements like photos, graphs, quotes, etc.
- Explain the tangible results the customer got by using your product/service.
- Include a strong call to action so the prospect knows what the next step is.
So, how do case studies fit into your content marketing strategy? How do you get them into the hands of potential customers?
One way is to include them on your website. Consumers are about 58% more likely to convert after engaging with a review or testimonial. So, having this type of content on your website can help move the customers further down your funnel.
Another way is to incorporate them into your email marketing campaigns and/or newsletters. Sending this type of relevant and nurturing content can be highly effective and can even be used to re-engage unresponsive prospects.
You can also consider adding them to your blog, on a landing page, on social media, or turning the content into ebooks.
Email and Newsletters
Anyone on your email list is a willing participant in your content marketing strategy. They literally signed up for it. Email is one of the best ways to get your content into the hands of your already warm leads.
Through regular emails and newsletters, you can effectively move people through your funnel, drive sales, and strengthen your brand.
If you’re looking for reasons to dedicate time and energy to email marketing, check these out.
1. Emails and newsletters are crazy-effective at generating new leads.
Email is more effective at lead generation than Twitter and Facebook combined. Interested prospects sign up for your newsletter or email list because they are putting feelers out and they want to know more about your company. Give them more.
An effective way to utilize email is to segment your email list based on how the customer signed up. Once you’ve segmented your list, you can direct each prospect to the content that they will find most useful.
2. You can use email to more accurately establish your brand voice.
Use email and newsletter content to show customers and prospects your company’s personality. Even if you’re just sharing a link to your most recent blog post or article, try to include some content that also shows off your brand’s personality.
3. Drive traffic to your evergreen blog content.
You can also use email to send prospects to evergreen content you’ve created. In your blogging strategy, evergreen content should make up the lion’s share of what you post. Evergreen content is information that doesn’t expire; it stays relevant from year to year.
Examples of evergreen content include:
- Thought leadership
- How-to guides
- Fundamentals regarding your industry
- Lists of tools and resources
You don’t have to create new content every week for your emails or newsletters. Linking to older but still relevant, quality pieces is completely acceptable.
4. Segment your lists and diversify your campaigns.
Segmenting and diversifying allow you to personalize your emails. Everyone on your email list is not in the same place in your funnel and your content should reflect that. You can send each person the content that is most relevant to them, given where they’re at in the buyer’s journey.
5. Emails are a great way to mine data about your audience.
Having regular newsletter and email campaigns can help you to know what subjects your recipients are interested in, based on what emails they open, what links they click on, and whether or not they convert after opening and reading an email.
This is great information for you to use to strategize future marketing plans.
6. You can build a post-conversion relationship with your customers.
Once a customer converts, emails are a great way to stay in touch and create repeat buyers. It’s much easier to sell to someone who already trusts your brand than it is to bring an entirely new lead into your funnel.
Here are some great examples of post-conversion content:
- A survey about their experience with your company
- Updated content regarding a previous lead magnet they received
- Information about new products or services they might like
- Invitations to exclusive online content like webinars, livestreams, or ebooks.
A well-planned email/newsletter campaign can be a hugely effective part of your overall content marketing strategy.
Social media becomes more popular by the year, with billions of people around the globe engaging with their favorite brands online.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to social media. The first thing you’ll want to do is determine which social media channels your target audience likes to use. That is where you’ll want to focus your efforts.
Many businesses choose to use social media as a way to simply share their content with a broader audience. While this is an effective strategy, it can be used in so many better, different ways. Consumers not only want to purchase your products, they also want to engage with your brand, especially if you share similar values.
Generating engagement through social media is a great way to grow your audience. As you put out quality content, your fans will share it and their friends/followers will begin following you as well.
Simply put, social media is a way for you to connect with your audience on a more authentic level, showing them that what you care about is also what they care about.
Here are some guidelines for how to reach your audience with social media.
1. Decide on the best way to reach your audience.
As mentioned before, figure out where your target audience is hanging out on social media and decide which type of content is best for them. Maybe your audience isn’t really interested in watching longer videos.
If that’s the case, don’t choose YouTube as your channel. Instead, try Instagram where you can post photos and quick videos that are easily consumed and easily engaged with. Likewise, if your audience is older, TikTok is probably not going to be their preference.
Regularly check on metrics for social media content marketing to see what’s working and what’s not.
2. Develop a brand persona.
Social media generally moves at a quick pace. If you have more than one person posting to your social media channels, you need to develop a voice that you all use when speaking for your business on social media.
It could be funny or formal, but it should always be the same.
3. Be authentic.
Social media is all about engaging with your audience on a deeper level. Try showing off your staff, things you do to help your community, or people actually using your products.
Don’t be afraid to try out different strategies to see what engages your audience in meaningful ways.
Strategies for Content Marketing
Both B2C and B2B businesses can use content to engage their target audience. As with any marketing strategy, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
A solid content marketing strategy requires some specialized skills. It may be helpful to have a team working on your content strategy so that you can utilize all of the expertise offered within the group.
But, if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of resources, it’s possible to have a very effective campaign with just you running the show.
That being said, no matter what format your content will be in, here are a few things you’ll need to do in order to be successful.
- Be a subject matter expert. You will need to spend a fair amount of time researching industry trends, market conditions, and customer needs. Take in interviews with established experts, as well as digital and print resources in order to gain insight and knowledge.
- Define your brand. Having a brand voice and tone and using it consistently across all of your content and channels will make your content cohesive and more trustworthy to prospects.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization). By leveraging SEO tools and technologies, you can make your content rank higher in search engine results, thus making it easier to find by potential customers.
- Analyze results. All of your marketing efforts should be tracked so that you have the information you need to make the next campaign even better.
- Content creation. Depending on the content and channel, you may need copywriters, videographers, or digital editors to make your campaigns successful.
While it is possible to learn how to do all of this yourself, you may find that the bigger you get, the more it makes sense to hire out for some of the work.
Set SMART Goals
SMART goals are one of the most effective goal-setting practices. They help your team to stay on the same page, work around a common purpose, and trust one another more.
Having goals helps to define the mission of your business and keep your team focused and motivated. It also creates a higher likelihood of success by allowing you to realistically assess risks, opportunities, and challenges. With well-defined SMART goals, you can align your vision with your plans and keep your team focused on a common purpose.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive. Let’s break it down:
- Specific: A goal really doesn’t mean anything if it’s not specific. Your goal should be very well-defined, concise, and significant. You should be able to name what the goal is, why you want to achieve it, who will participate, and when and where it will happen.
- Measurable: In order for a goal to be effective, you need to be able to measure your progress. You can measure your goals in multiple ways as long as it’s indicative of the advancement of the goal.
- Achievable: Your goals should be realistic; they should push you but not so far that it becomes unattainable.
- Relevant: Goals should align the things required for success.
- Time Sensitive: A goal without a date is just a dream. Specifying a time frame for your goals is what gives them power.
Setting goals improves collaboration and keeps project tasks consistent. It’s a great way to hold everyone accountable and keep you moving in the right direction.
Quantify Your KPIs
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are data points you can use to measure your actual performance against your SMART goals.
For example, If you’ve set a goal to increase brand awareness, your related KPIs might be website traffic, newsletter sign-ups, or social media followers.
Measuring your performance helps you to know what’s working for you and what’s not so you can make necessary changes for better results.
Pick Your Content Types and Channels
Choosing the type of content you’re going to create, as well as the channel you’ll offer it on is an important decision. Your choices have everything to do with who your target audience is and what they want from you.
Consider these questions about your target audience to figure out the right content path for your business:
- Why do they need your product/service?
- What challenges are they facing?
- How can you help them succeed?
- What do they need from you?
Once you answer these questions, analyze the different types of content available and decide which ones will best reach your target audience.
When you’ve decided on the type of content you’ll produce, choose the channel by which you’ll make it available to the consumer. While making this decision, it’s important to consider which channel your particular audience spends their time on online.
Create a Budget
If you’re just starting out or have limited resources to invest in marketing, this step may need to come before the choosing content types stage. You’ll also want to factor in the learning curve if you’re a one-person show.
If you’ve decided videos are the way to reach your audience but don’t have the skills to produce those videos nor the funds to hire someone to do it for you, that’s probably not going to be a path you can travel.
It’s okay to start out doing something that’s somewhat suboptimal. The important thing is that you get started.
Analyze the Results
Once you get started, analyze your results. Keep track of your SMART goals as well as your KPIs to make sure you’re on track. Revisit this data often and readjust when needed.
There are tons of analytics software available online to help you keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Google Analytics is a great free tool that’s easy to use. Also, take advantage of all of the free training available online for analyzing your results.
Developing a Content Marketing Plan
Now you know what content marketing is, the channels available to you, and strategies for being successful. Next up is to make a plan that will work for your business.
Remember, you’re using content marketing to achieve a goal you have for your business. That goal could be to increase your brand awareness, grow your email list, or get more conversions.
A successful plan will bring your target audience through each stage of your funnel and keep them engaged even after they’ve made a purchase.
As you begin to develop your plan, there are a few questions you’ll want to answer.
1. Who’s going to be reading your content?
Who’s your target audience? You have to know who is going to be buying your product or service so that you know how to address them in ways that are engaging and compelling.
You’ll need different types of content to address someone who is still in the nurturing phase as opposed to someone in the conversion stage. You’ll need different types of content as well as different channels for delivering that content for the different segments of your audience.
2. What problem are you solving?
Your content should identify a problem your customer is facing and educate them on how to resolve it, with lots of nurturing along the way. As your content reinforces the solution you’ve offered, you build trust and credibility with your audience.
3. What’s your USP (unique selling proposition)?
There are likely other businesses out there that offer products similar to yours. Use your content to let your prospects know what makes you better.
What makes you stand out from your competition that will catch your prospect’s eye? It could be that you’re a family-owned business through several generations or that you have a unique persona that attracts customers.
Use your content to tell your customers why you are worth buying from and listening to.
4. What formats will you focus on?
As mentioned above, you’ll need to choose which content formats you’ll be using. This has nothing to do with what is trending currently in the content marketing world and everything to do with your target audience and which formats of content they will be the most likely to consume.
In order to have a successful content marketing plan, everything you do should focus on what the customer needs, wants, or desires.
5. Which channels will you publish on?
Keep in mind that you’re trying to reach your target audience where they are. Just because podcasts have exploded in the last couple of years in popularity doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best choice for reaching your target audience.
Knowing your target audience is the single most important part of any marketing strategy. Marketing is for the customer, not for you.
6. Managing the creation and publication of your content.
Depending on the size of your company, you’ll need to establish who’s doing what regarding the creation and publication of your content. If you’re a one-person show – this will be very easy.
It’s important to establish:
- Who’s creating the content
- Where it’s being published
- When it’s going to be available
Consider managing your content via a content calendar. This will allow you to easily visualize the topics for your content, as well as a publication timeline.
Why Your Business Should Have a Content Marketing Strategy
Really, there are very few businesses today that should NOT have a content marketing strategy. It’s a reliable and cost-effective way to generate new leads, increase website traffic, and build relationships with your prospects and customers.
If you create a great blog with lots of evergreen content, you’ll reap the benefits long after you hit the publish button.
Reliable traffic and leads will allow you the flexibility to experiment with other marketing ideas to increase your revenue. In addition to increasing revenue, you’ll also increase your brand awareness and create trust and loyalty with your customers.
The time to start content marketing is now. Get out there and do it!