What is Content Marketing, and Is It Really That Powerful?
By now, if you’ve never heard of content marketing, you must have been living under a rock since the end of the last century. However, while the word itself may be a familiar buzzword, many businesses and entrepreneurs don’t fully understand the concept and importance of utilizing content marketing to grow their businesses.
Before we talk about what content marketing is and how it can help you build and grow your business for the long-term, let’s discuss what content marketing isn’t:
1. It’s NOT a separate strategy.
At least it shouldn’t be. Your content marketing strategy should be closely integrated with all of your digital and traditional marketing campaigns. It isthe key to success in all other aspects of your marketing efforts, such as social media, SEO, public relations, PPC, inbound marketing, and more. If your content marketing strategy isn’t built into every part of your marketing efforts, then you’re doing it wrong.
2. It’s NOT a small task.
Content marketing isn’t something that should be done in your spare time, or in between more important tasks. It really should be made a priority, and therefore assigned to someone who’s main responsibility is content creation and publication. If you don’t have the resources within your business to dedicate to developing and executing a content marketing strategy, you may want to consider hiring an outside firm.
3. It’s NOT just about quantity.
Yes, we’ve talked about content length, and how long content is typically better. However, at the end of the day, it always comes down to quality. If your content is terrible, it really doesn’t matter how long it is. No one is going to read it. When developing content, the focus should be on trying to create something of significant value to the reader, rather than word counts.
What IS Content Marketing?
Whether you’ve read every word up until this point, or you’re a skilled page-skimmer – we won’t judge. We’re just happy you’ve made it this far. Content marketing is about using the right words and images to attract the attention of your ideal audience, provide them with valuable or entertaining information, keep them engaged with your brand, and ultimately to inspire them to take a desired action.
Content marketing is a strategic way of telling your brand story, without making it all about your brand. Instead, your goal is to develop clear and compelling messaging centered around your audience. That may sound like a difficult task – because it is. By telling your story in a way that resonates with the interests, preferences and needs of your ideal audience, they are more likely to want to continue to follow your story and engage with your brand.
The Power of Content Marketing
The power of content marketing is often grossly misunderstood and underestimated. Research indicates “consumers are 131% more likely to buy from a brand immediately after they consume early-stage, educational content.” When done well, content marketing can be a cost-effective inbound marketing technique with the potential for both immediate and long-term results.
Despite this fact, a recent CMI survey indicates that only “37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a written content marketing plan in place.” By working with the right professionals and implementing the right content marketing strategy for your business, you can effectively:
1. Increase brand awareness and loyalty.
Both startups and veteran businesses alike can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to building (and growing) brand awareness and loyalty. People change – they get older, move to another area of the country, start a family, change careers, receive an increase or decrease in income, and the list goes on and on. Change is inevitable, but as long as your products and/or services provide a solution to a challenge, issue, or interest, or satisfy the needs of a particular market, then there is potential to acquire new customers.
The only way to get new customers is to ensure that your message is being heard, and that it is relevant to your audience, and delivered at the right time, via the appropriate medium. By creating quality content in the form of blogging, article writing, newsletters, landing pages, press releases, etc., you can effectively shape your brand story, and control what people know about your business.
The word quality here is key. The better quality of content you produce, the more likely it is to be shared, creating the potential to reach a broader audience. And perhaps just as important (if not more so) than quality is consistency. Consistent messaging and the quality of your content are critical to developing long-term, loyal customers, who may even double as advocates for your brand.
2. Establish authority and trust.
Establishing trust with your target audience is more important than ever. With so many businesses out there trying to attract and retain customers, it’s important to prove that your business is a trustworthy and knowledgeable source of information.
There are a variety of types of content that can be created to assist in establishing authority and trust. In addition to blogging regularly on topics your readers care about, you can also create eBooks that dive deep into subject matters, develop checklists and step-by-step guides that explain difficult processes, present webinars that touch upon the latest industry trends, and more.
By consistently showing your audience that you are an expert in relevant subject matters, they are more likely to read more of your content, and to take you more seriously as a business. And, once you’ve established trust and authority, it becomes easier to sell your products and/or services without doing much “selling” at all.
3. Improve lead quality and generation.
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I have too many leads?” If so, that’s a great problem to have. However, most business owners will never utter those words during the entirety of their career, regardless of the industry. If they do, it’s likely that many of their leads are not quality leads, their prices are too low, or they are understaffed.
You’re much more likely to hear business owners saying they want to generate more leads, but don’t know how to do it, or where to find them. Content marketing is a great way for businesses that don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of money on outbound marketing tactics like display advertising, television, radio, etc. Instead of bombarding potential customers with sales pitches and commercials, content marketing is a far less aggressive method of drawing users in.
By developing quality content that users want to read, you can attract customers simply by putting your content out there, and asking for nothing in return. Take it one step further, and provide potential customers with access to exclusive content like eBooks and whitepapers, asking for only contact information in return, such as a name and an email address and/or phone number.
And, by writing content specifically targeted to your ideal audience, you’ll find that the majority of subscribers/downloaders are people that are interested in the products/services you provide.
4. Improve SEO.
Stuffing keywords into your content may have worked in the past, but it is definitely not acceptable to search engines today. Instead, search engine bots are looking for high-quality content that is relevant to what searchers are looking for. And, they are looking for it to be created on a consistent basis.
The more quality content you create, the more likely your content is to show up higher in search results, which allows your brand to reach more potential customers over time. And quality content is the opposite of keyword-stuffed articles, blogs and press releases. Write for people first, and they will be more likely to find and share your content with others.
In addition to creating quality and relevant content, a little on-page and back-end SEO optimization will go a long way. Again, there’s no need to overdo it, but if you want to rank for “SEO optimization” for example, then you may want to include that term at least once or twice in your content (or some variation thereof.)
5. Stay competitive in your industry.
You don’t often see websites today that don’t have a news or blog section. And businesses without websites at all are few and far between. If you want to stay competitive within your industry and the online marketplace in general, content marketing is not just recommended – it’s necessary to your success.
Many businesses say they don’t have the time or resources to perform effective content marketing. And, while that may be partially true, it often comes down to what your priorities are. If content marketing isn’t one of your priorities, then you won’t make time for it, invest in it, or acquire the necessary resources to succeed at it.
If you want to keep up with best practices in digital marketing and to be considered a credible expert in your industry, content marketing needs to make it onto your list of to dos.
What’s Holding You Back?
So, what’s stopping you? Have you been thinking about integrating a content marketing strategy into your overall marketing efforts, but haven’t quite found the time? Even Rand Fishkin, of Moz, agrees - If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now: content that engages your audience also helps open their wallets.”
Whether you simply lack an in-depth understanding of the technique, or you’re still unconvinced of its ROI, you really should consider giving content marketing a real shot in the new year. You may find that not only can it yield significant results, but that it’s also not that mysterious after all.