What is Content Marketing? Part 1: Creation
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and often authoritative content to attract and retain your target audience.
The goal is to engage the audience, build awareness of your brand, build your credibility and over time, lead the prospect down the path towards converting them into a customer.
I’ll focus on the the first half of the strategy – creation – in this post and save distribution for a future post.
Customers today are more inundated by marketing messages than ever – more than 2,900 per day according to the online marketing software company Marketo.
When done right by providing useful information and not hard-selling, content marketing elevates your brand above the thousands of marketing messages and builds a relationship with your customers. Research by About.com and Latitude Research also found that 71% of consumers trust solutions that provide useful information without trying to sell them something.
The secret to great content marketing is adding value. When you freely give your audience something valuable, you build trust – which, ultimately, is your most powerful selling tool. At its heart, content creation is about educating first, selling second. If you focus your marketing on building relationships with your audience and making their lives easier, the revenue will follow.
Before describing the various forms of content marketing, it is critical to understanding why content marketing is important to your business. First, one should understand the stages of the buying cycle:
- Stage 1: Awareness : customer identification of a need and the realization that your business can potentially fulfill it
- Stage 2: Research/Consideration : customer evaluation of how your offering meets this need, including the evaluation of alternative offerings or providers
- Stage 3: Preference/Intent : a customer’s logical and emotional inclination towards one solution or another, ultimately leading to a purchasing decision. This is influenced by the credibility you built during the the research stage as a result of utilizing your thought leadership and authoritative content.
- Stage 4: Purchase : The action of buying
- (BONUS) Stage 5: Loyalty/Advocacy: A satisfied customer continuously purchasing from your brand and telling others about your solution.
Content marketing taps into the first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of your solutions and/or educating consumers about a product they may have never considered before.
While subtly different from content “marketing” (though sometimes used interchangeably), you can use content “selling” to move the buyer down the sales funnel by reinforcing your credibility and creating a sense of urgency, ultimately converting the prospect into a customer. Incidentally,the About.com research also finds that 85% of consumers trust solutions that walk them through the various paths towards a decision rather than trying to answer them (sell to them) outright.
There are many types of content marketing. Some of the primary types of content used in content marketing are:
- Blog Posts: A company blog is a great place to share educational thought leadership, industry insight, upcoming events/ announcements, and valuable new content. It’s important to add new posts regularly to build your audience and keep you memorable.
- Infographics: These graphic designs present complex information using a combination of images and text to simplify core concepts. Use infographics to attract buyer attention and simplify complicated information. Because they are a longer form visual, you can use infographics to present facts and data that are too complex for a single graph or chart.
- Whitepapers and Reports: Whitepapers and reports are informational, factual, educational, and typically presented in a report format rather than a format that includes a lot of aesthetics.
- Slide Decks: Slide decks are intended to be viewed like a presentation. Slide decks tend to be nicely designed and visual, rather than text heavy, for easy consumption. Like infographics, slide decks are best for breaking down complex information into a digestible form, and can be posted to sites like SlideShare to expand your viewership and make them easy to view.
- Ebooks: Especially common in the B2B world. These digital books vary widely in length, level of design, and subject matter. They typically follow a narrative from start to finish, have some element of design, and contain educational, informational material. They can even be a collection of topically consistent blogs or whitepapers.
Creating buyer personas will help you define your audience – their challenges, questions, needs – then mapping these personas to the buying stages will inform what each piece of content should look like and accomplish.
Content marketing also provides additional benefits in that it supports other digital marketing channels. It provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets indexed in search engines.
In fact, for many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts could be focused on content marketing. It can be re-purposed into lead nurturing emails, or be utilized as the incentive to click your paid ads.
If you’re not sure how you can add value through content marketing, ask your existing customers what kind of content you can produce that would be helpful to them now, or would have been helpful to them when they were looking for your product or service.
An effective content marketing strategy helps your brand engage with potential customers early in the buying cycle and build a relationship with them over time as they move through their lifecycle with your brand.
Equally important to content creation is content distribution because after all, what good is your content if no one actually see it? Stay tuned for insight into how to get your amazing new content discovered and working for you.