Modern marketing has come a long way from its Industrial Revolution roots. Back in the day, marketing served consumer needs, which continues today. But the messaging methods have changed. This brings us to content marketing.
Content marketing isn’t new. But the term, as we know it today, was introduced in the mid-1990s. Though the concept is bandied about, there’s a misunderstanding about what it is, how to successfully do it — and why businesses should even invest in it.
Whether you’re a freelance content marketing writer who is somewhat confused about the content, or are at the high end of content marketing management but need guidance on a content marketing plan, this beginner’s guide to marketing provides a wealth of information.
3 reasons to invest in content marketing
Letting your audience know you have the solutions to their problems is one great reason to build it into your business. Here are three more.
1. Grow brand awareness
Your audience might not be ready to take immediate action. But the consistent distribution of fresh, quality, informative content keeps you top of mind while positioning you as an industry expert. So when your audience is ready to act, yours is the name it remembers.
2. Improve SEO
Regularly publishing and posting online content improves your search engine optimization (SEO). Why? Because your content provides answers to search engine questions. As online algorithms realize the value of your content, they’ll drive your website — and brand — higher on the search engine results page, or SERP.
3. Boost lead generation
The more compelling content you develop and publish, the more your audience clicks to read (or to listen, or to view). Each click offers more opportunities to engage and re-engage, efficiently leading your audience through the marketing funnel. Furthermore, CM is far less costly than traditional advertising and, as mentioned above, it’s very shareable.Content marketing benefits include brand awareness growth, #SEO improvement, and lead generation increase. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
Back to basics — what is content marketing?
Just for fun, plug “what is content marketing” into your search engine. After a couple of nanoseconds, you’ll receive more than 2.5 billion responses to your query. Most point out that content marketing involves the development and distribution of relevant content. It also includes building a strong relationship with a target audience. Then there is the boost in brand awareness. And oh yeah – all of this is done online.
None of the above is far off the mark. But to really understand CM’s purpose, let’s start out with the following assumptions:
- Everyone has a problem or a pain point.
- That pain point needs to be addressed and solved.
- You offer a product or service that can help resolve that pain point.
Keeping these assumptions in mind, content marketing tells your targeted audience that know about their problems, and that you have the perfect solution (your product or service) to solve it. But rather than cramming that narrative down your audience’s throat, you present consistent, relevant, valuable content to guide them toward a specific action.
When done correctly, content marketing moves your audience along the “click” funnel, from awareness to action, and all in-between phases. Along the way, that content is shared through social media, the internet, and other means to others who have similar pain points. This electronic word-of-mouth or eWOM is as powerful and effective as chatting over the back fence with a neighbor.
Common types of content marketing
Another huge content marketing benefit is its variety of formats or types. These include:
How do you create a content marketing strategy?
Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of the benefits of content marketing. But how, exactly, do you determine the best content marketing strategy? Going back to Google, plugging “successful content marketing strategies” or “how to perform content marketing” in the search box leads to billions upon trillions of hits.
Fortunately, Charmaine Du Plessis, a professor with the University of South Africa’s Department of Communication Science, offers a better way. Following extensive content marketing research, Du Plessis developed a six-factor framework that supports a successful content marketing plan.
“Medium” is a fancy word for “what channels you use to create and share content.”
Breaking this down further, the three main channels include:
- Owned, which are under your control
- Earned, when others (journalists and friends) share their content on their own outlets and channels
- Paid, when you pay for your content to be published by third parties (think pay-per-click)
Specifically, it’s a good idea to consider different platforms you’re likely to use for your content marketing efforts, as this will determine what content you produce.
This is where you determine the content’s purpose (i.e., educational, informational or sales-oriented), how often it needs to be created and published, and how its success is measured. Effective content strategy must align with your business and brand strategy.
Also known as construction or creation, formation explains how content should be developed based on your audience’s pain points, how your product/service helps, and your values. This element also determines how often (and how) to repeat your narrative.
The natural, or intrinsic
Content marketing shouldn’t be a hard sell but it should support audience conversations about your brand. Because content is shareable, it can positively present your brand.
The communication, or technique
This gets back to the whole motive behind CM, which tells your audience that 1) you understand their pain points, and 2) you can help them. As such, the content must have relevance and meaning to your audience.
The hoped-for outcome, or result, is that your audience becomes your brand’s best ambassador by sharing your content with their followers. Furthermore, the outcome focuses on what your audience should do after consuming the content. While “buying my product” might be a hoped-for result, outcomes can also include changing the audience’s behavior toward your brand. The best way to understand outcome is with content marketing statistics, which might include clicks, open rates, or number of shares.
Simplifying Du Plessis’ framework, the best content marketing strategies include:
- Building a plan with measurable objectives (such as clicks, shares, and opens)
- Creating a content/editorial calendar
- Leveraging content across various types (such as tying a blog to a podcast)
- Focusing on quality over quantity (again, content must be valuable and must resonate)
- Implementing keywords/SEO that make sense and that aren’t overused
- Testing, analyzing, tweaking… and testing yet again
How long does it take to see results?
As you might realize from the above, a content marketing strategy isn’t “one-and-done.” It takes effort and time. How much time?
The common answer is that it can take up to nine months to start seeing results. But this varies, based on your industry and other factors. The takeaway here is that a successful content marketing strategy requires persistence and patience — it will pay off.The best #contentmarketingstrategies rest on measurable objectives, a calendar, using a content mix, implementing keywords that make sense, testing and tweaking. Click To Tweet
Content marketing terms explained
Understanding content marketing also means resisting the temptation to interchange the term with the following similar-sounding verbiage.
Content strategy vs. content marketing
There’s confusion between the above; in other words, between strategic content marketing/content marketing strategy.
As alluded to in the above section, content strategy is the big-picture, high-level, above-it-all approach that helps determine what to accomplish, who you’re trying to reach (and, by definition, where it goes), how you’ll promote, and how you’ll measure success. Content strategy is your roadmap, taking you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Content marketing is the in-the-trenches, elbows-deep, hands-on process of prepping and distributing your narrative. This includes:
- Organizing and scheduling
Another way to put it: Content strategy is the overarching vision, while content marketing is the process used to achieve that vision.
Digital marketing vs. content marketing
Content marketing is sometimes identified as digital marketing, mainly because both have an online focus. Here’s how to tell the difference:
Digital marketing is a broad range of technologies used to promote a product or service. This typically includes mobile, social media and online methods.
Content marketing is a component of a digital marketing effort, in that it plans, creates and distributes relevant, consistent content that resonates with audiences.
Social media vs. content marketing
Once again, turning to your search engine, if you plug in “social media and content marketing,” you’ll get a lot of results, many of which indicate that social media is a form of content marketing. But this isn’t really the case. Content marketing focuses on the creative narrative. Social media is a distribution method.
Is it a necessary method? In a word, yes. Social media helps you target your audiences while improving content shareability.
What does the future of content marketing look like?
Content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. So, keep an eye on the following trends:
Increased demand for relevant, trustworthy content
When it comes to content, Google likes expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT). Because of this, and a growing anti-spam focus, be sure to develop an honest and reliable narrative. Successful content should be empathetic and personal, so it continues to resonate.
More emphasis on real-time engagement
Authenticity will also be key, meaning immediate response and interaction on your part. You must be in a position to respond to audience questions as it pertains to your content, especially if you’re being followed on social media.
A boost in repurposing
Content will need to be more flexible in an effort to remain fresh and original. This will mean an increase in tying different types of content together, and growth in pillar content strategies.
Content marketing is an essential part of doing business. When handled correctly, the best content marketing strategies will inform your audience, encourage them to act, share their experiences, and build loyalty toward your brand.
If you’re in need of expert content writing services or help with content marketing strategy, visit us at ClearVoice.