Content is an umbrella term encompassing the various ways we share written, audio and visual communications. From articles and podcasts, to infographics and white papers, there are dozens of content types available to marketers to reach their target audiences, keep their editorial presence fresh and align with the needs of their consumer base.
Content. Content. Content. It’s on the mind of every marketer, but when it comes down to it, what should we actually be creating? You know why you need content. And you’ve even built a team to make things happen, but when it’s go-time, do you know what types of content will resonate most with your audience as they travel through your customer journey?
What kinds of content types should you create?
Every asset should have a greater purpose beyond the need to get something, anything out on the blog, newsletter and social feeds. It’s surprising that just 50 percent of marketers craft content based on buyer journey stages, and only 60 percent prioritize their audience’s needs over their organization’s promotional messaging, according to the 2020 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report completed by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). We can do better!
Create intentional content. Each piece should align with your content strategy, be identified by a content level and hold space in your content plan.
Use this mini checklist to be sure the kinds of content you’re choosing make sense in the overall picture of your marketing initiatives.
- Does the content type you’ve chosen speak to your buyer personas? You’ll know based on engagement rates, lead generation and whether or not you’re hitting your core KPIs. If your numbers are slacking, your content type might be to blame.
- Does the content type address a specific pain point or challenge outlined in your customer journey? Is the content mapped to a specific buyer stage? Why not? You’re not only creating content for a specific audience, you also have to reach them with the information at a time that feeds into their needs.
- Does the content type align with your campaign goals? It doesn’t make sense to ask readers to engage on your poll on Facebook if what you really want is for them to click through to a blog post filled with backlinks to product pages.
As you think through which kinds of content will mesh with your buyer personas, customer journey and campaign goals, take a cue from the 3,217 marketers and 382 bloggers surveyed by CoSchedule for their Marketing Management + Strategy Statistics You Need to Know in 2019 report.
The top-five performing content types created by these pros included social media ads, followed by email marketing, blog posts, organic social media posts and website content. What didn’t hit the mark with consumers? Sitting at the very bottom of the list were podcast ads, radio ads and billboards.
How can you get the most out of your content?
Embrace the reality that pressing publish isn’t an endpoint. It’s the beginning of your content’s lifecycle. Let’s chat about content distribution and content repurposing.
If your content plan doesn’t include distribution, get on that. It’s not enough to push a link out once and call it a day. Did you optimize the content for each platform where it will live? Did you add social sharing functions to the content? Did you include CTAs to drive ongoing engagement? Has the content been added to your automated social sharing cycle, so it can go out again and again over the course of the year? Keep that content visible!
Then, use it again. And, again. When you have a small team and an equally small budget, consider adopting a repurposing mindset. In our content-hungry economy, you can easily share information that overlaps previous content as a way to stay top-of-mind with potential consumers and re-target hot leads who like to leave goodies in their shopping cart without checking out.
HubSpot says repurposing content can also help you reach new audiences, improve organic visibility and reinforce your messaging, especially when it’s high-value thought leadership or authoritative content.
What does repurposing look like? Let’s take that case study you worked so hard on last quarter. Could you pull some key quotes out of it to use as #MotivationalMonday snippets on your Facebook business page for the next several weeks? Or, would sections of that long-form blog post work as small helpful blurbs for your customer-focused newsletter? Think of each piece of content you initially produce as a puzzle. Can you remove and rearrange the pieces to give them a new purpose — and ultimately lighten your content creation load?
Why content types are *not* strategies?
Content is fuel for a content strategy — not a substitute. According to Moz, content strategy refers to the internal guidelines and governance of the how and why you’re creating and managing content. Think of content strategy as the rules for your marketing. When it comes to content types, they’re the players in the game. They each work toward the goals set by the coach and adhere to the rules of the strategy all while following the content plan as a playbook for success.
You wouldn’t tell players to go out on the field with no guidance or instruction, would you? Don’t do the same by pushing your content out to the world without goals and structure. If you’re just getting started with your content marketing planning, check out the Ultimate Guide to Content Creation: Outlining the Process in Four Key Phases.
Top 25 content types for inbound marketing
As you flesh out your content plan and consider which content types best align with the needs of your buyer personas and their challenges as they move through the customer journey, you’ll come across the following 25 content options.
At ClearVoice, we’ve discovered these are the most requested content types from our brand and agency clients, and they’re what our Talent Network is ready to produce for you.
A mainstay of content marketing, articles provide education or entertainment. Freelance writers can craft articles from research, interviews or even personal anecdotes based on the style of content your readers respond to best. Articles can be created for any stage of the customer journey since the focus and intent is customized per piece. Articles are published on a variety of platforms including websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers, press releases, brochures or newsletters.
If you peek at the QuickBooks Resource Center, you’ll discover articles related to everything bookkeeping, from cash flow and invoicing, to taxes and payroll. This article about processing payroll nurtures a MOFU lead who is intrigued with the product, but wondering if it can do everything they need, including payroll services. The article also appeases growth-minded solopreneurs who are adding team members and need to learn how the payroll functions work. Plus, it serves two key audiences, and that’s a win in content marketing.
Starting a blog allows you to keep in contact with your community on an ongoing basis. You can post to the blog daily, monthly, weekly, or whatever suits your workflow and reader demands. Blog posts, like articles, are malleable and able to be finessed to speak to any buyer persona or funnel stage. Blog posts can live on your website’s blog, a niche site that you host or be published as a guest post on a partner website.
Some blogs are written by professional freelance writers, while others are crowd-sourced. Wayfair, for example, hosts the Homemaker Blogger Community. Fans of the online retailer share inspiration, advice and ideas with like-minded shoppers on their personal blogs and are paid by Wayfair (or offered free products) for mentioning and linking to their merchandise. This influencer-based strategy is one more way to get the Wayfair name in front of new audiences beyond their own online properties!
3. Case studies
Does it work? When you have a lead who’s not sure if your product or service will apply to them, hand over a case study. These in-depth, fact-driven documents tell the story of a satisfied consumer. A case study can be effective at any funnel stage, but is most often used as a closing tactic for BOFU folks. Seeing one last glowing recommendation can turn a lead into a sale.
Google shares a case study about its client, Swarovski. The jewelry retailer wanted to shift consumers’ perspectives to make their accessories go-tos for everyday moments, not just special celebrations. In the study, we learn that Shopping Ads and Google Images were utilized to create a mobile-rich experience for the retailer, growing online sales by 50 percent, year over year. Nice.
4. Customer stories
Much like case studies, customer stories are used to entice future buyers to give a brand a try. As consumers, we love hearing from other satisfied consumers, right? Customer stories can be approached with a journalistic feature-story style by a freelance writer, or be created by the customer (with a pro editor to polish the content). These personal anecdotes tend to speak directly to your target audience, from the consumer’s perspective.
Call center technology company Genesys shares customer stories on their website to show how their cloud-based and on-premise software is making an impact on businesses. Here’s a video-format story they created to highlight how PayPal scaled their support services to keep up with rapid growth using Genesys products.
5. Data studies
When your audience craves numbers and charts, give ’em a data study. This content type might be created by a content strategist, writer and graphic designer working as a team to analyze the findings of a study, current trends or research, then present them in a concise text with visuals format. Data studies generally show up in MOFU and BOFU content plans to help interested consumers learn more before making a decision.
We published a data study here on the ClearVoice blog about Instagram user behaviors. This content not only lets our marketing clients realize the impact the photo-based social media platform can have on their audience engagement, but it also offers insight on how to use the platform to get more link clicks and swipes through multi-photo posts.
This content type is perfect for in-depth, long-form content. A freelance writer and graphic designer can work together to craft an ebook to explain a process, share the company’s origin story or entertain the reader. These assets might be used to close a sale at the very end of the customer journey, or even entice recurring sales from a cherished customer. Ebooks also make great freebies to encourage email list sign-ups.
Web security company Duo offers an online library of e-books that dig deep into topics much as multi-factor authentication (MFA), remote access and single sign-on (SSO). These assets give potential and current customers the hand-holding necessary to understand complex tech topics, backed with studies, user examples and actionable advice.
You may initially think of email as a reactive, mind-numbing task. But, transition to the consumer role for a moment. Email is at our fingertips on our smart devices and generally looked at multiples times each day. These messages can nurture any funnel stage and speak directly to a consumer, privately. Emails crafted with an empathetic, encouraging tone by a pro writer feel personal and welcoming. We like to encourage clients to set up an email drip campaign that walks alongside leads throughout the entire customer journey, like a helpful friend.
HubSpot explains how an automated email drip campaign can boost open rates and strengthen relationships. They also share templates you can customize for your business, and why they work. Tip: Most campaigns contain four to 11 emails, spaced a week or more apart. Add email writing to your content plan so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of other content creation!
Ah, the original consumer-focused Q&A format help page lives on. Yes, FAQs still exist, and if a segment of your audience is in an older generation, they look for these helpful text documents on your website. Well-worded FAQs are lead magnets for TOFU visitors. The concise, skimmable information has the ability to spark interest and help with basic questions about your company and products. To get the most of out this sought after website page, make the FAQ progressively more detailed so it can also be used as a resource for visitors further into your funnel.
The ice cream gurus at Baskin Robbins have outdone themselves with their sweet FAQ. It’s organized by category (nutrition, franchising, online ordering, etc.) with a simple drop-down menu interface and speaks to more than one audience, including ice-cream consumers and potential shop owners. And, the cherry on top? They serve up a CTA at the bottom of the page to contact them if you still have a question.
These text and image-laden documents sometimes fall under the heading of ebook or white paper. A guide is simply an in-depth report that aligns with your business goals, and is mapped to a specific stage (or a pain point within a stage) of your buyer’s journey. A guide has a purpose. A peek at specific KPIs can prove the asset’s worth. A sales pro might send a helpful guide to a prospect via email to answer a concern or make a nudge that shifts the person from MOFU to BOFU. That guide could be tracked and celebrated for the number of times it’s assisted in closing sales.
The Boy Scouts of America offers a copy of their Guide to Safe Scouting online. This document shares policies and procedures for scouts and their leaders, to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience with the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It’s the perfect asset to circulate during an annual volunteer or donation drive to ignite action from readers.
You know it’s important to pair visuals with text content. Sometimes photographs simply don’t make sense or tell the story you need, but infographics will. These versatile creations from graphic artists make it easy to visualize statistics, facts and snippets of information. Infographics bring clarity to messaging at any stage in your customer journey, especially if audience analysis reveals a high percentage of visual learners.
Making tough topics more digestible is exactly what the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has done with their series of infographics on mental health. The calming colors, impactful information and CTA to follow on social media at the bottom of this infographic are making it easy to learn and share information that bolsters the organization’s authority in the health vertical.
11. Landing pages
Ah, these are the anchors of your site map. Common landing pages include your company’s Homepage, About, Contact, Sign In, Products and other pages. You could also consider key product pages, event announcements and press releases as landing pages too. These are written by professional writers and generally serve newcomers to your website in the TOFU stage of purchasing. Landing pages should work to inform, persuade and pique curiosity so a reader will stick around and move another layer deeper into your sales funnel.
Recently I was on the AT&T website to pay my monthly cellphone bill. I clicked on the Fiber Internet tab. Not knowing the difference between ‘fiber’ and regular internet, I hoped the landing page would let me know. Not only did easy-to-scan checklists answer those questions (fiber’s fast!), I could also check availability in my area, get a price quote, and watch a slideshow of instances where fiber would be beneficial, including work-from-home. Yes, I’m smiling!
When your audience needs information immediately or remotely, livestreams do the job. You’ve seen television stations broadcast coverage in real-time for years, now brands can do it too. Livestreams loop in customers who are unable to visit your event in person, document the event for future watching and introduce your company to new eyes, thanks to social media sharing. A freelance writer can write a script for the speaker on your livestream, a videographer can facilitate the visual and a producer will oversee the entire production.
NBC Sports offers a livestream directly from their website of sports news commentary and live sporting events. Since not all fans can get to stadiums, this service has developed a loyal viewer base who linger on their site, often browsing other tabs and sponsor ads. Hello, engagement!
Whether they’re in print or online, these collections of helpful and inspiring content allow you to reach your consumers at all buying stages. Presenting a mix of content in magazine format can actually help move your buyer down the funnel. They may start with a TOFU article, then find themselves looking for contact information, pushing them to the MOFU. A team of creatives — strategists, writers, photographers, videographers and graphic designers — are what it takes to do this right in the digital age.
24 Hour Fitness offers its health-minded friends an online magazine called 24Life. The free publication includes workouts, lifestyle tips and recipes, which speak directly to their audience’s challenges and needs. This publication is a win at all funnel stages, especially when one of the stages includes retention. This publication keeps the gym top of mind when it’s time to renew that membership.
14. Motion graphics
These snippets of animated or digital video footage pop up in multimedia projects, the start of a video, on social media posts and as blog imagery. We love movement. So, graphic designers and videographers work together to create motion graphics to command attention from your audience. To get the most out of these assets, plan to use them far and wide on various platforms, from Instagram to YouTube.
Remember Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill Nye the Science Guy from the 80s? The opening to his educational kids’ science show expertly overlaps video, motion graphics, music and the skills of a talented scriptwriter and producer. Marketers in the 2020s can take a cue from this upbeat piece of vintage, but timeless, visual inspiration.
If staying in touch periodically with your audience is the primary engagement tactic that boosts your numbers, adopt a newsletter. Much like a magazine, these shorter documents keep people informed and inspired. Newsletters tend to have more of a business-focused slant by sharing upcoming events within your organization in addition to helpful information for readers. We love newsletters to nurture key consumers and boost retention/renewal rates.
My local gas and electric services provider sends a printed newsletter in the mail periodically with my monthly paper bill. The ‘At Your Service’ publication shares ways to save on my power bill, who to call in the event of a gas leak and how the company is making a difference in my community. As a consumer, I find it helpful and positive. Here’s the February 2020 issue.
If you’re exploring a new way to reach time-taxed audiences, podcasts allow them to listen to your content while engaging in other activities, like commuting, showering or washing dishes. This content format goes beyond serial storytelling and news reports. Brands of all types are using the audio format to build audiences with conversational episodes while subtlety promoting their products.
It’s no secret, I love to tackle a home remodeling project, and ‘This Old House’ has been by my side for many swings of the hammer. Did you know in addition to their magazine and television show, they publish ‘Clearstory‘? It’s a podcast that goes behind the scenes of being a homeowner to tackle subjects like the invention of the toilet and what we need to know about window panes?
From grand openings to product launches, you’re going to tell the world, so why not do it with a polished presentation? There’s a speech to write, visuals to produce and why not capture it all on a livestream, like we chatted about earlier? Presentations connect with your audience directly, sending a concise message that encourages actions to be taken. Use presentations at any stage in your funnel.
Presentations can also be based on evergreen content, or new developments, that you want your audience to discover. Think about speakers at conferences. Perhaps Apple is one of the best-known brands that kills it at keynote presentations. Check out this announcement-focused presentation at The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2019. Creative video, motivating music, inspiring words. Bam!
18. Press releases
The official currency between a brand and the media are press releases. These documents follow a specific format and style (don’t worry, a pro writer knows this) that allows a business to convey pertinent information to the media about newsworthy events, such as new executive appointments and product line expansions. Press releases are the catalysts to earned media mentions and have the ability to nurture all funnel stages.
The pet lovers working behind the scenes on Purina’s website have stocked the Purina News Center with news releases that are accessible to consumers and the media. Topics vary from announcing a new allergen-reducing cat food to partnerships with other animal-focused organizations.
19. Social media posts
Yes, clever Facebook updates and snippy Tweets are considered content. Someone has to write those blurbs with your company branding, buyer’s journey and campaign goals in mind. You might also team up with a photographer, graphic designer or videographer to make your social media diverse in medium, yet cohesive in style, since it’s all created by the same team.
Want to see a brand that’s smashing it on social? Domino’s Pizza posts poignant lines, mouth-watering photos and replies to comments on their posts! Side note: If you’re not listening to feedback and chatting with your consumers on social, why are you posting at all? The people behind Domino’s Facebook account offer kind and helpful responses to comments.
As your team decides how to define your target audience and perform a thorough audience analysis of your current website visitors, you might consider conducting a survey. To get the best results possible, hire research pros (including a content strategist) to work behind the scenes on this content asset. In addition to using surveys to flesh out your content strategy, surveys can also work as follow-ups to better understand website visitors and consumer needs in the MOFU stage.
The Verge, a technology news online magazine, conducted and published a survey about which tech companies Americans trust with their personal information. On the surface, this information is interesting to their reader base. As a business, it also tells them which companies consumers care about, which helps guide their content plan. Smart, right?
Give, give, give! You’ve been told time and time again to share free information with your audience to nurture those blossoming relationships. Tutorials are a gateway to building audience trust and respect. From cooking blogs, to tech manufacturer websites, video or written tutorials are content assets that can easily be repurposed into helpful social media snippets, blog posts and newsletter topics.
Last time your laptop was glitchy, what did you do? You likely Googled the issue and landed on a tutorial to walk you through troubleshooting steps and a solution. It may have been from a software company, a tech firm that offers business solutions or even a savvy blogger. Got Windows 10 issues? You might land on this video from Online Training for Everyone featuring nearly a half-hour of helpful screen grabs wrapped up with a causal CTA to like his YouTube channel.
Does your content plan include video? Wyzowl’s Video Marketing Statistics 2020 report finds “88 percent of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI.” Use these visuals to augment your current text documents, or to launch a new campaign on video-friendly platforms, like Instagram and YouTube. Or, use video to please your current customer base, and sway BOFU leads into purchasing.
Apple Support has an amazing YouTube channel to assist its users. If you’re a visual learner, and get frustrated easily with device glitches, this friendly approach to customer support is a lifesaver. I’m guessing somewhere in their audience analysis, they learned their users are audio-visual learners, thus, videos!
Want to move those looky-loos into the MOFU? Host a free webinar with helpful tips and insight about your product. Educational-focused webinars are known as lead magnets with the ability to quickly build trust and confidence in your brand. You might ask for the assistance of a scriptwriter and graphic designer to polish your presentation.
Zoom, a popular meeting-hosting platform, offers webinars about their services so potential users can learn about the benefits and technology available. As I browse the Upcoming Events listing on their Webinars & Events page, I see “Zoom Meetings for Healthcare” and “Introducing Zoom Phone” webinars coming up.
We know you already have a website in place. But, have you done a content audit or technical audit recently? Do you need to update your content strategy? Overhaul that outdated blog? Add a video tutorial section? Thankfully, populating a website is one of the core competencies among the Talent Network at ClearVoice. We’ve got you covered!
Or, you could also consider starting an additional website. PillPack, an online pharmacy subsidiary of Amazon, launched a niche site to target a specific audience within their target demographic. I currently write for Pillpack’s website, Folks, which highlights inspiring essays and articles for the chronic illness community — without sales speak about medications. Check out my post on guided imagery as a way to soothe pain.
25. White papers
They’re authoritative, work as a simple PDF download to entice email list sign-ups and can be repurposed easily into small content blurbs. White papers also work as long-form pillar pieces on your website’s resource section or can be emailed to lingering leads who need to see a bit more evidence before adding to cart. White papers tend to be straight forward, filled with facts and persuasive.
Digital performance marketing agency iProspect shares an intriguing white paper about marketing strategies that embrace the evolving face of modern audiences titled Exclusion to Inclusion. This asset will inspire and educate potential users of their services, moving them further into the sales funnel.
There’s so much more to content marketing than blogging. Sure, it’s a staple of this industry, but there are dozens of other ways to connect with your community. Need help with your content strategy, planning and creation? Contact ClearVoice today with your questions. We love to chat content.