Have you ever downloaded an eBook, shared an infographic on social media, read an article, or attended a webinar? Then you have participated in content marketing without even knowing it. Traditional marketing methods, such as ads or cold calling, have become outdated and uninteresting for consumers. Because they lead to low conversions, bad ROI (return on investment), and decreased website traffic, many marketers are abandoning traditional practices in favor of new & creative ones.
By now, most marketers understand the value of content marketing. According to Jayson DeMers, 88% of B2B marketers are now using content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy. Furthermore, the most popular content marketing tactics are considered social media (90%), illustrations & photos (87%), eNewssletters (83%), videos (82%), and web articles (81%).
Content marketing and other creative strategies can help you increase your company’s credibility, establish yourself as an expert in a field, educate prospects about your services, and persuade visitors to convert. For most businesses, the primary goals of content marketing are increasing sales and improving customer retention, engagement, and loyalty.
If you are new to the world of content marketing, you should take a look at our guide, which shares actionable tips that you can implement for your own business. But before we delve into the nitty gritty, we must answer a crucial question:
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is not a new concept. As a matter of fact, it has been around for over a hundred years. Companies had used this tactic in the past to tell stories and attract companies way before the Internet was invented.
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OHgMMpGLzk
The content marketing definition, as given by Wikipedia (and arguably the most inclusive one), is as follows:
Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. It is also defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
For Atomic Reach, the core of content marketing consists in the exchange of useful content with an audience in return for their attention – where attention is quantified through shares, likes, and comments.
Joe Pulizzi, of the Content Marketing Institute, believes that the definition of content marketing can vary, depending on your audience, goals, and approach. He also encourages us to find our own definition to content marketing.
Regardless of definition, this targeted marketing strategy, when implemented correctly, has the power to help businesses connect with targeted audiences on a deeper level, leaving them more engaged and informed.
Content marketing can take many forms, such as webinars, eBooks, infographics, blog posts, podcasts, thought leadership articles, etc. What many marketers fail to understand is that content marketing isn’t a direct sales tactic. It’s a two-way communication channel between the company and its prospects. Content isn’t necessarily designed to sell, but it can have a significant impact on brand awareness.
By consistently applying content marketing best practices, companies with an online presence can establish themselves as experts, earn the trust of their audience, and ultimately speed-up the sales cycle.
Furthermore, through content marketing, business goals can be achieved at the fraction of a cost associated with traditional marketing methods. By now you’re probably thinking: “All these things sound great, but where do I start?” Education is the key to content marketing & its nuances, so if you are new to this practice you should definitely pick up a few specialized blogs.
Content Marketing Blogs you Should Start Reading Today
Here is a short list of content marketing blogs that you should definitely read:
#1. The Content Marketing Institute. This site is the mothership for content research and insights. On it you will find in-depth articles and how-to guides that will help you get your content efforts off the ground. The CMI also hosts an annual conference, Content Marketing World, where the brightest minds in the industry come together to learn and network.
#2. Copyblogger is a company that doesn’t just teach content marketing, it turned it into their business. According to Copyblogger, powerful writing is the heart of great content. Check out the company’s blog for actionable advice on how you can increase conversions or traffic and reach business goals through the use of content. I also recommend tuning into their podcast, hosted on fm.
#3. Social Media Examiner is one of the most reputable online resources & your personal guide to the social media jungle. The site hosts articles from experts such as Kristi Hines, Mari Smith, Ann Smarty, Grace Duffy, and more.
#4. Buffer is a web-based tool that allows users to take control of their social media presence. But beyond its superb service & incredible company culture, Buffer also offers invaluable content marketing tips on its blog. The company regularly analyzes its own data and shares unique insights that will help you jumpstart your content marketing efforts.
#5. I am a huge fan of HubSpot. It is, without a doubt, the most authoritative resource for inbound marketing strategies and lead generation. The company shares a wealth of resources for blogging, social media, SEO, landing page optimization, analytics, & more.
#6. You may not have heard about QuickSprout, but you’ve definitely heard of Neil Patel, the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and of course, NeilPatel.com. While I am not a huge fan of his aggressive marketing strategies, I must admit that he shares very insightful & meaty guides on his blog. Neil has also created impressive guides, like the Advanced Content Marketing Guide, which you should definitely check out.
#7. Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers makes for a very interesting read because it goes beyond metrics and data and delves into the psychology behind online marketing. Have you ever read an article with over 100 comments and thought “Woah, what an engaged audience?” More than 80% of Derek’s posts receive this kind of engagement, so he’s definitely doing something right. Having read more than a few posts on SocialTriggers I can say that Derek’s approach is entirely unique and refreshing. He takes the concept of content marketing to a whole new level and manages to engage with his target audience in an unexpected way.
#8. The Duct Tape Marketing blog is focused on helping small businesses increase their brand awareness and improve their marketing strategy through content marketing.
#9. Orbit Media Studios is the place where digital marketers can find practical & actionable advice on content marketing & web design.
#10. Lastly, we have Oli Gardner’s Unbounce, the absolute best resource for landing page & conversion optimization. If you want to see landing pages getting ripped apart, read about the latest web design trends, or brush up on your content marketing skills, then Unbounce is the site to read.
Naturally, there are other great content marketing blogs that share useful information (check out Curata’s ultimate list for more examples), but the ones mentioned above are resources that should help you get started with content marketing.
Now that we’ve got this covered, let’s get to the juicy part: your content marketing strategy. There are many strategies that you can implement, and most of them are time-consuming. The good news is that you don’t have to start with all of them at once. By all means, start with a blog and add different forms of content when you can. The only thing that you need to worry about is integrating all your strategies into a marketing plan, to ensure that they work together to achieve business goals.
Getting Started with Content Marketing
You may be tempted to jump into content production right away, but before you do this you should define your purpose for creating content. Below are the most important steps that you should keep in mind if you are to be successful with your content marketing efforts.
#1 Lay Down your Content Plan
Despite the fact that over 80% of online businesses have integrated content into their marketing strategy, most of them aren’t documenting it. The first thing that you need to do is to create your planning document. You can do this with the help of Excel or Google Drive.
Simply create a sheet with the following columns: content types, channel, structure, objective, URL, desired action, tone, frequency. Under these columns you will also have to record information such as core message, summary, keywords, target audience, mission statement etc. I also recommend having a separate sheet that you use to keep track of your business objectives (e.g. impact, benchmark, results, sales, conversions, etc.).
Your core message should be documented on a third sheet, as it will encapsulate the primary benefit that you offer to customers. This message will be the guiding principle of your entire content strategy.
If you can clarify how you’ll use content marketing to grow your business, it will be easier for you to decide what topics to target. Furthermore, writing down specific goals (e.g. subscribing to newsletter, signing up for a trial, etc.), is critical for benchmarking results & creating a sales funnel.
#2 Find your Voice
Content that matters might not help you get noticed by search engines, but it will help you get noticed by real humans. In order to create content that matters you must first find your voice. I’m going to be honest, there are so many businesses ‘doing’ content marketing that it’s almost impossible to stand out from the crowd.
If you want to separate yourself from the noise, you have to create something that is immensely valuable. According to Copypress, relevant content is content that “makes people want to read it, share it, and then come back for more of it.”
The first question that you should ask yourself is: “What type of content do you want to create?”
Here are a few examples:
- Content that moves: Confessions of a Google Spammer (Inbound.org)
- Content that persuades: 7 Lessons Apple Can Teach us About Persuasive Web Content
- Content that educates: Udemy Courses
- Content that entertains: Buzzfeed Articles
Ideally, you should create a mix of content types. This will enable you to establish your unique voice. Find something that nothing else is offering, may it be sarcasm, humor, or amazing graphics. A few ideas of what might set you apart include your personality, unique approach, value proposition, or style.
#3 Identify your Target Audience
Targeting everyone may help you increase your traffic, but it won’t hit anyone. Therefore, you must define the niche that you want to serve. Find a very particular group of people who will resonate with your writing and take action. Once you identify that niche, you will have to refine it. The more targeted the niche, the better the market.
Another thing that you need to worry about is the viability of your newly found market. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the community large enough to meet my business objectives? (A quick keyword research should help you answer this question).
- Can these people afford my products or services?
- Are these people accessible via social media or email?
- Will they respond to my messages?
To answer these questions, you must create user personas. These personas, or avatars, will represent the average individual in your target audience. Gather demographics or survey data to determine the age, location, gender, income & education level, occupation, ethnic background, values, personality, and interests of your target audience.
#4 Embrace Basic Content Marketing Strategies
If you’re new to content marketing I recommend starting with basic, yet extremely effective, strategies. I will quickly list the ones that get the highest ROI:
- Invest in a blog. This essential content marketing strategy will enable you to get closer to your target audience. It will also allow your customers to understand your position as a thought leader. To maximize your blog’s potential you should create an editorial calendar as well as a weekly blogging schedule.
Pro tip: Don’t focus only on your business. Create articles that genuinely help visitors and share content from other sources as well. You can also complement your blog with useful case-studies, white papers, ebooks, etc.
- Use video. Did you know that, by 2018, video will take up 79% of consumer internet traffic? Videos represent a widely popular form of content that can significantly boost sales and conversions. With a well-planned script and several video apps (e.g. Instagram and Vine) or web-based services you can create awesome videos.
Pro tip: Upload your videos on YouTube. Even if they don’t appear in Google search results, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and will enable you position yourself as a creative thought leader.
- Curate your content. Once you’ve created your content, the true task begins. The reason why most online businesses fail is because they do not distribute their content correctly. New technology is making it easier for publishers to become viral. There are several ways in which you can promote your content: sending email blasts, promoting content on social media, running PPC campaigns, reaching out to other bloggers, finding outlets that aggregate content, etc.
- QUALITY > QUANTITY. Every minute of every day, overwhelming amounts of data are being generated by users. Your goal shouldn’t be adding to a mediocre pile of content, but creating something truly valuable. Instead of focusing on quantity you should strive to create quality.
Pro tip: “If you are starved for resources, plan a few really great pieces, instead of scrambling to create sub-par ones (…) Make an awesome blog post, a cool infographic, a white paper and turn them into a series of posts.” (Source: Atomic Reach for the Buffer Blog)
#5 Monetize your Site with Content Marketing
With all these planning, writing, publishing, and promoting of content it can be very easy to get side-tracked and forget about the bottom-line purpose of content marketing. All the optimization tips you will read should align with your business goals.
The reason I left this tip for last is because without high-quality and engaging content you have no chance of monetizing your site. Furthermore, monetization should not be your primary concern. These things considered, here are a few content marketing examples that might work for you:
- Promote affiliate products. Assuming that you haven’t had time to develop your own product or service, you can monetize your blog through affiliation. If you’re starting out with content marketing, this might be the best strategy for you because it is low-risk. There are two very important rules when it comes to affiliate marketing. Firstly, the products you promote should be closely related to your core topic. Secondly, you should never endorse products that you haven’t tested out yourself or that aren’t high-quality.
- Google Ads & Sponsorships. If you manage to attract a sizeable amount of traffic you can start adding Google ads or look for sponsors. Sponsors will pay a monthly fee to secure ad placement on your site.
- Create amazing sales copy. If you already have a loyal following and a great product, your primary goal should be creating compelling sales copy. According to Neil Patel, the secret to creating high-value content is to work backwards. “Write your sales copy first. Then create a product that lives up to it. To create a landing page and ads, you’ll need to focus on the program’s unique selling points (USP) and your offer.” Sales copy more difficult to create because it has to immediately communicate value. Furthermore, besides services & product descriptions, you will also have to create promotional email content, social media posts, opt-in forms, case-studies & white papers that support your claims, and blog posts that promote them.
- Membership site. Building a membership site is tricky. Prospects should see immediate value in paying for access. They have to feel like they are gaining VIP treatment, high-value & private information, elite status, new networking opportunities, or instant access to you.
As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into content creation and promotion & countless strategies that you can implement. If you’re not an expert, or there are other areas of your business that require your attention, you should consider outsourcing some of these tasks to expert content marketing services.
This concludes our guide. For more content marketing examples I strongly recommend checking out the blogs mentioned above, as well as a few examples of viral content.
Image Sources: depositphotos.com