We’ve talked about content marketing briefly on the blog before, but we’ve never written a full post on the subject. Content marketing is a relatively new term, roughly 10x more searched in 2017 than it was in 2007.
This spike in popularity is a testament to the power of content marketing. Countless businesses have found that content marketing is simultaneously their cheapest and most effective form of marketing. In fact, content marketing is said to cost 67% less than outbound marketing and generate 3x as many leads.
Let’s learn more about what content marketing is, what it isn’t, and how your business can use it to see a quantifiable increase in customers.
What Is(n’t) Content Marketing?
To understand what content marketing is, we must first understand what content marketing is not. When you think of traditional forms of marketing and advertising, what comes to mind? It’s probably things like radio and TV advertisements, printed ads, flyers and mailers, and billboards. What do all of these share in common?
Their effectiveness hinges on their ability to grab the audience’s attention — or to interrupt the audience long enough to get their point across.
This is a big reason why things like pop-up blockers, caller ID, Netflix, podcasts, and satellite radio exist. It’s why 86% of people skip commercials. Most people don’t want to be advertised to, especially when that advertisement is interrupting their daily lives. When businesses try to interrupt with their marketing, their audience just gets better at ignoring that marketing.
Think Education — Not Interruption
Content marketing comes in many forms, but the common thread is that it makes itself available when the audience wants it.
While more and more people tune out traditional marketing and advertising, their ability to find answers about the world is only getting easier. Google handles more than 5.4 billion searches every day. So the problem in marketing isn’t that people don’t want to know more — it’s that they want to find information on their own terms.
Content marketing boils down to anticipating your target market’s questions and creating findable, shareable content that answers those questions. The most successful content marketers not only create content that educates their audience — they create content that their audience comes back to time and time again.
Basically, most content that educates, enriches, intrigues, and demonstrates — without interrupting the user — can be considered content marketing. Even the content on your website can be part of your content marketing efforts.
Why Should My Business Care About Content Marketing?
The short answer: content marketing is insanely effective.
200 million people use ad blockers. What was once considered the future of marketing (paid advertisements) can now be blocked with the click of a button.
Content marketing leaders experience 7.8x more site traffic than non-leaders.
Email marketing (one of the most popular forms of content marketing) delivers an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent.
Companies that publish more than 16 blog posts per month get almost 3.5x more traffic than companies that publish 0-4 posts per month.
47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders.
So, companies that devote time and resources to content marketing are seeing anywhere from 4-8x more online traffic than those that don’t.
Don’t forget the ultimate goal of marketing
Along with the tangible benefits like increased ROI and site traffic, there’s another important benefit that your business should consider: sentiment toward your brand. We discussed this at length in our blog post about web design for the buyer’s cycle, but the end-game of your marketing should not be to convert a lead to a customer — it should be to delight your customers so much that they begin to market your business for you.
While traditional marketing’s goal is to make someone aware of your business and present enough benefits for that person to ignore the fact that you’re interrupting their experience, content marketing aims to provide genuinely useful content that improves people’s lives. And people appreciate that.
The loyalty that your business can earn through content marketing is powerful enough to justify your content marketing efforts. Brand loyalty is a force you shouldn’t underestimate. It’s a big reason why 59% of iPhone owners won’t even consider researching another phone before upgrading to their next iPhone. They’re intensely loyal to the Apple brand — through all the lawsuits, expensive products, and removed headphone jacks.
How Can I Begin Content Marketing for My Business?
While the statistics above may be impressive in terms of the results content marketing can bring, they may also be overwhelming in terms of implementing the advice for your business. (Seriously, who has time to blog 16+ times per month?)
There are a few ways you can go about choosing the content marketing avenues you want to explore for your business. If this were a post about social media, we would recommend that you start small rather than trying all platforms at once. This isn’t necessarily true in content marketing, and the main reason for that is you can try and abandon several content marketing methods without appearing inconsistent.
If you’re starting to think that content marketing could make a real difference for your business, we suggest these steps to help you get started:
Look at the content you already have. Have you tried blogging before? Do you have a YouTube channel with a promo video about your business? Take a good look at the content you’ve already produced and then…
Repurpose existing content in new forms. One way that big brands are able to push out so much content is that they start with the same base content in order to create several variations of it. That webinar you hosted last year can be repurposed into a how-to guide, ebook, infographic, blog post, and podcast without changing a thing about the message.
Consider your expertise. You’ll notice in one of the statistics above that buyers want more input from thought leaders. What secrets have you learned from working in your industry? What are your strengths and how can people benefit from them? The answers to these questions can help guide you toward the kind of content you could create.
Benefit from the expertise of others. Sharing is caring, and this is no less true in marketing. Maybe one of the topics you want to include in your content marketing is beyond your domain. Can you find and interview an expert? Chances are they’ll be happy to be featured, and they’ll even help share the content once you create it.
Outsource the bulk of the work. Unless you specialize in marketing, chances are slim that you’re an expert in a particular subject as well as well-versed in the ways of writing and designing marketing materials. Consider hiring freelance writers and designers to do the heavy lifting for you.
Let Google pick your topics for you. Head to Google and type in some keywords that relate to your industry. What does Google auto-generate in the search bar? These are the searches people are making. Try this for a few different keyword phrases to spark new ideas.
Get inspired (and cut down on your work). HubSpot, one of the leaders in content marketing, admits that their ideas aren’t always entirely original. They follow topics related to their business, get alerts from Google Alerts every time a new piece of content is released on that topic, and create content that combines all the advice from these pieces. Your content doesn’t have to be 100% original — it just has to be better than what’s out there.
As you dive deeper into content marketing, you’ll realize that there’s virtually no limit to where and how you can utilize it for your business. Unlike some other forms of marketing that limit you to a certain process or place, content marketing can work in endless ways.
It may mean that you have a page for ebooks on your website, an email campaign monitor to run your email marketing, a YouTube channel for your video marketing, a podcast channel, and a blog with interviews, case studies, and downloadable templates. And there will likely be ties between all of these. That’s a good thing!
Keep organized, but make it as easy as possible for your users to flow between one of your pieces of content into another. Not only will they eventually be interested in looking into your products and services — they’ll also start to recognize your brand name as the source of so much wonderful information. And that will keep them coming back time and time again.
Content Marketing Isn’t the Holy Grail of Marketing (But It’s Pretty Darn Close)
If marketing means to you paying for PPC campaigns, mailing flyers to your neighborhood, and seeing very little return on your investment, there’s a strong chance that you’ll see real results once you shift your focus more toward content marketing.
While success will look different for every business, content marketing at its core sets you up for success because it provides real value to your target audience.
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