For the past decade, content marketing has become all the rage, and with good reason.
It has become the vehicle businesses use to communicate with customers. It allows businesses to transform from nameless enterprises looking to make a sale to organizations that want to add value to customers by providing valuable content.
While the advantages for consumers can be significant, the advantages for businesses can be even more significant:
- According to Demand Metric, Content Marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing & generates 3x as many leads.
- As Content Marketing Institute states, small businesses with blogs generate 126% more lead growth than companies without blogs.
- Websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages than websites without blogs, says Tech Client.
However, reaping the benefits of content marketing starts with a documented content marketing strategy. According to Altimeter, 70 percent of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.
This statistic leads to the realization that marketers are falling into success, and are finding benefits without extensive planning. How much more successful would your content marketing efforts be if marketers established a comprehensive strategy?
What is Content Marketing?
At its core, Content Marketing is a strategic approach to engaging potential buyers. It is where marketers strive to create valuable, relevant, and consistent content to an audience.
The popularity of content marketing is in no way a fluke. Today, potential buyers are consuming content online more than ever before.
Why the Rise in Content Marketing?
According to a Pew Research Study, almost half of 18 to 49 year olds get their news and information online. In addition, 61 percent of U.S. consumers made a purchase after reading a recommendation on a blog.
It’s clear, content is playing a major role in the success of small businesses. Consumers are no longer impulsively buying; they are taking their time to research and consult multiple sources for information on products and services they are contemplating purchasing.
As a result, relevant and engaging content truly has become king.
How Can Businesses Benefit?
Again, content marketing has proven to be one of the most successful tactics for generating leads and increasing conversions. How else will target audiences know the principles, vision, mission, and goals of an organization? Ads alone cannot achieve this. Blog posts, videos, case studies, white papers, and webinars act as informational resources.
These methods of “communication” are great ways to add additional value to customers. When they visit the website, they know they are not just going to be bombarded with advertisements.
They can look forward to learning more about the company, obtaining helpful industry information, or receiving training or new knowledge. This step is where content comes into play. It diversifies what a company can offer.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Okay, so the focus is on content marketing, why are we discussing inbound marketing?
We don’t blame you if us throwing in another marketing term is a bit confusing, but inbound marketing is worth highlighting when discussing content marketing strategy.
One inbound marketing definition is the process of creating helpful content which adds value to attract new customers for your business, while retaining existing customers.
An easy way to gain a better understanding of inbound marketing is to compare it to its counterpart, outbound marketing.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: What Are They?
Inbound marketing is almost self-explanatory: “bringing customers inbound.”
The goal is to create content such as blogs, videos, guides, infographics, or social media posts that drive traffic to your website. This initiates a dialogue and helps build relationships with consumers, causing them to click onto your page.
Outbound marketing is typically more sporadic, so akin to throwing out various types of messaging and hoping it sticks. This type of marketing is typically in the form of TV ads, radio commercials, and billboards all of which are considered (by some) to be outdated forms of communication.
Contrary to inbound marketing, outbound marketing efforts are difficult to measure.
Stages of Inbound Marketing
There are steps marketers can take to bring success to their content marketing strategy within inbound marketing.
This stage is where content is used to drive qualified traffic to your website. For example, this is typically in the form of a social media post or optimized blog post which entices consumers to come to your site.
This is where the dialogue starts with your potential consumers. At this stage, you should be leading them to download an eBook, engaging with chatbots, or using a landing page to sign up for offers.
This is the stage where you leverage personalized emails to nurture your leads into requesting a demo or creating a free trial. The cultivation has occurred during the attraction and conversion stages, so this is the perfect place to make the “ask.”
Thank your leads for their support, and show your appreciation by continuing to provide high-quality content that adds value. This step is where you blend marketing automation with content creation to deliver the best content at the right time.
At its core, content marketing is a form of inbound marketing. It is critical for marketers to understand their relationship, as well as what is not considered inbound marketing.
Understanding the role content marketing plays in inbound marketing is a critical part of developing any content marketing strategy.
Which Content Marketing Metrics Really Matter?
Before you can create a comprehensive content marketing strategy, you have to decide on your content marketing goals.
Metrics and data should be a large part of what informs your decision making. Fortunately, we have a variety of tools, resources, and methods at our disposal that prevent us from having to go on a hunch or educated guess.
Regardless of the success you may have found without a data-driven strategy, focusing on a specific set of metrics will make it easy to determine success.
Finding and utilizing the right data is challenging for many marketers.
According to the Demand Gen 2017 report, 89% of marketers ranked "improving the ability to measure and analyze marketing impact" as a top priority. Marketers around the globe are finding it tedious to collect the “right” data.
The challenge lies in identifying which content marketing metrics that matter. Here are the content marketing metrics you should monitor to guide your content marketing strategy:
These are basic parameters that give insight into how your campaigns are expanding your audience reach and increasing your conversions. If you are just beginning to take measurements, these metrics are a great place to start:
Website and Blog
- Page Views
- Time on Page
- Bounce Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Click-Through Rate
- Open Rate
- Bounce Rate
- Click-Through Rate
Going “viral” is every company’s dream come true. Having content that engages and catches on with consumers is not only desirable, but it should everyone’s ultimate goal.
Sharing metrics can give some insight into how your target audience is responding to your social media content. Here are some parameters you should keep an eye on:
- Social Shares
This step is where you begin to see how interested consumers are reacting to your content, and if they are willing to further engage with additional types of content.
Lead Metrics are connected to attribution models. This is where tools like Google Analytics, Salesforce, or other metrics-related tools can help you attribute value to specific pieces of content based on their lead-generating performance. This data will help you understand what’s working and what’s not working.
Examples of lead metrics can include:
- Blog Click-Through Rates
- Email Newsletter Subscriptions
- PPC Campaign Conversion Rates
Metrics should fuel your strategy, but why have a strategy at all? Let’s explore.
Why You Need a Content Strategy
Your content marketing strategy is the foundation of what guides your marketing plan.
It is the blueprint for how you will turn potential customers into engaged leads that eventually convert. It allows you to align business goals with your marketing tactics.
Here is data from Content Marketing Institute to back this claim:
- 62% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy while 16 percent of the least successful do not.
- 72% of content marketers who increased their level of success over the past year credit their strategy as a major contributor.
As a marketer, you need a strategy to not only ensure success but to also adequately navigate this new day of content saturation.
Content Marketing strategies are not only a static blueprint, but they are also necessary for what they allow you and your marketing team to accomplish.
Connect with Your Target Audience
The process of creating a content marketing strategy ensures that you can take some time to analyze whom your audience is (using data you collected from the previous step). Once you know, you can then create content that speaks directly to these consumers.
Are there gaps in some of the material your competitors are offering? Is there content you can create that attracts audiences you are looking to gain traction with? Are there personas you can develop that help you zero in on what your consumers are looking for?
Is your audience familiar with your business and it’s values? When they think of a specific need do they automatically think of you?
A good content strategy lets you see how you can add value to your target audience by educating them. Are there blogs that you can create that concisely explains how your product or service solves a problem? Is it time for instructional videos or webinars?
Your content strategy blueprint can help you best see what your audience needs and how to best deliver that information.
Align your Business Goals with Your Marketing Tactics
While most of us know the impact marketing can ultimately have on revenue, internal stakeholders like executive leadership and board members still need evidence of this.
Your content marketing strategy can double as a blueprint that appropriately connects your marketing tactics with business goals and principles. Is your company looking to increase annual sales by 10 percent? Well, how can your email newsletter campaigns help support this? How does your blog content strategy contribute to company growth or purchasing and order efficiency?
Be sure to consult with executives and those in charge of monitoring business goals to see how your marketing plan can work in line with their expectations.
The next section will address how to produce high-quality content.
Why You Need To Create High-Quality Content
The execution of any thoughtful content marketing strategy is dependent on creating high-quality content.
The Value of High-Quality Content
Consumers want brands to deliver content that interests them and solves their problems. Unfortunately, many brands still struggle with producing content that always hits the mark.
According to CISION:
- 84% of people expect brands to provide content that entertains, tells stories, provides solutions, and creates experiences and events.
- 70% of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements.
- 65.8% of marketers say being able to produce engaging, well-designed visual content consistently is their biggest struggle.
Understand your Audience
The first step in creating high-quality content that converts is to understand who your target audience is.
Who is visiting your webpage, and who is looking for the type of services you provide? This step is where creating buyer personas can come into play. Take a look at the data and see who your users are. What are their hobbies and interests?
Knowing these characteristics helps you strategize to develop content that speaks to these persona points.
Research and See What’s Popular
After you find out who your audience is, you have to discover what they’re interested in.
Which content are they flocking to? What types of content do they prefer? Are your industry competitors creating content that is engaging and driving views?
Take time to research your competitors, use software (like Ahrefs) to look at the keywords and ideas that are popular, and take a look at examples of exceptional content that other popular content creators have produced.
Score your Content
Once you create content, use data and software to generate performance.
One of the best ways to do this is through content scoring. Content Scoring is the process of measuring the performance of content, before it is published.
This method is an excellent tactic for measuring its performance However, to do this as well as carry out most of the functions outlined in your strategy, you need the right tools.
The Content Marketing Tools You Need
In today’s world, there is no shortage of software solutions. Project Managers need task delegation tools, Accountants need invoicing tools, and marketers need content marketing tools.
Here are the categories of marketing tools you should look into to help you develop your content marketing strategy:
Before you start developing content or posting anything, you need to set up a way to measure its performance.
You should find a marketing analytics software that can tell you how your content is performing, can compare current content to previous material, and provide a wide range of reports.
You are going to have a lot on your plate, and while you may want to do everything yourself, you just can’t.
Whether it be managing social media posts, triggering email messaging, or scheduling blog postings, a good marketing automation software solution can help you focus on strategy and ideation instead of repetitive tasks.
What type of content should you create? What are your competitors up to? How can you captivate your audience? Did you know software can help you do this?
Now, content creation software can come in many forms. There are those that help you conduct research on which content is working, and others that help you create eye-catching content.
For research, programs like BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, Atomic Reach, and Hubspot Idea Generator are great places to start. For actual development, Canva, Easel.ly, Giphy, and Grammarly are some of the best tools for creating engaging graphics, social media banners, infographics, or blog posts.
Marketing Project Management Organization
Marketing campaigns are going to be a growing part of your strategy, as they should. Well as we know, campaigns have various process milestones. How can you keep up?
A marketing project management software can help you organize milestones, delegate tasks, check on progress, and create to-do lists. Great examples of comprehensive marketing project management software are Monday, Asana, and Trello.
Document Sharing and Collaboration
You will likely be working with a team of employees or freelancers and contractors. There will be a lot of idea sharing and project collaboration. However, what happens when you don’t have the time to look through a barrage of emails or you have team members located in different parts of the country?
Document sharing and collaboration tools are essential. Google Drive and Slack as well as many of the project management tools mentioned above are going to be pivotal to bypassing email and communicating in real time while also working on documents simultaneously.
A Documented Content Marketing Strategy Is Essential
Today, we live in a world where content is created and consumed at a rate we have never witnessed before.
This fact means that expectations are high for content creators. For the average content marketer, this can be overwhelming and daunting. The only way to adequately craft branding and messaging is through developing a content marketing strategy. This action will serve as the blueprint for connecting business goals to content marketing tactics as well as a step-by-step guide for walking your target audience through your sales funnel.
As mentioned in an earlier statistic, teams who work from a B2B content marketing strategy are more successful than those who do not. The key is to sit down with a team, and involve leadership while taking the time to walk through the points above.
Again, this is not only your blueprint for a set of content marketing tactics or principles, but if done correctly, it is also the roadmap to overall business success.