What is content marketing & how do I do it?
Content marketing is a core way to build an audience, generate leads and convert customers. Blogs, eBooks, infographics, white papers, case studies, videos, vlogs, podcasts, guest posts – the formats of content are endless.
Technology provides limitless options for creating, publishing and promoting content, and also lets us know how our content is actually working (or isn’t working) toward our goals.
This transformation driven by technology has lowered the barriers to entry and enabled companies of all sizes to play the content marketing game. Sharing a story no longer requires large media budgets that caused big brands to monopolize the content marketing space years back.
While basic content has become a commodity, few companies are creating quality content that actually works – cuts through the noise, gets noticed and drives profitable action. And if they do…sometimes it’s by luck, rather than a thoughtful, understood, and measured content marketing strategy.
Regardless of where you are at on your content marketing journey – new to the game or working hard to keep up with the evolution, there will always be more to learn, and that’s why we’ve created this hub of information to help you stay on top of your game. Explore below, let us know if you have questions or if there is something you’d like to hear more about. Let’s keep learning and growing together to produce content that works!
Content marketing 2023 in numbers
Before we dive into what content marketing is, how you create a strategy, and how you can generate lots of fresh content ideas quickly and easily, let’s look at some pretty staggering stats that show the power of content marketing in 2023:
- Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising
- Articles of around 3,000 words get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x more backlinks than shorter articles
- 72% of marketers said that having a good content strategy was a major key to success
- 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing
- Video is the #1 form of media used in content strategy, overtaking blogs and infographics
- 28% of the U.S. population over 12 years old listens to podcasts on a weekly basis.
“Content marketing is 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.”
Source: Content Marketing Institute
The difference between content and content marketing is the end result
Content marketing is not creating a piece of content. It’s not creating a brochure or sending a postcard in the mail. It’s more than having social media accounts with posts that talk about your product or service. It’s not even creating a video that goes viral.
Content marketing is acting as a publisher, consistently and frequently creating content that your prospects and customers want to read, watch and share. It’s using quality content to attract and build an audience of people who opt-in to hear from you in the midst of their overly crowded inbox or social media news feed because they want to hear what you have to say.
Content marketing involves creating content that people value because it does one of the following: informs, educates, entertains or inspires.
What is a content strategy?
You’ll be creating a lot of content this year, but what are the topics, who is it for, and what formats should you use?
These are the questions you need to answer as part of your content marketing strategy. They need to be thought through and answered before you start typing your first word. Creating content to say you’ve done it is a waste of time. If your content isn’t attracting prospects, turning them into leads, and converting those leads into sales opportunities – what’s the purpose?
Maintain a mindset that you’re creating content with purpose as you create a content strategy.
Content marketing that works is born out of a deliberate and fully thought-out content strategy. It should seamlessly link in with your business objectives and overall marketing goals. When you look at all of the types of content you could create, all of the things you could write about, and all of the places your content will live, it’s no wonder that a well-defined strategy is the difference between success and failure.
Why do I need a content marketing strategy?
Simply stated – you need a content marketing strategy to stay relevant to your buyers.
It’s 2023. Buyers are in control and have been for a while. You know as a buyer yourself that you are not reliant on a salesperson to help you through the buyer’s journey.
Whether you’re looking to buy a new whiteboard for your office, a car for your teenager or new accounting software, the first place you go is to the internet. You may do a Google search. You may post on social media asking your network for recommendations. Or you may go to Youtube and search for a video. You’re looking for information – you’re looking for content that will help you.
- Google process over 40,000 search queries every second on average.
- The average daily usage of social media as of 2019 is 144 minutes per day, up from a lowly 126 minutes per day in 2016.
- Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.
You need a content marketing strategy because your buyers aren’t coming to you letting you know that they have a need that you might be able to solve. They are looking online for content that helps them find the information they want in the places and at the times they want.
If you’re not providing the content, your competitors will.
You can’t win solely with radio ads, TV commercials, trade shows and a website any more. Those things might still be relevant for your company, but if you’re not evolving and bringing content marketing into the mix, you are going to miss out on a large pool of buyers who have a need that your product or service solves.
How do I create a content marketing strategy?
Know who you sell to and how you can help them –
To create a content marketing strategy, start by asking yourself these questions:
- Who do I want to sell to?
- What do I want to be found for in a search?
- What questions do my prospects have?
- What concerns do they have?
- Where do they go to look for information?
Your content is always about your prospects. A situation we often see is client content that’s all about them. Having a corporate brochure, company profile video and product sheets is fine, but it’s not going to produce leads. Why? Because it’s all about you and your prospects don’t care about you yet. You have to earn their interest through content that is about them. Their problems. Their challenges and pain points. You have to give them value and help them before they will listen to you talk about yourself.
Align content to your buyer’s journey
As you create your content strategy, you’ll also want to consider the buyer’s journey. Your buyers will have different questions and interests depending on what stage of the buyer’s journey they are in: awareness, consideration, or decision. You’re going to need content that targets each stage of this journey to guide prospect down the funnel.
Here’s an example for a company who sells password security software:
- Awareness stage content topic: 5 Reasons Why Marketing Agencies Care About Password Security
- Consideration stage content topic: 3 Ways Marketing Agencies Can Keep Client Passwords Secure
- Decision stage content: Give us 15 minutes, and we’ll walk you through our password security software and assess if your current process is putting you and your clients at risk.
Use data to understand what content is working
This isn’t a guessing game. If you want to know what to write about, what formats to use, and what channels work best – start by looking at data on your current content. What are the top visited pages on your website? How are people getting to those pages? What blogs are people reading? What content offers yield the highest conversion rates? What types of social media posts receive the highest engagement with comments and shares? This will give you insight as to what to write and about and what to stop or rethink.
What content should be gated and ungated?
The age-old question – to gate or not to gate? The question should be answered based on your marketing goals and strategy. If you are trying to build awareness about your company, product or service, you want to have a good amount of ungated content. Why? Because putting up obstacles for people who are trying to get to know you probably won’t help you achieve your goals.
However, if generating leads is your goal, you’ll need to gate some of your content. This may deter some of the tire kickers who really aren’t interested in your help to solve their problem, but it will harvest those who are serious about solving a problem, who are seeking answers, and who are more likely to be a good prospect for you. When you gate content, be sure that you also have a plan for nurturing those leads. Most leads won’t turn around and buy from you immediately. You’ll need the right tactics to stay top of mind with them. Drip email campaigns and social targeting are effective ways to move leads down the funnel. You’ll need content for this.
How to think of great content ideas
Hopefully, you’re now convinced of the power of great content (and if not, keep reading!). One of the things we know people struggle with is how to generate great ideas for content that are relevant, useful, timely, and unique. It can seem daunting, but there’s a framework you can use that will help you think of lots of ideas in a relatively short amount of time. We call it the Content Ideas Toolkit and it will help you set your brand apart from your competitors. Here’s a sneak peek:
What types of content formats work best?
The answer is different for different companies and different buyers, but the consistent answer is that you’re probably going to need multiple content formats as part of your content marketing strategy. It’s also important to think about the story you want to tell through your content before you decide on the format. That way, you’ll be creating content that can best tell the story.
Format preference can change based on the stage in the buyer’s journey that a prospect is in. For example, in the awareness phase, a short video on social media may work well to catch their attention before they are actively searching for a solution. As they move into the consideration phase, a long-format blog post might work well to educate and inform them on the topic. In the decision phase, that same buyer might download a case study on how your product or service helped another company who faced the same challenge they are.
The more you match formats to your buyer preferences and your stories, the better your conversation and engagement rates will be.
Can I do content marketing on my own?
It depends. Many companies do. You’ll need to commit both time and talent if you want to do it right. You’ll need someone who can put together a content marketing strategy with thought around what types of content to create, for what purpose, and how to leverage the content across channels. You’ll need writers, designers, the ability to create landing pages and thank you pages, someone who deeply understands social media, videography and photography, and someone who can analyze the results of how your content is performing.
To be honest, content marketing done right requires a lot of time and is complex. If you’re doing it for the first time or trying to figure out why your content marketing hasn’t been profitable, it’s likely that you’ll make some mistakes.
Do you remember the first time you tried to golf? The more you do it the better you get. Content marketing is the same way. But if you don’t have the resources or time to do it in-house, consider hiring a marketing agency that has expertise on tap – and the time you need to dive deep, put together an awesome content marketing strategy, and help achieve your goals.