Content marketing can mean different things to different people, but in order to constructively discuss its benefits and importance, let’s agree on the following definition.
According to the Content Marketing Institute:
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – to drive profitable customer action.”
With this definition in mind, it’s clear that you need to create content that reflects your marketing goals and is customized to help further customers along your sales funnel.
For example, customers new to your brand need content that builds awareness of your product and company. In contrast, customers further along on their journey, e.g. who have made a purchase, need content geared towards increasing the efficiency of future purchases.
But what makes content marketing so important, and how will it benefit your brand? This article will break it all down, as well as provide insight into what’s most important to a strong content marketing strategy.
Why is Content Marketing Important, and What Are the Most Popular Types?
The idea of content marketing has been around for hundreds of years. One of the earliest recognized forms of content marketing was started in 1895 by John Deere — a magazine called The Furrow.
This magazine offered readers helpful information on farming and built a worldwide community for the brand — which is still going strong today.
The main goal of any type of content marketing is to build trust with consumers by creating content that solves their problems, as well as captures and sustains their attention.
In many cases, your content should not directly promote your brand. Instead, you should create content that offers value to readers — be it through solving an issue, providing education, or delivering entertainment. If executed well, over time, your customers will become brand advocates for your business.
Most importantly, content marketing is a long-term endeavor. Some of the most successful brands had to create content for months or even years before they started to gain real traction — which is quite normal, as trust can't be earned overnight.
As content marketing is a broad term that describes how businesses choose to connect to their audience, let’s touch on some of the most important types.
1. Social Media
Well-known social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are excellent venues for brands to connect with their target audiences.
And with over 3.6 billion global social media users, businesses need to be consistently evolving and improving their social content in order to keep up with trends. Everything from photos to live videos to stories to written posts needs to be on-point.
The goal of social media is to build connections using social interaction by involving consumers in more informal communication with brands. If you can achieve this while still remaining true to your brand personality and identity, then social media will be a great venue for your content marketing efforts.
Scientists believe that the average person living today processes 74 GB of information on a daily basis — that’s the equivalent of watching 16 movies. Of the information processed, 90% is visual because our brains actually prefer visual imagery — like photos, graphics, and scenery — to text.
Thus, it follows that presenting your content in a visual format is a great way to encourage consumers to connect with your brand.
As a general rule, infographics are visual presentations of knowledge aimed to deliver your content in a concise, visually-pleasing format. The graphics used help readers understand complicated processes and, by displaying information in an interesting manner, you’re able to attract and sustain users’ attention.
Since our brains capture and process visuals and images more quickly than text, infographics are an effective way to educate consumers and build brand awareness.
According to Pearson, “65% of buyers are visual learners — meaning they absorb the most information when they look at an image, graphic, or video”. That being said, infographics are “30 times more likely to be read in their entirety than blog posts or news articles”, making them an effective tool in a good brand manager’s arsenal.
Blogs are a powerful venue for sharing content, as they allow for both purpose and topic creativity. With entries laid out in chronological order, blogs are a useful tool for online reflective learning. They also allow us to broadcast our content to a wider audience.
Blogs allow you to promote other internal and external blog articles through links and social share buttons, making it possible to educate and inform consumers about your company's activities. Additionally, blogs have no time limitations — it belongs to you, and you’re not obliged to post according to anyone else’s rules.
Through frequent content refresh, SEO optimization, and social media sharing, your blog posts can earn you an impressive number of website visitors. The key to success is to create content based on user intent and at what point they are in your sales funnel.
A 2020 survey by Edison Research discovered that 49% of 12 to 32-year-olds in the U.S. had listened to a podcast within the last month. That’s a lot of potential customers to capture.
Being an auditory medium, podcasts are a great way to connect with consumers on a wide array of topics. While there are no real rules on what kind of content podcasts needs to offer, many marketers use them to promote their products or services in fun, engaging ways.
While a podcast itself is made up of a series of episodes, the average episode lasts from 10 minutes to more than two hours — depending on the topic and speaker's format. Though many people prefer to release new episodes on a weekly basis, others release daily or monthly episodes.
Ideally, a podcast should entertain as well as educate. Even when discussing serious topics, hosts should aim to engage their audience by adding humor and enthusiasm.
A great podcast feature? Audience members who subscribe to your podcast are notified when new episodes come out. Straightforward and relatively inexpensive to produce, podcasts are a great option for content marketers who want to reach wider audiences.
Additionally, podcasts allow for independence and flexibility since you get to choose the topic, guests, and the number of episodes to record.
5. Video Content
Video content marketing is a great choice for those that want to build and engage with a community that is less interested in reading blog posts or website copy.
Wyzowl’s research found that an incredible 69% of consumers say they prefer learning about a brand’s product or service through video format. Therefore, it makes sense that video marketing boosts conversions, improves ROI, and helps foster a relationship with target audiences.
Additionally, video is great for explaining complex processes in a simple manner, allowing for a wider array of potential customers to become familiar with your brand.
Pro Tip: Video content marketing best practice is storing all videos in an easily accessible, central location — but also distributing them across different channels.
E-books, or brand guides, are just like regular books but displayed in an electronic format. Most frequently containing text, e-books can also include images, audio, or videos. You can also choose from a variety of formats — such as a PDF, PDA, or epub — and users can download them for free or a fee.
Because e-books offer a thorough understanding of a topic without forcing users to seek information from multiple sources, they are a popular medium for content marketing. Additionally, they function well as lead magnets.
Many brands choose to “gate” their e-books, meaning those who download them have to provide certain contact information — which will come in handy when retargeting with email marketing.
Finally, e-books do a great job of establishing your brand as a thought-leader in your industry, providing valuable information and resources for free.
A brand whitepaper is a type of content marketing that exists somethere between a brochure and a report. The goal of this type of content is to educate readers and promote a brand’s product or service.
When it comes to topics, there really are no limitations for whitepapers, as long as it makes sense for your brand marketing strategy. Most brand managers love whitepapers, as they are often quite successful in creating leads and establishing dominance in your industry.
Most importantly, effectively written whitepapers help readers better understand the topic at hand, learn about the benefits of purchasing a product/service, and solve problems.
Again, many brand managers choose to “gate” their whitepapers, requiring readers to provide their contact details. In the end, whitepapers are an effective way to educate consumers and drive sales.
How Content Marketing Drives Sales
Over the past year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many brands to focus more heavily on content marketing in order to drive sales.
By creating engaging, credible content that provides value to readers, content marketers can introduce more users to their sales funnel — which provides more prospects for the Sales team to convert.
So, how exactly does content marketing help drive sales?
It Attracts Website Traffic
Content marketing increases website traffic by building awareness of your brand.
Modern consumers have shied away from sales-oriented marketing messages almost completely. Instead of waiting for companies to reach them through advertisements, customers prefer to proactively search for the products and services they want.
Although some users search for specific brands and products, many are researching more general phrases, like "the best running shoes" or "the cost of content marketing".
If you create content that speaks to your users’ intent and is optimized for the right keywords, you’re far more likely to be found by potential prospects. Content marketing not only increases traffic but also adds qualified leads and drives sales.
It Answers Potential Customers' Questions
When a potential prospect discovers your brand online, they usually start by exploring your content. From your “About Us” page to your blog posts to your product video, it all tells a story of who you are as a brand.
Over time, high-quality content will answer potential customers’ questions and, if your answers fit their needs, you’ll be able to build trust. In short, your content should prime your prospects to make a purchase.
It Increases Conversion Rates
The final step of the buyer’s journey — the purchase — is hard to come by. Getting consumers to this stage requires nurturing. How do you do that? By creating content focused on each of the previous buyer stages.
From awareness to consideration to usage, you have to have high-quality content for each stage. Most consumers don’t hear about a brand and make a big purchase on the same day. They need to be convinced that your brand offers them the solution they’re looking for at the best price and quality — that’s the job of content marketing.
By bringing in newsletter subscriptions and content downloads, content marketing does its part to drive sales and increase conversion rates.
How To Implement Content Marketing In Your Overall Strategy
Instead of simply promoting your products or services to generate sales, a well-executed marketing strategy provides valuable content to customers — content they want to consume and share.
The core of your marketing strategy should be able to answer the following questions: Why are you creating content? Who is your audience? How will your product/service improve the quality of your customers’ lives?
When you’re able to answer all of these questions with confidence, you’ll understand how content marketing fits. Still, it’s important to know what elements you need to include to integrate content marketing successfully.
1. Set Content Goals
While it’s always good to publish new content, you need to know what you want to achieve. To be fair, each piece of content can have a different goal. For instance, you might create some content to build awareness and other content to convert leads. Either way, you need to tailor your content to its goal.
Additionally, you must decide if you’ll go for the long-form or short-form content. Long-form content often garners more traction since it delves deeper to answer customer questions.
Pro Tip: It helps to outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you strive to reach your content goals. That way, when you hit a roadblock, you have already thought of some ways to overcome it.
2. Conduct Keyword Research
Before you start to get into the nitty-gritty of your content marketing strategy, you need to conduct thorough keyword research.
Search all the important keywords related to your product, service, and brand using Google Trend API and make an extensive list of them. Decide which ones are top tier and which ones are second and third tier. The most important keywords should have more content right off the bat.
Pro Tip: Update your keywords lists regularly, as it’s important to include new keywords you discover. Plus, you can get ideas for new content to publish.
3. Create Brand Guidelines
In order to ensure that your content marketing materials support your brand, you must create brand guidelines. This way, each and every piece of content you release will have a consistent voice, tone, and personality.
It’s important to be as detailed as possible, that way new colleagues can get on board with your branding quickly. Include details like the spelling and capitalization of your brand name, how many/what type of images are used, and how which colors should be used in branded materials.
4. Hire High-Quality Content Creators
It’s very important that you don’t skimp on the talent. You need to hire professional content marketers to create quality content, as everything you publish reflects back on your brand. Top-notch content will attract higher-quality prospects and keep them coming back for more.
Pay close attention to your target audience and create content maps. Every piece of content should be created with a specific target audience in mind. Then, create your content map — this is where you outline consumers’ needs and their content engagement cycle.
Pro Tip: You might also want to map out content to target them in later stages of their buyer’s journey.
5. Make a Plan for Promotion
Before you release new content, you need to determine exactly how you will promote it. Paid ads? Partnerships with other brands? Newsletter blasts?
A good promotion plan should include all the platforms you’ll use to tell your story, plus the processes, criteria, and objectives for each. Additionally, it should also touch on how you will align all promotions to ensure a uniform brand tone.
Although driving sales is the ultimate goal of all marketing efforts, as a content marketer, your focus should be on creating valuable, engaging content for your customers.
Thus, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of your target audiences. Once you understand their wants and needs, you can create the kind of content that speaks to them.
And if you’re looking for a reliable, low-effort way to learn more about your target audience, consider using brand tracking software to gather the data you need to succeed.