What is Content Marketing?
Written by Luke SmithJul 07, 17
You’ve probably heard the term “Content Marketing” thrown around a lot lately; and as the most recent buzzword in an industry full of buzzwords, your scepticism is well justified. But, as we’ll explain, content marketing is worthy of both the hype, and your attention.
With the help of some of the brightest marketing minds across the world wide web, we've put together this article to help clarify exactly what content marketing is; how it works; and, how it can benefit your business.
Diving right in – there are 3 key ways content marketing impacts our businesses and our customers:
- It builds trust with your audience
- Improves customer experiences
- Increases brand loyalty
Bottom line: Content marketing shows your customers that you actually care. But, to get to the bottom how it does this, we’ll walk you through the industry jargon to bring you a (relatively) unbiased view of Content Marketing and how companies are using it to drive engagement, loyalty and sales.
Table of contents
What exactly is Content marketing?
To paraphrase the Content Marketing Institute: ‘content marketing is the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant and engaging content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action’.(1)
Which is a great explanation, if you’re a marketer, but what content actually does and how it works might be lost on some people (myself included). To better understand this definition, It’ll help to clearly define what we mean by content: Specifically, content refers to blogs, images, graphics, social media posts, videos, podcasts, white papers, lead magnets, anything that can be shared and consumed, really.
How does it work?
It’s all about Trust
These days, the average shopper is doing the majority of the research. They educate themselves, evaluate their options and make a choice based on the brand they trust to provide the best solution to their problem.
Breaking it down into it’s most basic form, content marketing is about delivering value to your audience and is the fastest way to build relationships and establish trust. By engaging and educating your audience with content they’re interested in, chances are they’ll be significantly more likely to make a purchase.
More specifically, this content helps businesses improve relationships and move customers through the sales funnel: delivering value before, during and after a purchase; improving the customer experience, and their overall satisfaction.
Delivering value prior to purchase
- Solving a problem for them
- Answering a question
- Providing them with information, tools and/or resources
- Sharing interesting and engaging content
Helping your customer make a decision and evaluate their options
- Educating them on the benefits of your product/service
Or, by delivering value after a purchase
- Helping them use your product
It all starts with an understanding of your customer
Anyone can write a blog. Content only becomes valuable when it serves a purpose and has been created to solve a problem of the target audience. Armed with a deep understanding of the audience, their needs and the problems they face, content marketers are able to create engaging pieces of content that appeal to the needs and interests of the demographic.
Basically you want to create content that will attract customers to your business, with the aim of building relationships that hopefully lead to sales. Content marketing allows you to narrate to your target audience and explain how your product/service fits into their lives.
To explain it in some marketing jargon: Content helps potential customers find brands, products and services they are interested in; and, helps move customers through the sales funnel. By recognising the unique needs of your customers at each stage of the funnel, you’ll be able to create and delivering content that addresses their questions and reinforces the positive associations with your brand as a trustworthy and reputable business.
Armed with an understanding of your audience, their interests and concerns, you’ll be able to create content that targets these aspects of the demographic. Creating content that your audience is already looking for and interested in. Increasing search visibility with a blog that answers a problem, or a Facebook post they find interesting, entertaining, engaging, or educational.
Before a customer makes a purchase, they’ll weigh up their options, conduct research and educate themselves. This is your opportunity to educate them on why your product is better than the competition and to help them make an informed decision.
At this stage, the customer is actually making the purchase. With an accurate understanding of your customers and their stage in the funnel, you can create tailored content that caters towards an audience with a deeper understanding of your product or service. Case studies, white-papers and testimonials are some examples of content used to encourage customers to make a purchase.
Improve customer loyalty and experience by delivering content that helps a customer use your product. Turn your customers into brand ambassadors and capitalise on the power of word of mouth.
7 Reasons you should be using content marketing
1. Nobody likes being advertised to
A by-product of the digital age is that consumers are much more aware of marketing tactics, and often reject overt or pushy sales techniques completely. With 99.9% of banner ads never being clicked, and 81% of emails never opened, it’s clear that modern consumers can tune-out marketing and simply ignore it. According to research by Tivo, just 38% of their users watch a TV program in its original timeslot, that time shift approach allowing users to avoid the ad breaks completely.
Think about the cost of those TV ads, they have not dropped in price, but far less people are watching them, so the value of even high profile traditional advertising is going down, quickly. In this new world for marketing, a different approach is needed, and that is to build a rapport with the audience through communication rather than simple sales messages. That means content that is entertaining, informative or adds value for your audience in some other way, building that connection without annoying or burning out your audience.
This content first approach is borne out by recent research from Nielsen, which shows consumer trust in traditional media advertising to have fallen to unprecedented low levels, with consumers simply rejecting the sales messages through mistrust or dislike. With 90% of OECD consumers preferring to trust brands recommended by friends compared to just 10% from ads themselves, that is a huge barrier to overcome, and a good indicator of why ads are becoming so much more ineffective over time.
Content marketing leverages that 90% of people, by ignoring the sales messages for the most part and focusing on delivering content that is valuable, whether that be information that your audience will be interested in or entertainment through funny, engaging content. Because it is useful, rather than a bland marketing message, then that is the content they will share with friends, and that is how your brand can be recommended to others, and trust built with a growing audience, all without any overt sales messages at all.
A recent Roper Public Affairs study found that for more than 80% of business decision makers, they liked to receive company information through a series of articles as opposed to through an ad or straight marketing material. In fact, 70% suggested that the content marketing approach made them more connected with the brand, while 60% believed that content marketing allowed them t make better purchasing decisions. That is true marketing power, not just to individual customers but in the B2B world as well.
2. Great content builds trust, improves customer experiences and increases brand loyalty
Content marketing should never be a sales pitch, or used as a disruptive message, the idea is to build a relationship with the audience, and that means delivering great content that your target audience will find useful.
This approach allows you to help your audience achieve their goals, give them knowledge they will find valuable, or deliver entertainment that they will enjoy, the key is that is content they desire and value, because by giving them that, it builds a connection with your brand, that you are to be trusted and remembered.
A leading content marketing expert, Jay Baer, calls this approach ‘Youtility’, and it describes a content marketing strategy that always places the customer’s needs and desires first, even if it means recommending another service, whether that is from a competitor or a completely different industry. Because by doing that, you are demonstrating that your brand is one to be trusted.
By delivering that valuable advice, information and entertainment without asking for anything in return, trust is built organically, and deliver the word-of-mouth brand recognition that is so valuable in today’s marketing world. You are creating high quality, long-term customers who will happily spread your message and raise your brand awareness in the future.
Breaking it down into its most basic form, content marketing is about delivering value to your audience, that means giving them a reason to visit your site amongst the many they can visit, and choose your products over the competition, and is the fastest way to build relationships and establish trust. By engaging and educating your audience with content they’re interested in, that is, giving them information or other content that they value, chances are they’ll be significantly more likely to make a purchase.
By delivering value before, during and after a purchase, content helps businesses improve relationships and move customers through the sales funnel, This process is all about improving the customer experience, as well as increasing their overall satisfaction.
- Delivering value prior to purchase;
- Providing answers to questions they’re already looking for
- Helping your customer make a decision and evaluate their options
- Educating them on the benefits of your product/service
- Or, by delivering value after a purchase;
- Helping them use your product
3. Content fulfils a desire for more information
These days, the average shopper is doing the majority of the research before making a purchase. They educate themselves, evaluate their options and make a choice based on the brand they trust to provide the best solution to their problem.
This is the challenge that markets must meet today, and you can do that by providing the great content that will engage, educate and inform your audience. In other words, you must provide the content you know they will actually be searching for.
4. Content improves SEO and drives traffic to your site.
Understanding how consumers find your brand or offer is crucial to creating the most effective marketing solution, and here recent research can help. It showed that 97% of consumers take the time to research their purchase through local searches to find the best offer in their area. In addition, more than 80% researched products online before making a purchase, and this use of search engines tells us a simple fact.
If your marketing approach is not focused on ensuring your business appears high up in those searches, you are not going to get the results you want, however good your campaign is technically. 44% of small businesses do not have a website at the moment, you want to be in the other 56%.
5. Content Marketing Delivers Strong ROI
Once you’ve created your engaging content, it doesn’t require any maintenance and will continue generating traffic. Contrast this with traditional paid advertising campaigns, which last a few days and then are done, gone forever. Content marketing is also more cost-effective, with a study by Kapost & ELOQUA showing that content marketing produces 3 times more leads than SEM per dollar spent, and overall costs are 30% less, making content marketing both cheaper and more effective.
That saving is not just in the short-term either, Marketo recently revealed that brands that had excellent brand nurturing results through content marketing spent a third less on their overall marketing campaigns than other businesses, while at the same time generating close to 50% more leads during those campaigns. Not only that, but the customers themselves prove more resilient, with leads acquired through brand nurturing making 47% larger purchases than other lead types.
6. Content positions your businesses as a leader in your industry
”Establishing a reputation as an expert, authority and thought leader is extremely valuable to your business.” (4)
A great example of a thought Leader is Mark Zuckerberg (founder & creator of Facebook), a thought leader for the digital industry. He is recognised as an authoritative figure in social media and seen as a go-to person for his expertise. That is, when he discusses social media, people listen because he is viewed by the majority as an expert. That is the position you should seek in your own field. However, to create authority, you need to be considered trustworthy by your audience.
7. Content Marketing feeds your social media strategy
The other beautiful thing about content marketing is that it feeds your social media strategy, and the two approaches work together in harmony to deliver outstanding results Think of your content, whether it is a video, an article or whatever, it can be sued on all your social media to build your brand and engage your audience.
Your long blog post can be split up, with a single paragraph or important idea being used on various social media platforms as content in its own right. Maybe the initial content included images too, you can share the image and link back to the blog, you can paraphrase the important points, show a clip of a video, anything you need. Your longer content is a fountain of smaller content for your audience on all social media platforms, and that synergy not only saves you time and money, but is incredibly effective too.
It's just not possible to continually create content solely based on your product/service 24/7. The concept behind content marketing is to create content based on the interests of your target audience, then tie this back to your industry and encourage customers to take action and get in contact with you: Call to action, email, call, quote etc. Demonstrating the quality of your service.
Content Marketing simply doesn’t deliver results overnight. You need to be patient, it's a long-term tactic and the results will take time to show.
If you need some help getting things sorted or getting it all down on paper, then get in contact with the team here at IST. Call 9443 2221 or Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for the next part in our series, How to Create Great Content.