How does content marketing work?
Content marketing works by offering readers informative and useful material that provides insight and value. Using blogs, eBooks, social media posts, graphics and videos, content marketing attracts potential customers, keeps them engaged and moves them further along the sales funnel.
In 2019, 76% of marketers take a strategic approach to managing content. In other words, they use an approach that formalizes the processes, people and technologies needed to scale and deliver content. The top goals of a content marketing strategy are:
- Improving the customer experience.
- Generating and nurturing business leads.
- Supporting the organization’s goals and criteria for success.
As more organizations use content marketing, a strategic approach is necessary to maximize return on investment.
What is content marketing?
As a consumer, you’ve probably noticed that traditional marketing isn’t as effective as it was in the past. These days, TV and radio ads often consist of little more than a non-sequitur, a joke and a company logo. And the harder advertisers try to be funny, the more audiences cringe away.
It’s the same story online.
Roughly 40% of internet users deploy an ad-blocker on at least some of their devices. Meanwhile, 84% of millennials, who make up the largest group of consumers, say they don’t like or trust traditional marketing.
Content marketing overcomes the challenges associated with traditional methods by starting conversations rather than merely stating an offering’s unique value proposition:
- A traditional advertisement tells consumers what a company does and how it does it.
- Content marketing shares knowledge and actionable insights that help consumers understand why they should take action.
As part of a marketing strategy, content can take many forms, which we will discuss in detail below. No matter what shape content takes, it is most effective when it answers questions, provides deep insights and places the reader – not the product – at the center of attention.
Why use content marketing?
Because it works.
Compared to traditional marketing tactics, content marketing is better at creating value for consumers and brands alike. Some of the top benefits of content marketing include:
- Customer engagement: Content like blogs and landing pages captures web traffic from organic search, social media networks and other sources, such as live events.
- Brand awareness and thought leadership: Thoughtful content can establish your brand as a recognized industry leader.
- Lead generation and nurturing: Content campaigns keep potential customers interested and engaged throughout the sales cycle.
- Sales enablement: Content marketing efforts support sales conversations by providing potential customers with key knowledge and data.
These benefits can translate to any type of industry, in any market. When you know your customers well, you can craft engaging content that supports your business goals.
Who uses content marketing?
These days, just about everyone uses content marketing, whether they know it or not. It’s the companies with formalized strategies that stand to gain the most ROI from their efforts, however.
Both B2C and B2B marketers use content to reach and engage their target audience. Using strategies like audience segmentation, digital marketers can develop highly relevant content that drives leads.
Best-in-class content marketers are more likely to:
- Have a documented content marketing strategy (65%).
- Measure their content marketing ROI (72%).
- Deploy advanced content marketing technology (67%).
- Use technology to gain insight into audience behavior and preferences (73%).
Building a content marketing strategy from scratch, or even building upon an existing strategy, requires hard work, a scientific approach to analytics and a willingness to never stop learning.
What do content marketers do?
Effective content marketing utilizes several distinct skills to create cohesive campaigns. The best content marketers work in teams in which they can rely upon the expertise of several people.
A best-in-class content marketing plan can require the following skills:
- Subject matter expertise: Content marketers conduct deep research into industry trends, customer pain points and market conditions. They utilize print and digital sources, as well as interviews with established experts.
- Branding: Marketers need to know the brand voice and personality as if it were their own. They often create and maintain style guides.
- Search engine optimization: Content creators leverage keyword tools and similar technologies to ensure their work is easy to find on search engine results pages.
- Strategy and analytics: Marketers develop campaign strategies around themes, asset types and promotions. Every campaign should be tracked and monitored so that any insights gleaned can inform – and improve – the next one. Strategists use Google Analytics to identify which assets are working well, and which need to be refined.
- Production: Content creation requires a touch of artistry and a whole lot of creativity. Content campaigns often bring together writers, illustrators, graphic designers, videographers, actors and web designers, as well as many other talents.
As you can see, each of these skills can translate into many different types of collateral, from blog posts to animated videos. An effective marketing strategy relies on multiple forms of media to generate awareness and promote brand recognition.
Examples of content marketing that work
Identifying what type of content marketing is most relevant to your audience can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. When you take the time to understand your target customers and their needs, the ideas will flow.
Consider each of these tried-and-true content marketing channels to inspire your strategy:
Search-optimized blog posts are simple yet powerful tools for engaging your target audience. These top-of-funnel assets capture web traffic and address customer pain points within a branded digital environment.
Content writers leverage advanced SEO tools to identify the right keywords, topics, trends and perspectives. Then, they add industry subject-matter expertise to craft insightful pieces that provide readers with value. Interested customers will follow calls-to-action and internal links to learn more and eventually take action.
Once a blog is live, a strategist can monitor its performance using Google Analytics. If the data shows users bouncing (leaving the site) from the blog, it may indicate that the piece could use a stronger call to action.
Learn more about our approach to blogs.
eBooks and white papers
Mid-funnel content like eBooks and white papers provide readers with in-depth information and compelling research. As part of a larger content strategy, they help to pull readers further along the buyer’s journey.
Additionally, these longer pieces support lead generation when deployed as gated content. Readers can provide their name and email address in exchange for a free asset. To get these assets to rank in search, they should be accompanied by a supporting blog post.
Discover how to create beautiful and engaging eBooks and white papers.
Infographics and visual design
Today’s consumers live in a world of constant stimulation. So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that 95% of marketers believe visual content is more effective than text alone.
Infographics make it easier for readers to visualize and process complex data, which is often essential to the sales process. They can be shared on social media, or embedded in a blog post. Likewise, illustrations, graphic design and custom photography make written content more interesting.
Learn how to supercharge your content with visual elements.
Adults in the U.S. spend nearly six hours per day consuming video content. As a marketing tool, videos are highly engaging and capable of attracting a wide audience. Plus, B2B marketers report an average 73% ROI on their video content. These days, videos are appearing in more and more search engine results pages, which makes them great for attracting organic traffic.
Whether it’s live action or animation, video content allows brands to tell their story in an emotional, personality-driven manner.
Learn how to implement video content at every stage of the sales funnel.
Like white papers, case studies serve as mid-funnel content that encourages the reader to take further action. Beyond providing proof of service quality, case studies give readers a preview of what it’s like to work with a brand.
Check out some of our own case studies for inspiration.
Your website is your best marketing tool. It supports your business goals by providing a channel in which potential customers can learn about your offerings and make purchase decisions.
Landing pages dedicated to specific offerings and subjects are better at converting customers than your homepage. They provide targeted information that encourages further action. These pages are indexed by search engines, which allow users to find them easily. Effective landing page copy not only includes relevant information, but also strong calls to action.
Learn more about our unique approach to copywriting.
Newsletters and emails
Email marketing is one of the most-used channels because it offers brands a direct line to their customers. The latest trends in email marketing, such as increasing use of visual elements and personalization, are making the channel even more attractive.
The best email campaigns combine high-quality written and visual content with intelligent marketing automation.
Find out how to create powerful email marketing campaigns.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, Snapchat – the list of social media platforms seems to grow with each passing year. But does your brand need to have a presence on each one?
To gain the attention of your target audience and get them to convert, you have to understand where they exchange information online. Using knowledge of your industry verticals and the latest social media trends, you can pick the top two or three channels through which to promote your messages.
Social media campaigns often leverage user-generated content to promote greater levels of engagement. Likewise, influencer marketing can be an effective way to market to audiences who are generally resistant to advertisements.
Learn how to develop winning social media strategies.
This is a broad, yet nonexhaustive list of content types that may work for your brand. And who knows, additional content channels may emerge in the coming years. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of fast-moving trends and always have an eye to the future.
Now that you know how it all works, discover how content marketing drives sales to better understand your next steps. A formal strategy plus high-quality content will illuminate your path to a successful venture.