What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a conversation with your target audience. It humanizes your brand, adds
authority to your market perception and provides business intelligence you can act on.
What are your brand differentiators? What are your competitive advantages? Great, but how are you communicating them?
Content marketing grants businesses in every industry the opportunity to own high-value media sources. Websites, social media feeds, email newsletters and branded digital campaigns are platforms on which to tell your story, control your narrative and generate interest in your products and services.
You’re not competing for clicks; you’re aiming for market share.
Every image or perception attached to your brand, whether true or false, holds value. In a digitized world, it’s every company’s job to maximize positive user experiences and reduce customer pain points online.
Content is the mechanism for doing just that.
Through the publication and distribution of authentic, informative marketing assets like blogs, videos, white papers or infographics, you multiply digital touchpoints across every stage of the buyer journey: If someone has a question, they come to you.
That’s why content marketing exists – to serve prospects and customers the most relevant and memorable experience they can find on the web.
It’s not easy, but it works.
Your media properties should be making you money.
Every marketing campaign you embark upon and every asset you create should tie back to revenue. Because marketing budgets are heavily scrutinized and are frequently on the chopping block, you can’t afford to not report positive ROI on a regular basis.
Content marketing positions your company to perform more strongly in the marketplace, qualify sales-ready leads and amplify the metrics that matter most to your bottom line. So what can you expect when committing to content?
The latest trends show increased sales, shorter sales cycles, stronger customer loyalty and greater cost efficiency.
Depending on the size and scope of your content marketing investment, results can, of course, vary. But with a dedicated team of strategists, project managers and creatives on your team, the fine print of content marketing is ironed out and executed on for you.
To maximize the visibility into and reporting of ROI, every deliverable must be tracked from conception to creation to conversion. From there, you’re able to assign a specific dollar amount to each line of copy and every strategic decision. In this sense, executives will likely be grading content marketing on granularity: They need more data, more details and more reason to further invest in future campaigns.
On average, only 0.75% of general business leads result in closed revenue – content marketing is designed to increase that figure, and do so in less time.
Without content, you have nothing to market. Content creation is how you execute on great ideas and bring them to life for your audience.
The key to great content marketing, however, is to deploy assets that are multidimensional and repurposable. A white paper today may serve as a fine series of thematic blog posts tomorrow – you already have the information, you just need the aptitude to repackage and redeploy it for a new strategic goal.
And the list of assets is ongoing and ever-evolving. To fully customize your strategy, consider:
Analytics should feed into the content creation process and help dictate the next tactical steps in your campaigns. And each strategy should be benchmarked and updated to ensure it scales with the needs of your company, because the only thing more detrimental than no strategy is an outdated one.
Commercial results are, at a high level, the ideal goal, in which case, content marketing strategies should be geared toward:
Strategies can also be less overtly transactional in nature, whereby the goals may be:
Based on your immediate and long-term company goals, you may mix and match several of the above KPIs, as well as utilize a number of diverse asset types.
To create a strategy, you must identify what your goals are, where the content gaps in your industry lie and how much budget you’re able to devote to content. From there, it’s a matter of ideating and communicating the message you intend to get across, and then adjusting your approach based on what’s working and what isn’t.
Although social media is not a direct ranking factor, it is a mandatory constituent to content marketing, one that you cannot do without. Repeat, cannot do without.
Social media is the communication vehicle of the 21st century, and the diverse platforms on the market make it easy for companies of any size to select channels that best work for them.
For B2B marketers in highly niche spaces, LinkedIn is likely to be the platform of choice. On the B2C side, Facebook and Twitter may prove more worthwhile. Whichever route you select, ensure you don’t auto-post the same content across all platforms – followers treat your online presence differently relative to the app they’re logged into.
Marketers are now moving toward a more centralized mode of social sharing, putting their investments only in proven platforms they’ve actually found traction on. This correlates to higher line-item ROI and a more consistent experience for social followers. Integrating social distribution directly into the content marketing supply chain amplifies the total reach of your assets and allows you to quickly see how engaging your content is, while receiving real-time feedback from online users.
If Google uses 200+ ranking factors to determine the value of your web pages, where do you start with SEO?
Some ranking signals are stronger than others, and Google doesn’t often reveal the exact weight each one holds when it crawls and indexes your content. What we do know is that the top three factors are, in order:
In layman’s terms, everything you publish on the web needs to 1) generate reputable backlinks, 2) be of high quality and 3) have a strong click-through rate and dwell time.
You can’t do content without SEO, and you can’t do SEO without content – they are inseparable.
Other top ranking factors include:
From top to bottom, on-page content and its metadata should be optimized to inform search engines as simply as possible why each page of your site exists and what you are hoping users get from it. And as algorithms evolve to understand human search behavior, they become smarter at ranking content in search engine results pages (SERPs) in a way that serves users the best content every time.
This dynamic places a tight grip on content production – all assets must be optimized to provide the best possible experience on the web for each search term. There is no margin of error: It’s either complete, topical authority or nothing.
Channel distribution is paramount. Because SEO also comprises off-page factors like link building, brand mentions, social media and influencer marketing, the activity that happens on other domains impacts your content marketing success.
Promoting and amplifying your content far and wide is thus part and parcel of strategic content marketing – it’s never set it and forget it. You must consistently adhere to schedule and structure of getting your content out there in the world.
The channels available to you are plenty, including:
The channels you use should relate to where your audience actually is. And the only way of gaining additional insights into your target audience, their online habits and their pain points is to conduct detailed persona mapping.
Buyer personas present you with a multifaceted window into how your ideal customer wants to interact with your brand, whether he or she has purchasing authority and what types of content they’re most receptive to. This is vital business intelligence that serves not only the marketing department but the entirety of your company.
Many companies build content around a series of four or five distinct personas, with the ultimate goal being to hyper-target high-value leads with content that connects and converts. That means no more wasted efforts or unclear guidelines for content production.
Your online customers are more than just digital avatars – they are every bit as human as the employees in your company, so treat them as such.
Ask yourself: Who among your target buyers is a content consumer, who is an internal influencer and who is the pivotal decision-maker? These three personas require vastly different types of content.
Data is your decision-maker. If something works, run with it. If it’s falling flat, pivot.
Measuring the performance of your content is the only way to improve and learn as you go. All of the data at your disposal can be cycled back into content ideation discussions instead of relying solely on the topics you planned six months or a year ago – you are never locked in to your previous tactical decisions.
Managing workflows, web analytics and communications can be done via a content marketing platform of choice.
The Google suite of products (Analytics, Search Console, Drive, etc.) allows you, through tracking codes, to view real-time site metrics in a dashboard, import to a PDF or spreadsheet and share with stakeholders.
Management software for other components of the content lifecycle, such as email, social media and link building, should likewise be employed. Plus, most tools offer easy integrations with your core business platforms like ERPs and CRMs.
If you’re skimming various marketing blogs each morning, good for you. Really. But you must put all of your findings into action.
Content marketing can be a battle of trial and error, but you never know whether you’ve launched a winning campaign until you actually go through the process.
Although no strategy is one-size-fits-all, there are some general guidelines that every company can follow.
Many are free, and automation only makes your life easier. At Brafton, we typically operate every department, deliverable and distribution channel with some form of goal-tracking and auto-scheduling function.
Pro tips: Google Analytics, Pardot, Constant Contact, Sprout Social, Moz, SEMrush, BuzzSumo.
Everyone involved in the marketing and sales process should be clued into what, where and when content is going out the door. Content calendars that track the progress of editorial, video, graphics and social media schedules keep the wheels from coming off your marketing machine.
Content can serve the same purpose as these departments – it answers common questions, qualifies sales prospects and informs customers about new products and capabilities.
Knowing what types of questions the sales team hears on the phone or via email allows you to quickly create content around these types of pain points. You already know there is demand for this information, so your chances of marketing success are inherently higher from the start.
Marketing wins should, by default, be company wins. But how do you explain “more traffic” or “great blogs” to company execs who care only about the bottom line?
Weeding out vanity metrics that don’t actually influence revenue is step one. Make decisions, adjust campaigns and report progress confidently by framing web metrics in business language that everyone can understand, especially your boss.
Content marketing is not an overnight sensation. Don’t expect to see explosive growth in leads when you’re first embarking on a new marketing venture.
On average, it takes at least six months to see any form of real ROI – campaigns need time to perform. Additionally, you should be looking at year-over-year performance metrics to help determine your future investments, especially if you’re scaling up.
Do not jump ship just because you’re seeing little movement in the first few quarters.
There are so many dimensions to content marketing. Luckily, we have a Resource Center devoted to informing companies of every size and industry on the best practices, latest trends and quick tips to get the most out of your investments.
Among a million other things, you can learn: