It’s no secret that traditional forms of marketing are less effective than they once were for reaching your audience and converting leads into customers. That’s why content marketing has become a popular way for businesses to reach and engage their target audience.
Content marketing is an essential element of any marketing program. It helps your brand stand out in a noisy marketplace, attracts your customers’ attention, and fuels engagement. A strong content marketing strategy creates a consistent experience for your audience across every stage of their journey – from the offer in your email campaigns to the silver bullet your sales team uses to close a deal.
But the secret to success in content marketing lies in building and nurturing your customer relationships. The key is creating and delivering content that is focused on helping your customers, not selling to them. This focuses on trust and value, paired with a thoughtful, well-researched engagement strategy.
What is Content Marketing
Content marketing is all about storytelling.
Content marketing is the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing content to reach your target audience. As a business, this tactic can help improve your brand awareness, boost sales, connect with your target audience members, and engage prospects and customers. This means that content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.
Unlike other types of sales and marketing, content marketing makes people come to you rather than you reaching out to them (though there is some overlap between the two). That’s why content marketing is part of inbound marketing.
With content marketing, instead of developing ads that interrupt customers, companies create content such as:
- Blog posts & articles
- White papers & downloadable guides
- Youtube videos
This value can be provided in two ways – educational or entertainment content. In either case, customers have free access to content that provides value.
Let’s unpack the definition further to hone our understanding of its three most essential components:
- It is relevant to a target audience
To build and reinforce loyal, trusting relationships between your business and potential buyers, your content marketing efforts need to communicate with audience members on their terms and appeal to them based on their interests – not just the perspectives and priorities your business wants to further.
- It provides them with tangible value
Content marketing is most likely to succeed when it serves a specific and largely unmet need, like delivering critical information buyers are likely searching for, providing a tool or technique to make their lives easier, or guiding them through the steps of a complicated process they might have difficulty navigating.
- It is consistent
Even if you luckily find viral success with a single content effort, you can only sustain those gains if your content efforts remain consistent – meaning they are produced on an ongoing basis, delivered on a reliable schedule, and always aligned with the standards of quality, value, and purpose your audience expects.
7 Benefits of Content Marketing
Content marketing can be used by any business with an online presence. Any customer base you can imagine needs some kind of content, even if it’s just more information about a product or service. If you can provide that content, your brand will be the one those customers first engage with.
- Brand Visibility
- Brand Reputation
- SEO Visibility and Traffic
- Social Media Traffic
- Conversion Rate
- Customer Retention
- Return-on-Investment (ROI)
Content also serves a variety of different functions, so even if your business can’t benefit from one of the functions, it can probably benefit from at least some of the others. For example, if your customers don’t frequently read in-depth reviews before making a choice (such as in choosing a restaurant), you can still use the search engine optimisation (SEO) power of content marketing to drive more traffic to your restaurant’s website, increasing foot traffic and sales.
The point here is that any kind of business can benefit from content marketing, as long as you have the right goals and strategy in place.
Before we continue, let’s take a look at some content marketing statistics.
Let’s dive deeper into the 7 benefits of content marketing.
1) Brand Visibility
First up is brand visibility. This is an almost intangible quality in your target audience, but it’s vital if you want to increase your customer base. Producing, distributing, and syndicating content all help your brand get more exposure to potential customers, which increases the number of people familiar with your brand and increases that degree of familiarity. As people become more familiar with your brand, they’ll be naturally more inclined to purchase from you when the need arises or to recommend you to someone who has a need for your products or services.
2) Brand Reputation
Of course, merely being visible isn’t enough. If you want people to buy from your brand, they need to be able to trust it. The best way to earn that trust is through a demonstration of your authority, knowledge, expertise, or history, and as you may have guessed, content is a perfect outlet for this.
How you go about this depends on your company and your customer base, but HubSpot is a perfect example. HubSpot sells marketing and sales software, so its clientele is clearly interested in marketing and sales. They may know what they’re doing, to various degrees, but they’ll probably need partners to help them get the job done, and they aren’t going to choose just anybody. They want someone who’s a major authority in the space.
To address this, HubSpot gradually built up a massive content archive of how-to guides, tutorials, and case studies related to sales and marketing. They are now known as one of the biggest authorities in the industry and as a result, their brand is recognised by most online users as being both trustworthy and authoritative.
3) SEO Visibility and Traffic
Next, we can take a look at the ways content marketing can affect your rankings in search engines through SEO. SEO itself is a complex strategy, demanding frequent revision and work both on and off your website. The basics of content marketing, however, are relatively simple. Google looks at two things when it evaluates how to rank sites for a given user query – authority and relevance.
The higher these two factors are for a given site or individual piece of content, the higher it will rank in search results, and the more traffic it’s going to receive. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to maximise these two factors for relevant user queries. Content can help you do both.
Let’s take a look at the “authority” portion of the equation. Though the process is crazy complicated, the bottom line for authority measurement comes down to the quality and quantity of inbound links to a given URL. The more links you have pointing to your website, and the more trustworthy those origin sources are, the higher authority your website is going to have. On-site content helps you create “linkable” assets on your site to attract these links, while off-site content helps you build inbound links using a more controlled, manual approach.
Producing more content also helps you achieve higher relevance for more search queries. By writing content that serves common user needs or addresses common user queries, you’ll put yourself in front of more potential searchers. To use a fishing analogy, every new piece of content you create is like putting another hook in the water. To take this analogy one step further, the quality of that content is like the deliciousness of the bait on that hook. It’s pretty useless to have a hook in water without bait, and still useless to use ineffective bait. But once you have many hooks in the water with delicious bait, you’ll catch lots of fish.
4) Social Media Traffic
Social media marketing and content marketing are inextricably intertwined. You can use your content to help build a bigger, more relevant following on social media, and you can use your social media following to generate more traffic to your content, thereby making it more effective. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and one you should be taking advantage of.
The bottom line benefit here is that the more you engage in content marketing, the bigger your social media following is going to grow. You’ll get more social traffic as a direct flow of visitors, and you’ll have more potential consumers to reach when you have promotions or sales to advertise.
5) Conversion Rate
Your on-site content has another potential power if you choose to take advantage of it. Improvements in brand visibility and reputation can help you close more sales for your brand in a general sense, but what about the web visitors who are coming to your site for the first time? What about the visitors in the middle stages of brand awareness, who may not be fully convinced that your solution is the right one? How do you close the deal?
Content gives you a platform to highlight why your company is the right one for the job. An impressive piece of content that outlines your expertise in your industry is likely to leave a significant impression on an interesting prospect, giving them confidence in working with you as opposed to your competitors. But content doesn’t just help with closing sales. It also helps with other sorts of conversions, such as building your email list, getting phone calls, or contact form submissions from your audience. Within your content, you can include calls-to-action like “to learn more about this topic, download our comprehensive guide,” and exchange a digital asset (such as a whitepaper or PDF eBook) for an email address.
You can also include site-wide offers which display a pop-up, floating bar, or fly-in offer to your visitors to encourage them to sign up for your email list or exchange their email address to get their hands on your latest report, eBook, or other digital assets.
6) Customer Retention
Depending on how you use content marketing for your business, you can leverage its power to retain the customers you’ve already attracted, which for some businesses, is even more important.
For example, you can use your content as an exclusive value-add that keeps your customers around for a longer period of time. You may send out an exclusive email newsletter, or provide exclusive eBooks to people who have signed up for your service. This makes it harder for them to leave your brand, especially if none of your competitors is currently offering a similar benefit. You could also use content to increase your customers’ satisfaction with your products. You could include more help guides, tutorials, and ideas on how to use your products and services to keep users around for longer.
7) Return-on-Investment (ROI)
Perhaps the greatest benefit of content marketing is actually the power of compounding returns that content marketing offers. Content marketing isn’t a strategy that scales linearly. In fact, you’ll see a slow build at the beginning, followed by an exponential explosion of results.
Why is this? For starters, content marketing is about creating valuable assets which exist permanently. When you publish a landmark piece of content off-site, that doesn’t go away. It continues to add value in terms of referral traffic, domain authority, and brand visibility over time. For example, a blog post which was written in 2014 is still popular and still generating traffic and shares. Because there are new pieces and information being added consistently, every new piece you add contributes to more long-term value. You can think of it as buying new stocks in a company that pays dividends consistently.
Another factor is the nature of visibility and reputation, both of which will affect the impact of your campaign. The more visible and reputable your brand is, the more you’ll stand to benefit from each new piece of content you publish. It takes a while to build these from scratch, which is why you generally don’t see results right away, but once you hit a certain threshold, everything you create instantly starts to carry more value. Think of how many shares and views every article gets from a major site like Mashable. It doesn’t even really matter how good the content is, it’ll get tons of shares and views.
The longer you engage in a content marketing strategy, the better results you’re going to see. It’s not like a paid advertising campaign, where you only pay for what you get in the moment.
How Does Content Fit in Your Marketing Plan
Content marketing can’t function at its best in a vacuum nor is it meant to be a replacement for other promotional techniques. Content works best when it operates in a cooperative capacity – when it is used to fuel and complement your other marketing efforts in alignment with your overarching business goals.
For example, content marketing works well with:
- Demand generation
- Native advertising
- Branded content
- Product marketing
- Account-based marketing
- Social media
- Inbound marketing
- Public relations
- Influencer marketing
If you can successfully write up a content strategy and put it to action during the initial launch, you’ll instantly be in a better position than the majority of content marketers currently competing for visibility.
Content marketing is a recursive process. Every action you take will yield a reaction and you can use that reaction in a feedback loop to improve your next set of actions. Because of this, you need a strong start and a strong foundation.
Get started on building a powerful content marketing strategy for your business or brand with our 2-day intensive and hands-on course by Content Marketing Specialist, Walter Lim – Professional Certification in Content Marketing & Copywriting.