Content marketing has only become a digital marketing buzzword in the last few years, and much of that growth is due to the popularization of the inbound methodology.
Although traditional marketing depends on broadly targeted brand awareness campaigns and "interruptive" marketing messages like pop-up ads, inbound marketing is all about attracting prospects to your brand. In the traditional style, brands would focus on telling customers they had a problem and constantly remind them it existed. With new content marketing campaigns, though, you can skip this step. Customers know they have a problem—that's why they're looking at your brand—so it's more beneficial for your content to help them find the solution.
What is Content Marketing?
"Content marketing" encompasses any helpful content you create for your target audience, including articles, social media posts, infographics, emails and videos on your YouTube channel. These pieces of content will often be a part of different marketing campaigns but should be organized under a single content marketing strategy. The elements of your strategy often fall into two categories: content prospects find on their own and content you distribute to them. As a content marketer, you want to make sure you know how each can benefit you.
Content Prospects Find
Like we talked about before, the inbound methodology is all about attracting prospects to your brand. So creating high-quality content that's relevant to your potential customer's problem makes total sense. It's one of the easiest marketing tactics in the book!
There are a few ways you can help prospects find your content on their own, but the one that most brands start with is optimizing content for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) means you're discovering keywords your target audience uses to search for answers to their questions, then constructing relevant content so it shows up in those searches. This builds the "organic traffic" on your site, which is the clicks and views you aren't paying for through hired services (other than what you're investing in content creation).
Content You Distribute
Once your target audience has decided you're interesting, have lots of good information or simply publish great content, they'll be more intentional about engaging with you, boosting your conversion rates. This often takes the form of following your social media channels, downloading a lead generator or subscribing to your email marketing. Do not abuse the privilege of communicating with these prospects. They've taken a step toward trusting you, and your job is to continue providing value through effective, engaging content.
📺 Check out my interview with our Director of Marketing for some more insight on why content marketing works (and how he suggests proving it to your CEO). 👇
Why Does Content Marketing Work?
Content marketing's primary objective is to offer value to your target audience so they are more educated about their problem and available solutions, and so you're the first brand they think of when they decide to solve their problem. Providing value that relates to the products you offer—whether that's visual content, white papers or blogging—is a key part of attracting people to your brand.
After subscribers engage with you and decide your product could solve their problem, they move into the consideration and decision stage of their journey. This is when a key element of content marketing comes into play: trust.
I think we can all agree that most people want to buy from someone they trust. And usually, we don't trust people who immediately try to sell us something.
Imagine this: You're at the mall, on your way to Auntie Anne's for a mid-shopping snack. Suddenly, a random person steps toward you and beckons you over to their kiosk. They want you to try their "extremely rare" exfoliant taken straight from the Dead Sea. Are you inclined to trust that what they're selling is actually going to help your skin? Probably not, because they:
- Interrupted your journey toward the mouthwatering smell of fresh pretzels.
- Didn't let you discover their business on your own. You didn't walk over with a problem; instead, you were told their product would solve a problem you might not even have.
When you think of effective content, don't think of lead generation. Think of your content as a way to provide value to customers who are just looking for information. In other words, cater to your browsers. The people feeling the fabric and wandering around the store who you know probably won't buy anything today. But they will learn more about your brand and whether or not it can solve their problems in the future. This ability to think for themselves without added pressure is what builds trust with clients, whether you're B2B marketers, SaaS companies or a skincare kiosk in the mall.
How to Prove Content Marketing Works
Now that you're (hopefully) convinced content marketing works, the next step is getting your management team on board to invest in implementing a content marketing strategy. Content marketing is a long game. It can take three to six months to start seeing results from your efforts. This can make it harder to convince key decision-makers to invest the necessary time and money to flood your homepage with good content. Here are some steps that can help you secure their vote and set you on the path to content marketing mastery.
1. Emphasize Content Marketing’s Track Record
Content marketing isn’t the new kid on the block. Companies large and small in nearly every industry have successfully implemented it in their own marketing divisions. In fact, 70% of marketers say they're actively investing in content marketing services like HubSpot.
Buyers today are doing their own research online. No one is speaking with salespeople before they’re ready to buy because they don't have to. You want to be providing answers to a prospect's questions while they're searching to turn them into a customer. If your company guides people through the research phase and offers answers and insights they never thought to consider, you dramatically increase your chances of becoming the company they choose to do business with.
2. Demonstrate that Content Marketing Works for Your Industry
Often, leadership teams in mundane industries are convinced content marketing won’t work for them. But being one of the first in your industry to use content marketing can give you a huge competitive advantage.
To convince your team that content marketing can work for your company, first emphasize that it’s not about creating snazzy pictures to post on Instagram. (We're not looking for social media marketing.) It’s about being a company that’s ready and waiting to provide answers as prospects research options so you're who they turn to when they're ready to buy.
Next, find case studies of other companies in your industry that are successfully using content marketing. Case studies can provide real numbers to show the gains these companies are making. You can usually find these by searching for content marketing agencies with clients in your industry.
3. Mitigate the Risk
If you consider all the things you could possibly do with content marketing over the course of the next year, it can be overwhelming. Luckily, there’s no need to do everything right away. In fact, it’s smarter to be strategic and focus first on things that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Publishing informational blog posts, building a couple of lead magnets, generating case studies and creating a promotion strategy is enough to generate a return on investment for most businesses. Once you’ve proven initial success, you can build on your foundation and watch the snowball effect.
4. Agree on Goals and KPIs
Once you've gotten your team to buy into the value of content marketing, it's important that everyone agrees on how you'll determine if it's "working." Before you develop your content marketing strategy, define the goals you're chasing, and set key performance indicators that help you keep a pulse on your progress. It's important to understand and agree on these metrics with those you report to ahead of time so everyone from your content writer to your CEO understands the purpose of content marketing at your company and can support the time and investment it will require.
Content Marketing Isn't Going Away
Just as social media, micro-influencers and the availability of information online continue to become more and more ingrained in our culture, a content marketing plan full of valuable content is becoming non-negotiable for brands. Don't limit yourself to just blog content; your content marketing efforts can and should include different types of content including webinars, podcasts and social media. If you're not sure where to start, we'd be happy to walk you through a few of our tried and true content marketing strategies to see if they could benefit your business.