Content Marketing: The Complete Guide to Content Success
Content is considered as the king of every marketing strategy. Content marketing offers an enormous opportunity for businesses to achieve their ultimate goal. Here in this guide, you will get to read everything about content marketing that is important for a brand to grow. Let's have a look.
You must have heard of Michelin Star restaurants, especially if you have seen the popular MasterChef series. And you might have even thought of visiting one someday to know just how good three Michelin star rated food tastes! But do you know that this world-famous rating system only exists as a direct result of content marketing?
It all began in early 20th century Paris, with a Tyre company founded by two brothers who had a dream to make it big in the automobile industry. The Michelin brothers did not know then that the ‘Michelin Guide’ that they developed for hungry explorers, featuring content and tips along with restaurant recommendations to market their product (which was tyres all along) would one day become the most reputed guide book for culinary enthusiasts across the world!
And that is the power of content marketing! But what is it??
Fundamentals of Content Marketing
Let us start at the very beginning. What is Content Marketing? It is a unique marketing approach that involves conceptualizing, developing, and distributing varied forms and pieces of content to provide value to a target audience in a relevant, consistent, and continuous manner.
Unlike other forms of marketing such as Advertising, that focus on promoting the brand, content marketing deals more with providing utility to the customer.
Rather than pushing the brand or its offerings to the consumers, marketers can pull their target market to their products and services, with the use of customer-relevant content! This is why content marketing is attributed to driving long-term customer engagement, loyalty, and retention.
Let’s say you are scrolling through the internet, maybe in search of a particular product or simply browsing aimlessly. And you come upon an informational video showing you how to make a 3-ingredient dessert with Cadbury’s cocoa powder, some milk, and sugar.
Or you stumble upon a short blog discussing the relevance of using marketing automation tools. Or maybe, you discover an Ebook providing a detailed explanation about the ins and outs of content marketing!
We don’t even realize it but most of our content consumption on the web is directly linked to someone’s content marketing efforts! And that is the beauty and effectiveness of this marketing strategy.
Content marketing evolved to educate the customers and provide insightful information to them in an engaging format. Since it is not focused on selling to the buyers but instead providing them with usable and actionable insights, content marketing builds trust between the prospects and the brand which facilitates organic conversions. We will delve deeper into this in the coming sections.
A key aspect of this strategy is to provide unique value to the target market to drive favorable customer action in the future.
Let’s go back to your content consumption experiences on the internet. Perhaps after watching the video on baking the tastiest brownie, you considered buying the Cadbury cocoa powder and experimenting with it at home. Maybe, once you were introduced to the benefits of marketing automation tools, you began reading more blogs to understand which would be the perfect marketing automation software for your business.
After reading the Ebook explaining the concepts and effectiveness of content marketing, you probably decided to develop your content marketing plan to accelerate business growth.
In all these cases, the content you consume doesn’t try and convince you to purchase an offering. Instead, it provides relevant value to you, thereby leading you to a product or service which can help you meet your needs!
This is because content marketing incorporates a ‘Pull marketing’ strategy which makes the customers actively seek a product and create demand for it. But the question remains, is this approach more effective than marketing approaches such as direct selling, advertisements, and trade shows that focus almost exclusively on ‘Push marketing’ techniques?
This brings us to another fundamental question. Why Content Marketing at all? To answer this question we need to understand how customers prefer to make purchase decisions. Since the advertisement industry gained new ground in the 1980s, its evolution and presence have only increased over the years.
Consider your own experience with ads. Don’t you skip the YouTube advertisements as soon as it provides you with an option to do so? How many times have you ignored an email from a company trying to sell its products to you, or closed the pop-up ads that flash-up at your screen the moment you open a new website? Do you even wait to read what they have to offer?
No, right? And that’s exactly how every person behaves when it comes to traditional marketing methods. As per Demand Metric’s report, 86% of people skip TV ads while 91% of them unsubscribe from company email lists. With such a large number of people ignoring traditional marketing methods, marketers need to start adopting better practices to drive conversions.
Imagine this, you click on a YouTube video and a Coca Cola ad plays, but you are too eager to watch the video so you skip the ad. The video is a web series on trekking and the trekkers drink Red Bull every time they get thirsty. Next time you get thirsty on a sunny day in the playground with your friends, which drink are you going to buy? A Red Bull of course!!
Red Bull 1, Coca Cola 0.
Why? Because it’s better to pull customers to the product rather than push the product onto them.
And that is where content marketing comes into play! Content marketing has proven to be more efficient in eliciting a response from the target demographic than traditional forms of marketing.
As per the mentioned study, it is 62% less costly and results in approximately three times more leads! This is because most people prefer to engage with genuine value-providing content before seeking out an offering since it allows them to be in control of their purchase decision journey.
As marketers who truly understand what their customers need, you can craft highly engaging and useful content to lead them to your offering without depending on expensive traditional marketing methods.
You can use content to create strong first impressions, build trust in the brand, nurture engagement levels, and cultivate high brand loyalty! Which is why content marketing is taking a stronghold in the marketing world.
Now that we have understood why content marketing is preferred by most marketers, let’s try and understand the role it plays in solving some common problems faced by companies.
Common Problems Solved by Content Marketing
Over several decades, content marketing has continuously evolved to address several challenges that marketers continuously face on a day-to-day basis. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems it solves.
Improve Brand Visibility, Awareness, and Preference
Your marketing department works hard and fast to keep up with the emerging trends in the digital marketing world to keep the brand relevant and prevalent in the consumer’s minds. But with thousands of companies over-crowding the market, how do you ensure that your brand is considered and preferred by your target customers?
Take the example of Zomato. It has to compete with well-known brands such as Swiggy, Postmates, etc. to keep developing its brand and hold on to its position in the food-aggregator business. And one important way it manages to do that is through its original and fun content marketing initiatives, especially on its social media pages!
Its relatable and funny tweets, sprinkled with several pop-culture references have garnered the company 1.4 million followers on Twitter! This allows it to have free access to a large base of its customers who tune in regularly for updates from the company!
This is the strength of content marketing. If done correctly, it can enable you to connect with a large group of people on a personal level where they trust your brand and actively seek out your solutions.
A very important aspect of improving brand visibility and preference through content marketing is understanding your target market, their behavior, and personas, and then strategizing a content plan that connects with them in the most efficient, accessible, and personal manner.
By doing so, you can attract a highly loyal customer base who will further promote your brand through word-of-mouth marketing. Thus, content marketing can be highly effective in generating organic interest in the brand and facilitating further engagement and interactions with the audience!
Increase Organic Reach and Search Volume
As mentioned, content marketing elicits organic interest in a brand. Let’s see how this can prove to be highly beneficial for a company.
More than half of the website traffic for any company comes from organic search. This is the traffic that is unpaid for and which results from the visitor finding the website on their search results. This might sound like an easy process but with billions of websites on the internet, it can be really hard for brands to rank on the top positions of a search query.
This is where content marketing helps push the needle forward! By creating consistent, search engine optimized content for the website you can get your web pages ranking high and attract higher traffic organically.
Take for example a marketer searching for information on how to improve their email marketing skills. They are taken to a blog developed by HubSpot which discusses general techniques to increase open rates and click rates of marketing emails. This marketer learns some new tips and goes digging for more information about the same. They land on another blog talking about automating emails and personalizing them in bulk for each client.
This leads them to a third blog which discusses how HubSpot enables email automation to increase leads and conversions! They end up reading more guiding material and case studies provided on their site and decide to sign up for their service.
This entire process starting from searching for some general information to buying a solution offering started with an organic search and was facilitated by content marketing powered by strong keyword research!
And that is exactly how you as a marketer can marry content marketing and keyword strategy to drive your organic search volume. By understanding the information, you can develop SEO content for your website and drive organic traffic to a particular web page and guide these visitors across the marketing funnel.
This process is not simple in execution unless you have all the right ingredients analyzed and mapped out to put into play. But when done correctly, they can yield astounding results!
Build Credibility, Authority, and Strong Customer Relationships
A major barrier in the communication between a brand and its customer is the lack of trust. Nobody trusts businesses anymore and everyone is aware that at the end of the day a brand is run by a business. This is why most people ignore advertisements and are numb to the everyday messages that hundreds of brands send their way.
In such a scenario content marketing can be very effective in building a brand’s credibility and expertise in the market. But why so?
Customers don’t trust advertisements because they are aware of the intention behind these promotional materials. They know that people making ads want them to purchase a product or service in return for the consumer’s hard-earned money. This keeps them from being loyal to one particular brand and they keep switching from one brand to another because of a lack of connection.
But content marketing works best because it removes this suspicion from the consumer’s minds. By providing highly relevant and personalized information to prospects, be it through articles, customized emails, or engaging social interactions, marketers provide value with no strings attached! When the target audience realizes that the company is not trying to sell them a product through their content, they instinctively develop positive sentiments and trust for the brand, which results in long term relationships.
However, content marketing as a tactic takes prominence in the world markets, many people are beginning to understand the hidden motive behind the company giving free content, they know that the end goal is for the company to get you to buy the product.
Consider yourself searching for more information about a particular service. Would you prefer to buy the service from a provider who answers all your queries and provides further relevant information to you, or from a company that provides no relevant information to their customers?
You would put your money on the first provider.
And that is exactly how and why content marketing plays a crucial role in tackling the common problem of lack of trust and loyalty that most companies face today.
As a marketer, you can build your brand’s name by consistently providing thorough and in-depth information to your customer which they are actively searching for, collaborating with experts in your field to increase credibility, and making use of your brand’s core competencies to engage with them across channels in a useful and insightful way.
This also fosters stronger customer relationships which goes a long way in establishing your brand’s presence in the market. And as more and more people have long-lasting engagements with your brand, it leads to an increase in your brand’s reputation and popularity. Always remember, word of mouth advertisement takes precedence over all else.
Increase ROI: Higher Conversions on Lower Costs
With more and more people using ad blockers and being unresponsive to traditional marketing methods, marketers, who spend a lot of money on these methods have started to see the benefits of investing more in content marketing efforts. This is because it is not only less expensive than the general outbound marketing approaches, but it also generates higher leads!
As per Aberdeen Group’s report, companies using content marketing have six times higher conversion rates than those who stick to only traditional marketing. You only have to look at Coca-Cola to realize just how important content marketing is.
Coca Cola is an advertisement mammoth. Even they spend more on developing content than on television advertisements! And this is because they realize just how important it is in increasing yearly sales and improving their brand’s reputation.
It is not only the companies who are looking towards content marketing, but more and more decision-makers and buyers now prefer to get introduced to a brand through their content. This means that content is now a driving force in converting leads to customers, and is here to stay!
Content is not a new introduction to the marketing domain. But it has been gaining new momentum in the past few years. Now that we have understood why content marketing has become so important, let’s take a look at how content marketing can be incorporated across the different stages of a buyer’s decision making journey!
Content for Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
All our purchases, from those requiring the lowest degree of involvement to the highest, involve a buyer’s journey that helps us arrive at the purchase decision.
Regardless of the product or service in question, each buyer follows a process to become aware of the need, identify a variety of problem-solving products or services, and finally evaluate all the options by considering their features before arriving at the decision.
This buyer’s process or buyer’s journey can be classified into three broad stages:
To explain the concept in-depth, let’s imagine a situation where you and your friends are planning a camping trip. Now some of your friends are experts at camping and have all the necessary equipment that will make the expedition a success.
But you being a first-timer, don’t have a lot of the essentials and so decide to buy whatever you will need on the trip. This is a part of the awareness stage, where you recognize that you have a problem which you need to solve. Now that you have a problem at hand, i.e. lack of camping essentials, what will be your next step? Research!
This research brings you to the next stage of the buyer’s journey – consideration stage. Here, you will study up to better understand your problem at hand, and look up the various options that can help you solve it.
Just by spending 15-20 minutes online, you can easily come up with a list of purchases you need to make. And further on, find various sites or nearby stores which sell camping equipment of all sorts. By doing this, you have not only completely defined your problem but also researched multiple ways of solving it!
(By the way, the blogs you read to arrive at the list of products to buy were also developed by some sports equipment manufacturer which is yet another example of content marketing.)
With a range of possible solutions at hand, this is where you enter the decision or decision-making stage. You narrow down the list of products you need to purchase along with where you will make the purchases from. This qualification process can include you checking with your friends to know if they have any extra equipment like sleeping bags, rain jackets, water filters, etc. which they can lend to you for the trip, and asking them which of the stores can best provide high-quality camping products at the most affordable costs.
Also, you will evaluate whether to make your purchases online or from a physical store by assessing the prices, delivery time, effort it will take you, etc. before coming to a final decision. Hence, in this stage, you analyze all available options to understand which one will best solve your need and finally, make the purchase decision.
This is the buyer’s journey we all follow to make decisions about the products or services we end up buying. Considering that most of our consumption pattern is guided by the information made available to us online, it is important to create targeted and synchronized content for all the stages of the buyer’s journey to provide valuable information to potential customers and guide them towards a purchase decision.
Every content marketing effort needs to ensure that the target audience is nurtured at every stage so that they connect with the brand, make a purchase decision, and become advocates for the brand.
Create Content Tailored to the Buyer’s Journey Stages
How does one create content for each stage of the buyer’s journey? It all starts with understanding who your buyer is, what their aspirations, motivations, and desires are, and how the brand and its product or service can help the buyer fulfill their needs.
Once the buyer’s profile and the brand message are understood and finalized, you can move on towards building the content strategy specific to each stage which is both targeted towards the buyer profile and channel-specific.
Content for Awareness Stage
The awareness stage provides brands with the opportunity to educate and deliver valuable information to the audience. Here, the intent is to shed light on the problem and the possible solution options, without selling or advertising one’s own product or service.
While this strategy may sound counterintuitive, it is important to know that the purpose of the content created for the awareness stage is to provide easily discoverable and helpful information to the buyers. The focus here is to provide value and showcase authority in the subject matter to instill trust in the minds of the buyers. So that the next time you face the particular problem, the first thought in your mind is that of the brand.
Moreover, value-providing content can not only help provide information but can also make the consumers connect with the brand and thereby increase the chances of engagement in the future.
There is a variety of content that you can create for the awareness stage. And these content pieces can be published across channels. But some work especially well to engage customers in the awareness stage. These include:
- Blog Posts
- Informational Videos
- Social Media Posts
The mentioned content formats allow marketers to create long-form content pieces that showcase in-depth insight on one topic. Hence, permitting them to highlight and share their understanding of a problem or need with the consumers. To make such content pieces easily available to the target audience, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are key.
Content for Consideration Stage
In this stage of the buyer’s journey, the consumer is evaluating the various solutions available to them for the current problem. It is here that the brand can leverage the connection formed with the buyer during the awareness stage, to direct their attention to their solution offerings. But in addition to this, considering that the buyer is focused on identifying and assessing a host of available options, it is also important to give them a well-rounded picture.
A great example of this can be when a brand that sells organic, 100% synthetic chemical-free skincare products host a seminar on how to improve skin using homemade products, and instead of pitching its products from the get-go, focuses on sharing age-old traditions of using homemade creams, facials, and such to help revitalize skin, reduce blemishes, prevent aging of the skin, etc.
In doing so they are giving valuable information to the attendees on how they themselves can create their own skin care products, the brand can elevate its position from being a seller to a partner in the attendees’ skin care journey.
While concluding the seminar, the brand can share free samples of its own products, further adding value while also using this as an opportunity to get the consumers to try their products and develop a lasting connection with them. By doing so, the brand is not only helping its target consumers, but also showing that it cares, while additionally giving them a taste of its products.
Hence, even though the consideration stage content involves marketing your product to the consumer, you need to keep the core aspect of content marketing in mind, i.e., provide valuable and helpful information to the consumers. If your brand doesn’t follow this principle, the content will fail to be effective in this stage.
Apart from product comparison guides, in which it can become tough to strike a good balance between objectivity and product pitching, there are a variety of other formats that content marketers can employ:
- Case Studies
- Product Catalogues
- Market & Industry Reports
- Free Trial or Sample
These content formats work well in the consideration stage because they allow brands to show the consumers how they are industry leaders with clear insight into what the customers want, how the industry operates, as well as how their product or service is integral to solving a particular need of the consumer.
For example, this case study by Asana is highly impactful because it clearly lists out the main problems being faced by its client – StyleHaul and uses quotes and personal stories within the case study to show the human level as well as the company-wide level benefit provided by Asana while translating these benefits into measurable, quantifiable terms.
This gives the readers insight about how Asana works, while also showing the consumers how they can use Asana to elevate their business position. The CTA in the end directing to more ‘success stories’ further allows the consumers to know the range of Asana’s value offering.
Hence, it is important in the consideration stage that brands use content to not just show the features of the product or service, but also highlight how their product or service can help the consumer while proving authority in the market.
Content for Decision Stage
The buyers who reach the decision stage are usually highly nurtured and engaged with the brand. But this doesn’t mean that the conversion process becomes easy in this stage. Quite the opposite. Because here, the buyers potentially have a ton of information available with them, both about the problem and the scope of options available.
And while they might have narrowed down the list to your brand and a competitor, there is an equal chance of the buyers either going with your product or service, or with another’s. Hence, it is crucial to use a personal touch here to show the consumers why your product or service is not only the best but also right for them.
For this reason, the content in this stage should address the benefits
the consumer can gain and how the brand’s solution can holistically help the consumer. This is also the stage where the sales team should ideally enter the picture if there is a need. But it is very important to note here that the content’s messaging and the sales team’s efforts should be in sync.
If there is any disconnect between the two, it can lead to confusion on the prospect’s end, or even lack of trust, thereby resulting in loss of sale. And this point is vital to be remembered regardless of the stage at which the sales team interacts with the buyer.
But regardless of if and when the sales team is included in the buyer’s journey, the content and offer have to be highly personalized and impactful in this stage to convert the prospect into a customer.
- Case Studies
- Customer Reviews & Testimonials
- Free Demo or Trial
- Free Consultation
The above-mentioned types of content pieces and offers are highly effective in converting a customer. One of the main reasons is that it gives them an in-depth look into the value as well as the applicability of the product or service. In addition, it gives the prospects an opportunity to test out the solution offered by the brand and clear any questions or doubts they may have about it.
Furthermore, in case of interaction with the sales team, sales executives are also able to understand their requirements better and suggest the plans or product varieties that best suit their needs, which the consumers might not have recognized on their own.
A great way to make these offers and content available to the consumers is through landing pages and gated posts, which first require the consumers to submit certain information about themselves – giving the brand more insight into who they are – and then allowing them to access the content.
This approach works in the decision stage because here the consumers are already highly engaged and trust that the information being provided by the brand is valuable and can help them make a well-informed decision.
While this section has detailed out the thought process and strategy to follow when developing content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, the content generation process you follow needs to be in line with your buyer’s distinct journey.
To do so, you must understand your buyer, your industry, the market, and your competitors well enough to devise a content strategy which will prove to be both beneficial for your potential customers, while being more effective than your competition’s.
Also, there are multiple ways of making the content available to your target customers. As mentioned earlier, SEO helps you make your content available to the right people at the right time, but devising and adopting an email, social media, and ad strategy which helps promote your content efficiently is a must.
Now that we have delved into the content strategy part of content marketing, it is time to have an in-depth look at each type of content that you can create. Let’s get started!
Types of Content Formats
By now it must be clear to you that content marketing can come in a host of different ways, majorly depending on what is your brand story and the marketing strategy you wish to adopt. But before deciding on the content strategy you put into place, it is important to know the different types of content you can develop to attract, engage, and captivate your target market.
Here is a look at some of the major content formats or types of content that you can create:
It must be no surprise that blog posts are the first to be mentioned in this list. Not only are they the most commonly developed content format as a part of content marketing, but they are also shared the most across channels. Moreover, it is relatively easy to create blogs in a short time frame and they offer high visibility on Google’s search engine. And on top of all these benefits, blogs, compared to other content formats, cost less to create while providing a high return on investment.
But even though blogs are one of the easiest content to produce, the biggest mistake that brands make is not churning out informative and valuable blog posts on a regular basis. Many content marketers make the mistake of publishing one or two blogs per campaign and leave it at that.
Blogs work not only thanks to the valuable information in them but also because of the frequency at which they are posted. By consistently publishing high-quality blogs, brands can increase their chances of achieving high organic traffic to their website by up to 30% according to a statistic!
Another trick that you can use to make your blogs stand out is by optimizing them for the search engine. How? Easy, by doing thorough keyword research! Consider this: if your blog is a needle in a haystack, with the haystack being all the information available on the internet, keyword research and SEO is what ensures that a magnet is able to pull out your blog and present it to the searcher. By optimizing your content, you give it a decent shot of actually being seen by the target consumer!
Once a blog is seen and clicked on by a consumer, the only thing that will retain their attention is if the blog is relevant to their search and is meaningful and provides them with an understanding which they wouldn’t have had before.
This means that while SEO gets the consumer to the blog piece, it is the information within it that ensures engagement. Additionally, internal linking is a great way of ensuring that the reader goes on to consume more information from your website, while CTAs (Call to Action buttons) incorporated in the blog can help in lead generation.
Thus, when developing a blog post, you have to have a key understanding of who your target audience is, what they want to learn more about, what unique information you can offer them, and how you can keep them engaged with your content so that they will be enticed to check out your product or service. Creating blogs is easy, but in order to make them work for you, it involves a lot of back-end work and strategy which should not be disregarded at all.
Ebooks are great at attracting interested parties to one’s brand. And while they take a lot more time and effort to create as compared to blog posts, they are completely worth it. The proof? You are currently reading one! While the irony of detailing out the concept of an ‘Ebook’ within an Ebook itself is not lost on us, we can use this current example to showcase its true power.
An Ebook is usually a long-form content piece that offers an in-depth look at one subject matter. Unlike blog posts that use interlinking and the pillar page strategy to tie in multiple sub-topics under a major one, Ebooks systematically present all the information in one place. They are downloadable and can be accessed offline at the convenience of the reader.
All these characteristics ensure that someone who is interested in knowing more about the topic covered in the Ebook, willingly submits their information, if required, to access it! This not only provides the marketing team with more insight into who the prospect is, but can also help qualify leads!
But having said that, if a consumer is taking the time to download and go through such a long piece of content, you have to make sure that the information provided in it is not just accurate, but also valuable and unique.
Take the case of this Ebook, if while reading it you realize that it doesn’t offer any significant value to you and that you aren’t learning anything new from it, chances are that you will stop reading it midway, will be annoyed at having given it so much time, and will probably feel disconnected with the publisher of this Ebook.
This will more often than not lead to you either unsubscribing or deciding to not refer to this source anymore. And this is probably the worst-case scenario for the Ebook. Many unhappy consumers even choose to highlight their negative experiences on social media channels, which can have a really bad impact on the brand’s image.
But now consider the opposite scenario, one where you are highly pleased with the content of this Ebook. What can your possible reactions be? For one, you will trust the source of this Ebook and might decide to keep referring to it for information about other marketing topics.
Furthermore, you may also end up subscribing to the source and become a highly engaged consumer. Maybe you even decide to write a positive review, share it on your social media handles, and also with your colleagues. The result? A happy consumer and a happy brand!
Hence, while Ebooks offer brands a great opportunity to engage their consumers and even identify interested leads, they also demand that the brands invest time, money, and energy into producing them.
So, if you decide to create an Ebook, and choose to feature your product in it, remember to make the content the star. Because the one reading your Ebook will make future decisions based on the value of the content, and might even end up purchasing the product or service thanks to it!
Usually, when people think about content, they think of the written format. Videos are completely disregarded. But that’s a big mistake. If recent trends are any proof, videos are fast becoming sources of high engagement and even offer increased ROI. You simply have to look at the rate at which YouTube views are increasing day by day to know that the video format is here to stay!
According to a research, around 72% of consumers prefer videos to learn about new products or services. Moreover, 84% of them make a purchase decision based on a video of a brand’s product or service. These are exceptionally high numbers, and so brands shouldn’t make the error of judgment to keep them out of their content strategy.
And while there are a variety of videos that can be made, there are some key aspects that should be kept in mind. First, the videos should provide information on how the solution offering can help the customer. Even if the video is all about the product’s features or the service specifications, the video has to approach those with value providing perspective.
After watching a particular video, the consumer should leave thinking that the product or service in question is going to help them, rather than with just details and simply no information on how they will make the consumer’s life easier.
Take for example Google Chrome’s ‘The Web is What You Make of It’ campaign. One of the videos that went viral and was loved all over was the ‘Dear Sophie’ video.
While throughout the video Google showed its various Chrome offerings and how you can use them to search, store, and share information, the thing that resonated with audiences globally was the story that was told in the video ad.
Even though the viewers recognized that it was an advertisement for Chrome, the video showed the power of the tool. And by deciding to go with an emotional storyline, one that everyone would understand and connect with, Google was able to put their point across, without even stressing on the many wonderful features it offers.
That’s the beauty of a good video; it can help a brand get the point across in under two minutes, without having to broadcast anything and everything about a product or service.
But this doesn’t have to be the only way of using video content formats. The type of video, the tone and voice used in it entirely depends on who the brand is, who the customers are, and what will help the brand connect with the customers.
A video can convey 4 times the information in the same time as compared to a write-up.
Always keep in mind, given a choice between watching a 2 minute video and reading a 2 minute article, the audience will choose the easier and more engaging option which is a video. Think about it, most people would rather watch the movie than read the novel, right?
So, even though videos require more effort and money than the written formats, they can be highly effective if done correctly, by keeping the target audience in mind. Plus, what’s even better is that they hold huge potential to become ‘viral’ and can be shared very easily across channels.
Hence, by planning and executing video content effectively, you can easily market your product or service to an audience who is eager and ready!
Just like consumers are oriented towards the video format, they also prefer infographics over text formats. The reason is simple, it is much easier to scan a dynamic and engaging infographic than a list of statistics or a text-heavy content piece. But having said so, not every content can be created into an infographic or a visual piece.
An infographic, stating simply, is a visual format that packs together a bunch of information systematically and understandably. They are amazing at representing factual statements, statistics, and numbers in a clear and concise form.
Think about a content piece, maybe a blog, that you created some time back. But, because it is a bit lengthy and there are many statistics spread across it, your readers are unable to go through all the stats at once. And, because the blog is lengthy, regardless of it being informative or not, chances are they won’t share it with their friends and colleagues. So how can you represent the information in a better way? Infographics!!
You can simply pick the most interesting and relevant facts, details, and statistics and convert those into pie charts, graphs, graphics, or any form of visual representation, and collate them in an organized manner to make one solid infographic! And by allowing consumers to share the infographic and linking it to the original blog, you can both increase traffic to the main blog, which users can go to for in-depth information about the stats represented, and also improve engagement with your brand.
While infographics are great content formats and can come in different varieties, they work well only when they are clean, simple to understand, have good usage of white-spaces, include a well-thought out flow of content, and have an impactful and relevant title. Otherwise, the infographic can fall flat and prove to be ineffective.
The term ‘Cheat Sheets’ is quite self-explanatory. Its origin may have been the usage of reference materials by students during exams, but in the online community, they have evolved to become guides for people who are starting an adventure with something new. Cheat sheets are still used as reference materials, but instead of helping someone “cheat”, they help people take a crack at something unfamiliar and give them a chance to succeed.
How many times while browsing the internet have you stumbled upon ‘How to’ guides, list blogs stating ‘best practices’, ‘dos and don’ts’, and even articles listing ‘tips and tricks’? These are all examples of cheat sheets. And while cheat sheets might have a thousand faces, they are all aimed at giving pointers or explaining a concept quickly by listing out the major things one should be aware of regarding that topic.
Who knows, maybe when searching for information about content marketing, you might have stumbled upon a few such cheat sheets, and maybe you even took a look at some of them. And one thing that must have become clear to you is that in case of cheat sheets, even though they might not detail out every single aspect of a topic, their value and potential resides in the highly relevant and up to date information that they do provide.
Cheat sheets, more often than not are prepared keeping the latest trends in mind. They offer the most recent information, and all of it in a concise way. They are great resources that provide ‘newbies’ insight into a subject matter, helping them execute it effectively. Sometimes cheat sheets themselves can be used to share a list of resources for a topic, and in that way, help guide consumers to good content.
Hence, when making a cheat sheet of your own, it is important to provide fresh and diverse content about a topic in a clear and organized form, which helps the consumers both learn more, while helping them implement the new learning successfully!
Read More: Social Media Video Sizes Cheat Sheet
Workbooks and Templates
Workbooks and templates are to content what chapter exercises are to, well, chapters. They allow consumers to apply their learnings and put them down on paper as they are either printable versions or fillable PDF files. It’s more about applying the learnings and developing plans and strategies based on the concepts already covered.
For instance, you finish understanding the concept of content marketing. Or maybe go and learn the process of keyword research. Then, to actually apply those concepts and create actionable and implementable plans, won’t you find it helpful to be provided with existing formats that you only need to fill in and follow? That’s exactly the purpose of workbooks and templates.
They give you a structure and process to follow which makes it easier for you to develop your strategies or apply your learning without having to worry about the formalities. Furthermore, they also come with helpful links and articles to help expand on the purpose of certain activities mentioned in the workbook or the template which further helps you decide the way forward.
Simply put, workbooks and templates combine the theoretical aspect with the practical. Take for example The Big, Big Data Workbook by Informatic. This workbook is presented in the form of an Ebook where there is information provided on how to develop a big data project along with practical guidelines, checklists, templates and more, helping the consumers put to use the information provided by the brand and develop a project roadmap while executing it efficiently.
The landing page for this workbook offers value to the visitors by defining the content of the workbook, what the users will be able to achieve by using it, and giving them an indication of what’s in store for them if they decide to download the Ebook by submitting certain information. Not only is it a good example of how to get people to download your workbook, but also of a landing page that does it’s job well!
Furthermore, workbooks give another edge to a brand’s identity by making the brand an active part of a consumer’s strategy or planning stage. How? Because, each workbook and template usually comes with the logo of the brand attached! So, whenever a consumer is using the resource to develop a plan or learn more by application, the brand is always there with the consumers, helping them. This is a great way to stay embedded in a consumer’s mind while maintaining a positive association.
Whitepapers & Reports
Whitepapers and reports are very similar to Ebooks. The major difference comes in terms of the audience. While Ebooks hold a ton of information about a subject matter, they are more often than not targeted towards the general public. Whereas, whitepapers and reports are highly extensive, detailed, and more like academic reports that are focused on a very niche audience, one which is made up of experts.
So, what is the point of developing whitepapers and reports? The main reason why they are so popular is that they help a brand solidify its position as an industry leader. Because whitepapers and reports are so extensive, and usually surround a topic specific to an industry or about an industry as a whole, they reflect a great deal of insight and authority regarding the industry, thus making the brand appear as a highly credible source.
Furthermore, whitepapers and reports work best in industries where clients or customers themselves are experts. For example, in the case of a pharmaceutical company, a research institution, or advanced technology companies. Here, as the customers are experts in their fields, whitepapers and reports work best to showcase the company’s expertise in the subject matter as well as show industry dominance.
The one thing to keep in mind with whitepapers and reports is that they should be organized. As they are usually long, they should have an introduction and should also include a table of contents. The skeleton that the entire whitepaper is built on should be understandable enough to the average human as well but the actual content inside can be pretty detailed.
These content types provide brands with an opportunity to showcase their contribution to the subject matter with respect to the latest industry trends while highlighting their product or service as the best or the better option. All this helps put the brand on the map and make it the source for solutions.
Slide decks are more commonly referred to as presentations and they are essentially a group of slides that tell a story. Slide decks can be used for multiple purposes, and while many associate them with startup pitches and business presentations, they are also a great way of sharing information about the brand and its products, and even about topics in a highly systematic and professional manner.
Anyone who has ever looked for information online must have come across a platform called SlideShare. While it hosts and allows people to share, both privately and publicly, a number of types of resources, it is most popular for the range of presentations that it hosts.
While in the beginning SlideShare was a platform more popular with students and learners, it has fast become the hotspot for everyone. That’s because slide decks are highly effective in sharing information in an organized, easy to digest manner.
Considering the high scope of use that slide decks offer, not using them can be a huge loss of opportunity. And companies that make good use of slide decks for storytelling also increase their own chance of visibility, as a good slide deck usually ends up being shared for the content and story, giving the brand a high degree of reach.
Case studies are the cherry on the cake of content marketing. They have the power to elevate the entire campaign because they are so effective in engaging and even converting leads and prospects. This is the reason why they are usually used in the consideration and decision stage of the buyer’s journey, as mentioned earlier.
They cover a scenario where there is a problem statement, one that is relatable with most consumers, and over the course of the case study, this statement is advanced, developed in terms of a story, and then a solution is presented in the form of the product or service sold by the brand, which at the end helps resolve the problem and ends up helping the consumer.
Now, while this is the usual format followed in case studies, the way the situations are created can be completely different; it can either be crafted as a hypothesis and then developed, or it can be created by basing it on real situations faced by real people or a company.
Regardless of the method adopted, the reason why case studies work is that they are so unique to the brand. They not only show the brand’s personality and identity, they also put across the unique way in which a brand or a company looks at problems and provides solutions to combat them which are not only effective but also innovative.
Hence, case studies are less about the product or service which is the solution and more about the experience of the people in it and how that experience is bettered through some particular product or service.
This is the reason why the best case studies talk about the human level experience too. By including personal accounts of the people stated in the case study, citing testimonials, and even creating a case study that incorporates a question-answer segment where the customer relays the story, brands can use honest and personal experiences to motivate the readers of the case study to test the product or service, or even buy it!
The usual structure of a case study includes an overview, defining the problem, explaining the situation, showing how the solution helped resolve the problem, and then a look at the results and their significance. While this structure is pretty simple, companies can tweak the content to make them relevant to their target audiences.
‘Demo’ is the short form of demonstration, and in the context of content marketing, it is exactly that! Demos help brands connect with the consumers by demonstrating and showing how a product or service works, the features associated with it, how customers can make use of the product or service, and why they are important to solve certain needs and problems.
Demos are usually used in the decision making stage where sales members come into the picture and try to address each consumer’s specific needs and queries by showing how the product or service can help them achieve their goals. But many times, demos are introduced even in the consideration stage.
This is highly common, especially in the case of online software tools where companies make demo videos available to target prospects through multiple channels, hence giving them a better understanding of the tool and the different ways in which consumers can use the product.
Regardless of whether consumers have seen the demo video or not, companies should make it a point to offer them an option to choose if they would prefer a personal demo session, especially to address questions and any doubts that they may have.
For example, whenever you decide to buy a vehicle, dealers always make it a point to offer test runs, even when you try out an online software, be it for personal or professional use, most websites offer demos and even go so far as to offer free trial periods, all of which allow you to actively experience the product or service before finally deciding on whether to buy it or not.
Hence, while demos can come at a cost to the company, they are great at motivating leads to make the final purchase decision, and the reason why most companies don’t charge for demos is because if they do that, they can end up distancing the prospects, who may even become disincentivized to interact with the brand in the future.
Free trials and samples also perform the same role as demos by allowing consumers to test out a product or service while giving the brand the opportunity to answer any concerns the prospects might have, all of which contribute to a higher conversion rate in the end. The greatest and most relevant examples of the same are Netflix, Prime, Spotify and more.
In today’s day and age where there are so many sources to learn from, one method that has gained a lot of following is live interactive sessions, such as webinars. They are the perfect way to not only connect people from different regions of the planet, but they also allow people to come together, share knowledge, insights, and their own expertise with colleagues, like-minded people, and even those who might have dissenting views.
Webinars are not just used by the learning community, but nowadays even companies have started hosting their own webinar sessions where they discuss industry trends, new developments, the impact of the current economic situation on the industry, and more.
There is no fixed template for what a webinar should be about, but such webinars usually are conducted with a panel of experts, or people who make up the top tier of the industry with members joining in to listen, pose questions, and offer comments.
Take for instance the pandemic situation. Not only has it severely impacted the global economy, but it has also created a huge problem for companies, forcing them to evolve faster than expected to keep up and survive in a post COVID-19 world.
In this scenario, many companies used webinars to directly communicate with their prospects and leads, and even the industry’s fellow members to discuss the issues being combated by the companies, how they plan to move ahead, and what impact should their partners and customers be prepared for.
They also used this format to discuss the pain points of their customers to better understand how the company can come to help in such an uncertain situation. Furthermore, these webinars were developed into video formats and even summarized in blog forms to spread the word about the company’s initiative.
Hence, webinars can be used by brands to not only show industry knowledge and foresightedness but companies can also use them to show empathy and initiate discussions and share updates with partners and customers.
They are truly a multipurpose format, and brands can leverage their power to their benefit and meet their goals, whether that is increasing sales, retaining customers, or about contributing to relevant discussions.
Considering that we are constantly surrounded by advertisements and marketing materials wherever we go on the internet, people have started relying on the honest experiences of existing and past customers to guide their decision-making process.
This is why companies have started focussing on review pages and also list testimonials on their website to authenticate their claims and give their product or service credibility. But there is one more type of content that is highly referred to when making purchase decisions- Q&A forums.
Many companies have started investing in developing forums where customers can pose questions and get them answered by either other users of the product or service, or by the brands’ customer support executives. These also help retain customers for longer, while giving insight to the product or service development teams about what issues need to be addressed and the features that require improvement.
Whenever building a forum for your company, it is important to understand if you and your team have the necessary bandwidth to answer questions from the customers, or if you have an active and large enough customer base which is highly engaged and can jump in to answer the questions on the company’s behalf. Because otherwise, the Q&A forum will not be able to meet its purpose and will reflect poorly on the company’s image.
While the mentioned content formats are very relevant to content marketing, some new formats have emerged recently, completely redefining the way content is looked at. Take a look at some of them in the next section!
Additional Forms of Content Marketing
Having understood the most widely used types of content under content marketing, it is equally important to get familiarized with those forms of content that have either only recently emerged, or which help promote the developed content through other channels.
These forms of content marketing allow you to reach your audience in fresh, new ways that enable the brand messaging to reach them from different mediums consistently and continuously. Let’s take a look at some of these additional types of content marketing methods.
When it comes to new ways of promoting your brand, podcasts definitely take the cake! They are a relatively new medium of marketing, though their evolution might suggest otherwise. Having evolved from radio broadcasting, podcasts are mainly audio content pieces that are released episodically on a regular time format.
For comparison, you can consider podcasts to be the blogs of the audio world. Where earlier as marketers you must have invested in advertising through radio channels, you can now create your brand’s very own audio content to connect with the audience on a deeper and more engaging level!
The primary benefit of having a brand podcast is that it provides an easier content consumption route to your target customers. While reading a blog requires more time, effort, and patience, with a podcast there are no such constraints. As a consumer, just think about the last time you were cooking, driving your car, or exercising.
You might not have been able to browse through a blog or any written content, but you could have easily put on a podcast or audio content and listened to it while simultaneously going about your daily tasks. And this is exactly why, as per Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2020 report, around 155 million people in the USA have listened to a podcast in 2020!
As the podcast listener base grows, so does the market. But it is nowhere as close to the other forms of media. While it might be rare for a company to not have its own website, there are only a few that have entered the podcast world. And this means there is lesser competition and more opportunity to hit the right chord with your target market!
And while it is not easy to produce the most popular audio content or attract a large number of followers, the podcast game is very much like content marketing. Its benefits are far greater, spread across a longer time period that promotes a much deeper connection between a brand and its customers. All you as marketers need to realize is what exactly the customers are searching for, and provide that value in an engaging audio format!
Lead magnets are exactly what they sound like. They attract your prospective customers to become leads for your company by submitting personal information, such as an email address, into your database.
As you may be aware, having the contact information of your leads is crucial to nurturing them into future customers. But no one likes to give out their personal data on the internet. And that’s where lead magnets enter the picture.
Considering that you have nurtured the target audience to instill trust in the credibility of the brand, lead magnets act as the next step in the content marketing process. By leveraging highly value providing content resources such as Ebooks, videos, case studies, etc., you can ask the website visitor to submit their contact information in exchange for gaining access to these resources. In such a case, these resources become the lead magnets.
Take your own case as an example. Maybe you were browsing through a blog for more information on content marketing, and at the end of the article, it asked you to share your email id to gain access to this very Ebook providing an in-depth exploration into content marketing! In such a scenario, this Ebook acted as the lead magnet! Which is exactly what this ebook is meant for. Just trying to be honest :p
Lead magnets only work when you ensure that they are highly valuable, specific, helping the leads with their problem and providing them with a quick win! Only when the consumers relate with the purpose of the lead magnet and find it to be credible will they be willing to exchange their email address for the same.
Build your authority on a specific subject matter that is relevant to your potential customers and then provide them access to highly valuable lead magnets in exchange for their personal data. Also, always double check that the resource shared is exactly what they are looking for to ensure that their trust in the brand remains!
Now that you have acquired your lead’s email address, what next?
Email marketing has been evolving quickly to become more personalized and automated. But the most important part of it continues to be the content it circulates. Emails are both a tool used within a content marketing strategy as well as a tool used to promote the content created to do content marketing.
With hundreds of companies mailing your customers daily, it is only obvious that just like with advertisements, your prospective buyers have learned how to tune out the emails they receive from brands. This is why your email marketing needs to be highly effective and value-providing for it to make a lasting impression. Only then will your emails have the power to hold their space in your consumers’ inbox!
So how can you ensure that?
By focussing on all the elements of an email, starting with the subject line, the body, as well as any additional resources you can provide through your emails. And that is where content plays a very important role!
Consider this. You receive two emails. One with a subject line personalized with your name and mentioning a topic that you relate to, and the other a generic marketing line. Which one would you open? Surely the first.
Now, once you open this email, would you remain interested if you found nothing of value in the email body itself? No, right? Because even though emails are a direct way for a brand to connect with a person, that person will only entertain the brand till the time it adds something of importance to their life.
Time equals money. So, though the mail copy needs to be conversational, it should be direct in addressing points that provide useful information to the reader or leads them to a resource that will prove to be useful!
This is why you should bring your content marketing strategy into your email marketing and design highly personalized and insightful subject lines that encourage your audience to open the emails.
With an engaging, direct, and value-providing email body you can ensure that they identify with your brand messaging and find it useful. Finally, you can make use of this opportunity to lead them to a relevant blog, article, Ebook, or even a podcast episode, and thus nurture them towards future sales!
Emails allow you to connect with your customers directly. Thus make sure to use this medium effectively and make every email count in furthering your content marketing strategy.
Social Media Posts
We earlier mentioned how Zomato has used its fun tweets to amass a huge following on Twitter profile. Let’s deep dive to know more about how social media platforms can be used to further the cause of content marketing.
Social media marketing strategy is an integral part of content marketing. It allows you to promote the developed content, increase brand awareness, reach out to a larger audience, and connect deeply with your target market.
Just think about the last time you interacted with a brand on LinkedIn or Twitter. What did it make you feel like? Did it not make you feel more connected with the brand, or even drive you to check out their website? Of course, it did!
And this is because social media platforms are the best place to develop the personality of a brand. And when people recognize the brand as having a unique personality, they begin to associate with it on a personal level, just as they do with other influencers on the platform.
The trick is to develop the right brand personality on the right channels by understanding the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral temperaments of your consumers.
GoPro is one of the brands that seems to have perfected their social media strategy ! They have identified exactly what to post on each social media platform and how to use each of their profiles to build the brand. With a following of more than 2 million followers on Twitter, they use this platform to communicate with the customers and provide them with details about the products.
They use their social media in the following manner –
- Youtube – To post tutorial videos on how to use the features of GoPro products.
- Facebook – To connect with new and existing customers.
- Instagram page – To showcase the quality of the pictures captured by their camera!
By identifying just what their audience on each platform expects from them, they have strategically cultivated their content on each social media page to drive their branding and marketing efforts.
And that is what lies at the core of social media content marketing. Understanding the audience on each social media channel and curating content specific to their taste, while maintaining a consistent and cohesive brand personality.
Feel free to experiment with the content on your brand’s social media handles. In an ever-evolving space, you can continue to try different content pieces and measure which brings about the best engagement rates. Just remember to use this medium to develop and nurture strong relations with your customers and the brand.
Gifs and Memes
It is the age of memes and gifs! If you do not agree then maybe you are missing out on the meme culture. Like it or not, memes and gifs have become the most ‘viral’ way of communicating and putting your thoughts across. This is why brands such as Netflix, Wendy’s, and even Apple have dipped their toes in this trend!
So what exactly are gifs and memes? Gifs are mainly moving images or looping animations. And memes can pertain to a large range of images, video, or even text pieces, which are of a humorous nature. And because they leverage comedy and humor, they have the potential to reach a large number of people from various backgrounds.
But is it really necessary for your brand to make use of this trend too? Only if you don’t want to miss out a tremendous opportunity to attract a younger audience, who are quickly becoming the biggest consumer market! Moreover, gifs and memes have the capability to become viral in a way no other marketing method can. So why not make most of it?
What’s more? They are fairly easy and cheap to develop! And that is the best news for brands. With very little time, effort, and money required to produce memes, one only needs to be quick on their feet and spontaneous to delve into meme marketing.
Think about how often you reply to your friends and family over chat with just an emoji or a gif? Or how often memes and gifs pop up on your timeline? Even the algorithm on most social media sites has identified the potential of these unique content formats. And maybe it is time that you incorporate them into your content marketing plans as well! Keep in mind, humans love anyone who makes them laugh. So, Just do it.
The beauty of content is that it can come in more forms than one. This means as a marketer delving into content marketing, you can make use of as many content types as relevant to your brand to increase its reach and performance. Be it blogs, Ebooks, podcasts, infographics, or even memes, the world of content marketing is your oyster! It is up to you to seek out its true potential and harness it for your brand.
Now that you have seen just how broad the range of content formats really is, let’s take a look at the various steps that you can follow to develop a successful content marketing plan!
Stages of a Successful Content Marketing Strategy
Several businesses partake in content marketing one way or another, but only the ones that document their content marketing plan are successful in the long run!
It’s as simple but important as writing down the recipe of your favorite dish. Only when you have it documented can you ensure that you are aware of the exact ingredients being used, and thus are able to replicate the success time and again. Thus, your content marketing plan, when well documented, allows your sales and marketing teams to work together towards the common goal while being very clear about all the steps that need to be followed individually.
Read on to know the six stages of developing a content marketing strategy!
1. Identify and Create Key Persona Profiles
Throughout the Ebook, you would have read how important it is to understand the target audience. Without the foundation of identifying your target personas, you will not be able to build an effective content marketing plan.
So, how do you identify your target personas?
Research! As the marketer of an established brand, you must be aware of certain characteristics of the people who consume your products. They are your key buyers. You can start off by collecting demographic data about them, such as their age, gender, occupation, etc. through tools such as Google and Twitter Analytics or simply by conducting a customer feedback survey.
Once you have identified this data, the next step is to create their buyer personas.
Buyer personas are basically the character avatars of your target audience. They are made to clearly identify what their motivation, pain points, behavioral characteristics, and needs are.
Take the case of a sportswear company. They might identify two main buyer personas:
- Athletic Ami: Into regular exercising, wants sportswear that can withstand extreme sporting activities, and prefers comfort over fashion.
- Influencer Indu: Is a fitness influencer, needs sportswear that looks good but is also suitable for regular training.
By developing their personas along a similar line, they can clearly identify their main traits and know how to craft content that is exactly right for them. Thus, they know how to reach these target personas, what sort of content type to use for them, and just how to frame the content as per their motivations.
Similarly, while developing your target personas, you need to identify homogeneous groups of consumers sharing similar traits and list down all known information about them to be able to use while developing the content marketing plan later.
2. Understand the Key Persona’s Buyer Journey
Once you have identified the target audience and built their buyer personas it is time to understand their buyer journeys.
As mentioned earlier, every buyer goes through the same journey of awareness, consideration, and decision making. But, depending on the need they want to solve and the information they have at their disposal, there can be changes in the time they spend on each stage.
As a marketer, you have to ensure that at each stage of the journey your brand has all the necessary content for them to find answers and inform their decision-making process. When you try to understand their personas, you also begin to identify exactly the content they are looking for.
You can develop that content and make it easily available to them so they begin to see your brand as a credible and trustworthy source! Hence, when they have to decide between your brand and the competition, they are more inclined to come to you.
This means that whenever they come to your website at whichever stage of the journey, you should have the appropriate content ready for them!
Take for example a dishwasher company. They are entering a market like India where dishwashers are not used prominently. Assume a potential buyer is searching for the best alternatives to manually cleaning their utensils. They chance upon the brand’s website with a blog on how dishwashers are the best option for people looking to switch from manual cleaning! They are interested and begin to read more blogs detailing out the benefits of using a dishwasher.
Next, they want to see how exactly a dishwasher works. And the dishwasher company’s website has a short tutorial video available to tell them how the dishwasher’s functions.
Now, even if they go to other sites and read comparative reviews, this brand has already proved to be highly influential by providing them with the right information at the right time. So, the customer will prefer to choose this brand over its competitors.
If this company was not aware of the new customer’s buyer journey, it wouldn’t have been able to get the right content ready and available for them, which helped it gain an advantage over its competitors!
At this point, it is also quite prudent to mention that content marketing is a highly specific thing and the content that gets results in America is highly different from the one that works in India.
Let’s talk about the dishwasher example, in India, the company would have to make content that revolves around how a dishwasher finally helps you get rid of the tussles you used to have. On the other hand, in America, the importance of having a dishwasher is already established, so the content developed for the consumer has to revolve around things like how this particular dishwasher is better than the competition.
And this is precisely why, you as a marketer, must be aware of your brand’s buyer’s journey and ensure that the content they will need is made available through your website and other content sources!
3. Create the Content Marketing Plan
Now that you have all the information about the buyers in place to guide you with the content planning, it is time to start mapping out three things:
- The types of content your brand will publish
- The channels that will be used to disseminate the content
- A content calendar listing out which content is published at what time
An important part of this step is to brainstorm with your team to decide the particulars of these three variables. By using the demographic and behavioral information collected about your buyers, you can decide which content format would be best suited to attract them – blogs, podcasts, Ebooks, video series, etc., and which channels will they prefer to consume the content from – Google, LinkedIn, Youtube, Facebook, Spotify, and so on.
Once you have these details in place, the final step of the marketing plan is to develop a content calendar.
A content calendar is a comprehensive document listing out all the information pertaining to the content including Title, Format, Date of publishing, Content producer, Stage of buyer’s journey, etc. This calendar should give your content marketing team a complete overview of your entire content plan.
By doing so, you will ensure that your team is not overloaded with work and is able to complete all the tasks at the right time. Moreover, it will also allow you to keep a check on whether or not all the content that needs to be there for the buyer has been prepared.
This calendar should not be set in stone. With new learnings and ideas, you should tweak, add, and remove planned content to maximize the effectiveness of content marketing.
4. Develop the Content
This is the stage where you and your team begin to finally produce the content. And it is important that you are aware of all the tools and features that you can use to ensure that the content developed is optimized.
For example, if you are developing a blog, then make sure to use high performing keywords that your key personas will input into the Google search bar to make the blog appear in their search results.
Using SEO best practices will also be critical to get the blog ranking high! If you decide to develop a video series, then you must use people with good video production skills to ensure it is appealing to your key customers. Also, deciding where you will be publishing the video will also determine the dimensions it must be shot in and the style you must use for the same.
If you do not do the proper research and use your marketing skills to optimize the production of the content then all your other efforts in the content planning stages will become useless. So, pay attention to these details while keeping your target audience in mind!
In this step, you are focussing on the channels and placement of the content that has been produced. Distributing the content on the right channels and promoting it on social media, or through ads and the company’s newsletter becomes essential.
This is to ensure that the content is easily accessible and available to your customers. Now suppose you have produced a highly insightful blog. But it is not promoted on your social channels or sent out to your leads through email marketing. Or worse, reaching the blog on your website in itself requires the target personas to go through several clicks and pages. This means that the blog you have made is not accessible to them easily.
This is why you must ensure that you use the right channels and medium to promote your content pieces, through both paid and organic methods!
Measure the Results, Analyze, and Optimize
The last stage of content marketing is the most insightful for every marketer. In this stage, you measure the results of the content and see how they are affecting your sales projections.
Now, it is important that you identify some key performance indicators (KPIs) along which to measure these results. Each brand decides for itself what, when, and how often to measure these KPIs. It could be done weekly, monthly, or even yearly. But it is important that you do it on a regular basis to inform your future content plans.
You may analyze the click rates, views, engagement ratios on your social media platforms, or even directly read customer comments to measure the effectiveness of the published content. You may even compare the performance of your sales team in relation to the content published to discover a correlation. It is up to you and your marketing team to decide how to go about this measurement.
Once you have measured and analyzed these results, you can then use this data to optimize the content that has already been developed or is planned for the future. Take stock of the performance with your content marketing team to understand what worked, what didn’t perform as per your expectations, and how you can improve it going further. This is also a good time to revisit your content calendar to make changes as per the analysis.
Content marketing is a lengthy and continuous process. Consistent evolution is what makes it highly successful as a marketing approach. Which is why it is difficult to perfect it in one go. But marketers who have seen its benefits know that it is worth the time and effort it requires to make it effective and successful.
But how can you really tell if your content marketing is successful or not? Let’s take a look at the ROIs of a successful content marketing plan!
ROI of a Successful Content Marketing Program
There is no point in executing any marketing strategy if it doesn’t result in a good ROI. But a good campaign can have several positive results, both in dollar terms and in goodwill. Here is a list of ROI that a successful content marketing strategy can achieve:
Increase Exposure and Reach
The first and foremost return that a good content marketing program delivers is increased reach and organic traffic to the brand’s website. This happens when a brand creates relevant and valuable content pieces that work together and are optimized for the search engine.
There are multiple ways of assessing the reach and exposure generated by your content marketing plan, including an increase in traffic to website pages, the number of social shares, backlinks to your website pages, etc. which can be converted into revenue.
But, apart from the revenue aspect, exposure and reach can also be defined in terms of the visibility gained by your brand, the awareness level amongst your target market, and how these can be further leveraged in the future.
Credibility is hard to come by, especially when there are multiple competitors all with their own unique expertise. And while it is difficult to make your brand appear credible in front of the consumer, content marketing does exactly that!
If you are able to truly understand the concept of providing useful and consumer-focused content, you will be able to create content pieces that validate the needs of the consumers while helping them better understand both their problem, as well as the solutions available to them.
And in such a case, even if they don’t buy a product or service from you the first time, this newly gained credibility will ensure their trust in your brand which will bring them back to you multiple times, both to consume your content and to make purchases.
Furthermore, once your brand has become credible in the eyes of a consumer, apart from repeat purchases, it will also ensure word of mouth marketing through them, resulting in the free advertisement of your brand and your solutions! The goodwill and savings can be enormous thanks to credibility.
A successful content marketing plan doesn’t only help increase the reach and credibility of your brand, but it also helps with lead generation! One thing that content marketing has made clear is that lead generation is not just about pushing one’s content onto the consumers, but rather about creating such an innovative marketing strategy that pulls the consumers in by offering them value even before they make a purchase decision.
These leads don’t end up ignoring your emails or your phone calls, but rather actively search out content from you and respond when your brand reaches out to them. Furthermore, content marketing gives companies a high number of solid leads, who are not only engaged and interested but also willing to share information about themselves with the brand for more information!
Increase Conversion and Sales
Content marketing has proved one thing: leads that are nurtured and engaged throughout the buyer’s journey are the ones that convert into sales.
Companies that take the effort to listen to the problems being faced by their leads, understand their needs, and work towards building a variety of content accessible through multiple channels to provide value to their consumers, they are the ones that can build trust, form a connection, and motivate the prospects to convert into loyal customers, and finally into loyal advocates of the brand.
While content marketing can help brands achieve great ROI, for any content marketing program to be successful, brands must create content with immense knowledge about their buyers, the problems they face, where they consume information, what type of content they like to consume, and can combine all this knowledge to create effective content that is aimed at helping the consumers and providing them value. If even one important aspect is missed out on, the entire content marketing process can fail.
That’s why brands need to keep analyzing and measuring the performance of the content and the ROI generated to improve and evolve their content marketing strategy.
Extra Tips to Power Your Content Marketing Efforts
Now that we have discussed the prominent aspects of content marketing, here are 10 tips that you can follow to take your content marketing one step further!
1. Repurpose content for better results with lesser effort
Once you have produced content, let’s say a blog, then make sure to repurpose the content of the blog into different formats to increase your exposure! Taking the material from a blog and using it in an infographic, animated video, or even a podcast episode can be a great way of making sure the same content is recycled to be made available to more people! This also results in more content for your brand with minimal effort.
2. Guest Posting for wider reach
You might have heard of guest posting on a third party’s website to tap into their audience network. This is a great way of developing content and ensuring that it reaches new people outside your brand’s network. It is similar to networking with other professionals at a conference, and can prove to be an inexpensive way of attracting more people to your brand!
3. The Headline is the key
The headline of your content piece is the first thing that the customers see. And if they don’t connect with it, or if the headline doesn’t inform them adequately about the content within it, then they will not click on it. So, make sure that you prioritize your headline copy for all forms of content and make it eye-catching, informative, and engaging from the first go! A reader judges your articles’ worth within 3 seconds. Hence, if you have put in two days to build the blog, why would you not put in half an hour to come up with the BEST title.
4. Continuous Improvement for Long-time growth
As mentioned earlier, content marketing is a continuous process. So, apart from continuously producing new content, you must also focus on regularly updating the old contents published. Check for the relevancy of the content, if the links are working properly, and whether the CTAs are relevant to the audience or not. It is all extremely important to ensure that your past content marketing efforts don’t fall flat in the future.
5. A/B testing can push Conversions
When unsure about your content, put it through an A/B test! As marketers, the best thing you can do is to rely on numbers. So, you should conduct regular A/B tests to find the best headlines, CTAs, image designs, etc. to increase your conversions and inform your content marketing efforts. One A/B test might provide you insightful information that you could then put into practice for several content pieces planned for the future.
5. Long-form content for better success
For several businesses, long-form contents work much better than shorter blogs and articles. This might be because they allow you to uncover more information while favoring better with Google’s ranking methodology considering longer contents have more keywords sprinkled throughout. So try your hand at long-form content to see if they provide you better rankings and higher conversion rates!
6. Timeless + Trendy = Perfect Match
Strike the perfect balance between trendy content and content which will be timeless. Take for example Covid-19. Several brands are producing content for their customers which revolves around the pandemic particularly, and how to help them during these unprecedented times. But, if they begin to produce all their content surrounding Covid-19, then after the pandemic dies down, none of their content will be relevant.
It is important that you, as a content marketer, produce around 70% of your content around timeless topics, and dedicate the rest 30% to the latest trends. Finding the perfect ratio for your business is subjective, and your continuous experimentation will tell you what is the perfect balance number for your brand!
7. Focus 80% promotion on your best 20% content
As a marketer, you must have heard about the 80/20 rule or Pareto’s principle for the MBA grads here. It applies to just about everything and content marketing is no different.
By identifying the top 20% content produced by your brand, you must focus 80% of your promotion efforts to market it to more and more people. This is because this top 20% content will bring you higher conversions than any other content, and by promoting it thoroughly you will give it the extra power to pull in even higher numbers!
8. Leverage strong CTAs
If your best content doesn’t have a strong CTA (Call to Action) then you are not leveraging the true potential of your content. By providing relevant call to action statements or buttons at the end of your content, you can ensure that the target personas move along the marketing funnel towards final conversion.
By identifying their buyer journeys, you can craft highly effective CTAs that can then lead them to other content resources which are exactly what they are searching for next. This will make your brand appear more resourceful, credible, and value-providing to your potential customers, thus driving higher sales!
9. Experiment and Evolve
Last but not the least, you must be willing to experiment with new forms of content and content styles to keep evolving along with your customers. By keeping up with the emerging trends, you can ensure that you are always relevant and attractive to your audience and keep providing the information most engagingly. Even if it means letting go of traditional styles to opt for gifs and memes instead, take that leap of faith and keep experimenting!
Having explored content marketing in-depth, you can now get started on developing your brand’s content marketing strategy to nurture your leads and increase your overall conversions! There are no limits in the content world, so feel free to try your hand at new ideas and experiment with varied forms of content styles. And who knows, you and your brand might just end up creating something as special and unique as the ‘Michelin Guide’!
Just remember, it is a game for the long-haul, and patience and persistence are the two keys to unlocking the tremendous benefits that content marketing has to offer!
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