What is Content Marketing?
In the simplest terms, content marketing is the way that brands tell stories to get potential and existing customers engaged. Content gets people interested and gives them an idea of what you have to offer before they put their money down. The type of business you have is what will determine what types of content and content strategy is best for you. Content takes numerous forms: blog posts, infographics, images, videos, small e-books, recipes, and so much more. Full-length e-books and series of social media posts are also considered content marketing to a degree, and even video games and AR/VR experiences are becoming part of companies’ content marketing strategies!
No matter what form your content takes, it usually falls into at least one of the following categories:
- Useful: Does your content provide the answer to a burning question? It is based on a popular search term? Useful content can also be designed specially to complement your product, such as recipes for your grocery app or kitchen appliance.
- Entertaining: Whether it’s a funny series of Instagram posts or a dramatic love story masking a commercial over a series of videos, entertaining content keeps the viewer engaged and can help keep them interested as well as apt to share the content.
- Interesting: While this can overlap with entertaining, interesting content strives to be different from content designed to simply entertain. It can provide trivia and facts, or simply be a completely different way of creating or delivering content that hasn’t been done before.
- Timely: Content that is based around a time period such as the holiday season, a week-long conference, or other occurrence that doesn’t take place year-round. Timely content can have a local angle for certain events or apply to a global audience.
It’s possible that all of these descriptors could apply to your content. But it’s important to focus on one main aspect, such as utility or timeliness, when devising a content plan and implementing it.
What Makes Content Marketing Different From Other Types of Marketing?
Content marketing is a marriage of up-to-the-minute marketing strategy and ensuring delivery of long-term value for your business.
When compared to other types of digital marketing, content marketing is king. For instance, pay-per-click (PPC) ads only deliver value as long as you run the campaign. This is fine for being a small moving part in a digital marketing campaign but a poor long-term strategy. Then consider social media marketing, which is important for engaging with your customers and getting new ones. It is also often the way you will handle customer service in public. While old social media posts never truly die, it is still fairly flash-in-the-pan compared to content marketing. Similar to the PPC ads, social media needs to be kept up over time to have a tractable effect while content has brilliant long-term value.
This is because content will be around as long as you keep it available for viewing and/or download. People can find blog posts, YouTube videos, and other content that you posted years ago. Even if the information is no longer relevant, it will get them to your website in the first place.
The keys to a successful content strategy are that your content organically drives traffic to your website or other destination, and it is shared heavily. How often is your content being seen and shared?
Planning Your Content
- What is the relevance of content marketing to your overall campaign? What is the goal of your current marketing campaign, and how does content marketing fit in with it? Are you trying to get more e-mail signups, higher traffic, or get a product launch some attention? Perhaps take advantage of a conference where thousands of attendees will be apt to visit your website and download your content right then and there? Contemplate what your main objective is and how content marketing will fit around it. What will the purpose of the content be?
- What types of content will resonate the most with your current and prospective customers? You need to be aware of your target audience’s demographics and preferences so you know how to effectively reach them. You may have a series of blog posts in mind to announce a new service, but it turns out that your customer base prefers video. You may also decide to take risks on a new form of content like a VR experience. No matter the method, how do you plan to make your content resonate with the viewer?
- What is your target audience seeking from your content? Literally, what is your target audience searching for? When planning content strategy, intuition helps but sometimes you need to outright ask or utilize different tools to get an idea of what people are searching for. You can start by typing in search engines and seeing how the sentences finish, or using free tools like Answer the Public to get exposed to topics you may not have thought of.
Implementation of a Content Strategy
- Where will you deliver the content? Getting your content seen and shared is your top priority. Where do you plan on placing your content? Both your chief product/service and goal should determine this. For example, a management consulting firm that puts together an e-book to entice readers to sign up for their e-mail list would be best off making that content exclusive to their website. In comparison, an apparel brand trying to sell as many t-shirts as possible and wants to use an entertaining story to captivate potential customers needs to get that story on as many channels as possible. What kind of social media channels and websites are the most appropriate for the content you are creating and sharing?
- How will you deliver the content? Content delivery is rapidly changing as technology improves and consumer expectations shift over time. After deciding where you should deliver the content, what about how you will do so? Going back to the management consulting and apparel brand examples from above, the consulting firm is likely to make the e-book something their new subscriber receives in its entirety. To keep engagement up, they can also offer one chapter immediately after subscription but then an automated email campaign delivers the remaining chapters a few days apart to ensure they stay signed up. For the apparel brand, they could deliver their story in bite-size amounts through their own app or stagger a series of social media posts to entice interest. Timing can be even more important than the actual content itself.
Managing Your Content Marketing Plan
- Create a content/editorial calendar to keep your content marketing plan on track and on budget. A content calendar can help you keep you and your content team on track so that customers aren’t losing engagement and opportunities aren’t lost. Sometimes you will need to adjust your content calendar to take advantage of a short-lived pop culture trend while search density is high or a useful blog post you planned is about a topic that just became obsolete. Nevertheless, an editorial calendar can take the stress out of figuring out topics and when to deliver your content.
- Address technical and legal concerns that crop up. Even with the best planning, it’s too easy to fall into a legal trap because the sound you used in your video wasn’t properly licensed or another company is claiming you copied off of their advert. Technical concerns will be inevitable such as your blog posts not displaying correctly on certain devices or the app that was going to deliver most of your content stopped working on new mobiles. Make plans to deal with these potential issues. Have both solicitors and tech support on call.
- What were the results of your content marketing campaign? How did your campaign perform? How much revenue did you generate?
- Reexamine your goal: did you meet or exceed it? If your goal was to get 500 new signups or £25,000 in first quarter sales, how did your results compare to this goal? If you didn’t meet your goal, do you think you just need more time or need to do something different if your content just didn’t resonate with your target audience?
- Did you get any additional unexpected benefits as a result of your content plan? Quality content can result in attention from the press and influencers, or being asked to speak at major events. Even if you didn’t meet your initial goal, these are major benefits that can indirectly push you far past your goal.
In summary, content marketing is an exciting field that is constantly evolving. Well-devised content strategy and content plans should be both part of your overall marketing strategy as well as specific campaigns. After determining the purpose of your content and targeting your audience, planning, implementation, management, and evaluation of your content marketing strategy is of utmost importance to see how effective it was. All in all however, content delivers the most long-term value to your business compared to other digital marketing methods.