What is Content Marketing?
November 1, 2017
November 1, 2017
It comes as no surprise that the Internet changed everything for businesses. Every process, from generating leads to making sales, took on a digital component that required a new level of mastery. This was especially true in the field of marketing, where new opportunities to engage with target audiences increased exponentially. With so many platforms and methods for connecting with users now available, content marketing was born.
Content Marketing Defined
While the phrase “content marketing” was first used in 1996, the concept became popular within the last decade or so. A content marketing definition was explained by author Jeff Cannon in 1999, “In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.”
Since Cannon first provided a definition for content marketing, the Internet and its users have rapidly evolved. Therefore, the definition for this marketing technique has expanded to encompass the depth of this effective strategy for lead generation.
Now the Content Marketing Institute offers this widely-accepted definition, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
To put it simply, brands create content that addresses consumers’ questions and issues, rather than just selling to them. Consider all the places where your business uses content. Email marketing? Social media marketing? SEO advertising? Website development? Content marketing tactics apply to all of these efforts, and more.
Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
So if this approach includes so many channels and formats, how do you create a successful content marketing strategy? It’s a daunting task but fear not. With the right direction, developing an effective content marketing strategy is much easier than it seems.
When developing a content marketing strategy, there are five areas to focus on:
- Purpose and Goals
Purpose and Goals
This is the foundation of your content marketing strategy. You must determine two things here: what value your content will provide for your audience and what you want to accomplish. A clear understanding of these two aspects will keep your efforts aligned as you move through the rest of the content creation process.
You wouldn’t speak to a teenager the same way you would address an elderly person. The same concept applies here. Defining your audience helps you hone your brand persona and decide what will define it. An understanding of your audience helps you gauge how to convey your brand messaging.
Defining your audience also helps you apply your content marketing purpose and goals. If your purpose is to deliver useful information about savings accounts to college students and your goal is to get them to sign up with your financial institution, then you have to know that your audience is in their late teens to early twenties, they are educated, and they have limited funds to save. That’s extremely important knowledge that will greatly ease your efforts in creating a story.
If you consider the audience as the “who” of your content marketing strategy, you should consider the story as the “why.” Why are you sharing this content? Why are you investing in research and strategy development?
With content marketing, your company is telling its audience a story to inspire action. Returning to the bank example, why does your institution feel it is important to engage college students? Obviously, the answer is to increase potential leads for your company. It sounds straightforward enough, but you have to reach these people by using content to create a need or immediacy that demands follow up, such as visiting a landing page, requesting a demo, or contacting a business for further information.
This is the “how” of the strategy that outlines how your story created and shared. An operational plan of the process should be used, that includes:
- The steps in order of how the strategy will be executed
- The person/team responsibility for each task in the strategy, from writing copy to coding emails and publishing blog posts
- Guidelines to insure the brand persona is properly conveyed across teams and channels
- Any important resources
- Detailed outlines of content formats with corresponding media channels
The final component of your content marketing strategy is measurement, meaning how you will gauge its success. As you establish benchmarks for success when outlining your strategy, keep in mind that these efforts are ongoing. For example, just because your bank launches a new blog aimed at college students doesn’t mean you are going to see new business within the first week. As with anything worth waiting for, it takes time and patience.
Most small organizations measure the success of their content marketing strategy by the growth in email subscriber lists, clickthroughs to contact pages on websites, increased social media engagement, and eventually, a higher percentage of leads converting into sales. A tip to the wise: don’t set goals so high that they are unattainable. While 10 percent increase in leads might seem reasonable, that is a huge jump to make. Start slow, and ramp up as your execute your strategy over time.
Content Marketing Institute recommends using the analytics pyramid to measure the efficacy of your strategy. There are three levels of the pyramid: user indicators for the analytics team, secondary indicators for managers, and primary indicators for executive-level reporting. As you measure audience activity, you will understand which tactics are most effectively driving your immediate goals, while informing future efforts and defining long-term objectives.
There are so many elements to consider when understanding what is content marketing, but make no mistake: content marketing is imperative to the success of any organization. Without a well-developed strategy, your business will find itself losing to your competitors who embraced content marketing.
Think of how much time people spend looking at their smartphones, tablets, and computers. All of those people are consuming content provided by innumerable businesses, organizations, and media outlets. It’s time to add your brand’s voice to that conversation and develop your very own content marketing strategy. Need some guidance? Speak with the experts at Focused Content Marketing today.