If you are just beginning to explore online marketing, you may have come across the term “content marketing.” You’ve likely read a little bit about the benefits that creating effective content can bring to your business.
While content marketing takes a considerable amount of work, it is definitely worth exploring. It costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing—and it offers 300 percent more lead generation.
When you are trying to figure out where to start, you might feel a little overwhelmed by all the types of content and mediums and publishing outlets and audiences and personas… The whole process of creating a comprehensive content marketing campaign can stress you out.
It doesn’t have to, though. If you know the right process—one that works for almost any business—content marketing can go from being a thorn in your side to becoming your secret weapon. It can help you rake in the traffic, convert them into leads, and convert those leads into relevant.
In this post, you’ll learn what content marketing is, how it works, and how you can make it work for you.
What Is Content Marketing?
First, here is a textbook 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.
Before the dawn of the internet, most marketing was driven by vendors. If you wanted to buy something, say office supplies, you had to get more information from a salesperson. Any information they disclosed to you was designed to guide you down their funnel and toward purchasing product directly from them.
That presented the opportunity for a great deal of personal interaction, but it made the whole sales process much more opaque. You couldn’t just go to Amazon.com and compare prices and features and reviews. And if you didn’t know much about the product, it wasn’t always easy to get the salesperson to tell you what you wanted to know.
In short, salespeople and marketers held most of the cards.
The internet has shifted the equation, giving power to the buyers in the form of information. And it’s also reversed the roles. Now, buyers take themselves down most of the funnel before they ever contact a salesperson (if they ever do!).
Savvy business owners and marketers like us at this point will be thinking, “So buyers are doing most of the shopping on their own. That means I need to be able to get on their radar—and make a good impression on them!”
You might also be thinking that content marketing material should start selling to the customer from the very beginning. It’s important to note that is not the case. Content marketing should provide helpful information to potential customers so they can learn more about what you offer.
As they begin to see you as a trusted resource, they will hopefully reach out to you for more information, and you can carefully guide them through the funnel. In other words, content marketing puts the power back in your hands.
Here’s an example: Search Google for “create small business website.” Odds are good that the first couple of results aren’t actually directly trying to sell you something. In fact, the websites product or service might not be mentioned. Instead, the company will carefully explain the best steps for creating a small business website.
And if the person who searched the term doesn’t want to do all the hard work themselves… that website has just found a new customer.
Types of Content
There are several types of content available to you. Which one you use will be based on your goal. Most people think that “blogging” is the sum total of content marketing. Yes, blogging can be used to produce and share content. But many other means of content distribution fall under the “content marketing” term as well.
Here are several types of content that you can use to drive results for your business:
- Blogs – Ah yes, the most revered medium for online information sharing. Most blogs would be jealous of the population of a ghost town. When you create a blog, the key is to write and post great content regularly. That’s how you get traffic to your site, and how you get people to come back. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; blogging can be useful as a marketing strategy.
- Videos – YouTube just keeps getting bigger (it made Google $15 billion last year), which is making videos an increasingly popular way to market your business online. Video content marketing is great for sharing a whole lot of information in a very small period of time.
- E-Books – E-books can give your audience everything they need to know about a specific topics, thus establishing your expertise. E-books are especially effective as “lead magnets”; in other words, they are given away for free in exchange for a customer’s contact information.
- Infographics –Infographics present information in a visually appealing, easily comprehended format. They are light on information, heavy on statistics, and rely a lot on pictures. Infographics are especially effective if you can get your audience to share them.
- Webinars – Webinars, again, allow you to distribute a lot of information with your audience in a short term. More importantly, they allow you to actually connect with your audience—that is invaluable for generating sales.
- Social Media Content: Anything that can be shared on social media is a type of content. And that’s essentially anything I’ve mentioned above! You can repurpose your blog posts, videos, ebooks, infographics, etc. into shareable content for Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
There are many more types of content you can use to attract leads to your business. Use a variety of these formats to ensure your content is always new and exciting for your audience.
5 Steps to Effective Content Marketing
As you think about building your content marketing strategy, you might be wondering: “How does content marketing actually work?” In other words, how does it help you turns visitors into customers?
Here’s a simple explanation…
Imagine your business is on one side of a huge chasm. On the other side is your potential market. The chasm is filled with ignorance and apathy. The people on the other side either don’t know or don’t care about you, your business or your product.
You need to build a bridge across that chasm for them to walk across. You’ll have to give them information that educates them about your products so that they can see the value you are offering. In turn, this helps to build in them a desire to purchase.
That’s the theory behind it. But let’s look in-depth at how content marketing can help you convert an audience into customers.
1. Create valuable content.
This is the key to effective content marketing. If you want this to work for you, your content must have information that people find useful and valuable. People simply tune out content that does not give them information or answer their questions—no matter how hard you worked on it! Create content that is thorough and informative, and people will stick around to read it.
2. Distribute your content online.
Your content is useless if nobody sees it. Once you have created informative content, distribute it wherever your audience is. That might mean optimizing it for search engine results, or that might mean sharing it on Instagram or Facebook. Identify where your target audience is, and post it there.
If that is social media, you might have a better option than sharing it yourself: reaching out to influencers, and asking them to post it. Of course, be ready to pay them if necessary. If you do so, focus specifically on influencers who can reach people in your target market.
Additionally (and likely more cheaply), reach out to industry experts. They might be willing to link to your content within your content—or even share it to their networks. That can be an invaluable way to get perfectly targeted traffic to your content.
3. Let people find your content—and find it helpful.
Once your content is live, wherever you chose to post it, your target customers will start to find it. It could be through a simple Google search, or through the explore tab on Instagram. Hopefully, they find the content to be helpful and informative, and it leaves them with a positive impression of your business.
4. Your brand awareness and audience trust grows.
When talking about selling online, it’s all about the know, like and trust factor. The more they learn about you and your business, the more they will likely to do business with you.
After interacting with your content, your audience becomes familiar with your brand. The goal is to get them to follow you on social media and opt in to your mailing list. That way, you have a way to reach out to them again whenever you have new content, instead of hoping they will find your piece of content from millions of other things on the internet.
5. Your conversions and sales rise.
After they connect with you via social media or your website, the customers eventually follows your call to action (CTA), contacts your business, and either learns more or buys your product or service on the spot.
Many leads will not convert immediately. That is why it is crucial to keep publishing content that educates them about how your product can solve their problem. The point is to keep your business in the front of potential customers’ minds. When they are ready, they will purchase. It’s as simple as that!
What is the Purpose of Content Marketing?
Successfully executing a content marketing strategy will serve many purposes for your business. But you should be ensuring four specific objectives are met, which we’ve outlined below.
1. Your audience will be informed.
People conduct hundreds of millions of searches every day, hunting for relevant information. They pester Google with variants of searches to try to get the precise information they need.
If you rank for any of those searches—or if you pop up in their social media feed—you should be providing content that instantly answers those questions and gives them the information they need. After your prospects consumed your content, they should be more informed about their problem than when they came.
Over time, they will begin to see you and your business positively, and they will perceive it as insightful and helpful.
Good content will set you up as an expert in whatever that is you’re selling. When your audience reads the information, they should walk away thinking that you know precisely what you are talking about.
When they see you as an authority on the topic, they will trust you and your business. That in turn makes them more confident to purchase your product or service. Investing in a content marketing strategy that positions you as an authority in your field can pay large dividends later on.
3. Your brand awareness will grow.
Content marketing should help new potential customers find your business for the first time. They might not even be actively looking for the specific product or service you provide. Or they might still be in the very early stages of buying—just looking for information to help them be more knowledgeable about the problem they are trying to solve.
For example, think about the keto diet. In the past few years, keto has become extremely popular. As more people begin to start on the diet, others become curious about what it is, whether it’s healthy, and why it works.
If you sell a keto recipe book, you might create content around the benefits of the keto diet, different variants, and a few success stories. Someone who is just beginning to research keto would find the information helpful and understand keto a little better.
At the same time, the content would increase the chances of the right people finding your book. Your website will being to pop up in search results, which will drive more traffic… and eventually, more customers.
4. Your reach will expand.
When you’re creating helpful content, people will share it with their friends who are also interested in the same topic. As a result, you will receive free organic traffic and expand your reach to people who are interested in your products or services.
How To Grow Your Business Online With Content Marketing
Executing a content marketing strategy is a strong way to bring potential leads to your business and to encourage them to choose you when they’re ready to purchase. But you don’t want just any lead. So you need to create content marketing strategy that will help the right people find your business.
Identify Your Target Audience
To begin creating a successful content marketing strategy, you first have to determine who it is that you want to find your content—your “target audience.” The content you create should not appeal to everyone. Figuring out who you want to consume it will help you create content that appeals specifically to them.
One of the most widely used tactics is the use of “buyer personas.” These are simply the profile(s) of your ideal customers. Buyer personas will help you focus on a few specific subsets of people you are targeting, then create content that meets their specific needs.
Let’s say you sell refinished sports cars online. Think for a moment about the typical customer you’ve had over the past few years, or that your competitors usually have. You can begin to use these average customers to develop buyer personas that cover the majority of your customer base.
For example, you will likely find that most of your customers are men, aged 55-70, who are married and have a net worth of $1M+. Based on this information, you can write out a complete buyer persona—their likes and dislikes, how they learn, what information they want—to help you reach these men better.
When you know your audience and the type of content they want, you will be able to develop a more comprehensive, personalized, intuitive content marketing strategy. Remember, your content must be valuable and engaging with your specific audience. If you spend time on the front-end developing accurate buyer personas, you’ll be able to create relevant content that will land well with your audience—and generate a return on your investment.
What Kind Of Content Should You Create?
This one seems like common sense, but you’ll see it violated often online. Your audience wants content that is relevant to them, and you want it to be relevant to you and your business. Where that Venn diagram overlaps is where you should be creating your content.
Yes, it’s tempting to try to hop on trending topics and drive a short-term burst of traffic to your site. But if the issue is not relevant to the industry you’re in, the traffic will be worthless.
For example, a pizza shop wouldn’t publish an article about hoverboards, just because those are all the rage. They might get traffic to their site, but it wouldn’t be relevant traffic because people would be looking to get information on or purchase a hoverboard—not pizza. To drive the right traffic for your business, stick to your specific industry.
A bike shop might be great for promoting hoverboard information. If people like it, the shop might even choose to start stocking hoverboards alongside their bikes. The content might prove lucrative for the shop in the long term.
Distribute Your Content
Earlier, we briefly touched on distributing your content. This is one area in which the majority of content marketers fail. Just because you create it doesn’t mean people will see it. And there is no point in creating great content if no one actually sees it.
There are dozens of ways you might get your content in front of people. Most of them fall into one of these 3 categories (which you might have heard of): earned media, paid media, and owned media.
1. Owned media
Owned media is any promotion you can do yourself—for example, by sending out an email blast to your email list, or sharing your infographic with your Instagram followers. You “own” the channels of distribution, so you can freely tell people about your content whenever you want.
A few examples:
- Your company Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter profile
- Your customer email list
- Your company website or blog
2. Paid media
Paid media is just what it sounds like: Anywhere you have to pay in order to get coverage. It could be an influencer posting about your product on Instagram, or just purchasing Facebook ads that link to the content you created.
A few examples:
- Google Ads
- Facebook ads
- Press releases
3. Earned media
Earned media is perhaps the best kind. You’ll get it when you create a useful piece of content that people can’t help but share. The content will be picked up and shared—for free—by big websites and influencers. It’ll be linked to and shared all over the internet, giving you a ton of publicity. Earned media is every online marketer’s dream.
A few examples:
- Shared content on personal social media pages
- Podcast interviews
- A Buzzfeed article
The customer is in charge now. Creating and distributing useful content is one of the best ways to control how they move through the sales funnel and toward a purchase. When you earn their trust, you earn their business.
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