Everything You Need To Know About Content Marketing in 2020
Content Marketing isn’t new, even though you might just be hearing about it. The concept has been around for a long time, over 100 years. The Furrow is an agricultural magazine by John Deere, and a marketing initiative that helped to shape them into the household brand they are today - a century before the ‘content marketing’ buzzword was first spoken. It’s proven so incredibly popular that it’s still running today, and continues to inspire and educate people all around the world. By now, the effect of The Furrow on John Deere’s revenue would be hard to judge, as it's so tightly tied into the fundamental brand. But the total result, the overall return on investment? Huge - that’s the power of brilliant content marketing. Content marketing can be incredibly effective when done right and, alongside SEO, forms the basis of modern inbound marketing.
What Is Content Marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute are pretty cluey when it comes to all things content, as you might have guessed from the name, and while I tried to paraphrase their content marketing definition of what is content marketing, I couldn’t come up with anything better! Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as 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.” It’s telling stories that resonate with your audience to align your brand with their interests, fears, wants and beliefs. It’s about answering their questions and providing the information they need to make decisions and add value to their lives. The essence of good content marketing is narrowing down your ideal audience and asking yourself the questions; How can I help them? What do they need? What do they want to know? What interests them?
Why Do I Need Content Marketing?
Honestly, not every business does. Content marketing, as much as we’d love to argue otherwise, isn’t for every single business. The reality is that it works better for some industries than others, and some businesses more than others. However, if you’re trying to take your business to the next level, and create a brand, content marketing is the only option. Content marketing requires us to look at the broader picture or the marketing sales funnel, if you want to get real serious. Most websites are aimed at converting the 2% of visitors that are ready to purchase, and ignore the 98% of people that aren’t quite at that stage.
No, those numbers aren’t a typo.
Most marketing efforts are ignoring 98% of the market. For some industries, like emergency callout services, there really isn’t time to shop around and consider all the different offerings, and do some extra research. Sure, content marketing could definitely be beneficial in making sure that when people do need your service in a hurry, you’re the only name they think of - but it might not be the best return on investment, right now. Here’s what the ideal content marketing funnel looks like, with the right content for each stage of the buyer journey. You need to be able to reach your audience with what they need, when they need it. Content marketing ensures that you’re advertising to everyone that could potentially buy your product or service, whether that's now, next week or in a year. It’s a long-term effort, but something that can also have immediate benefits for your business by really looking after the 2% that ARE ready to buy today. Not everyone is going to come into contact with your business at the exact moment they become aware of an issue, some people might not be ready to purchase- they need more information. If you’ve got content that provides the something they need, or puts to bed the last little worry they have - they’re ready to buy. If you take away one key thing from this article let it be that - providing the right information, at the right time, is the essence of content marketing done well. Valuable, informative and eagerly consumed content is how you position yourself as an authority and thought leader in your space. Spreading free, valuable information and being loud in the digital world creates brand awareness and builds trust with your audience. If they trust you, they’ll buy from you, and if your information is the last piece of the puzzle they needed to be sure of a purchase - chances are they’ll convert on the spot.
A note on branding
A brand is a critical component of good content marketing, as it determines the personality, tone, voice and more of your content. But, a good brand is also built on content marketing. That’s because a brand is created through the messages you push out into the world, and the interactions people have with your company. Content marketing is strategic, focused communication. By taking control of the way your business communicates with the market and it’s audience, you can deliberately shape the way your brand is perceived, and communicate your unique values.
What can content marketing do for me?
Understanding what content marketing is, and why you need it are important. To break down the key points of content marketing and what it does in tangible, real terms - a simple bullet list is the perfect option.
- Drive Traffic
- Spread Brand Awareness
- Create Engagement
- Develop Brand Authority
- Build Trust
- Grow Your Audience
Great content coupled with a strong strategy will drive traffic, attract eyeballs, spread awareness and over time build a loyal audience of people that WANT to buy your products and services. When combined with paid advertising (Google Ads) and SEO, content marketing can accelerate the growth of your business by spreading awareness of you, your product and the solution you offer to your audience’s problems.
Good Content Marketing vs Bad Content Marketing
Spotting the difference is actually pretty easy, and here's a content marketing guide outlining the good and the bad ways to do content marketing. Good content marketing should be aimed directly at solving a real problem, and delivering actionable, tangible advice backed up by experience. Unsubstantiated claims? Bad. Results of a study and helpful, relevant advice? Good. If the content you’re looking to create doesn’t necessarily solve a tangible problem, then it should be entertaining, informative or educational. While delivering a solution or tangible advice is often the first thing that jumps to mind when someone hears ‘deliver value’, entertainment is equally valuable. Informative, entertaining content is equal in value to an educational piece. All good content has to do, is be worth reading- which means delivering value.
Different Forms for Different Channels
Crucial to good content marketing is delivering value, and critical to that is presenting your audience with the right content, at the right time, in the right place. That means tailoring your content to the platform, and presenting it in a way that is engaging to the people in that space, and the mindset they’re in. Taking a blog post, and compressing it into an Instagram carousel isn't content marketing - its annoying. But, taking the best bits from a blog post, and using those important pieces of information to create interesting, bite sized images that let someone quickly and willingly digest your message? That’s brilliant marketing. Lets take a look at some of these content marketing examples:
The most well-known of all content marketing. Everyone knows about blogs, and their (potential) value to a business’ marketing efforts. Your blog is a place to connect with your audience, and target demographic. It’s also an incredibly powerful tool for SEO, allowing you to tailor a piece of content to an exact long-tail search term. Blogs are both the easiest and most difficult material all at the same time, they’re easy because anyone can punch a keyboard and spit out a few hundred words, then slap the publish button. They’re hard, because not many people can write compelling stories that engage an audience, effectively communicate a message, and deliver value.
Sometimes overlooked, social media is a critical form of content marketing in its own right. Developing content specific for socials is powerful and flexible. From short-form blog posts delivering quick hits of valuable information to a massive audience to stunning graphics and visual pieces that engage and excite people. Bonus Tip: Create a brilliant blog article, then re-purpose the juicy bits as social media posts or pictures, and get 10-for-1. Social media is particularly valuable for content marketing as it allows seamless integration of paid advertising - enabling effortless promotion.
We’ve all seen incredible examples of infographics, the best ones are generally brilliant designs on their own, and then when you look closer they’re chock full of highly valuable information. Infographics fill a unique role in content marketing, they’re a brilliant asset to support a longer article, but they’re also a valuable asset and piece of marketing in their own right. A particular tactic we love to utilise here at Dilate, is creating an infographic in addition to a blog post, doubling down on communicating the information we have to share. In fact, our single highest-performing piece of content we’ve ever created was an infographic created way back in 2016 that was shared over 10,000 times on social media. This was also featured on Socialmediatoday.com and other well-known publishers. *Please note some content in this infographic may be super outdated, but you get the gist. Essentially a cheat sheet on SEO, it’s exactly what good content looks like. Packed full of information, easily digestible and no-strings-attached. (however extremely off-brand now haha) Check it out;
Email? Is that really content marketing? Of course it is! In fact, email marketing is one of the most common forms of content marketing, and most businesses are doing it already without realising just how critical it is to your overall marketing strategy. Where blogs and broader content pieces are all about driving awareness and capturing the interest of potential customers, email is how you’ll get them further down the funnel, and present more relevant information to where they are in their purchase journey. Emails should be personalised, and specific to the person receiving them. If they’ve read an article, and then submitted an enquiry or filled out a form - email is the next step. Now they know about their problem, and know that your business provides a solution, it's time to start building trust - and that’s done by delivering value, straight to the inbox. Often taking the form of EDMs, or Email Direct Marketing, email is a great way to retain customers and keep in touch with them during the time between becoming aware of your company, and being ready to make a purchase. That consistent contact builds trust, and keeps your business font of mind. On top of that, consistent contact after a purchase KEEPS you front of mind, and encourages repeat business and referrals. Newsletters and automated marketing streams are a great way to do this - monthly updates on the industry and exciting developments that are of interest to the customer, and even remarketing campaigns. Abandoned cart emails, when done well, are one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing, with insane ROI numbers.
It’s no secret that video is the fastest growing form of content, and as people are living busier and busier lives it's no secret why. Everyone wants to be able to quickly and easily digest information, and most don’t have the time to sit down and read a lengthy blog post. Video can deliver the same information in an easier format, on the go and without having to pay complete, undivided attention. Video is also much more engaging, and the content platforms themselves such as YouTube and Vimeo’s algorithms encourage and demand this of the content on their platforms. Engagement is one of the most important metrics for evaluating and ranking videos, and with the average attention span - it’s for a good reason.
Bonus Tip: Take your best performing blog piece, and spend 5 minutes converting it into a script. Then, record and edit a short, punchy video. The research has already been done, and you know people are interested - what are you waiting for!
Getting Content Marketing Right
Let’s get started. Creating great content that will drive traffic, generate leads and position you as an authority in your space doesn’t just happen. You don’t just get lucky, or write whatever you think your audience is interested in and sit back to watch the revenue roll in. At the core of good content marketing is research and thorough understanding. Understand who you are, what you’re selling, and more importantly than anything else - understand who you’re selling to. Then, use that information to develop a strategy and align it to the buyer’s journey. Deliver meaningful content to your audience that is applicable to them, at the right time. There’s zero point delivering a hard-sales pitch, no matter how brilliant, to someone that doesn’t even know they’ve got a problem you can solve yet. But first, know who your buyer is and why you’re the answer to their problems. Start with the research.
Who are you selling to?
Understanding who buys your products, and why, is critical to both your content marketing efforts and improving your business as a whole. Connect directly with your previous customers via surveys, phone calls and going through your google reviews (where applicable). There’s no substitute for real feedback from real people, but when that’s not possible - quiz your staff & family. Ask them who they think buys your products or services, and why. Go on websites like Quora and open forums like Reddit and trawl through questions and answers keeping an eye out for trends and recurring themes. From there, collate and present that information - one of the best ways to do this is through buyer personas. Buyer personas are a core concept to any marketing effort, and it’s actually pretty simple. A buyer persona is a fictional character, often with a fun name like Barry the Business Owner, who you aim certain pieces of content at. Flesh your buyer personas out with an entire personality, including their goals, aspirations, fears and concerns. Buyer personas can be as detailed or quick and easy as appropriate to your strategy. As a standard though, a buyer persona should at least contain a basic bio of name, gender, age and occupation. If you’re a B2B business, also include their role in the company. Check out this example of just one of many ways to set out a buyer persona! Build on that basic bio with important things like how they speak, their values, interests and concerns. This information will let you tailor your content in terms of voice, tone and writing style. A down to earth tradesman doesn't want to sift through a 20-page academic essay on which insurance they need - this buyer persona wants the facts, quick and easy, so they can make a decision and get on with it. Utilise tools to analyse what your buyer personas are asking and searching on google, and what they’re most likely to engage with using previous studies and further analytics tools. This is one of the most critical aspects of the research phase, knowing exactly what your audience wants to know, and where they want to receive that information.
Who are you?
It might seem like knowing who you are, and what your business does, should come before knowing your audience. But really, you should be catering to them, and who they are. Build a business with a brand that your audience can resonate with, and understand. Great branding creates a business that people really connect with. Branding is a topic that we could spend a long time on, and is a deceivingly complex topic. While it is incredibly important, and everything you do in content marketing both comes from and reinforces your brand, it's not necessarily something that you need to have completely figured out right from the get go. For now, consider your business as a person. Create a personality, similar to a buyer persona, that your audience can relate to. Consider the way they speak, and what’s important to them. If you don’t have a set of values for your business, now's a great time to develop them. What’s important to your business, if they were a person? Are they outgoing and loud, with a strong and engaging personality? Or are they quietly capable, getting the job done in a steady and efficient way? Do they love change and improvisation, or carefully laid plans and execution? For example, a person can be always happy, outgoing and full of energy - but considerate and calm when the situation demands it. A business personality can be exactly the same, and having consistency throughout your business and content will drive higher quality content, and greater engagement with your customers. Once you fully understand who you’re talking to (your audience), and who’s talking (your business), the content will come easy, because the hardest part is already done. With the foundations laid and your core understandings hashed out and clear, you’re pretty much there. A great business personality, talking to a clearly defined audience about a specific, real question is most of your content, and from there it’ll pretty much write itself.
Content Marketing Strategy
Without a good content marketing strategy, content marketing is about as useful as writing your blogs on toilet paper and then tossing them out the window of your car, hoping they’ll generate leads. Your branding, audience research and understanding of the market are a big part of this, but there’s a little more to it. The core of everything you do should have your goals clearly in mind, and always be delivering useful information. Be sure of what you want your content to do, and consider carefully how it’s going to do it. A good content marketing strategy is about bringing your great content that’s well aligned with your branding, built from audience research and market understanding and implementing it as part of a grand plan. It’s about rolling it out strategically, and ensuring there’s an appropriate piece of content for each stage of the buying process, and a well crafted touch point for every step to guide your prospective customers along. A good content marketing strategy aligns with common buyer pain points and issues, and is matched to product launches. Strategy can be as comprehensive or narrow as you need, but it needs to exist. Strategy includes everything from ideation of a relevant topic, creating a piece of content relevant to a particular buyer persona and their stage in the buyer journey, and publishing it on the correct platform at the right time. But it also means doing this as part of a bigger, overall plan, where each piece of content is a move on a chessboard driving towards your core goals.
Is this piece of content driving towards my goal?
This is where SEO ties into this, and don’t make the mistake of thinking SEO as purely ‘Google hacking’, because in reality it's much more than that. Using keyword research tools to understand your audience and what they’re actually searching for, gives you incredibly valuable insights into what content is worth producing. The first step to actually producing content as part of a good strategy is identifying your key topic areas. This is based on your products and services, and the content that relates to them. The post that you’re reading right now is what’s called a cornerstone content piece, and its purpose is to broadly cover content marketing and serve as an introduction to the topic. Cornerstone content structure, also referred to as ‘topic cluster’ content structure, or pillar and post, is widely regarded as the most effective way to structure, strategise and produce content. Essentially, one big, long piece introduces the topic and briefly touches on each aspect. It’s designed as one of the first pieces of content a person might see when starting to become aware of a product, service or concept. From there, you want to create much more focussed and targeted pieces of content that answer the specific questions your audience has, and you’ll find these questions through keyword research. There are a range of great tools available for conducting keyword & long-tail research, one of our favourites is Answer The Public. Tailor these answers to your specific buyer personas, and write them with personality - your business’ personality. Deliver them through blogs, videos, social posts and infographics or whatever way works best to reach your target audience and communicate your message.
Don’t forget to promote
Good content marketing isn’t just in the content itself. If no-one ever sees it, it doesn’t matter how good it is. Ensure the right people; your target audience, see your content. There are a huge range of promotional tools, from sponsored posts on social media, to paid advertising, to paid distribution networks that can help you do this. Promotion is where you’ll also start to see real, immediate results for your efforts. While traditional content marketing relied largely on organic traffic and SEO, it’s now possible to fastrack results and see immediate traffic to your website with the range of paid advertising tools available in the digital landscape. Traffic to your website is not only good for keen, eager eyeballs consuming your content and learning about your business. It's also incredibly important for SEO. A key signal that Google considers, is traffic and engagement. However, it's not as simple as just numbers. If you have a high number of visitors to your website, but they are leaving quickly without engaging in your site, this will negatively impact your SEO rankings. That’s because Google starts to see your site as “not valuable”, and not what people are looking for. The flipside of this is the positive impact of people arriving at your site, and then interacting with it by staying engaged and visiting other pages. In this way, it's easy to see how SEO comes full circle with content marketing. Use keyword research and SEO best practice to conceptualise your content, and then your content will in turn help your website rank. Talking about the benefits of content marketing, and all the ways it's going to drive traffic, convert customers and help your SEO in theory is one thing. But without set goals, and a way of measuring results, how do you know if it's actually working? We all know that great theories and ideas don’t grow your business. Implementation and refining of those ideas do, and making decisions on real data and real numbers. If something is working, double down. If it’s not? Bin it.
When measuring the effect of your content marketing, it's important to have clear goals. Measuring the success of your content against a KPI of conversions, when your content is orientated around brand awareness, is going to give the wrong impression. Understanding that content is designed to target the majority of the funnel, beyond those that are ready to purchase, helps to define content marketing goals. The two most important metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of a particular blog, are page views and time on page. Page views aren’t random, they’re determined by how good your heading is, and how well the piece was promoted. Content pieces with high page views AND a strong time on page value show a clear winner, if your content isn’t engaging - the average time on page will be low. There’s more to content than just blogs though; the best metrics for infographics, for example, are shares and backlinks. The usefulness and value of infographics are measured in how much people spread them around and shared it on their social media. Similar, social media is best evaluated on engagement and share. How many people liked, commented or shared your post, image or video? For video content, obviously the best are watched until the end, however in today’s digital climate, getting people nearly there is still a great achievement. Engagement and views, on YouTube, are again your key metric, however video appears on multiple platforms. On social media, video is judged on all of them above! Engagement, views, shares, comments and average view time.
Advanced Content Strategies & Conclusion
Content is incredibly effective, and also incredibly broad. At its most basic level, a blog can boost traffic and help your SEO results, or develop a more complex content marketing strategy with a range of clever, multi-level strategies. Creating an invaluable resource for your audience, and then including a separate download or web-tool that delivers even MORE value, gated behind an email sign up, is just one of the ways you can get a lead into the funnel and have them happy to be there. The options with content marketing are honestly endless, and as the length of this post shows - it takes a long time to get through it all. Content marketing is a way to create your brand, communicate it to the world and then grow your business to ridiculous heights. Content marketing is the difference between John Deere, and that other tractor brand that everyone forgot about. It’s not just blogs, it's every single piece of marketing you put out into the world. Content is your images, your messages, your slogans and it's why Nike is Nike, and Red Bull took over the world. If you’re ready to take the plunge, call us. Or if you want to know more about how you can consciously craft your brand into something bigger, read our article on branding here.