Content marketing is all the buzz these days. And for good reason. Consumers, and even businesses, don’t want to be sold to anymore—they want to ask a question that addresses a specific need or problem and find a solution on their own terms. For businesses who have an answer to that question, and want to make a connection with that potential customer, content marketing is the ticket.
According to the Content Marketing Institute™…
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.
It’s about telling people what you know
In essence, content marketing is all about creating useful content from what you already know, and promoting it through various channels. It’s more cost-effective and scalable than other activities and it can sustain itself long-term with only minimal maintenance. It also provides a longer-lasting source of leads—once built, assets can be available for a wide range of uses to support cross-channel marketing efforts.
Content marketing fits most naturally at the top of the sales funnel near the beginning of the customer journey. Done effectively, it attracts attention through content that focuses on relevant, educational, and useful information on topics people search for. By focusing on content that would be useful to those demonstrating intent to purchase, it can also be used to move people further down the funnel to become leads and even customers.
Content will be found primarily via search, so it has to appeal to search engine algorithms. But today, because of the tendency to use more complex search queries, getting picked up by search engines is more than just using the right keywords. Algorithms now understand topical context behind the user’s intent, tie it back to similar searches they have encountered in the past, and deliver web pages that best answer the question.
This isn’t to say that algorithms have all the power. After all, it’s people who are behind those searches, so your content needs to be meaningful to them too. Therefore, with all the information available to them, your content should focus on what they want to hear (an answer to their question), not just what you have to say (a sales pitch).
It’s starts like any other marketing effort
Content marketing is still marketing, so like any other new initiative you take on, you need to develop a plan.
First, determine your goals, both broad and specific. If you’re looking to become a thought leader in your industry, ask yourself why. Is it to cross-sell or upsell your current customers? Or to get new customers on board who are currently buying from your competition? Or maybe there’s a prospective audience who doesn’t know who you are, or that you have a product or service they might benefit from?
Then, set specific and measurable goals, such as:
- Increase site traffic by XX%
- Get XX content views in X months
- Get XX content downloads in X months
- Get XX social media interactions
- Increase your average rank by XX% for targeted topics
- Acquire XX MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads)
- Convert XX MQL to XX SQL (Sales Qualified Leads)
Next, define your audiences. As a marketer, you’ve likely gone through exercises to do this, so use the data and/or personas you already have a starting point. Think about the problems and challenges they face on a regular basis and how you can help them. Not just with the products you sell or the services you offer, but with the knowledge you have as an industry player—it’s the insights you provide that create value and promote trust.
People all throughout your organization carry this knowledge in one form or another, and they can likely help you generate a good deal of useful content. Your sales team and/or CSRs have a direct relationship to your customers—they are the front line to every question, request, and complaint that comes in the door. Every one of those communications has the potential to become a topic you can address in a blog, a video, an article, a webinar, a podcast, or social media post.
Think of others who might have ideas to contribute—installers, engineers, your onboarding team, help desk personnel, even your receptionist. These people have varying levels of contact with the very audiences you want to connect with. Let their experiences be the percolator of ideas. As an added benefit, your quest for information from them will strengthen your day-to-day interactions. Showing you’re interest in their experiences and perspectives will encourage them to continue sharing ideas with you. Be transparent about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and they will respond.
Armed with all this great information, you’ll need a strategy for creating and organizing content, which can feel a little overwhelming. Fortunately, there are companies like HubSpot that dedicate a portion of their content marketing to, well, content marketing. They have a great method that utilizes content clusters (a series of core topics and subtopics) to help you organize your materials in a manner that gets you found by search engines and searchers, and helps move those searchers through your sales funnel.
HubSpot’s free in-depth course is used by a lot of marketers. Many agencies, including ours, utilize their method to develop content marketing programs like this one for clients who don’t have the resources to do it themselves.
It only works if you tell people
Until you own the SEO on your topics, you’ll need to help prospects find your content. To do that you’ll need to promote it via additional content like influencer pieces, guest blogs, social media, and paid promotion.
As prospects begin to find your content, it’s important to keep them engaged and moving along the path from prospect to lead. To do this, you’ll want to supplement your clusters with content upgrades (gated items that request their contact info), visual formats, follow-up emails, and other blog posts related to the topic. To keep your customers engaged and educated, you’ll want to promote your content via email and newsletters.
Like any other marketing initiative, measuring results is key for proving its worth. Track visits, leads (when mechanism is present), backlinks, and referrers to your pages and posts; track email opens and clicks; track downloads and leads generated from gated materials; track traffic to your website and pre- and post-form-fill behavior; and track social media views, interactions, reach, and change in followers. Use this data to learn what’s resonating with your audiences and further develop your plan as you go forward.
And don’t forget the all-important step of promoting your plan internally. All those people that helped with your research and topic generation will want to know how their contributions are being used. Not only will they feel like useful team players, they’ll help you promote the content organically when they are asked a question or presented with a problem. It’s a win-win for everyone.