You’ve probably come across the phrase ‘content marketing’ more often over the last few years. Like many people, you may have been left wondering what exactly it is and how it might work for you. It seems to be a generally agreed idea that content marketing is a ‘GOOD THING’ that you ABSOLUTELY must be doing it right now! Very often, however, the people talking about it don’t say how or why it is such a good thing. Worry no more, this article will dive deep into the theory and practicalities of content marketing. By the end, you’ll not only know if it is right for your business but you’ll also have a much clearer idea of how to put a proper content strategy together that will put money on to your bottom line.
I have a keen interest in content marketing as I own a business called VideoTrack. We are a company that specialises in producing video content marketing for small business. We often find ourselves helping people get their heads around the key concepts. Despite my professional interests, the article won’t focus solely on the video side of things. Much of what we will be talking about applies to all facets of content creation. Be sure to look at the whole of content marketing so you can build a picture of the entire process.
It is worth saying up-front that content marketing is not a quick fix to a problem. It can be a big investment of time but one that if done right will utterly transform your business. Nothing will speed up the buying cycle quite as effectively as brilliant, relevant content. If you don’t believe me now, by the end of the article you will!
Define the concept
So, what do we mean by ‘content’? This is how the Content Marketing Institute (yes, such a thing exists) defines content marketing:
“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.”
Putting it simply, content marketing is all about creating and sharing things (videos, blogs, books) that help your audience. The key to doing it well is planning and thought rather than a scattershot approach. This results in people liking, trusting and buying from you. Instead of using tired old advertising pitches you are proving your worth, ability and value through willingly shared, valuable information.
You have been exposed to countless forms of content marketing over the years. If you were a child or parent in the 1980s and bought He-Man or Transformers toys, then you were the target of a supremely effective content marketing campaign. An audience was defined. In this case children watching Saturday morning TV. Hasbro, the manufacturers of Transformers, then created a cartoon highlighting lots of exciting looking robots. The cartoon hit TV screens and found its intended audience. The audience then went on to pester parents across the globe until they spent large chunks of cash on robots that turned into unconvincing versions of other non-robotty things. Or in the long-remembered case of this author, birthday present robots that fell apart on opening. Still pretty raw about that one Hasbro…
A slightly flippant example, but one that perfectly encapsulates the power of content to capture the mind and imagination of its intended audience and then take that engagement and turn it into cold, hard sales. Hasbro’s investment has proved highly successful and the Transformers toy ranges and films still sell millions each year.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you should create Saturday morning cartoons for your potential customers. I am suggesting that you give content marketing a considered look to see if it is for you. The core concept of content marketing is one that applies to all areas of marketing. Be it B2B or B2C the same rules apply.
Content Marketing and Video
As a video company, I want to briefly talk about content from our perspective. The ubiquity of online video is startling. As someone who started out his video production career delivering projects on VHS cassette the rise of online video is amazing.
The modern process is so much more streamlined. The younger members of our team can barely believe the effort that previously went into producing video content. The simple fact that everyone has access, via YouTube, to what is effectively their own TV channel, is something that still leaves me open-mouthed with wonder.
If you have a camera and internet access you have a mouthpiece for your ideas / product / service. With this comes both amazing opportunity and profound risks to your business.
As video producers for business we have seen companies get video devastatingly wrong and helped organisations get it very right. Video content marketing can produce amazing results for your business but only if the planning and strategy behind the videos is right.
Video content marketing is no different from any other form of content marketing. You need to focus on producing useful, relevant information that helps potential customers reach their desired goals. It is also important to view it not as a quick fix but a long-term investment that will feed your business with high quality leads for years.
Types of Content
The term ‘content marketing’ covers a huge range of ways to communicate. In fact, to cover them all in this article would result in a book not a brief read. So here are a sample of some great examples of the ways that you can use content to promote and grow your business.
You will, no doubt, be aware of the fact, that this article is a piece of content marketing. I’ve written this piece for many different reasons, but it is undeniably a piece of content with a marketing purpose. It is my profound hope that you will find this both useful and interesting. You will have found this article because of a variety of different promotion strategies. Hopefully you will be thinking that this is proving to be a useful ten minutes of your time spent reading. If this is the case, then I can consider this article a success not only as a tool to help others but also as a piece of content.
But why else should you consider writing articles? The written word carries weight. It is can also sometimes be easier to read an article than it is to watch a video or listen to a podcast. You are sharing your knowledge in a way that means that your audience will always link you with its usefulness. This helps with the process of positioning you as not only an expert but one who is happy to share their knowledge freely.
There are peripheral benefits to creating written content, particularly the longer articles. There are SEO benefits to creating socially shared content that is useful. You will also see improved traffic to other areas of your website as people come for the article but end up staying. They may want to explore what other content you have on offer or find out about your products or services.
Video is everywhere. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the home to billions of hours of video. YouTube alone generates 3.25 Billion hours of viewing time each month (http://www.statisticbrain.com/youtube-statistics/). That is an unfathomable amount of video and gives you a sense of the scale of opportunity for businesses, brands and other organisations. Video content can seem daunting, expensive and time-consuming to create. This need not be the case and with a little preparation you can produce high quality videos that will allow you to connect with your desired audience. Alternatively, you can employ a production company to produce your video content.
Looking at how businesses use video content successfully is a great way to see how it might work in your business. Marie Forleo is worth looking at as she has been consistently producing high quality videos packed full of great advice and knowledge for years. This has helped her build a business empire that has an army of devoted fans.
Podcasts are fantastic forms of content. The sheer range and scope of podcasts available is mindboggling. I have two or three business podcasts that I listen to regularly. My favourite is Perpetual Traffic by Digital Marketer. This podcast regularly shares amazingly useful information. They have a great mix of guests and the presenters themselves have a deep understanding of digital marketing. It is an exemplar of content marketing. They are giving away lots of free information of the kind that businesses might usually expect to pay for. However, it is that very quality and generosity of information that makes it such a powerful example of content marketing. Like video, podcasts can be a big commitment of time and resources but if you can do it and do it well then you can really set yourself apart as a source of ability and knowledge.
We’ve all seen them and all seem to love them. Infographics are ways of taking boring data and turning it into something visually appealing and instantly understandable. A great example of this was recently put out by Hubspot. I particularly liked this one as I found it whilst having a conversation with a colleague about the benefits of video. In this way it proved to be a highly relevant piece of content to me at a very specific moment.
Infographics are particularly shareable, making them excellent social media content. There are plenty of ways to get infographics made ranging from using sites like fiverr.com through to commissioning agencies.
These are simply a few examples of some of the different forms of content you can create and share. There are plenty of different types of content and the only significant measurement of success is whether the end content is useful or relevant to its intended audience.
This is where we get into why you might want to consider using content marketing in your business. Some of the direct benefits of content marketing are:
For me this is the big one. Trust is everything in business. People buy from you on trust. Trust is built in part through buyers researching you, your business, what you know and the quality of your work.
One highly effective way to build trust is though ‘expert positioning’. This is the theory that says that nurturing a reputation as an expert in your chosen field helps to grow your business. Regularly producing high-quality, information-rich content is a great way to grow your reputation as an expert and build that all important trust with potential customers.
The key to using content as a trust builder is in regularity. If you publish high-quality information consistently to a key audience, you can quickly prove your pre-eminence in your field.
A significant benefit of creating good quality content will be higher domain authority. If you publish more quality content on your site you will increase the perceived ability, authority, relevance, and trust associated with your site.
When that content causes more inbound links from external sources to point towards your website, your domain authority will increase. A higher domain authority correlates strongly with higher search rankings. The more quality content you produce, the more organic search visibility you’ll stand to gain in all areas of your site.
Improve Your Website Experience
The more content you have on your website, the better the experience of people visiting your site will be. If people enjoy spending time on your site, they are becoming more familiar with what you can offer. This leads to better lead generation and helping people move through the sales process faster. As others say, content has a multiplier effect. The more you have the better it all seems. If you have a single good article on your site it might seem to be a bit of an anomaly. If you have a series of useful regularly published articles, then all the articles support each other and magnify the other’s value.
There is no denying that content marketing can work wonders for your business, however, it does come at a price. If you do it yourself then the price is simply time. Creating high quality content can be a serious investment of time. We spend one day every month creating our weekly video content for our own business. We know this is time very well spent. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when we look at the diary and find ourselves thinking that there is no way that we are going to be able to fit it in. Nevertheless, the effect and value of the content means that we always find a way. It is just too valuable not too…
So, when you are thinking about planning your content marketing be aware that it is a significant investment of your time and energy but one that will pay huge dividends.
The other thing to consider is that the effect of content marketing is not immediate. It can take a while before the benefits of the strategy truly take hold. When they finally do, the results can be staggering.
Content marketing works
To illustrate the point here are five content marketing facts that should make you sit up and take note:
The average cost to generate a lead through inbound (content) marketing (£114) is about half the average for outbound marketing (£299) (1)
Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages.(2)
Companies with active blogs receive 97% more leads.(3)
B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t.(4)
61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content.(5)
You can see that there are real benefits but don’t expect it to be quick or easy. It can be easy to get disillusioned with the content marketing process. By month two or three you may be thinking, when are the results going to start! Keep going as you will push through this barrier. Think of it as a marathon not a sprint. You need to keep focused on the strategy and keep on producing. This is why some companies prefer to employ other specialist content creation businesses to take away the pain of content creation.
The key to any content marketing success is in having a plan. If you have a solid strategy to guide the creation and distribution of your content, then you will succeed. VideoTrack has a system to help guide organisations through the planning process which takes them through five steps. These five steps help us understand the audience for the video content. Here is the process that we use. It applies to any content you are thinking about creating.
In this step, we define the audience we are looking to target with our content. We have our own system for doing this but this is essentially a customer avatar outlining process. By the end of this step you should have a detailed understanding of who you want to reach with your content and where to share it so that they will see it.
This is where we find the story at the heart of your organisation. We define and refine this story so we can weave the right message through all your content. This will help people understand your organisation in a more precise way.
Looking at the customer journey for your business will help you understand where the content you are going to produce will help the most. Do you need it to help with generating leads, warming up existing leads or building trust to help with decision making and buying? In other words, where in the sales process will the content will be of most value?
Figuring out what content to put out over each quarter of the year and what theme each piece of individual content will have is a great way to ensure that you stay on target. In this stage, we break down each quarter of the year into months and decide, using our planning system, what content will go out each month and the kinds of actions we would like the content to encourage people to take.
Individual Content Planning
The final step is to map out each piece of content that was decided on in step four. This last stage helps plan the individual pieces of content within the strategy defined in steps one to four.
As mentioned, our focus is video but the process applies to any type of content. If you are interested in some free content planning downloads come on over to www.videotrack.co.uk and sign up for our free download as it comes with free planning printables.
The one thing that is most surprising is that most companies aren’t doing content marketing either properly or consistently. This offers up an enormous opportunity for your business. If few people in your field are using content marketing, then you will become the perceived industry expert with all the associated benefits that go with that status.
You might also like our blog on how to keep producing content even when you are busy.