If you’re not one of those marketers, you must be wondering what is content marketing? I am glad you asked!
Content marketing is the process a business employs to produce and distribute valuable content and experience with the goal of attracting and acquiring customers.
It is also sometimes referred to as Inbound marketing, or business blogging, since the most common type of content inbound marketers create are blog posts.
Inbound marketing warms up and builds relationships with prospects using content and experiences aimed at enhancing their lives and solving their problems.
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Why Content Marketing?
Buyers today are more empowered than before. They can use search engines to find information, read reviews, and compare different products on their own.
In addition, they can get recommendations from friends and colleagues on social media.
The reason I love the methodology of inbound marketing is that it's different from the traditional sales process. A brand doesn’t have to aggressively interrupt prospects via phone or email blasts.
Instead, it focuses on being found, getting permission first and then nurturing prospects via great content.
The prospects then initiate the contact if/when they are interested in the solutions offered by the brand.
By producing and promoting content designed to solve the problems and meet the needs of your target audience, you get qualified prospects and build credibility for your brand.
Business blogging works because people are more likely to do business with or buy from brands they trust and are familiar with.
It’s more about brains than brawls, about caring about your prospects’ time, and about giving them something of value first before asking anything.
The mark of an effective content strategy is the relentless focus on delighting your target audience and supporting them no matter what, even when it doesn’t translate to a direct sale.
In any case, a delighted prospect can become a brand promoter, if handled with care.
As technology and consumer behavior shift with time, content marketing is a more helpful, authentic and effective way to grow your business.
Components Of Inbound Marketing
The components of content marketing can be divided into two main categories: content and marketing. Surprising right?
The content part deals with the different forms of material you’ll create for your target audience, and the marketing part deals with promotion and distribution of that material.
Types of Content
To begin content creation, you need to know what the preferred content platforms and formats are for your audience.
Building a blog with written content is the most common way most brands get started. In fact, OKDork’s data shows blog posts are among the most shared content online.
But if you audience is more into videos, for instance, starting a Youtube channel or video blog may make more sense.
The content can be in the form of tutorials, blog articles, webinars, lead magnets, ebooks, email newsletter, social media updates and more. The only main condition is that it must provide value.
Once you have started producing great content regularly, the next step is make sure it reaches your target audience via adequate promotion. There are 4 main distribution channels used for this purpose.
Owned: Sharing your content on your own channels — like email newsletter, social media is a fast, customizable and free way to reach out to people who follow your brand.
Organic: These are channels which are not directly under your control, but help people discover your content. A search engine like Google is one such channel.
Following SEO best practices helps Google understand your content and present to searchers when it matches the search queries.
Paid: These channels are associated with paid advertising to a specific audience based on their searches, interests and other details. For example, sponsored content, pay-per-click (PPC), display, and retargeting.
Earned: Earned media refers to channels used by people who have no affiliation to your brand to spread the word about you. For example, when your brand gets featured in a news story, or someone shares your content on social media.
The Process: How Content Marketing Works
I confess. I oversimplified to some extent when I wrote above that business blogging is just creating and promoting content. However, I did that to explain it first in a way that’s less overwhelming.
As you know, half knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge. If you are interested in pursuing the content methodology, you must know the process and planning involved in a tad more detail.
So here are the major steps or phases you need to make inbound marketing work for your brand.
Understand Your Audience
To reach your audience with business blogging, start by identifying who they are and what type of content they would want.
This crucial step is often rushed or overlooked. So I urge you to truly take the time to understand your prospects. Respect the process and I assure you’ll reap the rewards.
Researching your target market, analyzing competition and creating buyer personas can help you build an effective content creation plan and schedule. For more information, here’s my complete guide to analyze your target market.
Create A Content Strategy
Content marketing is a significant long-term investment. Even more so considering the duration or months/years it takes to build momentum and deliver results.
It’s not like advertising, which you can turn on or off as you please. If something is not right with your advertising strategy, you can recover quickly by correcting it there and then.
But if you made the mistake of choosing the wrong direction for your organic content strategy, or worse, not even having a strategy, there are no quick fixes. It can again take months, or you may have to start from square one.
So the first step of content writing is to ensure that you have a strategy in place. For more information, read my article on essential components of a content strategy,
Attract Prospects With Content
You can also establish a content creation process in-house if you have the time and resources to train and manage.
The focus of your content should be on the needs and problems of your prospects, not on your business.
Here are some examples:
- A guide on how to solve a problem in your niche.
- Best practices to achieve a goal your target audience share.
- Details on a social media giveaway or contest.
The great way to find new topics is to use a good keyword research tool (like KWFinder) to see what type of information people are searching the most in your chosen niche.
For example, let’s say my business is in the body building niche. This is what I get when I search body building in KWFinder.
Keyword research will help you identify entry points for new readers who had no prior knowledge of your business.
Moreover, by targeting and optimizing your content for keywords corresponding to the challenges of potential customers, for instance, you can make your content easier to find for people searching for those topics.
Once you have published a good amount of content, there are innumerable ways to bring in visitors. The two most popular of all organic traffic sources are search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, especially Facebook.
When it comes to inbound marketing, compounding growth is what matters. This means you will not be focusing much on traffic sources like social media, which cannot give you recurring traffic, unless you have the budget for ads.
If the budget is limited, it’s wise to focus on just SEO in the beginning. For best results, you must have so many pieces of high quality content that your website pages show up on search engine result pages for several keyword searches.
This will ensure that your target audience finds you through search engines not just once, but on multiple occasions.
Engage & Convert
When you have been producing great content on a consistent basis and getting targeted traffic, the next step is to start engaging visitors in parallel, and converting them into leads, and later customers.
Just bringing a prospect to your website once won’t cut it. You’ll need a full blown, automated sales funnel, with stages that take a prospect from being aware of your brand, to giving you permission to stay in touch to build a relationship, to using your product or service.
And for each stage of the funnel, you’ll need appropriate content to take the prospect to the next stage. The content has to be optimized for conversions.
Here’s how: Your content pages would have appropriate lead magnets and CTA’s placed strategically, asking a visitor to follow you on social media, subscribe to your email newsletter, sign up for a webinar, allow push notifications, or something else. Here’s an example:
The idea is for them to allow you to keep in touch with them even after they have left.
Then your job is to consistently share more content, which is not only valuable to them, but also build a relationship and takes them closer to learning more about your product or service, and then making a purchase.
For example, you can start sharing a tutorial on how to solve a problem, or a case study on how you helped a previous customer achieve a concrete goal.
This can be done via email sequences, messaging apps, push notifications and retargeting on social media.
You will need the right mix of authentic communication and marketing automation to implement a system in place for this process. For details, check out my guide to turn visitors into customers with a content funnel.
Special Note: Make sure to have proper legal content on your website before you start collecting any information from your visitors.
Maintain The Relationship
To keep your business on a trajectory of growth, your job doesn’t end just on attracting prospects and then converting them to customers.
65% of people have said that they abandon a brand over even just one poor support experience. You need to keep giving value and delighting your customers with even more great content and experiences.
At this stage, you want to make sure that your customers have access to content that helps them understand and use your product to its full potential. Examples of this type of content include user guides, onboarding tutorials and use cases.
Another great strategy is to build a social community around your brand. Not only does this help your customers connect with and help each other, but also helps you get user generated content to add more fuel into your business blogging efforts.
Your community will also help you feedback on things you are testing, get recommendations and reviews on other platforms, and create case studies and similar content to acquire more customers.
Measure & Optimize
While you work on each stage of your inbound marketing plan, you’ll also need regular performance reporting and analysis to be in the know about what’s working and in which areas you can refine and improve your approach.
When it comes to selecting the right metrics to gauge your success, there are plenty to pick from. Some examples include search engine rankings, number of subscribers, and average time spent on your website.
In fact, there are so many that it’s easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter and overlook metrics that do.
For example, having 5,000 Facebook fans might look satisfying but unless you know how it translates to actual business results, it’s just boosting your ego.
Instead, you should be looking at valuable metrics like organic traffic, and how much your traffic is converting to subscribers or leads, and how many leads are you turning into customers.
As you can see, content marketing methodology boils down to delivering the right information to the right person at the right time.
The goal is to be able to attract, engage, and delight consumers, making your business grow more in the long run.
The more you invest in inbound marketing, the better return you will get. But the investment is not just in terms of time and money, but also with regard to doing it right.
Creating and distributing killer content has more to do with strategy and execution than with budget. The best way to fail at business blogging is to do it just for the sake of doing it.
You need a disciplined approach to content production, while using marketing automation tools to nurture and score leads. Then using analytics, keep optimizing in parallel how the leads flow through the pipeline.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.