“Content is king.”
– Bill Gates
It’s been nearly 3 decades since Bill Gates popularized this widely quoted phrase. And content still sits at the hypothetical iron throne today. The American software developer and business magnate strongly believed that offering valuable content is the single most effective way to connect with prospects & customers in the realm of digital marketing.
Bill Gates’ opinion aside, your competition already knows the value of content marketing and they’re knee-deep in it. According to the State of Marketing Report by HubSpot, 7 in every 10 marketers are continuously investing in online content marketing. If you’re not part of this statistic, you’re missing out! But you don’t have to. In fact, 64% of marketers are ‘itching’ to learn more about building effective content strategies.
Read on for a comprehensive no-fluff guide to understanding and leveraging the immense power of online content marketing.
Table of Contents
- First Things First; What is Online Content Marketing?
- Brief History of Content Marketing
- Why is Content Marketing Important?
- Types of Online Content Marketing
- How to Create a Great Content Marketing Strategy – Tips to Get Started
First Things First; What is Online Content Marketing?
The 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.” Online content marketing campaigns attempt to grab the attention of online users via several strategies.
Whereas traditional marketing efforts focus on pushing products or services, online content marketing is more about building relationships. You consistently give potential customers valuable content that aligns with their desires, needs, and pain points.
In layman’s language, content marketing is that gripping story you narrate to hook prospects—making them more likely to buy your products or services later on.
Please Note: There are two parts to an online marketing campaign; the production part and the promotion of the different forms of content created to reach more prospects. To quote Andy Crestodina, revered speaker and co-founder of Orbit Media, “It’s not the best content that wins. It’s the best-promoted content that wins.”
Here is a great video by Brian Dean which expands on what content marketing is and how important it is for your business!
Brief History of Content Marketing
Did you know that content marketing was a thing long before the web was invented? No kidding! For hundreds of years (or more), individuals and businesses have leveraged human nature’s affinity for storytelling to attract, convert, and build relationships with prospects.
As unreal as it may sound, one of the earliest examples of content marketing was fashioned nearly 300 years ago. According to a timeline unearthed by the Content Marketing Institute, Benjamin Franklin was the earliest content marketer as far as records show. The Founding Father of the U.S. is believed to have published Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his printing business in 1732.
Over the years, methods of content marketing have evolved in line with consumer habits and technological advancements. The world gradually transitioned from print media to digital marketing towards the turn of the 21st century. But despite the evolution, the core principles of content marketing remained unchanged. That is, offering valuable content to solve a prospect’s pain points.
Why is Content Marketing Important?
Under the assumption that online content marketing does not apply to your niche, products, or services? If so, you might be severely misguided. It may seem like I’m pushing the idea down your throat – but there’s good reason (*keep reading).
Any business – whether small or large – that dreams of launching a winning digital marketing campaign must learn to churn out great content. Simply put, creating and distributing valuable pieces of content is the not-so-secret trick to connecting with your target audience. It is how you attract, engage, and turn prospects into loyal customers.
Here are some of the reasons your business needs an online content marketing strategy:
- Attract the Right Prospects and Customers
Traditional marketing is basically a game of “hit or miss”. You send out ads to the masses hoping that some of them will buy into your products or services. This is slow, expensive, intrusive, and it offers little-to-no feedback to guide decision making.
Online content marketing is the stark opposite of this. By leveraging strategies such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), email marketing, informative blog posts, and engagement in social media platforms, marketers can attract the target audience. It pulls qualified leads.
- Build an Engaged and Interested Audience
It’s all about the customers – it’s ALWAYS been about the customers!
Creating superior user experiences is what convinces potential customers to choose and stick with you over the competition. This is possible by creating and distributing valuable content through blog posts, social media platforms, video content, and other content marketing efforts.
Tip: Interact with target audiences and gather useful insight on an ongoing basis.
- Increase Revenue in the Long-Term
You might wonder; how is offering free content that does not push for a sale financially feasible? It might not be immediately clear, but content marketing is where the dollars are. How so?
Content marketing leverages the four steps of a typical buying cycle. This includes awareness of the existence of a solution, research regarding the solution, comparing different products, and finally buying the best solution. The strategy hooks potential customers right from the awareness stage.
Here’s some food for thought: Industry statistics by Demand Metric show that online content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing (traditional “cold call”) – but generates 3X more leads.
Types of Online Content Marketing
Looking to build an online content marketing campaign? There are different types of content marketing approaches with each one having its own perks. The possibilities are vast and only limited by your needs. This includes the behaviours of your target audience, marketing budget, and business model.
Here are some of the most common and effective approaches to online content marketing:
- Blog Posts
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of online content marketing? Blog posts, right? Well, there’s a reason for this association. According to data by OKDork, few types of online content are shared as widely as blog posts.
The general rule of thumb is to hinge your content marketing efforts on blog posts. The idea behind blog posts is to write great content that positions you as a thought leader. Later on, you can repurpose this content to create E-books, social media marketing captions, infographics, and video content.
Promoting your blog posts mainly comes down to search engine optimization (SEO). This involves the strategic use of keywords in your content to align with the target audience’s search queries on Google.
PS: E-books are lead-generation tools that are often referred to as the next step in inbound marketing. They address the needs of prospects or customers who want more information on a topic covered in a blog post.
- Social Media Marketing
According to figures by Statista, 49% of people on earth use at least one social media platform. With such widespread popularity, it is easy to see why so many brands are investing in social media content marketing efforts.
There are tons of ways to create and distribute valuable pieces of content across social media. The trick to driving engagement is learning where your target audience tends to hang out and focus your content marketing efforts there.
- Case Studies
A case study refers to content that describes how your product or service helped solve a real customer’s pain points. We tend to trust the experiences of other customers than a brand’s word.
But for a compelling case study, ensure you explain the challenge clearly in such a manner that potential customers see themselves in the mentioned client’s shoes. Also show how your solution specifically alleviated the problem – i.e., the long-term benefits.
The popularity of podcasting has exploded in recent years. It is a great way to deliver valuable content to prospects or customers anywhere, anytime. You can listen to an informative podcast while working out, commuting, cooking, or relaxing.
According to an article by Forbes, more than 8 in every 10 marketers believe that infographics are an effective content marketing strategy. Why? For one, they’re fun to look at! Most people would rather go over the graphic content than read through a full written article. Infographics are also easy to understand.
Remember to use clear images, short statements and simple wording to effectively relay the content to viewers.
- Video Content
What would you say to 66% more leads every year? Yes, please! Well, this is what you stand to gain by simply using video content in your marketing efforts. Research also shows that 7 in every 10 online consumers prefer to learn about a business through video. Unsurprisingly, HubSpot notes that video is now the most commonly used form of content marketing.
Most marketers use video to complement other content marketing efforts. It’s a great medium to elaborate on the details of a product or service, explain the benefits of a solution, or entertain potential customers.
How to Create a Great Content Marketing Strategy – Tips to Get Started
You have business goals, right? Maybe to increase brand awareness or drive sales? Well, an online content marketing strategy uses different types of content marketing to achieve these goals.
But just like any other marketing effort, what works for another brand might not work for you. Having a strategy allows you to leverage the most impactful approaches to reach and convert your target audience into loyal customers.
So, how do you create a great content marketing strategy that converts?
STEP 1: Set Your Goals and Determine KPIs
The first step of your content marketing strategy is to set clear and actionable goals. Some examples include: increase traffic, boost audience engagement, increase revenue, improve brand awareness, etc.
You should also determine key performance indicators (KPIs) for each goal you’ve set. These are data points to measure the actual performance of your content marketing efforts.
STEP 2: Do Your Research – Ask the Right Questions
Do some research to clearly define your target audience. This allows you to create content that is valuable and relevant – leading to better outcomes. Similarly, check into the best channels to distribute your content. This is typically where your ideal buyer hangs out on the internet.
STEP 3: Choose the Type of Online Content to Create
Brainstorm ideas for your next content marketing campaign. Under this step, put yourself in the prospects’ shoes and picture the user experience they would like. What are their pain points? What do they really need? How can you help them? What makes your products or services unique?
STEP 4: Create and Distribute Valuable Content
“Here’s everything you need to know about creating killer content in 3 simple words: Clear. Concise. Compelling.”
– Demian Farnworth
Churn out great content consistently. And pay close attention to the quality, relevance, and value it offers. Consider using an editorial content calendar to schedule publications and stay on top of things. You can also use project management software, agile methodology, or creative agency vendors to coordinate your content marketing campaign.
STEP 5: Analyze and Measure Results
Finally, analyze your KPIs and other results to determine their effectiveness in achieving your content marketing goals. Did you succeed? How close were you to succeed? Where did you underperform – and why? Which changes can you make to enhance your content marketing efforts next time?