What Is Content Marketing?
When it comes to developing your brand as an authority, building a sustainable customer base and generating sales, content marketing is considered a valuable tool for any business, whether it’s direct to consumer or in the B2B space.
The old days of flooding existing and potential customers with ads are just that—the old days.
Consumers are increasingly online, they want to engage with brands, and don’t want to feel like their data is being leveraged to sell them goods or services based on their browser history. In fact, more people are simply blocking ads altogether, with 91% of users feeling they’re more intrusive than they used to be.
So, where does this leave marketers today? How can brands reach audiences if there’s a fair chance we’re being blocked out in the first place? That’s exactly where content marketing comes in.
This guide explains the basics of content marketing, how to strategically deploy different forms of content, and how this organic, multi-layered approach can benefit your organization, regardless of industry.
What Is Content Marketing?
Inbound content marketing is the creation and distribution of articles, white papers, podcasts, newsletters, videos, emails, and other strategic content to attract new customers; establish trust with new and existing customers; and ultimately, develop a more sustainable business model. Delivering useful content throughout the buyer’s journey, this approach is also far less interruptive than traditional advertising techniques—also known as “outbound marketing”—which attempts to grab your audience's attention without forming a deeper and more engaging relationship with them.
In contrast, content marketing is an organic approach that works in tandem with the average consumer’s online habits: Conducting research to become more informed before potentially purchasing a product or service—or what experts refer to as the “buyer’s journey.”
Nearly half (49%) of shoppers conduct online research to learn about products prior to making purchases, and 54% of decision makers spend more than an hour each week reviewing thought leadership content.
Such content goes a long way in building trust with consumers and establishing yourself as an expert before—ideally—earning their business.
Content Marketing & Inbound Marketing
When users perceive value in your content (and brand), they’ll naturally want to recommend you to others. Over time, this strategy helps build momentum—like a flywheel that keeps spinning.
This flywheel is the central tenet of the inbound marketing methodology, coined by leading marketing and sales CRM platform HubSpot.
If done right, inbound marketing can improve your business by:
- Generating a greater long-term return on investment (ROI) than outbound methods
- Costing less to acquire leads
- Yielding higher conversions—since users were already seeking a solution when they came to you
This is supported by data:
- Businesses with a blog garnered 126% more monthly leads.
- 88% of marketers met their goals of building more brand credibility and trust through content marketing—making it the most achieved goal utilizing this strategy, alongside lead generation (72%) and building existing client loyalty (78%).
To learn more, read our explainer on the differences between content and inbound marketing. Now, let’s talk more about engaging and helpful content you can leverage to support your business.
Types of Strategic Content
There are myriad forms of content you can utilize as part of your digital marketing strategy:
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Live Demos
Instead of trying to be an expert in everything, you should strategically develop and share content relevant to your target audience and marketing goals.
An Example of Effective Content Marketing
For instance, after merging with three companies, secondary packaging and printing company Oliver Inc. enlisted Morey Creative Studios to create a new website and brand identity reflecting its sustainability messaging to potential and existing clients.
By strategically leveraging email marketing, social media, and SEO-driven content, Morey Creative Studios coordinated a cohesive online presence that helped position Oliver as a leader in sustainable packaging. “The Sustainability Imperative” webinar campaign alone drove organic growth 207% from October 2020 to February 2021, and converted 267 new contacts.
Building on the company’s reputation as a leading provider of creative, sustainable packaging, the cohesive strategy communicated the brand’s care for the environment, and its expertise.
Learn more about how Morey Creative Studios deployed content marketing strategies to drive organic growth at Oliver Inc.
To maximize the success of your strategic efforts, let’s revisit different forms of content and explain their relevance to the buyer’s journey.
Awareness Stage: Buyers Face a Problem
Blogging is the bread and butter of content marketing.
Providing valuable and relevant content about your area of expertise helps establish organizations as industry experts.
While blogs can be a helpful content marketing tool at any stage of the buyer’s journey, they’re especially important during the awareness stage, when consumers are trying to understand a problem. They attract site visitors, increase domain authority, enhance search engine optimization (SEO) value and ranking, and can expose customers to other valuable offerings through links embedded within a piece.
Short blog articles are among the most effective ways of generating strong results, according to a 2021 report from the Content Marketing Institute, a global content marketing education and training organization.
Blogging that is supported by a broad “content plan” is the first step in establishing your site’s reputation with search engines. Moreover, increasing your chances to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant terms or phrases results in more people discovering and embracing your brand, and eventually utilizing your services or products.
Videos will remain one of the most engaging forms of content in 2023, according to a marketing survey by HubSpot. A whopping 90% of surveyed marketers currently utilizing short-form video content (such as TikTok) said they’ll continue their investment into 2023.
Why does video continue to maintain such a hold on the marketing community? The 2023 “State of Video Marketing Survey” by animated video production company Wyzowl provides some perspective:
- 96% or respondents said it helped increase user understanding of products and services.
- 95% reported that video helped improve brand awareness.
- 91% said video led to an improvement in traffic.
- 90% saw an increase in lead generation.
- 87% credited it with improving sales.
All the evidence supports the case that video can be a powerful tool in any content marketing strategy, helping brands reach specific demographics across a variety of platforms.
Email marketing continues to be an impactful form of content marketing.
In fact, with an average ROI of 4,200%, more than 59% of businesses identify email as their top marketing channel.
In part, this is due to the sheer volume of users: Half the people in the world use email, according to market research organization Market.us.
The most impactful email campaigns leverage inbound marketing principles by providing valuable content (never clickbait), segmenting audiences, researching optimal send times, and avoiding purchasing email lists (a person or organization that didn’t find you through the buyer’s journey is unlikely to engage with your brand).
Eighty million Americans (21% of the country’s over-12 population) listen to podcasts weekly, and the audience is more diverse than ever, according to market research organization Edison Research.
Podcasts are right behind video content as marketers’ second-highest investment for 2023, with 10% investing more in audio production than any other media, reports HubSpot.
Podcasts are incredibly impactful for sales, branding, and retention—demonstrating your thought leadership, and fostering brand engagement.
White papers have a more academic, authoritative tone than traditional blog writing. This is well-researched, data-heavy content that identifies both a problem and solution.
These are also intended to help gather customer information, such as emails, to support your marketing efforts as users proceed along their buyer’s journey.
Leverage white papers to bridge the gap between your users identifying their challenges and discovering evidence-based solutions.
Consideration Stage: Buyers Research a Solution
As prospects consider their options, webinars provide more in-depth and intimate education about your solutions.
These web conferences transform presentations into real-time conversations that are recorded and can be viewed on demand or used to support a related content plan.
This forum provides organizations the opportunity to delve deeper into product offerings, answer FAQs, and demonstrate expertise.
Guides on specific subject matters help already interested users better understand your offerings, and further establish you as an industry authority.
Consider creating blogs reflecting the pros and cons of a given solution, or comparing your services against those of competitors. This actively sets you apart from the competition and enables you to be an active participant in the buying process. Just ensure you toe the line between being informative, without being too sales-y.
Decision Stage: Buyers Select a Solution
When buyers are ready to make a decision, they want to hear why you are the best solution to their problem. One of the best ways to do this is to provide previous case studies and client testimonials.
This is what HubSpot refers to as “social proof” that “provide[s] buyers with the context to determine whether they're making a good choice.”
Case studies are among the most popular media formats inbound marketers utilize—and that’s only continuing to grow in the B2B space, according to HubSpot’s 2022 “State of Inbound Marketing Trends” report.
When presenting these materials, carefully consider the way you want to present the offering. Is it a downloadable PDF, or perhaps a short video of a recent client success story?
Gauge this in real time with A/B tests to determine which best conveys your value to target audiences.
Live demos help prospects experience what it would be like to utilize your services.
This valuable tool enables them to try your solution, usually for free, before committing long term.
In fact, 72% of marketers said they want to branch out and offer innovative types of videos, such as new product demos and case studies, according to the aforementioned HubSpot survey.
By allowing prospects to demo your content, you get to show them exactly why you’re the best option.
Any of these content offerings are impactful additions for any organization.
However, businesses that organize these efforts into a strategic content marketing strategy will undoubtedly demonstrate their value, distinguish themselves from the competition, and garner more meaningful results.
When developing a content marketing strategy, organizations should consider both their marketing goals and their target audience’s needs.
Comprehensive strategies entice, engage, and warm up leads; help retain existing customers; and even encourage your brand’s evangelists to leave positive reviews and pass along referrals.
Fundamentally, content marketing strategies create positive momentum by ensuring your valuable messaging reaches the right person, in the right way, at the right time.
But just how does this happen? Which tangible actions can you take today to create an impactful strategy?
All effective content marketing strategies include:
- SEO Keyword Research
- SEO-Driven Blogs & Resource Pillar Pages
- Targeted Email Campaigns
- Website Pages & Appropriate Calls to Action (CTAs)
- Social Media Posts
- Landing Pages With Relevant Content Offers
- White Papers & Ebooks
To learn more, read our comprehensive piece about effective content marketing strategies.
After you organize a strategic campaign, set smart goals, and plan content, it’s important to measure the success of your efforts over time.
When executed well, your content strategy is likely garnering organic visitors to your site, converting more leads, and transforming those leads into happy, returning customers—perhaps even brand evangelists.
However, when done poorly, you’re not only wasting time and money, but risk jeopardizing your reputation.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) utilize measurable, relevant data to quantify gains and losses and identify areas for improvement.
Here are 10 of the best KPIs to consider:
- Average Monthly Website Visits
- Average Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
- Page Views
- Average Time on Page
- Traffic Sources
- Search Engine Rankings
- Open Rate
- Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
- Conversion Rate
Content management systems such as HubSpot provide these analytics so you can harness the power of content marketing and its many benefits.
To learn more, read our piece about 10 of the best KPIs for measuring the success of your content marketing efforts.
Leverage content marketing’s distinct benefits by engaging audiences in the way they prefer, before they have any intention of becoming a customer.
Here are several notable advantages:
- Incredibly Cost-Effective, Saving Time & Money: Content marketing provides competitive ROI compared to the cost of trade show booths (around $100 to $150 per square foot of floor space) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns (between $2 and $4 for a single click on Google). This is largely due to its evergreen nature—continuing to work for you for months and years after you post it, in contrast with PPC, which stops working when you stop paying.
- Boosts Brand Awareness: By creating high-quality content that’s available when users need it, you become a known resource in your industry. Along with continually providing prospects value over time, content can also “go viral” across multiple social media channels at little or no extra cost to you—further growing your brand exposure.
- Generates Quality Leads & Increases Traffic: Seventy-eight percent of customers feel their relationship with a company should include custom content, and 60% are more likely to pursue a product after reading up on it, reads an account from Canadian advisory firm Demand Metric. That said, it’s no wonder content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing per dollar spent—and at 62% less cost.
- Sustainably Grow Over Time: While 67% of consumers begin their buyer’s journey by searching the web for a product, 75% never scroll past the first search engine results page. This underscores the reality that for your content to be noticed by consumers and garner its intended benefits, it must rank highly. While it traditionally takes anywhere from three to 18 months for organic content to take root with search engines, once it does, it fosters sustainable, long-term growth by continuing to garner value and recognition with time.
- Fosters Trust & Establishes You as an Expert: Consumers are more inclined to do business with brands they trust. In fact, 81% of buyers consider trust a deciding factor in purchasing decisions, reads a research study titled “A Moment for Trust” by British media company Clear Channel UK and multinational advertising corporation JCDecaux UK. Offering free content that helps consumers solve a problem goes a long way in building that trust and establishing your company as a knowledgeable resource.
- Your Content Is Your Greatest Asset: The key to garnering these transformative benefits resides within an organization’s ability to strategically leverage valuable content.
To learn more, read our explainer about the benefits of content marketing.
Content marketing is an incredibly beneficial tool to establish your brand’s authority, generate sales, and develop a sustainable customer base.
By engaging prospects organically throughout their buyer’s journey, you create a seamless experience built around creating trust and value.
Like a flywheel that keeps spinning, this strategy builds momentum over time, yielding greater brand awareness, more quality leads, and sustainable growth.Morey Creative Studios is a New York-based HubSpot Partner Agency that helps mission-minded businesses Grow For Good™ with B2B inbound marketing, content marketing, web design, and digital accessibility. To strategically leverage your valuable content to set your business apart, drive sustainable growth, and make an impact, contact our team today.