Content marketing as we know it today really started around 2004, when blogs starting to become popular. So it would be fair to say that most experienced content marketers have between five and fifteen years of experience. Personally, I started blogging over 10 years ago but have been doing content marketing professionally for just over seven years. In that time, I've learned a few things about content marketing that I'd like to share.
1) Content Marketing Works (When Done Right)
Every single time we have implemented content marketing for a client, it's worked. Whether it's trying to generate leads, increase revenues or even build a brand, there is almost no other strategy that works better than using content. Sure, advertising can get you in front of people but it's often good content that converts.
For some clients, all it takes to convince them is simple top of funnel ebook on their website. All of a sudden, they'll notice that all of those people who were going to their website and leaving are sticking around and taking some kind of measurable action like signing up for newsletter, using a chat feature to ask a question or even submitting a lead.
That's because we know that good content builds trust. It also provides people with something of value that they can consume without feeling like they are being sold to. By developing content for the different steps in the buyer's journey, you are catering to prospects on their terms, not yours.
2) It's Not Easy
In the old days, you could place some ads in magazines, or even run a few online display ads, and start generating sales immediately. Content marketing requires you to first understand who your customers are and what problems they are trying to solve. Experienced content marketers understand that you ultimately need to figure out what your content marketing funnel looks like. You do this by understanding what the buyer's journey is so that you can map the appropriate content for people at every stage in their journey. Ultimately, what I am describing here is context. Understanding the context in which your content will be seen and used is vital to its success. As content marketers like to say "content is king but context is the kingdom".
Then, you need to invest the time developing the content. Instead of a static ad that might say a few (very brief things) about your product or service, you need to develop helpful content that provides actual value to prospective customers. This can be a lot harder than it sounds.
Let's say you're developing an ebook. It probably has to be at least six pages and it should probably be laid out by a professional graphic designer so that it looks good and tells your story in a visually appealing way. Put another way, well-designed content helps built authority and trust. I might make the invitations for my kid's birthday party by myself but I wouldn't want to design an ebook made for senior decision makers.
Finally, you need to go about promoting and sharing your content and that can take some time and consistent effort. If you're trying to use content to boost your search rankings, you're probably going to need anywhere from six months to a year to see some results.
3) Everyone Can Use It
At Cyan Solutions, we work with a wide variety of clients from many different industries. Recently, we developed a content marketing strategy and launched new website for Beechwood Funeral, Cemetery and Cremation Services. We also integrated everything with Hubspot's marketing automation platform in order to integrate and track everything across multiple touch points. A funeral, cemetery and burial business is probably not the first type of business you'd think would embrace the principles of content marketing. Typically, funeral houses will advertise across traditional media (newspapers in particular) and use a mix of staff to handle any people who call or come in for a visit when they require services.
Beechwood Cemetery wanted us to help them figure out a out a better way to reach people using content. Instead of spending money with little way to measure return on investment. What if they could help educate people about the services and products they provide and see if they would think of Beechwood as a trusted partner in one of the most difficult decisions people have to make? What's more important than what happens to somebody when they reach the end of their life?
They also had the courage to ask how an industry that's largely built on legacy marketing tactics can think differently about almost everything it does in order to build its brand and grow. The answer is actually fairly simple. You take all of the knowledge, advice and most importantly, caring, and create content based on it. In short, you take everything people get when they come into your space and sit with a funeral director and make it available everywhere else.
The results? Contact us today and ask.
4) You Can Choose Different Formats and Types of Content
We are lucky enough to be living in a time when content marketers have an endless number of formats for our content. If you have a topic that you need to explore in depth, you could do a series of blog posts or podcast episodes. You could also create video content to go alongside your written or audio content. You could also explore displaying your information as an infographic or explore it in detail in an ebook, or you could use all of these formats. Summarize your topic in an infographic and then use that infographic to point people to a download of an ebook.
You should also be thinking about creating different types of content. You might create timely content like a reaction or an opinion about a relevant topic. Let's say you're an IT company that provides IT security services. You might want to create content around a security breach that's relevant in the immediate response. If you're an association that represents a group of member companies across a specific industry, you could create an opinion piece on a new piece of legislation.
It's also important to create strong pillars in your content strategy by creating evergreen content. This is content that remains relevant for a lengthy period time. Common examples include "how to videos, tips, and reviews. Beechwood does this as they have created an ebook about pre-planning your funeral.
Evergreen content is great for SEO because it will be indexed by search engines and drive long-tail traffic over a sustained period of time. I will often find evergreen content when searching for information about common issues or questions that I might have about a topic or industry.
5) You Can Have Fun!
One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to plan for creating content that is fun. There's a place for content that's serious but don't underestimate the power and need for content that's fun. Of course, that doesn't mean that your content isn't helpful or informative, it just means that you don't have to be overly serious.
One example that always comes to mind for me is Kinaxis' Late Late Supply Chain Show. In essence they use the format of the popular late night show to bring the topic of supply chain management to life. The show is so popular inside the industry that people have come to look for Kinaxis at trades shows and events.
I've written about Anderton's Music in the UK on this blog before and their review of a Japanese guitar effects pedal called Miku is another great example. They are having so much fun, they can barely get through the review. It's been viewed over 2.9 million times and is one of their most popular videos.
As a consumer, I always liked being able to research products and services before I buysomething. Content marketing really helped me feel comfortable with the direction marketing was going because it more closely matched how I liked to shop for things. Helping people always made sense to me and at its core, content marketing is about being helpful.