Content marketing is a critical component of digital marketing given its effectiveness in increasing brand awareness, engaging online communities, generating new leads, and increasing sales.
What makes content marketing effective is that people trust editorials more than they trust advertorials. In essence, content marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on creating, publishing and distributing creative content for a targeted audience to generate leads and sales while informing and entertaining. Traditional marketing focuses on pitching products and services, while content marketing focuses on publishing engaging content.
Although content marketing gained traction during the digital age, the practice is nothing new. In 1895 John Deere founded The Furrow, a magazine designed to educate farmers about the latest advancement in the field, and help them find solutions to their problems. The magazine continues to exist today, not just in print but in digital format as well; it has a large social media platform, and is published in several languages around the world. The magazine helped crystallize the John Deere brand, and grow its market.
Forms of content marketing include: how to guides, white papers, newsletters, presentations, blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, and others.
#GEInstaWalk is a clever example of content marketing which allows the company’s Instagram followers to take a peek into GE’s facilities where cutting-edge technology is being manufactured. Amazon’s Building Your Book for Kindle free e-book is another clever example designed as a free guide to creating and publishing e-books. This is a great tutorial during the consideration phase when aspiring authors are weighing in their options. An example you might be familiar with is the Phyllo Shells recipes on the back of the package – the recipe itself might be enticing enough to make one buy the product, or vice versa. This isn’t something unique to Phyllo Shells however; there are plenty of food brands that offer recipes on the back of their package. It’s an ingenious form of content marketing.
Two local examples that stand out are the Catskill Dream Team’s real estate blog, and The Roxbury Motel’s whimsical themed rooms as featured on social media. How to Buy a Home in One Year: A Step-by-Step Guide, for instance, educates prospective buyers, but it also builds expectations of a lifestyle, and that’s exactly what a real estate blog is about. The Roxbury Motel’s internationally renowned themed rooms also have stories to tell. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for instance, designed as a tribute to Audrey Hepburn, has the walls stained to match Tiffany’s flagship store on 5th Avenue. The chandelier that hangs above the bed matches the mini chandelier in the Tiffany window at the opening of the movie when Audrey is eating a croissant and staring in the window. The owners of the motel confess that in their twenties they would go around Manhattan re-enacting scenes from the movie. The following Audrey/Truman Capote quote guided the design of the room: “Tiffany’s! Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” These fun facts shared on social media are bold examples of clever content marketing.
Moz identified four phases of content marketing, which one of them carrying out distinctive goals and types of content to pursue:
I. DISCOVERY PHASE
Goals: educate, increase brand awareness, generate interest
Type of Content (educational): blog posts, webinars, guides, videos, newsletters, presentations, tours
II. CONSIDERATION PHASE
Goals: direct customer acquisition
Type of Content (solutions): case studies, how to guides, demo videos, product descriptions, data sheets, recipes
III. CONVERSION PHASE
Goals: customer transactions
Type of Content (unique value proposition): product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, comparison charts, direct sales pitch, streamlined sales process
IV. RETENTION PHASE
Goals: retention of existing customers
Type of Content (help, support, advocacy): customer support, help documentation, insider tutorials, special offers, follow-ups
Here are a few steps to help you design your content strategy:
- Clarify your vision (three – five year plan)
- Define your audience (i.e., demographics, media consumption preferences, channels, what are they looking for, who do they follow, what are their wants and needs, etc.)
- Audit existing content (inventory, metrics, patterns, etc.)
- Set goals (meaningful, measurable, reasonable)
- Align your content style, tone and voice with your brand’s personality (set up guidelines)
- Documentation (governance rules and workflow)
- Content ideation, creation, promotion and distribution (team, tools and infrastructure)
- Analytics (metrics to evaluate success)
Depending on the size of your project, building an adequate infrastructure will help carry out the tactics and the execution of your content strategy, both creation and distribution. Often enough the work is outsourced to content strategists, writers, editors, and coordinators equipped with tools to designing and implementing an effective strategy.
In sum, content marketing works because:
- It provides valuable information;
- It provides entertainment;
- It sparks conversations that bring people together;
- It forms communities;
- It converts potential customers into actual customers;
- It creates loyalty;
- It establishes authority.