The Definitive Guide to Content Marketing
As a content marketing agency, we’re asked all the time, “What exactly is content marketing?” The next question usually has to do with, “How does that make money?” In this post, we’ll answer both questions and give you some useful resources to start your own content marketing plan.
Content marketing is a pivotal asset to any business that is trying to build and engage an audience.
The content marketing institute defines content marketing as:
“A marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Basically, it’s making content that your audience wants to see. It’s about creating value for your audience through blogs, videos, infographics, etc. Without value to the end consumer, content marketing is useless. Consumers do not contact a business until 57% of the sales process has been complete. What this means is that consumers are making judgments about companies long before they get in contact with them. How do they form their opinions? The answer is through the content companies create and share.
We are asked all the time, “How will this make money?” And we’ll answer that question later in this post. What business owners should ask themselves first is, “How is my business different than the competition?” The sad truth for most business owners is that they are very different in operations, reputation, etc. to their competitors, but to someone surfing the web they are viewed as the same old company. Consumers are savvy, so saying your business is committed to excellent service on your web page doesn’t help you – every competitor is likely making the same promise. Good service and a quality product is expected by all consumers. A guarantee on your website doesn’t put you ahead – if anything it makes you blend in.
If you want to stand out, content marketing can help. So how do you start a content marketing plan?
To answer this, I thought it’d be best to show the actual plan we use at Cave:
The goals of the content marketing plan are threefold: (i) increase brand awareness, (ii) build trust with our audience, and (iii) turn our audience into brand ambassadors/customers.
Important KPIs (key performance indicators) we will use to measure success:
- # of articles produced per week: measures our efficiency
- Social shares: measures insight into article quality
- Return visitors
- Acquisition by organic search
Article Production Timeline (3 Days)
- Choose audience segment
- 10 ideas (brainstorming)
- Research/outline 2-3 articles – see if there’s a market
- Set traffic goals
- Write the article (300-700 words)
- Move to editing
- Decide on headline
- Graphic designer set to make an image or pull from Shutterstock
- Syndication channels: social bookmarking sites, email, other bloggers, etc. chosen
- Pitch influencers (20-25 emails sent)
- Put in social media scheduler (see below)
1. Pillar Content – This type of content is timeless, well written, and should provide significant value to readers. Creating these types of articles regularly will inevitably lead to the UV’s (unique visitors) increasing month-over-month. Below is an example of an article our team wrote in 2012, it’s now at 200k+ reads. Pillar content is synonymous with evergreen content – it’s what you should be trying to create on your website.
2. Infographics – We try to create a couple monthly. We use easel.ly, to help us create our infographics because it’s an inexpensive way to start producing them for any business. Every infographic has to help tell a story. Below is an example of an infographic we’ve created. It’s not elaborate, but it illustrates the fact that video creation on YouTube is growing at a fast pace.
3. Video – If you have the time, this is the best way to convey your message. Video allows your consumer to take in a ton of information in the shortest amount of time. It’s also a great opportunity to humanize your branding efforts. Videos don’t need to cost thousands to produce; they just need to give the viewer real value.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
– Maya Angelou
It’s time to stop thinking about content marketing as a tool to sell only your product. Instead, think of content marketing as an opportunity to sell yourself (and your team). If you’re a plumber, how do you differentiate from your competitors? You probably shouldn’t post pictures of toilets everywhere, rather you should be posting pictures of your office culture or local events your team attended.
It’s your job to build trust with potential customers. The only reason someone will buy from you on a repeat basis is that they trust you.
Over the last year, we’ve grown 4X in revenue and our website is producing leads daily – before, we’d be lucky to get a website lead once a month.
So How Does Content Marketing Make Money?
Content marketing makes money for your business by allowing you to build an audience, then eventually sell to that audience. If you are expecting to post a blog and drive a bunch of sales from that content right away, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you build content to give contextual, insightful information to readers, then your content will become one of your best tools for building and mobilizing an audience.
Serial entrepreneur and content marketer Tim Ferriss states in a blog post on his website, “I write about what most excites me and assume that will hold true for 10,000+ people… if I write about it well. If I get 100 die-hard fans per post like that, I can build an army that will not only consider buying anything I sell later (assuming high quality — most critical!), but they’ll also promote my work as trustworthy to other people.”
Further Reading: Neil Patel, a Forbes top 10 internet marketer, has written a great article on how content marketing has driven his sales at KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg.
It’s Time to Pay Attention to Content Marketing
Content marketing is growing in interest and fast. More and more businesses are leaping and starting their own content marketing efforts. In 2010, 40% of companies in the US were blogging for their business. Now in 2016 with over 550 million blog posts being posted a year, we can only hypothesize that the number of businesses blogging has increased.
More content means more competition. This means only exceptional pieces of content will see the benefit of content marketing. In the digital marketing world, these pieces are called 10X content. The term, which was coined by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, means producing content about a particular subject that is 10X better than anything else on the web.
Common Content Marketing Mistakes
1. Thinking Content Marketing is Easy
Content Marketing is hard. It is not something you can do casually and expect results from. A good piece of blog content can take upwards of 10 hours to create, and that’s only half the battle. You still have to syndicate on social channels, create relationships with influencers, etc. Underestimating what it will take to execute a content marketing plan is a big no-no, it takes time, a lot of it.
2. Making the Least Talented Employee Do It
A common mistake made by businesses is to assign the content marketing responsibilities to the lowest employee on the totem pole. This is the wrong way to go about things. That employee already has a set of tasks, and blogging/social media is almost certainly falling to the wayside. Company messaging is the consumer-facing version of a brand, and companies should put some of their most talented/dynamic employees in charge of content marketing. Of course, if a company has the budget, bringing in a dedicated team or agency is preferred.
3. Going For a Conversion Immediately
Going for the immediate sale in content marketing will bring little to no results. Real estate agents are notorious for this. Instead of educating the viewer about the potential area, they will post a blog post on their listing.
Companies going for conversions right away are the digital version of a used-car salesman. There is a complete absence of quality interaction and no trust between the buyer and the business.
4. No Long-Term Commitment (Executive Buy-in)
Content marketing is not only hard work, but it also takes a long time to come to fruition. This can make it difficult for executives to buy-in to the plan. 22% of B2B and 21% of B2C companies say that getting executive buy-in is the biggest challenge they face with content marketing. Creating a well-oiled content machine takes time and effort, but once it’s built it’s very defensible.
5. The Content is Poor-Quality
With the increasing sophistication of Google’s search algorithm, it’s making it harder and harder for pieces of content to rank well. Simultaneously, the average consumer’s attention is getting harder to capture. Weak pieces of content, recycled listicles, or keyword-stuffed blog posts will lose consumer attention. If the content loses the viewer’s attention, that’s the content’s fault, not the viewers.
6. The Content is Not Marketed Properly
Hitting publish is only half of the battle. Companies should spend at least as much time marketing a piece as they did creating the piece. Great content without great marketing is like buying a brand new Ferrari and keeping it stored away in the garage. What was the point of working so hard to buy it if you can’t take it out for a ride and show it off?
7. Not Knowing Your Audience
There’s a cliche saying in digital marketing that says, “content is king.” Well if content is king, then context is Queen. Horrible analogy aside, it’s important. If a car repair company creates a wonderfully masterful piece of content on Chimpanzees, it doesn’t help them. Even though it’s a high-quality piece of content, it’s missing the proper context. The example is far-fetched but it drives home the idea of speaking to your potential customers. As a starting point, companies should write out on paper what their ideal customer looks like, then create content that would give value to that specific persona.
Content marketing is about effort, budget, belief and increasing sales (eventually). When first starting out, a company should put their focus on producing the most interesting and contextually relevant content they can and then promote the heck out of it.
Remember, creating truly interesting content allows businesses to become truly interesting.
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