Content Marketing

How to Succeed
with Content Marketing

Content marketing has been around for a long time. But despite its longevity, organizations of all sizes still struggle to get it right. While 86 percent of B2B marketers in North America use content marketing, only 30 percent say their organizations are effective at it, according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute(1).

From producing enough content to meet audience demands to standing out from competitors, setting goals and measuring performance—not to mention keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms—we know it’s more than a little tricky.

However, when successful, content marketing can help establish your brand as an industry leader and keep your sales pipeline brimming with quality leads. It’s one of the most powerful strategies you can have in your marketing arsenal. In other words, you can’t afford to leave it off the table.

But why is content such a big deal? And how do you set up your content marketing for success?

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is Content Marketing Exactly?

Content marketing is a strategy that leverages content, tailored and distributed to a specific audience, to attract and convert better-qualified leads and keep customers engaged long-term. Content is the cornerstone of inbound marketing, and one of the most effective ways to build trust with both new leads and existing customers.

Sounds promising enough, but why content? Isn’t there another way to yield the same outcome?

Why Content Marketing is Important

You rely on your marketing to achieve two things for your brand:

  1. Help your organization stand out as a credible, reliable and trustworthy provider
  2. Attract a steady flow of qualified leads, and nurture them through the buyer’s journey

Content marketing can help you achieve both of these objectives simultaneously. The more high-quality, high-value and properly optimized content you publish, the better your credibility and the easier it is for potential customers to find you.

At the most basic level, you need to publish content to achieve a favorable ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). The more frequently you publish content, the more often search engines will crawl your site and the more opportunities you have to improve your ranking.

But beyond making it easier to find your site through search, content marketing also helps nurture customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

You can use content to address questions and challenges at the beginning of the process, help introduce solutions and success stories during the decision phase, ensure buyers are getting the most from their new investment after purchase and keep customers engaged until they begin the buying cycle again—even transforming satisfied clients into brand advocates.

Content is a crucial ingredient of your brand’s success on social media, too. Not only are social platforms a great channel for promoting content, but maintaining a steady stream of content also ensures your social accounts have plenty of activity. Each new piece of content you share is another opportunity to drive engagement with new and existing followers.

Content is the fuel you need to keep your marketing engine humming and, without it, your marketing efforts will eventually stall out.

Of course, it also takes a significant amount of time and other precious resources to create quality content. How can you make sure your efforts bear fruit?

What is Content Marketing Exactly?

To meet your marketing objectives, your content should be three things:

  • Relevant.
    Every piece of content should be created for a specific purpose and must be tailored to your target audience or persona. In some cases, this might mean answering a common question or addressing a key challenge. In other cases, it might be sharing a customer success story or taking a stance on a new industry development.

    Regardless of what you hope to accomplish through your content, you need to first make sure it’s applicable to your audience.

  • Valuable.
    Before you create a piece of content, ask yourself: is this valuable to my audience? Unless the answer is a definitive “yes,” you may need to rethink your approach. When people search online, they want to be informed, educated and walk away with a new bit of knowledge.

    If everything you publish is product-focused and self-serving, it’s going to drive readers straight into the arms of your competitors. Instead, share tips and best practices, research and data, timely and newsworthy thought leadership and other content that keeps readers coming back for more.

  • Consistent.
    Publishing at a regular cadence isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one aspect of content marketing we find businesses struggle with most. But publishing at regular intervals is crucial to maintaining a steady stream of the right kind of traffic.

Think of your website like a theme park. Each new piece of content represents another attraction through which you can entice qualified leads. Your existing attractions will still bring people in, but if you never update those attractions or create exciting, new things to experience, eventually crowds will taper off and go elsewhere.

At the same time, though, you should never create content for the sake of creating content. If you have to choose between quality and quantity, always err on the side of quality. While a content farm can generate a massive amount of content for cheap, the caliber of content won’t be enough to keep visitors engaged—nor is this a good look for your brand.

Types of Content You Should Include

Content marketing, like most things, benefits from variety. Each campaign should include a healthy mix of short, snackable content as well as heavier, more in-depth content.

Here are just a few content formats you can include in your content mix:

  • Blog posts
  • Emails/Newsletters
  • Slide Decks
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • eBooks/Guides
  • Webinars
  • Case studies
  • Live demos
  • Calculators
  • Interactive webpages

Of course, your content marketing strategy should be designed to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey—and each content type should drive to another piece of content placed further down the funnel.

For example, let’s say your company sells project management software. A blog post about improving team efficiency might bring someone through the door, and end with a call to action (CTA) that guides the reader onto an infographic about employee productivity. The infographic may lead to a more in-depth eBook about using technology to improve workplace collaboration, which directs to a case study highlighting a client’s success with your software. After completing the case study, the lead is encouraged to sign up for a free demo.

But if so many businesses are creating content—including your competitors—how can you attract attention?

Standing Out With Content Marketing

Earlier, we explained that for content to be successful it needs to be both relevant and valuable. But both of these qualities are subjective. What’s important to the VP of marketing may not be important to the CFO. What motivates a seasoned office manager will likely be different from what motivates an entry-level software engineer.

To make sure you’re able to stand out in the crowd, you need to identify your buyers and speak directly to their wants and needs. To build an accurate buyer persona profile, you’ll need to determine...

  • Who has the final say when it comes to making the purchase?
  • Who influences the decision?
  • How many people are involved in the buying committee?
  • What are the pain points and challenges of each person involved in the purchase process?
  • How do these people spend their time online?

Once you’ve created relevant and valuable content, you need to use distribution and promotional tactics that align with your buyer personas’ behaviors, too. For example, you may be surprised to find a persona is active on Facebook but only uses LinkedIn as an online resume, so you’d want to focus your paid social promotion efforts on Facebook.

Just don’t forget that, regardless of persona, you’re still marketing to people. In addition to making sure your message is relevant, valuable and distributed through the right channels, you should also focus on being human. Be personable, be empathetic and, if it fits your brand’s tone, use humor. You’d be surprised how many otherwise great pieces of content fail simply because the delivery is too stiff or cold.

Measuring Your Content Marketing Efforts

At the end of the day, measuring your content marketing is really no different than measuring any other sort of marketing. There’s no one content marketing KPI that will help you label your effort a success or a failure, and the metric you should use depends entirely on your unique objectives.

To determine which content marketing KPI you should monitor, ask yourself the following:

  • What do you want your content marketing to accomplish?
  • How does this align with your business goals?
  • What specific need do you want to solve?

For example, let’s say your marketing department has been tasked with increasing lead generation from the previous year. In this case, you’ll want to measure KPIs like the number of new leads that engaged with your content, or the number of conversions on a landing page form.

Or maybe you want to convert leads faster. In that case, you’d want to compare the average sales cycle of contacts who have engaged with your content to the average sales cycle of those that haven’t.

Regardless of the KPIs you use, be sure to measure and make micro-optimizations along the way. For example, if you’re noticing subpar conversion rates on a landing page, you may want to A/B test a different CTA or fewer form fields rather than scrapping the entire offer and writing off the entire campaign as a fail.

And remember that content marketing is a long game, so you shouldn’t expect to see significant results in one week, one month or even one quarter. It can take several months before you see content marketing ROI—or at least as long as your average sales cycle. But while it can take time to amp up, content marketing cost is 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads, according to data published by Demand Metric.

We admit it: content marketing isn’t easy. But then again, when it comes to marketing, going the easy route rarely drives meaningful results. By putting time and effort into building a powerful content marketing strategy, you’ll generate better leads, establish credibility, increase your brand’s visibility online and keep existing customers engaged—all at once.

1 Content Marketing Institute

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The ROI of Content Marketing