A Beginners Guide to Content Marketing

by Pam Dyer

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A Beginners Guide to Content Marketing

Content marketing has changed the way consumers research and buy your products.

Google constantly changes its algorithm to improve search results. Over the past several years, many of these changes reflect Google’s efforts to favor content that’s truly useful. Conversely, Google’s changes punish content farms and other sites that create content solely to rank high for specific keyword searches. Creating relevant content signals to Google that the purpose of your site is to help people by providing real information.Every day, people form impressions of brands from many touch points: Ads, product experiences, tweets, Google, Facebook, blog posts, websites, and conversations with family and friends. Unless they are actively shopping for something, a lot of that information passes them by. But when something triggers their buying impulse, those stored impressions become critical — they are top of mind as consumers look to making purchases.

In the traditional sales funnel, consumers begin with a set of potential brands and methodically reduce them to make a purchase decision:

Traditional sales funnel

As McKinsey points out, today’s consumer decision-making process is circular:

McKinsey consumer decision journey

There are 4 key phases in which marketers can either succeed or fail when a consumer has been triggered to buy something:

  1. Initial consideration (thinking about known brands)
  2. Active evaluation (researching potential purchases)
  3. Closure (the act of buying)
  4. Post-purchase (when consumers experience the products they’ve bought)

The explosion of available products and media fragmentation have led to a reduction in the number of brands that consumers initially consider. Faced with a seemingly limitless amount product and brand communication, people tend to depend on those brands that have broken through the fire hose of messages.

When your brand is one of those initially considered by a buyer, it is up to 3 times more likely to be purchased. Your goal is to reach consumers at the moments that have the greatest influence on their purchase decisions. This is why content marketing is key.

What is content marketing?

Any form of marketing that relies on or draws from editorial content is considered content marketing. It has always existed, although what it’s called and the tactics around it have matured over time. Companies have long created white papers, articles, charts and graphs, videos, and reports to position their brands as thought leaders and industry experts deserving of loyalty, with the goal of generating leads and sales. It’s the delivery model that has changed — mailboxes used to be chock full of ads of every type, from sales circulars to envelopes full of coupons, while newspapers and magazines consistently ran ads for consumer products, clothing, attorneys — you name it. That content is now delivered digitally via search engines, email, social networks, and corporate websites.

The current state of content marketing

Content marketing is hot. The mantra today is that if you build it, they will come — create compelling content and customers will visit your website, buy your products, and help you rank higher in search engine results. The better your content, the more likely your audience is to share it on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. All of these activities can help your product become part of your audience’s initial purchase considerations. Some facts:

  • 20% of Internet users’ online time is spend on content
  • 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them
  • 57% read content marketing information at least once a month
  • 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content

Your content can take many forms, including:

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Advertorials
  • White papers
  • Email campaigns
  • Newsletters
  • Web content
  • Infographics
  • Illustrations
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Tutorials
  • FAQs
  • Webinars
  • E-books

The goal is to attract and retain customers, and help ensure that not only will they purchase more of your products and services — they will also become brand evangelists.

Benefits of content marketing

Content marketing improves brand loyalty, generates more sales leads and conversions, and costs 62% less than traditional marketing methods.

  •  It improves SEO (search engine optimization). Your company can’t achieve or maintain a high ranking in major search engines without a steady stream of fresh, branded content. Google is constantly changing its algorithm to improve search results. Over the past several years, many of these changes reflect its efforts to favor content that’s really useful. When you create relevant, helpful content about your products, Google recognizes that you are providing real information that helps your visitors, and you appear higher in SERPs (search engine results pages).
  • Helpful content is shared. Sharing is in our DNA. People like sharing what they find online with their friends, family, and colleagues. If your content adds value and is easy to find, people will share it with others and also earn credibility themselves — if I share a picture of a pair of shoes I like with you and you like them enough to share the photo with others, you’ve just validated my fantastic judgment and great taste! Sharing also creates deeper brand connections and increases positive reactions to your company and products.
  • A stream of new content offers many promotional opportunities. You may not roll out new products every week, but you can push out information about them on a regular basis. This creates multiple outreach opportunities: Write a blog post that explains a unique feature of your product and feature it in your newsletter, on your website’s front page, and on your social media pages; tweet a link to a new video on your YouTube channel that demonstrates how easy your product is to use, etc.
  • Excellent content helps people make buying decisions. Covering the right topics and presenting your products in ways that specifically appeal to what your target audience is looking for will help them recall your brand message when they’re thinking of making a purchase.

Did you know that 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading about it?

The infographic below from Demand Metric outlines 6 steps in the content marketing process that are important to understand and follow when you’re devising your promotional strategies:

 1. Identify content marketing objectives

  • Establish a benchmark
  • Evaluate the competitive landscape
  • Outline your content marketing objectives

 2. Understand your buyers

  • Identify buyer personas
  • Define buying process stages

 3. Identify gaps

  • Inventory your existing content marketing assets
  • Identify content by stage: What is most appropriate at each stage of the buying process?
  • Identify content by persona: What is most important for your buyers?
  • Determine which types of assets are missing

4. Build content

  • Identify key messages you want to deliver
  • Generate new ideas for content around those messages
  • Outline standards for quality
  • Build a roster of contributors
  • Repurpose content wherever possible
  • Ensure consistency

 5. Organize distribution

  • Select the right channels for marketing your content
  • Facilitate social sharing
  • Build landing pages

 6. Measure return on investment (ROI)

  • Keep track of performance by measuring Web traffic, sales lead quality, and social media sharing
  • Monitor your programs and engage with your audience
  • Measure your program and report on progress

Beginners guide to content marketing

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