These terms have become corporate jargon. Everyone talks about them, but few understand them.
Content marketing is another term that belongs to this list.
Since online is the place to be, businesses and brands dive into content marketing. They post a dozen status updates, persuade viewers to buy their products, and wait for positive results.
But the results never come. There might be a trickle, but it doesn’t justify the resources invested.
This is far more common than you think. Branded content is up 300 percent, but 95 percent of the brands receive less than 10 percent of the engagement.
Eventually, leaders abandon their efforts because “content marketing doesn’t work.”
But it works. Here’s proof:
- Content marketing is 62% cheaper and generates up to 3X more leads than outbound marketing.
- Small businesses with blogs get 126% more leads than small businesses without.
- 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading about it.
How do such businesses make content marketing work for them?
Before that, let’s first understand what content marketing means.
What is Content Marketing?
The objectives for content marketing could range from increasing awareness and promoting discovery to generating leads and connecting with influential figures. But the underlying essence remains the same.
Getting the right information in front of the right audience at the right time.
Marketing has undergone a tectonic shift in the last decade.
Until the early 2000’s, mainstream media controlled the bulk of information and advertisements we got exposed to. Brands with deep pockets commanded maximum space whose self-congratulatory messages the audience (us) helplessly consumed.
But the internet changed all that.
It made information ubiquitous and gave us control of the one thing we value most — our attention. We now choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore. And no amount of money that businesses and brands pump in can change that.
Content marketing has evolved from a medium to cleverly promote products and services to sharing information that:
- Addresses your audience’s pain points.
- Improves their lives in meaningful ways.
- Earns their attention instead of stealing it.
Audience — real people including you and me — prove this through their actions.
We’re installing popup-blockers on their devices, unsubscribing from promotional emails, and skipping ads at every chance. But when we come across content that resonates with us, we spread it faster one can spell V-I-R-A-L.
Here are the three pillars on which a successful content marketing strategy stands.
Pillar #1. Audience
Audience, not traffic, is the holy grail for brand marketers. — Jeremy Bencken
Audience is not the same as traffic. Traffic comprises of people whom your content reaches. Your audience is people who consume your content.
Most businesses and brands chase the popular metric of traffic. This approach limits their marketing efforts in two ways.
One, brands resort to shallow tactics like creating clickbait-y and hollow content just to inflate their reach and impressions.
Two, brands lose out on the long-term benefits that an engaged audience offers, like:
- Turning into customers.
- Sharing your message in their circles even if they don’t become customers.
- Providing insightful data that helps you reduce business costs.
A key differentiator for brands and businesses with successful content strategies is their relentless focus on building an audience.
Traffic is fickle. But an audience will engage with your brand and offer both tangible and intangible returns.
Pillar #2. Message
Educating your customers and giving them resources to believe you makes them trust you because they feel better about the world and themselves. — Seth Godin
What is content marketing without content?
Most businesses and brands assume that content means declaring themselves as a gift to mankind. But the audience scrolls past in hyper-speed searching for something insightful, educational, and entertaining.
People have a low tolerance for self-promotion. They’re fed up with in-your-face ads and slimy sales messages. They want authentic, transparent, and friendly insights. They want to know that a brand cares about them and about causes larger than making money.
As long as your messages create value for your audience, they’ll give you not just their attention but their trust as well.
Build your content strategy on the foundation of three questions:
- Which problems do our audience face that our business can solve?
- Which questions of theirs can we answer?
- How can we make their lives easier on a daily basis?
Create content that lets your audience take something valuable away: empowering lessons, insightful perspectives, or strong emotions.
Pillar #3. Distribution
Your brand’s potential for [content marketing] success often lives or dies by your distribution and promotion choices. — Jodi Harris
What is content marketing without marketing?
A distribution strategy is where the rubber meets the road, where your insights, assumptions, and hypotheses get tested.
Many brands and businesses don’t have a strategy for content, let alone one for distribution. They follow the spray-and-pray approach: publish and wait for it to get discovered.
But this is 2019, where 4.5 million blog posts get published each day. And every minute, more than a million people log into Facebook, 87,500 people tweet, and 3.8 million Google searches get conducted.
Without a potent distribution strategy, your content will fall on nonexistent ears or on the ears of people who don’t care. And a strategy that depends solely on SEO or Facebook is as good as no strategy at all.
As with content creation, goals are important for distribution. Identify where your audience hangs out and the goals you want to focus on, and choose your mediums accordingly.
Measure the outcomes against expectations, refine your strategies, and try again.
Content marketing is not rocket science. But it has evolved from “I, me, myself” to “what’s in it for my audience”.
Businesses and brands still rebel against this paradigm shift, which means you can wade through less clutter to make a powerful message stand out.
Businesses and brands often get stuck in dichotomy because they fail to distinguish between content that people want to see and content that they want people to see. Put your audience’s needs first, and they’ll begin to place you first when it matters.