Content marketing is one of the most potent ways to drive your business in 2023.
Instead of raw, boring advertising, the purpose of content marketing is to provide value.
When done correctly, people won’t even realize that you’re marketing to them.
Or, if they do realize it, they won’t mind.
But how does content marketing work, and how can you use it to benefit your business?
Here’s everything you need to know, from the basics to real-world examples.
Let’s get started!
- Content Marketing Basics
- Types of Content Marketing
- Target Audiences for Content Marketing
- Examples of Content Marketing
- How to Run a Content Marketing Campaign
- How to Improve Content Marketing
- Tips for Successful Content Marketing Campaigns
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
Content Marketing Basics
Content marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on creating content that’s useful or interesting.
In this context, “content” includes blogs, videos, podcasts, social media, and old-fashioned emails.
The best campaigns will often make use of multiple communications channels.
When properly crafted, the content should demonstrate a brand’s expertise and reliability.
The main goal of content marketing is to build relationships with existing and prospective customers.
The more engaged you are, the more your followers will see you as a trusted source of information.
This means constant engagement.
For example, if you’re blogging, you want to post new content regularly.
You want people to keep coming back for more.
But is all this effort worth the investment? Let’s look at some numbers:
- Brands with one or more blogs get 67% more leads than companies with no blog.
- 72% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers agree that content marketing boosts customer engagement and produces leads.
These results are not guaranteed.
To get the best return on investment, you need to perform market research and craft an effective campaign.
This can take some time and effort to get right.
But as you can see, the potential rewards are worth the investment.
Types of Content Marketing
What is “content?” In the context of content marketing, it can mean just about anything.
But all content is some combination of text, video, audio, and static images.
The type of content you produce will depend on your platform and your audience.
Here are some of the most commonly used types of content, and how they fit into a broader marketing strategy.
Blogging is the type of content that’s been around the longest.
Before YouTube or audio podcasts, people were blogging about their thoughts and hobbies.
But blogs still attract plenty of readers, provided the content is relevant to the audience.
A well-written blog post can continue to provide value for years.
Exactly how long will depend on the nature of your content.
Evergreen content can be as popular five years as it was when you first posted it.
Other content has a shorter time horizon.
If you blog about the latest smartphone, expect your views to drop quickly.
Blogging is also a helpful tool for search engine optimization (SEO).
With hundreds or even thousands of words, there’s plenty of room for keywords.
Make sure to avoid “keyword packing,” though.
Cramming your blog posts full of redundant keywords used to be effective.
But Google has gotten much better at punishing this kind of manipulation.
Instead, write naturally, and focus on content that your audience will find relevant.
A blog is also helpful for building your brand’s public persona.
You can come across as buttoned-up and professional, playful and casual, or anywhere in-between.
Text is great for long-form, long-tail content.
But if you want to engage an audience immediately, video is the best medium.
Videos are powerful because they’re visual.
There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.
So how much more useful are videos?
You can use them to explain your products and services, far better than you can with text.
Videos are also great for demonstrations.
You can spill gallons of ink explaining to someone how to use an iPhone.
Or, you can walk them through it in a 10-minute video.
Podcasting straddles the line between blogging and video.
Like a blog, a podcast can be great for long-form content.
Unlike video viewers, podcast listeners are used to episodes that last 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or longer.
Podcasts are also surprisingly cheap to produce.
Invest in a decent USB mic and free audio editing software.
With those tools, you’ll sound as good as any professional.
Hosting costs are also affordable, so the only “real” expense is the time you spend recording.
Podcasting represents a great networking opportunity.
You can interview guests on your show, to learn about their areas of expertise.
You won’t just be generating useful content for your listeners; you’ll also be building a relationship.
Get enough listeners, and people could be lining up to appear on your show.
An eBook is much like a long-form blog post.
Instead of being limited to a few thousand words, you can write as much as you need to cover your topic.
You can also organize your thoughts better than you can with a 10-part blog series.
Remember, an effective eBook isn’t an ad for your business.
It provides useful information to customers or potential customers.
It should also follow the rules of good writing.
Use short sentences, include relevant keywords, and double-check your spelling before you publish.
5. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is essentially just partnering with an influencer is an easy way to grow your audience.
If someone with 100,000 or a million followers tweets about your brand, you could gain a lot of followers.
Influencers get a lot of emails and direct messages, so don’t contact them directly.
Reach out to their manager or agent, who will handle any serious inquiries.
6. Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews and testimonials are powerful tools because they come from other customers.
These customer voices have more credibility than anything you could create on your own.
Testimonials are particularly useful in niche markets, where they can be the only way to build a reputation.
A lot of big brands do this with celebrities.
Every time a famous athlete appears in a Nike commercial, you watch a testimonial.
And since it comes from someone with perceived authority, millions of people buy Nike shoes every year.
7. Social Media
When it comes to online audience engagement, you can’t ignore the elephant in the room: social media.
The main benefit of social media marketing is obvious.
It’s where your audience already is.
If you can work your way into their feed, they’ll see your content intermingled with their friends’ posts.
Done well, this goes a long way towards building a relationship.
Running an effective social media campaign requires a little bit of market research.
Different sites have different demographics, so you need to find out where your audience is.
TikTok, for example, is a perfect platform for reaching Gen Z audiences.
But if you’re marketing to a Gen X audience, a TikTok campaign makes no sense.
That’s not where the Gen X audience is spending their time!
8. Email Marketing
These days, it’s easy to overlook email as a marketing tool.
And there are reasons to be skeptical.
Spam filters have gotten far more advanced, and unsolicited emails are less likely than ever to get through.
That said, you can still run an effective campaign if people want to receive your emails.
Create a mailing list signup form on your blog or website, so people opt into your messages.
That way, spam filters will be less likely to quarantine your marketing emails.
Even if your return rates are low, email is incredibly cost-effective.
According to a 2015 study in the U.K., the average email campaign has a return rate of 38 to 1.
For every dollar spent on a campaign, you can expect to earn $38.
Compared to other kinds of advertising, this is an insane return on investment.
At the same time, emails are a great way to do A/B testing on a new ad campaign.
You can send out different emails to separate lists and see which one gets the best results.
There’s no comparable way to test a blog post or a YouTube video.
Target Audiences for Content Marketing
As with any ad campaign, it’s not enough to know where you’re putting your content.
It’s just as important to build a customer avatar.
A customer avatar is your image of the ideal customer.
You do this differently depending on whether you’re marketing to businesses or consumers.
B2C (business-to-consumer) customer avatars are simpler than B2B company avatars.
This makes sense since you’re dealing with an individual, rather than an organization.
As you build your avatar, consider the following factors:
- Where does your customer live?
- What do they earn at their job?
- How old are they?
- What is the gender balance?
After these basic questions, it helps to dig a bit deeper:
- What are your customer’s needs?
- How can your product or service meet those needs?
- Are they ready to buy, or do you need to show them the value first?
- What social media platforms do they use?
- What other platforms, like blogging platforms, are they active on?
With this information, you’ll be able to build a more effective, better-targeted campaign.
B2B content marketing is a little bit more complicated.
Because you’re dealing with multiple decision makers.
Unless you’re pitching your brand to sole proprietors, you’ll have to convince more than one person.
For this reason, it can be tempting to abandon a customer avatar altogether.
But that would be a bad idea.
Whether you’re selling to one person or a committee, you’re still selling to people.
There’s still a human element, even in a B2B transaction.
B2B decision makers tend to have the same broad considerations as B2C customers:
- How will this decision affect the company?
- How will it affect my career?
- Will it raise or lower my status with my peers?
The tough part here isn’t figuring out your customer’s concerns; it’s about tying your product or service to those concerns.
Sometimes, content marketing isn’t about immediately getting a sale or lead.
Instead, you may be building general brand awareness
Brand awareness campaigns can be useful for the following reasons:
- Boosting your site’s SEO ranking
- Building your brand’s trust and authority
- Developing your brand’s public personality
Examples of Content Marketing
Buffer, a company that specializes in social media marketing, turned to guest posting.
By posting content on high-profile blogs, they were able to attract their first 100,000 users.
Now, Buffer maintains four blogs, where they also accept guest posts on occasion.
They’ve also bolstered this with a strong email list.
Today, Buffer has over 140,000 users and more than a million social media followers.
Another great example of content marketing is probably the first.
Way back in 1895, John Deere started publishing a magazine called The Furrow to help their customers become more successful farmers.
This publication didn’t just help John Deere get their start.
It’s still in production, including a popular online edition.
How to Run a Content Marketing Campaign
So, how do you execute a content marketing campaign?
Let’s take a look.
Plan Content Marketing
To build a truly successful campaign, you need to have a plan.
This doesn’t just mean attracting an audience.
It means drawing that audience into your sales funnel and converting those eyeballs into leads.
Do Keyword Research
First things first: research your keywords.
Look into what your audience is searching for online, and tailor your content to match.
Try a variety of keywords, and see what the search volume is for each of them.
The goal is to find the highest-volume keywords that are also relevant to your brand.
Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve gotten your keywords figured out, you’ll need to think about what kind of content to put out.
Work up some concepts, and decide what works best.
Is it best to answer a particular question with a blog post or a video?
Or is it worth doing a podcast episode and interviewing an expert?
Try to focus on one or two types of content, to begin with.
You can always expand later.
Select Content Marketing Channels
Along with choosing a kind of content, you’ll have to decide on how to distribute it.
For example, suppose you’re making videos.
Should you be on YouTube or TikTok?
Or is it worth the effort to convert the video into several formats and cross-post it on multiple platforms?
Define Content Marketing Metrics
When you start your campaign, you’ll want to know how successful it is.
This way, you can adjust your strategy in the future.
To measure success, you’ll have to decide what you’re trying to gain.
Possible metrics include:
Which one is most important will depend on the purpose of your campaign.
Are you trying to make sales today?
Build your email list?
Spread brand awareness?
The answers to these questions will dictate the most important metrics.
Increase Content Marketing
A good content marketing campaign is always ongoing.
This means creating more and more content, to keep your audience engaged.
Increase Content Internally
Unless you’re a big firm, you’ll probably start by creating original content.
That’s just fine.
The important thing is to produce consistent, high-quality content.
At the same time, don’t rush yourself to meet a strict deadline.
It’s better to be a day or two late than to put out a badly-written blog post or a hastily-edited video.
Outsource to Content Marketing Services
At a certain point, you’ll find that you can’t keep up with the demand for more content.
When that happens, you’re ready to start outsourcing your content creation.
Partner with an agency or a freelance writer to create your blog posts, or outsource your video editing.
You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish on a reasonable budget.
How to Improve Content Marketing
No marketing campaign is perfect, particularly at the outset.
To get the best results, you’ll need to monitor your results and make adjustments as needed.
Here are some quick pointers.
Run a Content Marketing Audit
After you’ve made several blog posts or video posts, it’s time to evaluate their performance.
Look at which posts and topics get you the most traction.
In the future, you can delve further into those topics, and avoid topics that people aren’t interested in.
It also helps to track the performance of different content formats.
If your audience hates videos but loves audio podcasts, that’s useful information.
Build on Content Marketing Platforms
A content marketing platform is an app or platform that helps you streamline your online marketing.
For example, you can upload a single video file, and simultaneously post it on several platforms.
You can make one post, and have it appear on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok simultaneously.
A good platform will also have analytics and targeting tools built in.
You can track your content’s performance from a central location, rather than gathering metrics from multiple platforms.
Tips for Successful Content Marketing Campaigns
How are some brands so much more successful than others?
Before we wrap up, let’s talk about what makes a good content marketing campaign.
Create Quality Content
Saying “create quality content” doesn’t sound helpful. It’s like telling a struggling employee to “do better.”
But in the context of online content, “quality” means something that’s well put together.
If you’re making a blog post, make sure it’s well formatted, with bulleted lists and headings.
If you’re making a video, take the time to edit it, and ensure that the sound and lighting are good.
For photographs, have them professionally retouched before you post them.
These little efforts can make a big difference.
Create Relevant Content
Relevant content is content that relates directly to a person’s search query.
Nobody likes a bait and switch, and it won’t help you in the long run.
If your video title is “How to water your garden,” make sure to answer that question.
Select the Right Content Format
When choosing the right format, use common sense.
For longer-form content, blogs and eBooks tend to be better.
Podcasts represent a great opportunity for networking as well as promotion.
Videos are great for capturing eyeballs and explaining processes.
At the same time, don’t neglect your analytics.
Keep an eye on your results, and focus on formats that get the most traction.
Write for Customers and Search Engines
When you’re writing, think about what your customers are looking for.
When they search for a particular keyword, what question do they want to be answered?
What other, related keywords might be relevant?
If you can answer these questions, you can better tailor content to your audience’s needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is content marketing SEO?
Content marketing SEO refers to the process of optimizing your content for search engine ranking.
Mostly, it involves ensuring that your content is paired with the appropriate keywords.
For blogs, it means optimizing the entire text.
The goal is to put your content in front of people who are the most interested.
Does content marketing still work?
It works well enough that big companies are still doing it.
According to a recent survey by HubSpot, 90% of brands that are already using content marketing plan to spend the same amount or more in 2023.
According to another study, 66% of brands plan to increase their content marketing budget.
If content marketing didn’t work, these companies wouldn’t be doubling down on their investment.
Are there content marketing courses I can take?
HubSpot and dozens of other sites offer online content marketing courses.
Make sure to do your research beforehand.
Many classes provide good value, but some will charge a small fortune for an eBook and a “thank you” email.
Content marketing is an excellent way to boost customer engagement and capture more leads.
Building an effective campaign can be challenging.
You have to do market and keyword research.
You need to know your audience and craft the type of content that appeals to them.
A successful campaign does more than boost your short-term sales.
It sets you up as an expert in your field, a trusted source.
That way, people will keep coming back to your content.
It’s essential to adopt a long-term strategy, designed to grow your business over the medium- and long-term.