Content marketing is a term thrown around a lot these days, but it’s rarely defined. The name is a little bit confusing, because when people hear “content,” they think one thing and when they hear “marketing,” they think another.
This dichotomy is also exactly why it works so well. Traditional advertising mediums that most people are most familiar with are often referred to as “interrupt advertising,” because they do precisely that. From commercials during television shows, to radio advertisements that make you mute the stereo in horror, to full-page print ads in the Sunday newspaper to today’s pop-up and scroll bar ads.
If these advertising styles didn’t work, brands wouldn’t pay for them, but the reality is that interrupt advertising has become radically less effective over time.
Why? One reason is what’s known as “ad fatigue,” where consumers see so many billboards, commercials, sidebars, and centerspreads that they simply tune out the content of each ad as their eyes and ears scan for the content they actually want to consume.
And in the digital age, many people fight back against ad fatigue with ad blockers, which are shockingly good at hiding paid content on web pages, no matter what form it takes.
This is why content marketing is such a revelation; it is more organic than the hokey “paid article” format that appears in the back pages of print magazines, and it offers readers something of value for free, which resonates in an era of all news being available online and ad blockers removing every inch of undesirable content from the screen.
What Exactly Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing can be thought of this way: it’s content first, marketing second. Brands create articles about topics related to the products or services they offer, which both establish themselves as subject matter experts and offer readers something helpful and valuable for free.
This entices them to come back for more and creates the message that this brand is committed to being helpful, not just selling a product then never engaging with you again.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing this way:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
The more specific, behind content marketing is that in the clickbait, Buzzfeed world, brands need more than just fluff content to generate traffic and new customers. They need to have web content that viewers engage with, share, and discover in a more organic way. This is increasingly important as social media platforms cut back on exposure given to businesses.
It’s also critical as search engines like Google measure more than just keywords. They measure metrics like engagement, depth of the content, and click-through-rate as part of their decision-making process to decide which results are most relevant to the search. This means that it takes more than just a perfectly-matched keyword to show up high in the search results.
This is why content marketing matters just as much for businesses that sell to other businesses as it does for business that sell to consumers.
Brand content can be a lot of things, but the easiest way to think of it is this: it is a brand’s blog, magazine, or “coffee shop talk,” placed strategically on the web in a way that naturally bolsters its marketing strategy.
Every brand has a story and an area of expertise, but not all of them make a concerted effort to place this content online in a free, outward-facing way. Relatable discussion about industry topics provides serious value to its intended audience, and is key a way to establish a brand personality and create visibility on the crowded world wide web.
Why is Content Marketing So Valuable?
Put simply, because it generates traffic and tells your brand’s story without reading like an “About” page or traditional sales pitch. An insightful, in-depth, expert level article about industry trends will generate shares by real people as well as organic search traffic, and will get viewed by other people in your industry.
This type of organic social media and search promotion is very difficult to purchase, and both Google and human beings gravitate towards content with a lot of buzz.
Content marketing allows you to create a brand personality while extending your reach. Instead of waiting for people to call you or walk through the front door, you can create content about the topics you and your potential customers are passionate about, which adds value and starts conversations in a way that feels less like a sales pitch and more like a friendship. Still, even the most casual content ultimately has a sales goal. It just changes how businesses relate to customers and how the sales funnel functions.
In the content-driven sales funnel, brands create buzz, raise awareness, and establish expertise long before anyone picks up the phone. Establishing your company as a thought leader and as a relatable, authoritative entity that understands its customer base is a priceless position to be in.
With content initiatives that organically capture every type of customer and every stage of the sales funnel, brands can meet existing and potential customers exactly where they are, while creating a library of pertinent content for future leads.
How Can Content Marketing Be Done for B2B Companies?
Content marketing is incredibly valuable for B2B businesses. But it takes a carefully crafted strategy to do it right.
Unlike other marketing strategies where B2B and B2C tactics vary wildly, the idea strategy for content marketing is relatively the same. Content marketing is all about building trust, establishing a brand as a thought leader, and creating a helpful content that “gives away” some degree of information for free.
The goal is that customers will understand how committed the brand is to a positive experience for potential and paying customers alike.
The biggest things businesses need to consider with B2B content marketing are:
- Who their customer is
- What their needs are
- What your brand’s reputation is
- How your existing team and resources fit into content marketing best practices
- How to create content that resonates with customers in different stages of the customer journey
In practical terms, if you are a B2B brand that sells niche products to extremely rational consumers, you likely already have white papers and infographics. Integrating existing collateral into bite-sized content and creating a gated asset strategy with the high-value resources is a great way to lay the foundation for organic discovery and generating consumer trust.
For more relationship-driven or emotional business sectors, content marketing can be used to help potential customers discover your brand and then develop an emotional connection that helps your brand win out over competitors.
Even in B2B marketing, the customers are human, which means design, emotional appeal, video content, and human connections are important parts of a holistic content strategy.
Walls of text and dense information charts are far easier to tune out than well-designed, informative, interesting multimedia content platforms that hold the reader’s attention and convey personality while still establishing your brand as the smart choice based on the appropriate metrics for your customer base and industry.
Content Marketing For Top-Down Success
A holistic content strategy makes every facet of your brand’s B2B sales work better. Whether you are engaged in outbound tactics and a client requests particular assets or your brand historically relies on inbound traffic and word-of-mouth type sales, the competitive landscape is shifting towards content marketing as the all-encompassing way to reach customers.
From native advertisements to branded publications to blogs to whitepapers to video content, the way people consume information (and search engines discover it) means that brands should focus on today’s content marketing strategies rather than the traditional, siloed marketing platforms.
Content marketing is also increasingly viewed as the most effective way to spend ad dollars–and with good reason. Not only is its conversion rates considered more efficient once you have a robust content library and good measuring tools, but quality content that lives on your own domain does not “expire” in the same way that a traditional push or interrupt campaign might.
Funny memes and seasonal capture articles may not be as relevant tomorrow as they were three months ago, but the content library lives on, giving your website a living, breathing personality (and the ability to capture a wider range of search terms).
So, even though spending on content with its seemingly-vague ROI measurements might not appeal to the traditional campaign-based marketing team, it’s not hard to understand the value of great content that doesn’t disappear as soon as a magazine or email gets sent to the trash.
As you consider and develop a content strategy, you’ll find that much of your best marketing collateral already exists in your company’s brain trust and your best client success stories.
By bringing all of it into a strategic editorial calendar, you can tell your brand’s story to the world and reach potential customers more organically than ever before. And by telling your brand’s story in a content-driven model, inbound leads will be much more familiar with the brand and parallel industries can repost your most valuable content, creating name recognition and implicit trust across networks.
Need help getting started? We invite you to schedule a complimentary inbound marketing consultation where we can discuss your current inbound initiatives, strategy and even the content marketing and lead generation process you have outlined to make sure it's a success.
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Guest Blog Contributor: Anna Kucirkova speaks 3 languages has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and SE Asia she still wants to explore the rest of the world.