If you’ve ever read a blog or an op-ed by a CEO, attended a webinar by famous brands, or downloaded a consumer marketing study, then you’ve seen content marketing in action.
But what is content marketing and why do brands invest in it?
Simply put, it’s marketing that aims to generate interest in your products and services using material that an audience might find helpful or interesting. The material can be written or designed (blogs, op-eds, reports or infographics), or it can be recorded (videos, webinars or podcasts). Unlike other forms of marketing that “interrupts” an audience to get in front of them, content marketing places more emphasis on being discovered through organic means, like word of mouth.
Content marketing works best when delivered through digital platforms such as social media and search engines. While not a magic bullet, it’s one of the many tools you can use to build your brand, establish trust, and make your brand more attractive to customers.
Here are a few ways content marketing can help your brand:
Sells without selling
Content marketing raises awareness of your brand through helpful, engaging or entertaining material. Sales may happen indirectly or later once potential customers become more familiar with your brand, but it’s not the immediate goal. Content marketing works best when it’s clear of anything that can be perceived as a direct sales pitch. Your content has to provide value on its own. It has to be something that people would want to share naturally.
Positions you as an expert
Content marketing helps cement your brand as a thought leader in your industry. This means establishing your reputation as an expert and problem-solver for issues frequently faced by your target audience. When producing this type of content, make sure it is backed by a mix of facts, statistics, stories, and examples. There are a number of ways to do this – for example, business leaders often submit op-eds in publications to establish their credibility and ensure their company remains top of mind for potential and existing customers. Other examples include industry or sector reports, whitepapers, surveys, and more.
Content marketing doesn’t just benefit your brand. It empowers your customers, too. It might even be the reason your audience engaged with your content in the first place. When content boosts your audience’s knowledge about an issue, addresses pain points, and solves complex challenges, it increases the chances of brand recall. In turn, this makes them more likely to come back and give you an opportunity to nudge them further down the marketing funnel and towards conversion.
Develops trust and enables word of mouth
Content marketing allows you to build a relationship with your customers. When people see your content is genuinely helpful or delightful without being outrightly self-serving, they’re more likely to share or recommend it to others. Recommendations from friends and family can go a long way: a survey by marketing software company HubSpot found that 81% of consumers in the US and the UK trust recommendations from friends and family over those of companies.
Provides a foundation for social media and search engine marketing
Marketing has shifted online. According to media-buying agency GroupM, spending on digital marketing platforms will surpass those of traditional marketing this year, with Google, Facebook and Amazon as the main beneficiaries. Informative and delightful blogs, videos, infographics and other visuals can be excellent foundations on which to build your digital outreach strategy.
Shareable content helps attract likes, comments, followers, and messages on social media, while reputable and high-quality content can help drive more traffic to your site. Indeed, outside of conversion, website traffic (cited by 44%) and social media engagement (cited by 43%) are seen as two of the most important metrics for content marketing, according to a March 2021 survey of 318 marketing professionals worldwide.
Leads are people who have shown interest in your product or service — in other words, potential customers. Done properly, content can generate leads that your team can follow up with later. Leads can be people who visited your website, liked a LinkedIn blog, downloaded your report, attended your webinar, messaged you on Instagram, sent you an email, added something to their cart, or purchased from your business before. They can also come in through a referral.
Though a content marketing strategy is not the only way to obtain leads, it can be an extremely effective one. In one survey of marketers globally, 52% of marketers said content marketing helped them generate more leads or demand.
Marketing is more than just content. But when planned well, content should work in tandem with your other efforts to drive people down the marketing funnel. It increases your brand visibility, promotes word of mouth, and establishes your reputation while empowering your customers. In a landscape that’s increasingly reliant on major tech platforms to drive digital marketing, content is here to stay.
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- Ascend2, “Measuring Content Marketing Performance”, 4 March 2021
- Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “11th Annual B2C Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Insights for 2021”, 27 Jan 2021