It seems everyone is talking about content marketing, but what exactly do they mean? And how do you do it? And why should you be doing it now? Here’s 2,000 words on the topic that should help you get started:
1. As with any buzzy term, people have been quick to pile on to claim their piece of the pie, and that has led to an expanding definition, that in our opinion, dilutes what we’re talking about. With that in mind, here is our definition of content marketing: The creation and distribution of journalistic, helpful, audience-focused material that ultimately increases customer acquisition. Want to know what other people say? Click here for 7 definitions of content marketing
2. Sometimes, we’ll hear people say that there’s already too much content out there. And they’re right. The Internet is filled with uninspiring, mediocre content. However, that doesn’t mean you should not engage in content marketing; it means that you must create high quality content. That’s because.
4. Because there is so much content out there, it becomes critically important that you develop a unique voice so that people know when they’re reading your content. If your content is merely good like everyone else’s, they simply won’t remember where they read it. In other words, you lose.
5. Content fuels the rest of your marketing – without content you can’t engage on social media, launch a public relations campaign, or engage in other tried-and-true marketing tactics.
6. The goal of content marketing is to build trust with your customers and prospects. To do this, you need to help them to do their jobs or enjoy their lives; hyping your own products and services not only doesn’t build this trust, it undermines it.
7. People are far more likely to share content with friends and colleagues if they find it interesting or useful.
8. You can’t hack content creation. Everyone is looking for a shortcut. It seems there are plenty of companies out there that have “content marketing solutions” that don’t actually create content. Yes, workflow solutions and discovery tools can help you, but at some point you need human beings to write some articles or produce some videos, or whatever.
9. Typically, creating audience-focused content requires a quicker pace than most marketing departments are used to. This is because the audience is moving quicker than ever before – to deliver content to them at the right time requires the ability to meet that pace.
10. When you first start content marketing, you’ll likely struggle with workflows. Especially approvals. If every blog post needs to be approved by five different people, including your legal team, you’re going to have an extremely hard time finding success. Therefore, it’s important to set up a streamlined approval process at the outset. Media companies have had this for years; you can do it too.
11. According to the Content Council, marketing departments say their biggest challenge with content marketing is creating quality, engaging content; 63 percent of marketers cited that as their biggest issue.
12. In the same survey, 53 percent of marketers also listed lack of budget, 50 percent said lack of time, and 49 percent said proving ROI are significant challenges. Now that you know this going in, you know what challenges are ahead of you.
Content Marketing for Lead Generation
13. Importantly, content marketing is marketing. That means that, ultimately, it needs to focus on lead generation; the goal is to grow your business.
14. The good news is that content marketing is the perfect approach to attracting prospects to the top of your sales funnel, and moving them through that funnel until they’re positioned to buy.
15. However, the bad news is that it’s very difficult to say “if we start content marketing then we’ll have XX number of MQLs in two months.” In fact, if someone tells you that, they’re lying.
16. Therefore, we don’t know how long it will take you to start realizing a return on your content marketing investment. Sorry about that, but there’s no one answer. It depends on your industry, your current sales cycle and how aggressively you approach it.
17. When you first begin content marketing for lead generation, you’re climbing uphill, and therefore, need to take a bit of a long view. Not years and years, but certainly months. Consider this: If you’re a B2B firm with a six month sales cycle, it’s pretty unreasonable to expect real leads in less than six months. However, in six to nine months, you should begin to see an uptick in top-of-the-funnel leads, and over time you should begin to see your time-to-close decrease. This is because you will have built up trust before having that sales conversation; you’ll have surpassed that very daunting first hurdle and, consequently, your sales team should have an easier time closing deals. Of course, this requires that you create high quality, audience-focused content.
18. According to Hubspot, companies that blog are 13 times more likely to generate ROI than those that don’t.
Creating Your Content Marketing Strategy
19. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 88 percent of B2B companies are engaged in content marketing, but only 32 percent have a documented strategy. Those that do have a written strategy are far more likely to say their efforts are successful. The lesson here – your strategy doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but it does need to be documented.
20. At Scribewise, we believe your strategy must include your editorial promise – the pact you make with your audience concerning the content you will deliver them. This is a promise you must keep.
21. Your editorial promise should align with your brand promise.
23. Content marketing is generally more cost effective than other marketing approaches. That’s because you’re less reliant on “renting” someone else’s established audience, and more focused on building an audience you can own.
24. That said, you’ll have more success if you “market your content” – in other words, you need to commit resources to raising awareness of your content. This could be advertising, it could be media relations or it could be social media marketing. But know that the more you do, the more quickly you can grow your audience.
25. Our recommendation is that you don’t focus on creating an enormous audience, but rather focus on creating “the right audience.” You can have tens of thousands of people consuming your content, but if they simply don’t have interest in your product or service, it’s not doing you much good.
26. To build that audience, you should think in terms of accumulating subscribers. The best way to do this is to collect email addresses. Yes, email.
27. You can’t ignore Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but you should know that most SEO firms are still focused on keywords, and really don’t understand how to create content that your audience wants to consume. So, yes, hire SEO professionals to help your digital marketing effort, but don’t count on them to create great content for you.
The Rationale for Content Marketing
28. If you’re diving into a content marketing program, you’re probably already convinced about it being the right path for your organization. But you may (almost certainly will) need to provide rationale to the top levels of the organization at some point. The most compelling rationale for content marketing is the way that the Buyer’s Journey has changed. Think about how you buy anything – the first thing you almost certainly do is go online and start doing some research. That’s exactly what your prospective customers are doing. And, get this: They’re in control of the relationship, and they don’t want to hear your sales pitch until they’re good and ready. So, while they’re doing research, you need to entice them onward with content that is useful to them. If you’d like a deeper dive on the new Buyer’s Journey, check out our eBook.
29. To prove the point, in 2013, ContentPlus reported that 70 percent of consumers prefer getting to know a company through articles rather than ads.
31. Stop and think about most digital ads. They are interrupting your content consumption experience. Some of them feature really cool technology, but you certainly have noticed that the most common feature of digital ads is the effort to hide the “X.” That’s because the makers of those ads know that nobody actually wants to view those ads. Nobody. With content marketing, you’re helping to create a better online experience for your potential customers; you’re not trying to trap them in some experience they don’t want.
32. In his book Content, Inc., CMI founder Joe Pullizzi advocates starting a business by building an audience through content, and only then beginning to sell to this audience. We agree. However, we also acknowledge that this requires tremendous patience and an ability to not worry about paying the bills for six to 12 months. Obviously, not everyone can afford this.
Books and Conferences You Should Know About
33. Speaking of books, there is an exploding number of books on content marketing. Good news! You don’t have to read all of them. But there are a few that will help you wrap your head around the approach that it’s wise to begin with. We recommend starting with Rebecca Lieb’s Content Marketing: Think like a Publisher. This was one of the very first books on content marketing, published back in 2011.
34. Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose are the primary voices of the Content Marketing Institute. A couple years ago they collaborated on Managing Content Marketing, which will guide you in setting up and run your content program.
35. We’re big fans of Jay Baer’s Youtility, which advises you to focus on “help, not hype” – that customer-centric mindset is critical for effective content marketing.
36. Content Marketing World is widely considered the best content marketing show to attend. It’s in early September every year in Cleveland. On a related note, it’s shockingly difficult to get a reasonably priced flight from Scribewise HQ in Philadelphia to Cleveland.
37. The MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum is also said to be a good show, but we have not attended to date.
38. There are numerous other regional conferences; some are good and some are meh.
How Much Should You Pay for Content Marketing?
39. Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple answer to this question. However, we can set parameters on it. If you’re paying your marketing firm $200 an hour and they’re going to spend seven or eight hours on a blog (they often take longer because writing is not always their strong suit), you’re paying too much. If you’re using a “writing service” that offers articles for $7 per, you’re paying too little – sure, you’ll get “articles” but they will be just plain awful.
40. Another factor is, obviously, what type of content is being produced. As a general rule, written content costs less than video. Graphic design – infographics, etc. – are typically somewhere in the middle in terms of cost.
41. And, lastly, your industry factors into the total cost of content. If you’re in a more complex industry, content will almost certainly cost more, because the content creator will either need to a) have an advanced degree or experience or b) take longer to make the content useful to a highly specialized and sophisticated audience.
This is a pretty lengthy list; still, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what there is to know about content marketing. And, it continues to evolve. Consider yourself warned.
And we'll help you grow your business.
Subscribe to our blog and we'll provide you with analysis and insights on the latest trends in marketing. Right in your inbox.