Content marketing has matured. It’s no longer the youngster trying to find its way or the hip 20-something that attracts all the attention. But that’s okay. Older and wiser can be good.
According to numerous studies, companies are now using content to do more than create awareness or engage potential customers. Content is being used to align sales and marketing, personalize the customer experience and directly drive revenue. Maturity has its benefits!
Content Trend: A survey by Altimeter showed that 81% of companies agreed or somewhat agreed they were able to directly tie revenue generated by content.
Of course, not all content is created equal. To generate content that delivers the results you want, you must begin with a strategy.
Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing
When it comes to explaining the difference between content strategy and content marketing, I love the analogy created by Julia McCoy at Convince and Convert. She notes that while content marketing and content strategy are related, they’re not the same thing. Using one of my favorite subjects (food), she compares content strategy to the inner workings of your favorite restaurant—the menu planning, food prep, staff schedule, reservations—all the planning and preparations the restaurant needs to attract customers, prepare the food and create an awesome dining experience.
Meanwhile, content marketing is cooking and serving the food that your audience consumes. It must contain the freshest ingredients, taste great and get served up at the right time!
Developing a strategy begins by understanding your ideal customer—what do they have an appetite for? What are their pain points? What information do they need to make their purchase decisions/jobs easier? Where do they like to get their information? Only after answering these questions can you create content that’s valuable and helps build a relationship with your audience, which in turn, generates leads and converts those leads to sales.
Why is this relationship so important?
Some Mind-Blowing Statistics
As of last year, nearly 4 billion people used the internet globally. To put that in perspective, that equates to over 50% of the world’s total population and is almost 12 times the total U.S. population. That’s a lot of people searching the internet for content!
But as demand for content has increased, the amount of information on the internet has exploded. In this virtual sea of content, it’s easy to get lost. Simply creating content for the sake of having a presence on the web is not enough. You must navigate these waters to reach the right audience, with the right information and on the island they’re currently inhabiting. No easy task.
In “The 2018 State of Digital Content” report, companies identified the top challenges they faced when creating content, which include:
- Aligning multiple teams around a unified strategy – 24%
- Hiring the right skills/people – 17%
- Producing relevant content based on customer data – 16%
- Getting investment/support from executive leadership – 13%
- Purchasing or integrating the right software (marketing automation) – 11%
Not to sound like a broken record, but these challenges can be addressed by developing a content strategy. If you want alignment between teams, particularly sales and marketing, getting input from all parties prior to rolling out a strategy is important. Similarly, when setting up and implementing a marketing automation system, both sales and marketing must be involved in defining qualified leads, how leads are handled, what messages are relevant, etc.
The challenge of producing relevant content can be addressed by creating detailed buyer personas. Getting investment from leadership comes down to proving ROI, which has become easier with today’s software platforms and advanced analytics. Which, of course, leads to the last noted challenge: purchasing or integrating the right software. (For tips on how to use marketing automation effectively, read “Making the Most Out of Marketing Automation.”
Content Trend: Data analysis is the most desired skill for new content hires, according to Altimeter.
Give Your Audience What They Want
Warning: we’re about to use an overused buzzword—thought leadership. Though you may be tired of hearing it, the technique remains effective. In simple terms, thought leadership refers to a type of content marketing in which you tap into your company’s expertise to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a certain topic.
It’s effective because people want to have their questions answered and they tend to trust companies who provide those answers, without all the self-promotion.
But here’s a stat that might surprise you: a 2018 survey found that product-focused content outperformed other types of content, including thought leadership. It seems that customers prefer content that educates them about specific features and helps them operate, repair and best utilize the brand’s products (think of all those helpful “how to” videos on YouTube). The second most preferred type of content was information that helps customers make a decision in their personal or professional lives and promotes the brand as a subject matter expert (aka thought leadership). And, the third most popular form of content is designed to entertain (hello cat videos!).
However, before you rush to change your content strategy, consider the type of industry you’re in. While product-focused content outperformed thought leadership in retail, manufacturing and other industries that produce physical goods, thought leadership hit the top mark for service industries, such as healthcare, finance and technology. (For tips on generating effective thought leadership content, read “Generate More Inbound leads with Thought Leadership.”
The bottom line: every company should evaluate its strategy and ask if the content is really serving its customer’s needs.
Yes, content is all grown up and is no longer just a means of distributing brand messages. And just as we expect more from our kids as they mature, we have higher expectations of content and how it’s deployed these days. Thankfully, with the help of tools like marketing automation and advanced analytics, along with agencies that specialize in content development and deployment, many companies are meeting or exceeding those expectations.
To learn more about how you can create and deliver content that gets results, give us call at 734-546-5434. Our marketing guru and automation specialist (aka tech nerd), Jeremy Sterling, loves to talk about content strategy! Or, visit us at www.spryideas.com
- Global Digital StatShot, Hootsuite, 2018.
- The 2018 State of Digital Content, Altimeter.
- “How to Explain Content Strategy and Content Marketing,” by Julia McCoy, 2018.