Latest posts by Mark Spera (see all)
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Content marketing is the creation and distribution of high value content. In a world that’s thick with advertisements – we see about 5,000 per day – authentic, honest, high value media is extremely visible – it cuts through the noise like no paid campaign could.
What is content? Content is all the stuff your business creates to communicate with its audience. It can take the form of serious to informational to funny and everything in between. Content affords your business the rare opportunity to communicate a unique value proposition and carve out a space as a thought leader in your industry.
Some of the earliest marketing was content marketing. Early Sears catalogs and the first 1949 Vitamix Blender infomercial were content marketing.
Today, businesses reach their customers in countless ways. Content takes the form of email marketing. It is the information on your website. It is the commercials we see on TV and the articles you read on the internet… much like this article.
Content is often the most humanizing and honest touch point you have with your customer. Plus, it sells product.
And even more, building a marketing strategy around it can create customers for cheap. Content marketing can significantly reduce your media spend. And while content marketing is definitely a cheap strategy, it’s worth mentioning that some companies spend an enormous sum to churn out content. Nerdwallet employs a team of nearly 500 – more than 20% are writers. Content giants like Netflix produce full television series.
Types of Content Marketing
The Content Marketing Institute says content marketing is the 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.
“Content marketing” covers a lot of ground. Content takes a number of forms – it includes email campaigns, blog posts, podcasts, Slideshares, some forms of viral marketing and nearly everything in between.
Content in all forms is viable, but companies do different things based on their unique selling propositions and customer personas. Below, I’ll discuss a few of the largest forms of content and provide links to resources throughout.
Companies like Chubbies Shorts have done an incredible job with email marketing – carving out a unique branding niche that helps them stand above the noisy men’s fashion vertical.
There are a number of ways to capitalize on email marketing effectively. Email marketing deserves its own conversation, but for our purposes, suffice it to say Chubbies makes hilarious and outlandish email content that captures their brand narrative and sells product without “selling” it.
Blog or Original Written Content
While I’m not looking for a job I still am subscribed to the job seeking website – Glassdoor’s email alerts. Glassdoor uses email as an effective way of communicating its value proposition – simple, robust job search – in one concise email. But even more impressive, Glassdoor doesn’t miss an opportunity to inject moments of brand and intrigue into its blog content.
Much of their content is shareable – they release lists like 50 Best Jobs in America, 25 Highest Paying Jobs, 50 Best Places to Work, etc. This content is fun, earnest and engaging. If you work at one of the companies listed, you’re likely to share too, spreading the content further. This flattery tactic is very similar to an article we wrote about an affiliate marketing growth hack we uncovered.
The internet is becoming very video-centric. In our paid marketing campaigns at RealtyShares, we’re seeing increasing engagement with video content and decreasing engagement with our written content. Why? Video content is more natural to how we experience the world.
Plus, internet speeds have basically quadrupled since 2008. Faster streaming speeds only further improve video content performance.
One company that has always succeeded with video content is Dollar Shave Club. Many people discovered DSV through founder, Mike Dubin’s brand explanation video. The hilarious and stream-of-consciousness video features Dubin walking around the Dollar Shave Club factory floor, yammering about his grandfather and riding in wheelbarrows with employees, explaining the DSV value proposition.
The video has 24 million views today. It is effectively, viral content.
There are many types of videos – explainer videos work incredibly well for improving engagement with complex products. Testimonial videos are efficacious for companies that require social proof to close deals.
Video content includes explainer videos, brand videos (like Dollar Shave), educational films/documentaries, testimonials and thank you videos.
Use a professional tool like any of these 10 explainer video creators or even better, work with a local filmer/producer to make your masterpiece.
Some podcast content can be very engaging and brand-building. It’s estimated that 57 million people listen to podcasts monthly. This figure has been growing steadily over the last 5+ years.
This means that podcast is becoming an increasingly effective medium for your brand to communicate. Companies like real estate investing website, BiggerPockets have experienced huge growth in podcast listenership. They have well over 100,000 listeners today.
I have never used it, but PodBean is a fairly well-reviewed podcast creation software.
Images and Infographics
Some companies, including apartment finder website, Zumper have done extraordinarily well with simple infographics. Zumper collects troves of hyperlocal rental information. They simply turn these data points into useful and fun infographics.
This Zumper infographic was the first result in my Google search for “rental prices in San Francisco.” Apparently Google finds this content is pretty unique and relevant.
One of Zumper’s investors once told me that a huge percentage of their customer acquisitions come from their shareable infographics.
Use Canva to create infographics.
For more information on how to Zumper has hacked SEO, read Will SEO Work for Me in 2017?.
Case Studies and Customer Interviews
Case studies are particularly effective for B2B companies with long sales cycles. Frequently it helps customers imagine using your service and it acts as social proof of your service’s effectiveness.
Case studies generally take the form of an existing customer interview, Q&A or white paper. By simply explaining how a customer has benefited from your good or service, you can frequently create an informative and persuasive case.
One of my favorite tools, Instapage recently did a case study on RealtyShares. It included a series of Q&A questions in the form of a blog post and a professionally produced video.
5 Content Marketing Tips
So how can we produce and distribute better content? Doing so ensures that your customer moves through your purchasing funnel faster.
Being very thoughtful about how your business uses content is key. Based on your business vertical, goals for content and resources, there are a lot of different ways to use it optimally.
Below are my 5 tips for making your content count.
1. Make a Content Marketing Plan
Content marketing is an infinitely large universe – some companies literally have entire teams devoted to content creation and dissemination. But if you don’t have those resources, or even if you do, it would behoove you to strategize and set a plan from day one.
First, decide on your content goals and where you would like to devote your resources.
Like many marketing concepts, it helps to visualize the entire journey from discovery to purchase as a funnel.
Identify the weakness in your business funnel and use content to help improve performance in that area. For instance, if you are having trouble getting visitors to your website – their “first touch,” you will want to focus your efforts on content to drive traffic. “Top of funnel” content strategies include paid native advertising, search engine optimization, making viral videos and writing juicy, shareable blog content.
Whereas, if you have plenty of traffic but nobody buying your product or service, you should focus on some “bottom of funnel” activities. Try a strategy with case studies from satisfied customers and plenty of engaging email content.
So once you have a vague idea of how you will use content, take time to define exactly what resourcing you will need to reach your goals. For instance, if you want to grow your web traffic by 50% in just a few months, you will need to aggressively create and distribute content – which means you need to hire a couple of writers and marketers. Keep your expectations reasonable.
2. Choose the Right Content
At the core of marketing is the customer. Your content should speak to your customer.
There is no right or wrong way to do content marketing and one size definitely doesn’t fit all. The B2B software giant, Salesforce speaks to its users in a much different way than does Tom’s Shoes.
Speak to your customer the way he/she would like to be spoken to. Everlane, an ecommerce company that sells socially responsible clothing to a millennial consumer, created an interactive map of its factories. The map was a huge undertaking no doubt, but it is impactful enough on customer conversion that it now sits on a tab on the homepage of Everlane.com.
Know how and when to speak with your customer. Content is one of the most intimate ways consumers interact with your brand – so it’s meant to be done with purpose and care.
Choosing the right content may mean something completely different in this scenario: imagine your business is committing to a very big search engine optimization strategy. This type of marketing requires tons of robust, keyword-specific and shareable content.
Everlane’s factory map is amazing, but would not rank particularly well as part of an SEO strategy.
3. Make a Content Marketing Calendar
There’s a lot of reasons to make a content calendar and none of them are terribly complex: to keep your team on the same page, to make sure you time campaigns with major industry announcements, holidays and company milestones and to multiply your efforts with social media and press.
Use a simple Google doc to track.
4. Make Great Content
If you’re going to start doing content marketing, remember the most important tip in this guide: make good content.
The average person gets 121 emails per day. While email is a very effective medium, it is crowded. Standing apart means doing email marketing right.
Similarly, there are so many articles, blogs, news and other forms of long written content in our Facebook newsfeed and across the web, it is difficult to get noticed. Even more, many websites are now offering paid native advertising, meaning advertisers can take prime space formerly reserved for journalistic pieces.
With all of this noise, average content just won’t cut it. But sadly, really good content takes a lot of time to make.
But good content is 10x better than average content, so it’s worth the extra effort.
Even from my experience writing on GrowthMarketingPro, this is clear. The majority of traffic comes directly to a few different articles on the blog. The below 5 pages make up 70% of our traffic. Two articles, Top 20 Digital Marketing Tools, Ultimate Guide to Viral Marketing and our homepage make up 50% of our traffic.
These articles were very thoroughly researched – they took me a long time to write. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I think Google rewards effort. Google’s algorithm rewards robust, high-quality content and it’s smart enough to tell the difference between B+ content and A+ content.
5. Distribute Your Content
Remember this: you can create amazing, engaging, informative and moving content that nobody ever sees. As a content marketer you have to both create and distribute content.
Sure, if you’ve created something viral, you might be able to sit back and watch users engage. But most of your content will not be viral. Most of it requires a nudge.
Don’t forget to amplify your content with social media, syndication, press and even paid channels. Your content should be optimized for sharing. Notice how GrowthMarketingPro allows you to share this post on social media with sharing icons. Do it! 😉
6. Content Marketing Metrics – Measuring ROI
Make sure to measure your performance. Content is great but it takes a lot of time and energy. Your content plan (step 1) should include a way of measuring results. Your results should always be measured in terms of a growth or sales metric.
Make sure you use Google’s Search Console if you are trying to measure the progress of your SEO strategy.
When performance evaluating your strategy, remember to factor in the price that it takes to create your content – are you going to have to pay a videographer, writer or engineer? Plus, include the hours of effort you spend and any costs you incurred to promote it.