What is content marketing?
Content marketing creates experiences that connect people with your brand.
In this article, we’ll explain content marketing so you can explain it to anyone.
Here’s a simple content marketing definition:
Content marketing is a marketing technique that involves creating, publishing, and promoting content and measuring its success.
The biggest brands in the world use content marketing to power their sales funnel, and you should too.
Content marketing explained
Content marketing is the process of strategising and creating content, making sure it finds and delivers value to an audience, and measuring its success.
Content marketing forges and nurtures relationships through interactions with your content.
The concept of content marketing is simple: you forego the promotions in favour of giving genuinely useful content to your audience.
The aim of content marketing is to incite profitable action, but not in an obvious way.
This methodology builds trust in your brand and makes people want to do business with you.
What is content marketing with working examples
Content marketing can be explained well with a few working examples:
Sarah the accountant
Sarah has her own accountancy practice. She’s exploring bookkeeping software. She comes across a fantastic blog with advice and tips. The blog is run by a leading bookkeeping platform. Sarah signs up for a trial because of the quality of the blog content.
In this example, content marketing produced a conversion (Sarah signed up for a free trial).
Bob the pension investor
Bob has a pension invested in funds. Each month, Bob looks forward to a newsletter with insight into the best-performing funds. The content has nothing to do with the funds Bob is invested in, but it is solid information – information that Bob finds valuable.
In this example, the newsletter keeps Bob in contact with his pension provider on a deep, helpful level.
Content marketing in numbers
The Content Marketing Institute, the foremost authority on content marketing, publishes annual research that is helpful in understanding trends.
Research conducted in 2020/2021 reveals the following:
B2B content marketing stats
- 94% of B2B content marketers changed their content marketing strategy because of the coronavirus pandemic
- Over half changed targeting/messaging strategy (70%), adjusted their editorial calendars (64%), and/or changed their content distribution (53%)
- 73% of top B2B content marketing performers nurture audiences
- Almost all (94%) top B2B content marketing performers measure their content performance (60% of the least successful do)
B2C content marketing stats
- 13% of B2C marketers changed their content marketing strategy in response to the coronavirus pandemic
- 75% of B2C marketers say their content marketing is successful
- 38% of B2C marketers are successfully building a subscribed audience
- In 2021, 42% of B2C marketers indicate their organisation has a documented content marketing strategy, up from 33% in 2020
The four layers of content marketing
Content marketing is a layered marketing technique, which is to say it’s more complex than you might think, but not rocket science.
The four layers of content marketing are as follows:
- Quality: content has to be well-written/produced
- Relevance: content has to be tailored for the audience
- Reach: content has to be distributed in the right places
- Measurement: KPIs must be measured to determine success
Here’s what you need to know about each layer:
Layer 1: Quality
People have been spoiled consuming great content from great brands, so you have your work cut out.
Thankfully, nailing content quality is simple:
- For written content: create a tone of voice document, get content written professionally, proofread everything
- For video content: get video production training, use professional production equipment, use a good voiceover artist
- For photos: use natural light, avoid overexposure, shoot at the right time, use appropriate filters, follow the rule of thirds
Layer 2: Relevance
Your content should be tailored for your audience.
The question is, how much do you really know about your audience? In our article about product description mistakes, we recommended creating buyer personas.
Here’s what a buyer persona costs of:
- Basic demographic information:
- Behavioural drivers. These are your customer’s goals and desires for finding the products/services you offer. What problems do they want to solve? What solutions are they looking for? Is this a luxury or necessity purchase?
- Shopping mindset. This is the emotion behind your customer looking for the products/services you offer. Are they frustrated? Are they looking for the thrill of a bargain? Do they want to improve themselves?
Layer 3: Reach
Where does your audience discover and consume content?
You need to distribute and promote your content so it gets found by your audience.
There are 3 content distribution channels:
- Owned – the websites, blogs and social media channels you own
- Earned – involves other people sharing your content
- Paid – is the exposure you pay for, like sponsored content in Twitter feeds
Here are some ideas for content distribution:
- Paid distribution: PPC, sponsored content, influencer reviews, paid social ads, premium content
- Social media: TikTok, Twitter, YouTube Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat
- Industry and knowledge websites: forums, magazines, blogs, Quora, Yahoo Answers, Reddit
Content marketing success rests on many variables, but none more so than content reaching the right audience.
Layer 4: Measurement
You should create KPIs (key performance indicators) for the different types of content in your content marketing strategy, and put in place tools that let you measure them.
Here are 8 KPIs you should be tracking:
- Conversation rates
- Unique page visits
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Inbound links
- Social media shares
- Lead generation
- New subscribers
Salesforce has a great article covering these KPIs.
What is the point of content marketing?
Ah yes, the point.
Content marketing attracts prospects and customers to your brand with valuable content.
If the content is really good, it incites action.
That action could be a trial sign up, a phone call, an email, a sale, an instant message, or something as honest as a LinkedIn request.
Whatever the action, it was created because the content you published gave someone value.
At the end of the funnel, content marketing is about creating profitable customer action, but it takes time – and often – lots of content to get there.
Good content can make people aware of your brand, interested in your brand, consider purchasing from your brand and go through with that purchase.
But one piece of content can’t do all these things, which is why you need a content marketing strategy and lots of high-quality content to get the job done.
Hopefully, our simple explanation of content marketing has hit the sweet spot.
The next step for you is to plan your content strategy.
If you haven’t already got one, start by creating a tone of voice document. This is necessary to help assure quality across your content creation.
Once you’ve done that, read Hubspot’s in-depth guide to developing a content strategy. It picks up from this post and is a really useful guide for getting started.