Content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience in order to drive profitable action.
If done right, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing yet generates 3x more leads. But where do you start?
This beginner's guide will explain:
- What content marketing is
- The history and evolution of content marketing
- The business case for investing in content marketing
- Why blogging should be central to your strategy
- How to distribute content across channels
- The key elements of a successful content marketing campaign
- A 5-step process for developing your strategy
Follow along to get a foundational understanding of content marketing and its role in modern business. With these best practices, you’ll be set up for content marketing success in 2024.
What is content marketing?
Content isn't 'stuff we write to rank higher' or 'infographics' or 'long-form articles.' Content is anything that communicates a message to the audience. Anything. (Ian Lurie, CEO, Portent, Inc.)
Think of a story that will represent your brand or the value you bring. Determine a clear strategy. Know exactly who your audience is. Tell that story through blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc. People interact with your content, you build trust, and eventually they grow from browsers to readers, from leads to potential customers.
The history of content marketing
Content marketing isn’t new. Not at all. Let’s take a look at some examples of companies who have been in the content game for decades, or even centuries.
In 1904. the owner of Jell-O, the candy company, was getting so desperate from his low sales that he almost sold his ownership. As a last effort, they created a recipe book and sent out salesmen to go door-to-door delivering it.
This new tactic turned out to be a huge success, with their sales reaching $1 million within two years.
Today, Jell-O and other popular food brands continue to share recipes.
In 1895, John Deere, who is an agricultural machinery manufacturer decided to increase his sales dramatically. They published a consumer magazine, called The Furrow, to sell more products. Even today, after 124 years, it is still distributed in more than 40 countries and translated in 12 languages, and they have about 1.5 million readers - making it the World’s Oldest Content Marketing example. 😳
In 1900, a French tire manufacturer developed the Michelin Guide, a 400-page publication offering drivers information on auto maintenance, hotels, and travel advice.
There were only about 2,200 cars but they distributed 35,000 copies of the first edition for free, they believed in the car industry a lot.
The idea behind this marketing tactic was that people would be more likely to travel in their cars with access to the guidebook, wearing out their tires sooner. And, having used book they bet consumers would choose Michelin for purchasing new tires. They were right of course. 🤷♀️
Tip 1 🧐: Think of the best ways to reach your potential customers. Give them knowledge not only about what you are offering but also on other 'how-to' that revolve around your main service/product.
Technically a lot has changed since the Jell-O cookbook or first The Furrow edition. But the principles are still relevant today!
Content marketing is all about storytelling, and humans have told stories for as long as they could speak. Our attention will always go to those who tell great stories. The only thing that has changed is the medium or the source. Today we can access any kind of content from our personal devices, mostly for free and from any preferable platform.
Why you should do content marketing
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing endeavours yet generates 3x the amount of leads. (Source: DemandMetric)
Content marketing beats paid advertising every single time. Simple explanation: because it is about storytelling and creating value for your client. People remember stories, not how your product or service works.
Case studies show that 70% of consumers learn about a company through articles, rather than ads. Therefore, you can use your blog to set the tone and to use it to your advantage: whether it is to market your product, share company news or provide information to your potential customers.
Tip 2 🧐: Ads typically don’t offer any value to customers, and they don’t offer any inherent reason for potential customers to view them. So, instead of using your marketing budget entirely on paying ads, think of using that money for guest writers and tools to help you optimize your content creation and distribution.
Why blogging is important in content marketing
82% of marketers who blog consistently see positive ROI from inbound efforts. (Source: State of Inbound)
Blogging is ideal for marketing initially because it offers a way for consumers and businesses to interact. If you haven’t set up your own blog yet or found a place to host the content you’re going to create, now is the time. StoryChief offers you a free blog when you start your account! Or if you've already made that first step, and you have your blog posts on WordPress, Hubspot or Medium, no worries as we integrate with most of the CMS out there. 🚀
Now when you have the technical stuff set up, let's check out the benefits of blogging for your business.
Blogging is central to many content marketing strategies for these key reasons.
1. You gain trust
60% of consumers feel engaged/positive with a brand or company after reading custom content on their blog (Source: ContentPlus)
Blogging gives you trust and authority. Readers turn to potential customers because they trust advice and information from blog posts. Whether it is to solve a specific problem, figure out how to do something, or to stay informed about a certain topic, people find blog posts credible.
2. You improve your SEO
Blogging is responsible for 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links (Source: DemandMetric)
Blogging is a great way to drive traffic to your website. You have a 500% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines if you blog. Great content attracts editorial links, which tell Google you're important and authoritative. Google can also index your content, getting a far better idea of what your company is about, allowing it to return your site for more relevant search.
3. More leads
B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. (Hubspot)
Different types of content will generate different numbers of leads for you. Creating high-quality, engaging content will build brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website and increase sales.
Position your company as a thought leader, someone who is an expert in the field and people will turn to you for your expertise, meaning they will trust your recommendations. Once you get their attention, you can challenge their current workflow or pain points by guiding them to your solution and presenting the values they want to achieve.
4. Build links
Every time an authoritative website links to a blog post (or any page) your entire website reaps the SEO benefits. Many businesses now use blogs to attract links easily with high-quality, engaging blog content. Using a branded link shortener can help with this as custom short links are SEO-friendly.
As a simple case study, for us at StoryChief blogging is the number 1 lead generation format. It’s our core content strategy and we launch approximately 60 blog posts per year, results in 10 - 100 qualified leads for each blog.
Using our own tool, we widely distribute our high-quality content across social media platforms, digital publishing, email, and employee advocacy channels.
5. Blogs can be interactive, engaging, and multimedia
Another reason why blogging is so important is that a blog can house so many other forms of content.
Embed images, infographics, videos, podcasts, slideshows, Instagram feeds, Tweets and more to make it easier to consume. Remember, people are scanning online and only read if they are intrigued.
Content is the king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants
In the digital world we live in, multi channel publishing has changed. For most businesses, the challenge isn't spreading the same message into both digital and physical platforms. Today the challenge is "being everywhere at once," or keeping up with your social media presence across all platforms, your Medium blog, your company blog, etc.
Blogs have a huge impact, but to get the most out of it takes a lot of planning, collaboration, and consistency. These elements are essential to maintaining a high level of content. The distribution part of the process can be easily automated and thus, take less of your time.
Tip 4 🧐: You want to think more in terms of centralizing your content creation and publishing (pssst, this is where StoryChief comes in handy!)
What makes a great content marketing campaign?
👉 Give them needed information or the solution to a common problem.
👉 You can’t just create something and expect your ideal customer to find it. This is where keyword research and content promotion come in.
👉 Don’t lead people to your site without offering a great way for them to engage further. With affordable products, you can include CTAs leading to purchase in your blog posts, podcasts, and videos. In the case of longer buying cycles, you’ll want to offer a freebie so they opt-in to your email marketing list.
Tip 5 🧐: To have a lasting business success, potential customers have to love your brand. If your brand is confusing and inconsistent, you won’t build up a followers base. So, any content you create must go hand in hand with your brand guidelines.
The 5-step process for creating your content marketing strategy
1. Who are your best customers?
If you have multiple customer or user types, which ones have the highest lifetime value? You may have only one type of ideal customer (say, an office manager at a corporation, or you may have multiple — an office manager at a corporation and a small business.)
2. Understand who your ideal customers are on several levels (professionally, personally, emotionally)
You can fill out a persona template to make it easy to recall the information at any time. At a minimum, you should know some basic demographic information about them, their daily responsibilities in life and/or business (depending on your industry), their biggest fears and frustrations, and their goals and dreams.
If you’re struggling to understand your customers on a deeper level, surveys and interviews are invaluable tools—and they’ll help with your content brainstorms too!
3. In your company, what types of content can you execute on reliably?
What types of content do your ideal customers resonate with the most? For small businesses, it can be smart to choose ONLY a blog, a podcast or a YouTube channel (for example).
Whereas larger businesses might have the capacity and the need to create content for all three. The best channels for you are at the intersection of what your target audience wants to engage with and what you can produce consistently as a team.
4. Once you know your channel and your audience (and most importantly, their needs), it’s time to start brainstorming
At this stage, don’t hold back! Come up with ideas that your target audience will find helpful in solving their problems. You can also use free SEO tools like UberSuggest and Keywords Everywhere to determine key phrases that are worthwhile for your business.
5. And the final piece of a smart content marketing strategy is to make sure that some basic structures are in place before you hit publish
Add a Call-to-Action for each content piece you produce, and capture those leads with a form or a giveaway.
Need more tips?
In case you need more inspiration, here are some other interesting resources that will help you master content marketing as a beginner.
To fully optimize your content marketing flows, choose one of the StoryChief plans and achieve better content marketing: create better content, share it multi channel and analyse your best performing channels.