Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, wrote in 1996: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
Marketing thought leaders like Seth Godin are huge proponents of content marketing. He even said: “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
What is content marketing?
Businesses use marketing to attract, engage, and sell to customers. They do it by creating and spreading content that’s insightful and educational. This is content marketing.
You create content. People consume it. If consumers deem your content valuable, they trust you enough to do business with you.
At the heart of it all is: content.
And it’s not just written content. Infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, etc. all come under the ambit of content.
Before you board the content marketing bandwagon.
It’s all too easy to say: “Content marketing is hot right now, let’s try it out.”
Often, I see businesses fail because they don’t have a clear idea about the requirements for successful content marketing.
So before you jump in, keep this in mind:
Content marketing is not a short-term campaign you can run for a few months. It’s a long-term strategy that needs to be deeply integrated into your marketing.
Your goal as a content marketer shouldn’t be limited to securing visitors to your website. Your focus should be on retaining users’ attention. Help them to find the right answers quickly.
After all, you have just eight seconds to communicate your message.
What can you achieve with content marketing?
When it’s done correctly, content marketing provides many benefits.
#1: Increase brand awareness at lower costs.
Viral content has the potential to reach millions of users. It costs only a fraction of what traditional media (TV, print, billboards) advertising will cost you.
A good example of a brand using content marketing to drive awareness is Nike.
Nike sells sports gear. Their content never focuses on the quality of their merchandise. The emphasis is on the athletes and how they endure and succeed.
When you think of Nike, you think of successful athletes. That’s the power of content that Nike creates.
#2: Increase website traffic.
Content marketing gained prominence after Google made SEO difficult. Cheap and easy ways to build links and rank for keywords stopped working.
Google wants people to focus on creating great content for users and not for search engines.
You create valuable content that deserves to be discovered. Why not get some free traffic out of it?
Content marketing also helps you to acquire cheap paid traffic.
Content distribution networks like Outbrain and Taboola help you to distribute content across the web. You get qualified traffic at a fraction of the cost you’d pay Google or Facebook.
#3: Build your brand reputation and trust.
Mint.com was one of the companies that pioneered large-scale content marketing. They used content as a means of attracting and engaging customers.
As a financial platform that requires access to people’s bank accounts, Mint had an uphill challenge in gaining the trust of its users.
Content helped them to establish their brand as a trusted authority in the personal finance sector. They were able to use this trust to convert readers to Mint users.
I applied the same principle to a mutual fund startup I worked for. People started trusting us more when we created simple and practical personal finance content.
Create content that resonates with your audience and answers their questions. This positions your brand as one that’s interested in helping the customer. The audience won’t see you as a pushy seller anymore.
#4: Improved conversion rates throughout your marketing and sales funnel.
As marketers, we are always looking to optimize the funnel.
Content marketing, when done correctly, helps your funnel to convert users more efficiently.
Make automated drip campaigns your best friend. Use them to move people from one stage of the funnel to another without increasing the costs of sales or support.
What content marketing is not.
As someone who’s scaled traffic volumes to millions of visitors using content marketing, here is what I believe content marketing is not:
Content marketing is not a replacement for your ads.
Ads serve one purpose: to sell.
Your marketing efforts should be structured around educating your users. Make them comfortable interacting with you. Make them feel like they can share their problems with a friend.
Use content in a simple and direct manner to answer questions people might have.
It’s not a magic bullet to increase sales.
If your product or service sucks, content marketing cannot save you.
Marketing software vendors often position content marketing as a magic bullet to increase sales. The truth is, it does not always turn out that well.
A successful content strategy takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and money to execute. People will try and sell you the dream of content marketing as an easy way to generate customers for free. Stay away from them.
Is content marketing the right approach for my business?
The answer to this question is mostly a resounding “Yes!”
I’ll be brutally honest, though.
Can you dedicate the time and effort required to scale your content marketing efforts? If not, you’ll probably fail.
Answer these questions:
- Do you have a person dedicated to creating content? If not, can you spend at least 25-30 hours a week on creating content?
- Do you have the necessary skills to execute a solid strategy? Skills such as writing, editing, creating images, promotion, etc.
- Do you have enough money to promote your content? Content marketing is 50% content and 50% marketing. If you don’t market your content, no one will discover it.
- Do you have the required technical infrastructure in place to publish content, capture leads, and nurture leads into customers?
If you were able to answer yes to most of the questions above, your business is probably a good fit for content marketing.