Content marketing’s popularity has exploded over the last five years, and many individuals spend a lot of time touting its effectiveness. But for those who many not be knowledgeable about the tactic, it’s better to start with the basics. So, the question remains. What is content marketing?
In its simplest definition, content marketing consists of creating materials that are generally educational in tone and are specifically made to push individuals to take an action. In practice, however, content marketing can get much more complicated. Consisting of many different tactics working together to engage interest across many different channels, content marketing aims to deliver the right messages to the right audience to create action.
Although the inception of the buzzword “content marketing” has brought a lot of interested individuals into the mix, the concept of content marketing has been around for a while. In its earliest form, content marketing was a branch of advertising. People created messaging and materials around a specific audience and sent it out into the world through offline advertisements. Able to appeal to the emotions of those advertised to, these early ads tried to associate good feelings, or good ideas, with a product.
A great example is Coca Cola’s Santa Claus. What does Santa have to do with soda? Not a lot. But these early content marketers were able to mix two different ideas under the feel-good aura of Christmas and make a lot of soda sales as a result.
The underlying thought of today’s content marketing remains the same. Get your customer to engage with something you’ve created to deliver a message and convince them of a particular point. Do that enough times with enough specialized messaging, and you should be able to make a sale. The primary difference between today and yesterday, however, lies in content marketing’s increasing codification and its utilization of digital tools.
The Three Levels of Content Marketing
Lead Generation and Inbound Marketing
One of the most utilized aspects of content marketing, top-of-funnel methods like lead generation and inbound marketing bring individuals to your website by attracting them with valuable content. In comparison to standard advertising and sales talk that most people avoid, individuals should want to read the content that you create, and the best way to do so is by creating targeted pieces that engage your visiting audience with ideas, conversations and pieces that they would be interested in.
Middle-of-the-funnel and/or outbound tactics will most probably be a little more sales-centric than anything developed for lead generation. This is because of the buying stage your prospect will be in at this point in time. By this stage, prospects will have identified the problem they may have and are looking for a solution. You’ll want to create messaging and associated content addressing specific pain points they must overcome (without directly mentioning your product). Even though they may be closer to the sales stage, your prospects still aren’t ready for a sales message.
This part of the content marketing associated with the final step before the purchase, is exactly what it sounds like – enabling sales. Before prospects can make a purchase from a different company, sales will want to get to them first (at least in long sales cycles). At this point, content marketing tactics switch gears to become a supporting role. After messaging is defined, content marketing will be able to craft pieces, such as sales sheets and other promotional materials to be used by the sales staff.
Why Is It Important?
Throughout all these different aspects, the importance of content marketing isn’t so much how well a piece is written or presented, but rather if it causes further action and associates the right feelings with your brand. Content marketing is just one way to pursue these goals although its effectiveness can’t be overstated. Consider the following:
- Two-thirds of B2B marketers say content is fuel across all channels, including events, social, demand generation, etc.
- Using inbound tactics saves an average of 13% in overall cost per lead.
- 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.
One part strategic goal-making and two parts creative application, being able to create effective content requires both logical and the lateral thinking pulled together into one tactic able to boost sales like no other marketing tool on the market. When done right, content marketing can boost your lead gen efforts, deliver prospects and enable your sales team for substantial growth.