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Content Marketing: Creating Content to Attract, Engage, and Sell | Descript | Descript

Dec 31, 2021

What is content marketing? 

Content marketing is a way of selling a product or promoting a brand by producing and publishing content. It can take many forms: a podcast from your company, articles on your company’s blog, or posts on social media, to name a few. 

Content marketing stems from the idea that consumers are wary of advertising's traditional hard-sell approach. Rather than explicitly promoting the virtues of a product, a brand uses content marketing as a means to provide actual value to its audience—perhaps by providing resources or educating them, entertaining them, or inspiring them. 

This form of marketing is a long game; you might not see measurable results for a while. Marketers accept this tradeoff because content marketing is about building relationships with an audience, which can (hopefully, if done well) lead them to convert into paying customers over time.  

An example of traditional marketing vs. content marketing

Think of what you know about traditional product marketing. A company makes a new kind of organizing and productivity software and buys online ads that promise its new system will increase your productivity by 60 percent and give you more time with your family. It pumps those ads out over social media channels, tracks the URLs for each of its paid marketing campaigns, and waits for the sales to roll in. But consumers will have questions: How is this better than other systems on the market? What qualifies the company as an expert in time management? What does 60 percent increased productivity mean? 

Now let’s say the same company starts publishing articles on how to manage your time. It interviews well-known experts on strategies for giving themselves an extra hour or two. A behavioral expert weighs in on how to determine the most productive times in your individual working day. The company publishes a sleep study that shows how winding down without blue light before bed can increase daytime productivity. Now consumers recognize the company as an authority. They trust it to provide valuable information, and are more likely to trust its product. The company builds a relationship that leads to sales.

Content marketing is a way to create content that’s relevant and valuable to a certain audience, with the goal of not only creating a relationship with that audience but attracting them to that thing you want to sell. That content can be distributed in many ways, but the bottom line is that it shifts the focus from the product or service to its consumer. 

Does content marketing work?

With the growth of the internet and explosion of various content distribution and social media platforms, content marketing is an increasingly profitable approach for companies, integral to their overall marketing strategy. 

The Content Marketing Institute provides data to back this up:

  • Nearly half of buyers look at 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative.
  • Companies with blogs get 67 percent more leads than those who don’t have a blog.
  • Businesses that deploy content report 5 to 10 percent better retention rates, particularly when their content focuses on the customer.
  • Companies that use content marketing see around 30 percent higher growth rates than those that don’t use it.

5 key benefits of content marketing

With these stats in mind, here are some measurable benefits of content marketing:

  • Authority and credibility. A company that publishes authoritative research, stories, and tips becomes a trusted authority in its industry. This can help create buzz around your brand and increase the visibility of your product.
  • Increased sales. Naturally, the goal is to sell. By publishing content that genuinely delivers value to their audience—answers a question or teaches them something they want to learn how to do, for example—brands can build trust, and trust drives sales in the long term. 
  • Customer loyalty. Those who regard a company as a trusted authority become loyal customers, coming back to your brand or product again based on the relationship you’ve built with them through your valuable content.
  • Cost savings. Content marketing is often cheaper than buying ad space online because it has a long shelf life. An article published on a blog lives forever—brands and content marketers can continually promote it via social media and email for little to no cost, and optimize it for discovery via organic search. 

Types of content marketing

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Think of content as a buffet: You wouldn’t want to dine from a buffet with only a single type of food. Switching up types of content keeps your site visitors engaged and providing a variety of content can attract a wider audience. Here are some common types of content marketing:

Blogs

Even if a company only has one product or service, there is a whole universe of topics pertaining to that product—either directly or indirectly—that can be turned into articles on your blog. For example, a company that makes a transcription and editing tool could have a blog with articles about audio and video editing, sure, but also about podcast marketing or even, say, content marketing, since all of those things tie back to the product and how it can be used. 

Infographics

Visually displaying statistics and other numbers as charts and graphs present otherwise dry data as compelling information. You can post the infographic to the company’s blog along with a compelling story spun from the data. When your infographic (make sure it’s properly credited to your company) gets passed around, it can help drive traffic back to your company’s site.

Social media

Social media is the content marketing heavyweight, and, with so many different platforms, is one of the more complex methods of delivery. You’ve got tweets and toks and comments and captions with likes and shares galore. Rather than just grabbing a twenty something off the street and letting them run with it, think about your social media as a means to communicate your brand voice—if your company is a person, what is it trying to say? Is it a humble, funny person who loves a meme? Then make shareable memes that poke fun at your company. Maybe your brand is aesthetically driven, which means you can use social media as an extension of its visual style. The best part about social media is that you can use it to repurpose the other portions of your content marketing strategy—tweet a good line from your blog, or post clips from a recent video podcast to Instagram. 

Webpages

There’s creating a webpage and creating a content marketing webpage. An effective landing page uses search engine optimization to push keywords or terms in your industry to the top of the searchable pile. When building your website, make sure that your user sees a visually attractive, functional, and mobile-friendly design, with fast load speeds and easy navigation. If your website lacks functionality or takes a long time to load, the user might click out of the site to find something else, which can ultimately hurt your ranking on Google (and frustrate a potential customer). 

Podcasts

Podcasts present a great opportunity to build brand awareness for your company. When designing your company’s podcast, make sure you’re providing value to the listener and not just talking about how great your product is—like other forms of content marketing, the goal is to educate and entertain. Look at other branded podcasts to hear what they offer. The Trader Joe’s podcast, for example, offers insights about the inner workings of the popular grocery store chain and stories behind some popular products. If you make your podcast a source for information, all those new ears might just lead to conversion.

Videos

As a business owner, you may resist creating video content based on the assumption that the cost will outweigh the benefits. Consider a Las Vegas taco restaurant, however, that turned its security video of a burglary into a YouTube video. In the video, as burglars break into cash registers, text on the screen reads “Guy frantically searches for tacos,” and “Maybe they keep tacos in the register.” The video not only went viral but made national news on CNN and other outlets as well—at very little cost to the restaurant owner (the missing cash register notwithstanding). 

You don’t have to create viral content to generate value out of a video—that’s a lot of pressure. The video itself is a content goldmine from which you can make TV ads, cut the video down for multiple posts on social media, or use the shoot to capture stills to put on your website.  

Print media

Books and magazines are a good vehicle for driving readers to products—fashion magazines, in particular, blur the line between editorial and advertising. For a brand that is seeking to connect with its customers in a tangible way, traditional print media might be the best way to make a lasting impression. Consider Porter magazine, the content outlet for online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter. The magazine features fashion editorials, beautiful photo spreads, and celebrity profiles, just like any other fashion magazine. The twist? You can buy all of it on Net-a-Porter. The magazine helped turn the fashion start-up into an international retail behemoth.

How to build a content marketing strategy

Different types of content can work best for each stage of the sales cycle. Marketing experts refer to the “marketing funnel,” which narrows from a wide “awareness” top into interest and research, consideration, and finally conversion/purchase. The awareness opening of that funnel begins in lead generation and narrows as those leads are nurtured into sales.

The awareness stage

At the first stage of the process, businesses are simply trying to make people aware of their brand. The top of the funnel is the widest part, which means that the approach here is to cast a wide net. Think: Multimedia content that educates or entertains. This is not yet the time to push a product or service. Some examples of this might be:

  • A home décor store writes a blog post about how to decorate for the holidays. This article is useful to their readers, who may become customers down the funnel, but really just builds brand recognition. 
  • A sneaker company creates a chart that shows how to evaluate your own stride and pick the correct type of running shoe to solve for inefficiencies in your walk. While the sneaker company might not have the right shoe for the reader at that moment, the reader still might find value in the information provided. 

The consideration stage

As businesses nurture the relationship with the people who are engaging with their content, they shift into a combination of marketing and helpful information that educates readers about the areas in which that business can claim a competitive advantage. Think case studies, how-to videos, checklists and worksheets, and how-to articles. Examples of this strategy include:

  • A lumber company publishes a series of videos that show how to choose different hardnesses of wood for various home projects. The company can use this as an opportunity to showcase their product.
  • A tourism destination creates a video showing how to plan the most romantic vacation in its venues.
  • A computer company puts out a checklist to help customers choose among features of different laptops based on how and for what reason they use a laptop computer. The checklist could lead the customer to solve their problem with their computer.

The conversion or purchasing stage

At the narrowest part of the funnel, readers have done their research and are ready to purchase. For them, businesses will want to produce buyer’s guides, product videos, research reports, and user-generated content. This is where businesses can focus on why their product or service is better than others out there.

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