In 1996, journalist John Oppedahl coined the term “content marketing,” but the idea of using content as a way to attract and connect with customers has been around for far longer.
Prior to the advent of the personal computer, brands would publish newsletters, guides, recipe books, and more, all in an attempt to boost awareness of their products or services and provide audience members with helpful information.
Over 25 years later, it’s safe to say that content marketing has staying power, and it’s also evolved significantly. But has your understanding of it evolved alongside it, though? Here are some things you should know.
Table of Contents
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing refers to a business sharing information online with a target market in order to achieve its marketing goals. Though that definition may sound simple enough, it helps to dig a bit deeper.
What Is Content?
In a word, content is information. More specifically, the term “content” comprises stories, messages, instructions, entertainment, and more, delivered in a variety of formats across multiple channels. As it relates to content marketing, content should also be engaging, relevant, and targeted.
What Are Marketing Goals?
Marketing goals are the objectives included in a brand’s marketing plan. They are benchmarks that must be achieved for that plan to succeed and, ultimately, for the company to do well.
Some common marketing goals include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Boosting engagement
- Earning more qualified leads
- Building customer loyalty
Businesses’ successful content marketing campaigns include content that aligns with their marketing goals.
Why Does Content Marketing Work?
Content marketing works because it meets users where they are. It’s a form of inbound marketing, which means that it’s responsive to what users need. Content marketing is something that people encounter because they have asked a question, presented a problem, or shown interest in a particular problem. When executed correctly, content marketing is relevant and organic to the current user experience.
Contrast this definition with outbound marketing methods that often feel intrusive and disruptive to the user experience.
Since content marketing is generally well-received, brands can take advantage of it to achieve outcomes that aren’t possible through other forms of marketing. Through content marketing, businesses can:
- Build customer relationships and loyalty
- Turn customers into brand advocates
- Develop communities around brand and products
- Provide product education
- Increase brand authority
- Boost awareness
These outcomes may not result in sales as quickly as more aggressive forms of marketing, but the long-term results are often much more substantial.
Content and the Marketing Funnel
Content can be deployed to reach prospects at every stage of the marketing funnel. There is content that works well for brand awareness (the upper funnel), as well as content that is more appropriate for mid and lower-funnel stages. Meanwhile, advertising itself tends to be focused on lower-funnel customers only.
Where Does Content Marketing Happen in 2023?
One of the biggest ongoing changes to content marketing has been concerning where it takes place. Specifically, the channels that are available for sharing content with target audiences have grown exponentially. So, where is that happening in 2023?
Take a moment to consider the content marketing channels that have emerged over the past decade or so. In addition to blogging, guest posting, and native advertising, brands are now able to share their content on platforms like:
Reddit and other long-running social media sites may have launched prior to 2010, but they, too, have shown growing promise as content marketing channels throughout the past few years. Additionally, marketing teams shouldn’t ignore the growth of audio content. According to Pew Research, podcasts are steadily growing in popularity.
The benefits these platforms offer extend beyond having more content distribution channels than ever. The choices that brands have access to enable them to precisely target their audiences more than ever before, simply by choosing the right channel, and different channels appeal to a range of demographics, personalities, and interests.
Additionally, social media channels are working hard to gain the attention and loyalty of brands. Most offer dashboards for brands to make it easier to share content, as well as analytics tools to help ensure that content marketing campaigns get results.
Content Marketing Formats
The most important element of content marketing is the content itself, and businesses can choose from many formats to reach audiences. Here are just a few options:
- Blog posts
- Guest posts
- Surveys and polls
- White papers
- Native advertising
There’s also video, which is its own content marketing category altogether, simply because of its own abundance of forms that include:
- Live videos
- Product demonstrations
- How-to videos
- Video courses
- Short-form videos (i.e., shorts, TikToks, reels)
Content teams can select the specific content formats that will appeal to their target audiences and best allow them to share their messages.
Setting Content Marketing Strategy for 2023 and Beyond
Now that you have a solid foundation of content marketing knowledge, you may feel ready to start developing your own strategy. Follow these tips to ensure your content marketing efforts are successful this year and beyond.
Start with Goals and KPIs
Content without a goal supporting it doesn’t really serve a purpose. You might deliver some pieces that your audience enjoys, but there won’t be any movement toward any sort of positive outcome.
One of the most effective approaches is to use the SMART methodology, setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Doing so pushes you to set content marketing goals that are well-articulated, aligned with your overall business objectives, and trackable using clearly defined metrics.
Some example goals include:
- Increasing brand awareness by 20% in six months
- Boosting revenue through social media sales by 5% in 90 days
- Earning 25% more email subscribers in one month
After you establish your goals, you can turn your focus to key performance indicators (KPIs), which are specific metrics or benchmarks that your content must reach within a given period of time.
Imagine that you chose improving brand awareness as one of your goals. Now, you can choose KPIs that support that. For instance, brand awareness can be measured by:
- An increase in search traffic using branded keywords
- More social media followers
- Stronger presence in Google trends results
- Brand awareness surveys
- Share of voice and share of impressions
For many of these KPIs, you may need to do a current-state analysis to set benchmarks that you can measure against during your content marketing campaign.
Select Content to Reach Your Audience
What kind of content should you create? You’ll need to take your content audience into consideration alongside your goals and KPIs.
Start by developing buyer personas, which will help you dial in exactly who you are trying to reach with this content marketing initiative.
Your buyer persona should include details such as:
- Demographic data
- Pain points
- Reasons for needing your product or service
- Where they spend time online
- Marketing funnel stage
- How your brand can uniquely meet their needs
Remember, though, that not every content marketing campaign will be intended to reach all of your prospective customers. You may need to specialize to achieve results.
Once you have a clear view of the customers you want to reach, along with their needs, you can choose the content types that will be most effective.
Select Your Content Channels
You have two things to ask yourself here. First, where will you create and host your content? For example, you can create videos to be hosted on YouTube or blog posts on your website.
Next, which channels will you use to promote or distribute that content? Videos can be shared on Facebook and other social media channels, and you can distribute blog posts to a larger audience by posting them on Medium or other channels in addition to your own website.
Establish a Budget
There are costs associated with content marketing. The precise amount you will spend will depend on the type of content you create, how you are going to distribute it, and your marketing goals, but you can consider these cost factors as you plan:
- Purchasing tools for content creation distribution and analytics
- Cost of cameras or other equipment
- Payments to digital agencies or freelancers
- Paid promotions or advertisements
Fortunately, some of the upfront costs can be spread over multiple campaigns. For example, if you invest in equipment to shoot videos, you will be able to continue using that in future campaigns. The same goes for tools that you may purchase.
Create and Share Content
Put your strategy to work. Start creating and distributing the content you have planned based on your marketing goals. A content calendar is an excellent tool. You can use it to plan a steady output of content to keep your audience engaged and slowly work toward achieving your KPIs.
Employ Ongoing Analytics
Go back to your goals and KPIs. Keep track of these using the methods and analytics tools that provide you with the insights you need, which will allow you to make small changes along the way to get better results.
Bridging a Marketing Gap with Content
People are resistant to many forms of marketing simply because they don’t want to be sold things all the time, certainly not when they are enjoying their time online. Content marketing is a tool that brands can use to gently push past that resistance. We’ve heard it summarized like this: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”
What do you want to accomplish with content marketing? We’d love to partner with you as you work toward achieving your goals. Contact us for more information about web design, advertising, branding, and more.