Content marketing is a term that every online business owner is familiar with, but how many of them have found success with it?
Did you know there are more than 7.5 million blog posts published every single day? And creating all this content doesn’t come cheap either, as B2B marketers are spending more time, money and resources on content than ever before as:
- 35% of businesses have a documented content strategy
- 42% of businesses will publish new content at least weekly
- 55% of businesses will increase their content marketing spend in the next year
Even though content spending is increasing, traditional marketers are struggling with the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing, and moving from a push to a pull strategy.
Why is Content Marketing Important?
Well, it’s because of charts like these (organic traffic growth):
It’s not easy to go from 100 organic visits per month to more than 7,000 organic visits per month. Look at the first one to three months, zero impact … and then, it skyrockets.
It’s not luck either, and it took two years of hard-fought battles, failing with certain content and succeeding with experimental content.
It’s trial and error at scale.
Let me be blunt: Most content marketing efforts fail. Why?
It’s because most content strategies start with a brainstorming session to generate ideas on what to write about. The content teams then go out and write, publish, and move on to the next piece of content.
And then six months later, the report looks like this:
This kind of scenario happens a lot. You create the content, hit “publish,” and expect visits, leads, and sales to explode overnight. It’s a nice story, but it rarely happens that way.
See the above statistics. The traffic growth is full of ‘ups and downs’; it’s depressing, right?
And yet, when done right, content marketing will be your most powerful source for new traffic and customer acquisition.
If you see the first graph, there is a steady traffic growth.
So, how do you create this kind of content? Let’s outline the exact steps you need to launch a successful content marketing campaign with these five pillars:
#1 Understand your audience
Before you start creating your content, you need to understand for whom you are writing. Ask:
- Who is my current customer?
- Who is my potential customer?
- Who would find my content useful?
To answer this, most companies create customer profiles or buyer personas. A buyer persona is a term used for creating personas based on the types of customers that your business has and wants.
How do you develop buyer personas? The most frequently cited effective tactics are:
- Interviewing prospects and/or customers
- Interviewing sales team
- Surveying prospects and/or customers
- Mining in-house database to identify characteristics of best and/or worst customers
- Evaluating web analytics reports
- Interviewing customer service
- Using keyword research to identify topics of interest
- Monitoring social signals
Once you have the personas in place, use them to create content and solve problems. The key to your content is to help your customers help themselves, and the only way to do that is to understand your audience.
If you do not understand your audience, your content marketing will be a guaranteed failure.
#2 Map the content to the sales cycle
As a marketer, you need to create content to meet the needs of your prospects at each stage, to help them move to the next stage of the funnel.
Content must be tailored to appeal to different prospects and at different stages. Just how different? Let’s take a look at an example. If a buyer is considering a one-time license fee for software that costs 49 USD, you might write about the benefits of the software in two to three paragraphs and include one to two customer testimonials.
However, if a buyer is purchasing several hundred licenses for software that cost 999 USD then, the content should be much different. In this case, you might need to create case studies, product sheets and integration guides (or all three).
This theory is backed up by data. A survey by Marketing Charts analysed six types of content and how useful the respondents found the content during each stage of the buying cycle.
Let’s break it down so you can see exactly what type of content to produce.
Create content to increase your brand awareness. At this stage of the cycle, the buyer may not have heard of your brand and the content you create should be focused on promoting your brand.
Awareness content formats: Blog post articles, white papers, educational webinars, and infographics.
Create content to increase the number of marketing qualified leads (MQL). At this stage, the buyer is still not ready to make a decision but understands that your brand is a leader in this field.
Evaluation content formats: Case studies, product webinars, video, and technology guides
Create content to turn a marketing qualified lead into a sales qualified lead (SQL). At this stage, the prospect is getting closer to making a decision and the content should make it easy to choose your product over a competitor’s.
Purchase content formats: Implementation guides, free trials, and live demonstrations
#3 Create the content
You now understand the customer and know what type of content goes with each stage of the sales cycle. Now it’s time to create different types of content that decision-makers seek to read.
A report from the CMO Council and NetLine found that 65% of B2B buyers value research reports and studies compared to any other content type (followed by technical guides, insight, white papers, and articles).
What about content length? How long should your content be? A study by SerpIQ found that longer content ranks higher in the Google search results than shorter content.
And the magic number of words you need to write to rank in the top 10? It’s 2,000.
That’s right – if you want to increase traffic and show that your content marketing efforts are adding value for your business, short 500-word posts are not good enough.
Another benefit to writing more is that longer content is shared more on social networks.
Content that’s more than 3,000 words is shared two to three times more than content that’s less than 1,000 words. And that’s not all; longer content will get you more inbound links, which is great for SEO purposes.
To clarify, longer content and effective content marketing will help you:
- Rank better in Google
- Get more social shares
- Get more inbound links
Now, are you sure you want to continue writing those 500-word blog posts?
#4 Promote content
You have to remember that content marketing is part content, part MARKETING. Unfortunately, content cannot promote itself. You need to push out your content as soon as it goes live and promote the hell out of it. Otherwise, you end up with content that no one shares and zero social shares as a proof.
At the very least, if you create content, you should advertise it through social media. If you are too embarrassed to share your content, then you need to create better content. If you create content that you are proud to share, then others will share your content, too.
The promotion of your content will largely depend on the campaign. While a blog post may be shared on social networks, a new white paper might require a bigger push in the form of paid content amplification.
Here are a few ways to promote your content:
- Google AdWords campaigns: If you’re promoting a new white paper or eBook, you can create display campaigns to raise awareness and remarketing campaigns to retarget abandoned visitors.
- Social media campaigns: Blog post content can benefit from promotion two to three times per day on Twitter so don’t be afraid to share content on that platform more than once. Remember to share content on both personal and branded pages.
- Email marketing campaigns: Whether you launch a new blog post or new eBook, make sure you inform your email subscribers. These people are already engaged with your brand and are powerful promoters who can spread your content across social networks.
#5 Measure and analyze
It’s easy to click “publish” and forget about content, but that’s where a lot of content marketers go wrong. Did the content perform well? Did the content perform as you expected? You need to measure how well your content performs and analyse its progress.
To measure the content marketing success metrics, ask yourself these questions:
- How many page views does the content receive?
- What type of content is shared the most?
- What type of content is read the most?
- What keywords do people search for to find my content?
- How many leads did my content generate?
Once you can answer those questions, you will have much more data to analyse and use the next time you create content and do content marketing.
Also, take note of these curated content marketing tools suitable for any business with limited resources.
Content marketing should be the cornerstone of your business plan. Don’t indulge in it as an afterthought. If your business is based “online”, start preparing a content marketing plan while building the business blueprint.