But unless marketing is your daily grind, you may not realize what exactly makes content marketing different from plain ol’ content. So many businesses are taking the content they produce (blogs, white papers, web copy, press releases), looking at it in aggregate, and calling it content marketing. They read the stats about content or inbound effectiveness and take a “set it and forget it” approach: blog when there’s time, tweet some relevant news articles, repeat. They don’t invest real time or money in a content strategy, because blogging (for example) feels more like something they have to do to keep up, versus a “real” tactic for driving traffic and boosting business.
So here’s what those folks (and maybe you—or your managers—are among them) need to know about content marketing:
1. It’s a methodology.
“Content marketing” is more than just a nice-sounding term. It’s a true discipline. A content marketing program typically includes:
- Conducting market research on your audience and competitors
- Creating buyer personas
- Setting goals (specific, actionable, measurable!)
- Auditing your existing content assets
- Setting editorial guidelines and creating workflows
- Planning and calendaring
- Creating content
- Posting, promoting, tracking, and evaluating content
Whew. Sound like a lot? It is. And that’s what I mean: this is a program and a process.
2. Skip the research at your own peril.
For a small company, the idea of spending money on market research is, well, not always appealing. It’s tempting to say, “We know our audiences, we know what’s working, we know what people respond to.” But I’ve seen it more times than I can count: a company thinks they know what’s working, but, through research, they uncover ideas or issues they never could have predicted. Research doesn’t have to take months or cost tens of thousands. With online and phone survey tools, research is more affordable and accessible than ever. (Just be sure you’re using a qualified researcher who understands appropriate interviewing tactics, statistical analysis, etc.)
3. Content marketing isn’t new (but the personalization is).
Content marketing combines many different skills: researching, writing, strategizing, organizing, analyzing. What’s different now is that technology enables us to track potential customers and tailor content specifically to them. Various marketing software tools can help companies personalize content for individual website visitors, creating a custom experience based on how close a visitor is to becoming a lead or a customer.
4. It’s not a fad.
See above. The skills aren’t new; the philosophy is. Only in recent years have brands realized that they can get a greater response to their online content by creating material consumers are already searching for, as opposed to content that interrupts them while they’re trying to find something else. And if you think people prefer interruptive ads, pop-ups, and commercials—well, maybe you should hop in your time machine and have a chat with Don Draper.
5. It’s an investment.
What you get out of a content marketing program will be proportionate to what you put in. Stats have shown that businesses that blog more are more likely to get a lead through their blog. In fact, 82 percent of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57 percent of marketers who blog monthly (HubSpot, 2013). Content creation takes time and money. But when research shows that 54 percent more leads are generated by content marketing tactics than traditional paid marketing, AND companies save, on average, $20K per year by investing more in inbound vs. outbound marketing (HubSpot, 2014), it’s time and money well spent.