What Is Content Marketing? Streamline Your Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is the undisputed king of digital marketing.

Perhaps you’ve heard the above, or something like “content is king” said by every high-profile person in the digital marketing world.

Why is there such a focus on content marketing?

Chances are when you hear the fabled words, the first thing that pops in mind is blog posts. Second, social media posts.

Truth be told, it’s so much more than that.

In fact, content marketing has been around for as long as humanity has.

We know, mind – blown. But, when you think about it, it’s pretty simple.

Every content that’s used to promote something is a type of content marketing.

Definition of Content Marketing

"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action"

Now, you can take this definition and replace customer with citizen. The result is political propaganda. However, that’s a topic for another time.

Let’s get back on promotional content. Here’s a look at how content was used for promotion throughout history.

The History of Using Content for Promotion

The first “true” content marketing effort was back in 1732. Benjamin Franklin (yes, exactly who you’re thinking of) published Poor Richard’s Almanack. The goal of this effort was to promote his printing business.

But, 1732 isn’t when content marketing actually started.

Content Marketing Goes Way, Way Back

Farthest content marketing effort that we could find is coming from Pompeii, back in 35 AD.

You see, there was a guy named Umbricius Scauras who was a fish sauce manufacturer. He decorated his house with mosaics depicting bottles with his sauce. And, guess what he did?

He put text in each of the bottles on the mosaic, with the most remarkable one translated to:

“The flower of garum, made of the mackerel, a product of Scaurus, from the shop of Scaurus.”

One the mosaics at Scauras' house.

Looks familiar? Dude sure knew what he’s doing.

Let’s Get Back to More Recent Examples

Okay, so we know content marketing goes way back. Before we get into how you to use content marketing, we want to share a few more examples from the late 19th and early 20th century.

John Deere’s Attempt to Educate Farmers

Back in 1895, the agricultural tool manufacturing giant started publishing a magazine. They named it “The Furrow”. The attempt was to educate farmers on how to go about their crop management.

The best part was the magazine was published with the purpose to educate, not to promote. John Deere wanted to set themselves as an authority in the agricultural sphere by helping farmers do better.

The first edition from John Deere's "The Furrow".

Needless to say, it did far more than just educate. “The Furrow” was an ingenious approach at marketing. It gave value to farmers while spreading brand awareness.

Side note: The magazine is running even today, and you can read it in 12 different languages.

Honorable Mentions

Although we won’t go into details about these two, they deserve to be mentioned. They played a key part in modern marketing history:

The Michelin Guide

Back in 1900, the tire manufacturer Michelin created a 400-page guide dedicated to car owners. It gave advice on how to take care of vehicles and tire maintenance. The ingenious part was Michelin encouraging people to drive more. As opposed to alternative travel methods, this was a weird decision. It’s importance was in its implications. More time spent driving meant more tire wear, and this meant more tire purchases.

Marvelous.

Jell’O’s Recipes

The year is 1904, and certain F. Woodward, the owner of Jell’O, was struggling to keep the business running. So, he came up with the idea to publish recipes that contained Jell’O as an ingredient. People used them en masse, and the rest is history.

Let’s Get Back to the Present

By now, you realized that content marketing works.

The truth is, content was, is, and will be the core of marketing.

Marketing is all about giving value to the customer. The only way to give value before customers convert is with great content.

How Content Marketing Works

If you recall the definition by the content marketing institute, you get the idea how it works.

Funnily enough, most businesses got it wrong. What they do wrong is they ignore the providing valuable content part, and they spam the hell out of people. Needless to say, people got tired of this. At the end of the day, customers didn’t lose. The businesses that got it wrong did.

You Must Create Exceptional Content

As is stated in every marketing guide, you must include content marketing in every marketing effort. But not just any content. You must create exceptional content. We’ll in fact say that isn’t enough either. You must create exceptional content that’s better than your competitors.

Why? Because content is a part of all marketing practices.

As is stated in every marketing guide, you must include content marketing in every marketing effort. But not just any content. You must create exceptional content. We’ll in fact say that isn’t enough either. You must create exceptional content that’s better than your competitors.

Why? Because content is a part of all marketing practices.

-Email marketing – great content is the base of an email campaign. So, content comes before the email campaign launch.

-Social media – a strategy of what content to create to generate more shares and likes comes before the posts on these platforms

-SEO and PPC – Search engines love quality content. For SEO, you’ll be rewarded for great content, and for PPC your quality score will increase.

-Marketing Strategies – Every marketing strategy for any channel includes content marketing as a part of the strategy.

Why Do Content Marketing?

So, content marketing is great. But is it right for your business?

Is it old news? Isn’t content marketing as a practice overused, and your time and money should be spent elsewhere?

Let’s take a look at some recent data.

The Majority of B2C Content Marketers Increased Their Content Creation Budget

Don’t take our word for it, check out the statistics for 2018 of the Content Marketing Institute:

The content marketing institute's research about B2C content marketers budget allocation.

Image: 2018 B2C Content Marketing: What a Difference Commitment Makes [2019 Research] – Content Marketing Institute

What does this say?

It says that quality content is now more valuable than ever before.

In the past, there were some gray areas marketers abused to get results without quality content.

But, nowadays, marketing platforms, especially Google, have increased their measures against such actions. They use strict penalties to anyone brave enough to try playing the system.

The Budget Increase Isn’t Only for B2C Content Marketing

Check this out:

The Content Marketing Institute's research on B2B Content Marketer's Budget Allocation for 2018

Image: 2019 B2B Content Marketing Research: It Pays to Put Audience First – Content Marketing Institute

Content creation budget increases aren’t only the case with B2C content marketing. The majority of B2B content marketers did the same.

The Meaning

Judging from the data, giving your customers value is the newest battlefield between industry giants.

It’s obvious, multi-million companies have all their processes optimized. The only difference between them is the customer experience they provide.

Everyone and their mother are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon. And, they aren’t cutting line through shady practices.

The meaning is simple, content is the backbone of marketing. You must get your content marketing strategy right.

Meaning no content for the sake of creating content, but creating quality content.

The Competition Is Huge

As we said, nowadays everyone does content marketing. It’s a competitive ground, and only a chosen few (or those that do it right) manage to get results out of it.

Let’s put other channels aside. When it comes to search engine marketing, the sad reality is that there are that many spots on the first page.

It’s extremely hard to get to the first page, especially for a competitive keyword.

But, before you click that close tab button, content marketing is not something you can afford not to do. You must do it.

The Use of Content Marketing

When was the last time a new visitor to your page converted during the first visit?

How many percents actually convert during the first visit?

Let us save you the trouble of going through your analytics tools. The answer is less than 2%.

If you think 2% is great and all, we’re sorry to say, but you’re doing marketing wrong.

Every marketer should strive to have more conversions!

So, where to start?

Start With Creating a Content Marketing Funnel

Yes, the good old marketing funnel.

Did you know you can apply it to content marketing?

This Is Where the Content Marketing Strategy Starts

There’s a term called content mapping. What it means is, through market research and analysis, you find out your audience’s interests. One of the ways to do this is by following social media trends. Follow how your target audience responds to these in posts and comments.

Then, you can create content that will lead them through each step of the funnel.

You’ll do this by creating a content marketing funnel. Such a funnel categorizes the type of content for each step of the traditional funnel.

The traditional marketing funnel starts with people getting to know your brand (the awareness stage). Then, you turn those leads (still a part of the awareness stage). Then, into potential customers (or consideration stage). And then, finally into customers (or sales stage).

How Does This Affect the Content Marketing Sales Funnel?

Now, to create a content marketing funnel following the above template. The awareness stage requires you to provide informational content. This can be anything, from blog posts, Ebooks, videos, to interviews.

Next is the second step of the content marketing funnel. The parallel to the consideration stage. It includes content like remarketing via email, retargeting via Google Ads, customer support, and so on.

The final step is turning them into buying customers. It includes sending direct promotions, creating easy to use sign-up forms, and so on.

A list of the most popular content marketing formats.

All fine and dandy, but is it measurable?

The sad reality is you got no way to measure how a buying customer has gained trust for your brand. Yes, you can have the ROIs, the CTRs, and the CPAs. But are they really showing that your content marketing strategy works? Hardly.

Does content marketing work? Most definitely yes.

Let that paradox sink in.

What Not to Do

While most marketers at this step go along to create a buyer’s persona, it’s tricky.

From a marketer’s perspective, it’s ideal to shove all those individuals under a single archetype. Might’ve worked in the past, but not anymore.

Remember what we said before, the customer experience is all that matters at the moment. This means that you need to pay special attention to each customer. You must treat them as the individual they actually are.

Yes, a buyer persona can be helpful, but don’t let it limit your marketing efforts.

Instead, put more focus on providing the best customer experience.

This means prompt answers to queries, whether it be on social media, via email, or direct contact.

Remember, almost all customers will cut any ties with your business after one terrible customer experience.

Negative opinions spread like wildfire on the internet. And only one terrible customer experience can be detrimental for your business.

Instead, Take Your Leads on a Journey

You must guide and nurture your leads throughout the whole customer journey. You must give an exceptional customer experience with every interaction with your brand.

So, let’s look at every stage of the content marketing funnel. Here’s how to create a great customer experience for each with quality content.

Lead Generation and Nurturing Content

This is content for the awareness stage. It’s basically throwing a lure in the sea and see what’ll hook.

This is the most important part of the customer journey because here’s where you get the majority of customers that will buy from you. as these customers aren’t ready to buy just yet. Chances are they haven’t even heard of you. The challenge is to change them from denier to believer all by yourself.

The initial approach is to educate them about your business. This includes what you do, and how you do it better than the thousands of other businesses in the market.