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Content Marketing

Content marketing, in contrast to traditional push-oriented marketing, aims to reach a target audience by creating and distributing content that is:

  • relevant
  • valuable
  • and actionable

for the target user.

The goal is to create a positive impression of your company and product by providing these useful resources to your target customers. While digital content marketing is a relatively new marketing, the general principle has been used for centuries.

In digital content marketing, the expected benefits are:

  1. Much smaller (or no) need to spend on paid advertising channels since customers looking for relevant information can find your company
  2. Better ranking on search engines and other referral sources if people will voluntarily link to content they find valuable
  3. Deeper engagement with the target audience since interested prospects will spend relevant amounts of time with your content instead of just seconds with a paid ad
  4. High quality inbound leads as prospects who are familiar with your content and therefore already self-selected and educated will choose to contact your company.

Content formats

Digital content marketing can manifest itself in a variety of formats, for instance:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media posts
  • Videos (on own site and on channels such as YouTube)
  • Ebooks
  • Reports, studies and white papers
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Email newsletters
  • Interactive tools such as Hubspot's website grader
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An often overlooked strategy is to repurpose the same content in a variety of formats.

For example, if a company creates an extensive study on a particular topic, this content can be repurposed as a series of blog posts, as a webinar, podcast, video series and so on. Generally speaking, the more different formats you use the easier it will be for your customers to find you.

Distribution

Most marketers dream of creating that magic piece of content that goes "viral". While this is often a motivation to start engaging in content marketing, virality is largely a myth. Even when it happens, it is often unintentional and therefore shouldn't be a goal.

Even the greatest content has to be distributed and marketed, using the following channels:

  • Social media (effective and relatively cheap)
  • Focused paid advertising on various channels
  • Search engines through the application of SEO best practices
  • Promotion at conferences, meetups etc.
  • Email distribution lists
  • Syndication with relevant media outlets
  • Common webinars and other formats with guests from other companies who will promote the content on their channels

Metrics

Since content marketing is resource-intensive, it is important to measure its impact thoroughly.

Typical metrics include:

  • Brand-oriented metrics: Share of voice (how often is your company mentioned on relevant channels compared to your competitors); brand sentiment (ist the context mostly positive?); sharing activity of branded content; mention of the brand and product on media channels due to its content
  • Search metrics: Search rankings on top search engines, share of voice for key terms.
  • Inbound traffic metrics: Number and characteristics of visitors to content on your website; sources of traffic (paid vs. organic); time spent on website
  • Conversion funnel metrics: % of inbound customers who convert to a marketing qualified lead (MQL); conversion rate to a sales qualified lead (SQL); conversion rate to a paid customer; customer retention and net revenue expansion

These metrics of course overlap strongly with metrics for other forms of marketing and sales. It is important to understand the impact of content marketing in the broader context of your marketing and sales efforts and analyze synergies and activation paths. For example, a customer who is familiar with your content still might need a "nudge" in the form of a paid ad or sales outreach to turn into a lead.

Content production process

Many startups struggle to keep up a consistent content marketing strategy because it demands a disciplined, long-term oriented process.

The most important building blocks are:

  1. Clear definition of the target audience using customer personas
  2. Clear content priorities that are rooted in data and frequently verified (expect this to shift over time as competitors publish content and market maturity increases)
  3. Content segmentation along the customer journey. Every step of the journey will require different content to drive the process successfully.
  4. A defined content calendar that spreads out content production over time and syncs publication with important events (e.g. a product launch or major industry event)
  5. Choice of tools that help automate the process
  6. Sourcing of content from internal and external sources. A frequently neglected source are freelance writers who are often capable of producing high quality content at affordable rates.
  7. Constant measurement of results

The most frequent pitfalls for content marketing are:

  • Lack of internal resources to produce content. Other priorities tend to be more urgent, so it is often better to delegate some production to external contributors and/or hire an internal dedicated content specialist who can drive the process fully.
  • Initial enthusiasm and then quick disappointment. Content marketing needs time to work, so you shouldn't expect measurable sales effects after just a few weeks.
  • Ineffective content. Content marketing only works if the content is truly useful to your prospects. Overly "salesy" content won't be shared.
  • Sticking with an outdated approach. Content formats and distribution channels evolve constantly. For example, SEO rules keep changing, so yesterday's approach might not work today.
  • Chasing overheated channels that everybody seems to be using. Marketing channels are subject to fashion waves, and often companies waste resources chasing the latest shiny thing that won't work for them. For example, if you sell a B2B software product, is having a Tiktok channel really crucial?

Useful Resources

Halligan and Shah: Inbound Marketing

The original book on content-driven marketing by the founders of Hubspot.

Hubspot Resources

The Periodic Table of Content

Pragmatic tips for how to repurpose content