Some of the greatest content marketing campaigns ever, happened before the age of the internet.
They occurred before social media and the infinite reach of search engines. Before the mass market platforms, tools and trinkets we use today were even invented. And before many of us were even born.
Do you know what this is?
This is one of the greatest examples of content marketing of all time.
The Cooperation between Marvel and Hasbro in “G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero!” Had a very simple marketing strategy.
They wanted to create what Star Wars already had: A rich backstory for their action figures.
Within two months of releasing the first comic book, about 20% of their target market, boys between the ages of 5-12, had two or more G.I. Joe toys.
Seven years later, the series was one of Marvel’s strongest titles, and 2/3 boys between the ages of 5-14 owned at least one G.I. Joe action figure.
How’s that for a content marketing campaign?
But content marketing has been around far longer than digital.
Because content marketing is about Storytelling, and humans have told stories for as long as there has been history. Our attention will always go to those who tell great stories, whether they be directors, writers, historians or brands.
That’s why the blog by Tim Ferriss did so well in 2018.
It’s the reason why Marvel’s Avengers has been the most successful movie franchise of all time.
And it’s why Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford has resonated with millions.
A lot has changed since the 80s, and what worked then might not necessarily work now. However, with marketing channels like social media reaching almost 2.77 Billion people in 2019 – the opportunity is out there (Statistica.com).
This guide will aim to look at what content marketing means, and how it can benefit small businesses and brands.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is defined as…
A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience to incur a profitable customer action.
With a little bit of clarity, this means:
Content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is relevant to them on a consistent basis (Neil Patel).
When customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty will lie with you. They will purchase your product because they identify with who you are, over your competitors.
Content marketing shows that you care. It shows that you are consistently available to help your customers in exchange for their attention.
The world is louder and noisier than ever before, and your customer’s attention is your most valuable resource. Think of what will capture that attention before you start, and you’ll have valuable resources at your disposal.
Since the foundation of content marketing is simply high-quality content and storytelling, you can see that its roots go far beyond the term itself.
There is still plenty to learn from these first offline content marketing activities that pre-date the internet and the mediums we know today.
However, to ignore digital today is to ignore your number one resource.
Because of the influx of information individuals process today, attention spans are stretched. Which is why it is more important than ever that storytellers tell stories for today’s audience.
The best way to learn how to be a great content marketer is by example.
That’s why coming up are 25 great examples of content marketing across all categories.
First though, is how to build a content marketing strategy. To get you ready for when inspiration strikes.
Content Marketing Strategy
The amount of marketing content out there today is immense.
In the beginning of the content marketing world, that wasn’t the case. However, the variables within each ad were vast, as the words, pictures, placement and CTA were just as important as they are today.
It is important to focus on these when creating any ad.
But to focus on strategy nowadays, means more than just deciding what is in the ad itself. Creating a content marketing strategy needs to focus on content marketing mediums, methods and target audiences that are out there.
This tiered strategy can be seen in the ‘3D Content’ model, and its 3 steps below.
1. Map the content to the pain point.
2. Then use the right type of content for that problem.
3. Finally, map the content to the buying cycle of the people who have that problem.
This strategy is a way to move the focus away from the marketer themselves and to the person that the marketer is trying to reach.
To hone your own marketing strategy this must be done.
Your content needs to cater to the potential customer audience you are trying to reach – with the right problem that your product solves.
Whatever your product, you should always start with your audience.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, here are a few tips on what to follow when creating your content marketing strategy.
“Your strategy should outline your key business and customer needs, and how your content effort will address them”
What does this mean?
It means that it is vital to understand your customers, prospects and audience. Once you drill down into who they are, you can create content for them that grows your business.
The ultimate goal of content marketing being to grow your business.
Which is why the point of content marketing is to “incur a profitable customer action”.
In the current world of social media, endless internet space, self publishing companies, free graphic tools and digital marketing agencies – the strategies you can use to publish can be as varied or deep as you like.
Below is a list of content marketing formats to cater to audiences, stages of the buying cycle (we will get to that), or specific needs.
The benefits of each one, when to use it and how to use it to its potential are outlined in this guide, but why use content marketing in the first place?
Why Use Content Marketing?
You now know what content marketing is, and that it has been popular over hundreds of years.
But is content marketing right for your business?
Just because content marketing worked for companies that were early adaptors and visually orientated, it doesn’t mean it will work for your modern-day business.
Just because big B2B and B2C business use it to cater to their larger followings, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
To find out if it is right for you, we’ll take a look at some small business content marketing data. This will help us answer:
Is content marketing right for you? And should you invest resources to budget it into your strategy?
Starting with B2C companies; The top priority for content creators is ‘creating more engaging content’. Next up is to ‘better understand what content is effective’.
Why are these top priorities?
Most likely because companies aren’t satisfied with their current content marketing efforts.
They feel they could do better. Whether that be by improving the volume of content produced, or more content that is intended for their specific audience.
60% of B2B content marketers also struggle to create more engaging content, while finding it difficult to measure that content’s effectiveness.
This does not mean content is wrong for your business.
It points more to the fact that content marketing is incredibly competitive today.
And with 70% of B2B companies planning to create more content in 2019 than in 2018, it is evident the competitive landscape is growing.
People are trying to get their name out there, amongst the great, mediocre, and terrible blog posts and videos cluttering the online environment.
Therefore content marketing, by vote of popularity, is becoming more useful to garner website traffic.
This, however means that you must create a content ecosystem around your products and use simple navigation for strategy structure.
How do you create this content marketing ecosystem? We will address that next.
Content Ecosystem Based On the Customer Journey
Content mapping is remarkably valuable and important to understanding your structure, audience and timing.
Content mapping is the act of understanding your audience so well that you can create content for each stage of their journey towards buying your product (content marketing institute).
People like to inform their purchases before the buy by looking at content.
Which is why content marketing is a top-of-funnel (TOFU) strategy.
Content marketing builds brand awareness, engagement and evangelism, but struggles to measure conversions, revenue and ROI.
When people see your content, they recognise you as a resource. But if they don’t join your email list or opt in, then you don’t know who they are (Neil Patel).
Therefore the better you know your potential customers, the more effective your content marketing strategy.
To better know your customers, you can create a customer persona.
Make sure you are specific. You want to ensure that each piece of content caters to a certain persona’s desires, goals, pains and demographic.
Only then will your content be helpful in moving users past the top of funnel stage and feed them into the buyer journey.
If you guide your prospects through the buying journey with helpfulness, availability and utility they are more likely to use you. And maybe even refer you.
Your customers want a remarkable buying experience. This starts with your content marketing. But you have to understand the way people buy and create content for each stage.
These stages of the customer buying cycle are:
Awareness stage content
The first stage of the buyer’s journey is awareness.
At this stage they simply become aware of your business. Normally they aren’t ready to buy yet or even ready to opt-in to your email list or newsletter.
But because of the content you created, they know who you are.
People must first learn about your business. And for that, a TOFU content marketing strategy is your strongest asset.
For example, below I searched “How to write a great blog post” on Google. This is what came up.
Which result would you click on? The big Google snippet up the top.
This is how powerful content marketing and SEO can be for building brand awareness.
Think about how many times you use Google search a day. Like you, if you’re the one coming up at the top of the SERP chances are your customers will click on you.
This is because the top SERP result alone gets a third of the clicks (Smart Insights).
Ideally then, when they get to your site your content will continue to impress them.
I clicked on the top result mentioned previously and arrived at the page below.
Here they have provided more value than initially thought, by including tools that I can further my research with.
This keeps people on your page and greatly reduces your bounce rate, because they are getting real insights.
As well as bounce rate, other metrics can be used to measure the quality of your content.
Some high level metrics that include the number of readers, page views, engagement rate, time on site and number of pages viewed.
These will help you gain feedback on which blogs are performing best, and how to replicate that.
The more you use these metrics as feedback, the quicker you’ll have a top of funnel strategy that works.
SEO is a great way to measure this – depending on your ranking in search.
SEO is only the tip of the content marketing iceberg.
Social media is another great way to build brand awareness, because people use it even more than search daily (Forrester Research).
Since most people access their accounts every day or every week, the chances of good content being picked up is high.
This, coupled with the ability to share posts and content on social, makes platforms like Facebook and Instagram a key part of any successful content strategy.
Post this type of content 4-5 times a week to consistently engage your audience.
Content on social media doesn’t have to be as long as SEO, with images and videos being the most effective means of communication.
Remember though, organic social media content sent out to your followers shouldn’t be sales-y.
Ideally you want to spread your brand message and brand identity by telling a story. Entertain your potential customers on social instead.
Show that you care about your audience through your content and you will be rewarded.
This is evidenced below among B2B content marketers on social media.
Because social media is so powerful, it is the key to building brand awareness for your business.
Focus your energy on SEO and Social media for all of your Awareness stage content.
Consideration stage content
Once people become aware of your business, they will buy from you.
At least that’s how you wish it worked.
People have to hear about you, take time to consider, and then maybe buy from you.
While content marketing is remarkable in generating awareness for your business’ existence, it is also also remarkable at guiding people through their consideration phase.
However, you shouldn’t use the same brand awareness tactics during the consideration phase.
In particular, pay attention to newsletter sign-ups, number of returning visitors, form subscribers and resource downloads.
At this stage you’re trying to gauge the interest of your current prospects.
To do that you must first create content to continue attracting people who are interested in your products.
Content like e-books or lead magnets, does a great job of building trust during the consideration phase.
Why does it do such a great job during the consideration phase?
Because to buy from you, people must trust you.
And in order to trust you, they must become familiar with your authority on certain topics, your brand and tone of voice.
A piece of downloadable content (ebook) gives them material to latch onto.
A newsletter is also a great way to generate trust during the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey.
A consistent newsletter is great for creating an ongoing conversation with your prospect.
They are likely not ready to buy yet, but if the prospect signs up for your newsletter, they are likely considering it.
Stay in contact with your prospects to have a better chance at converting them.
Entrepreneurs and business people constantly use newsletters to stay in constant contact with everyone in their pipeline.
This ensures that your brand is Top Of Mind when that person is ready to buy.
SEO works in the consideration phase as well.
But it is a different kind of SEO.
Focus on long-tail keywords for users that show specific intent.
If you’re interested in a product, you’ll search “buy shoes from Nike” rather than “Shoes for sale”.
Long tail keywords are also less competitive.
To recap for the consideration phase, focus on long-tail SEO keywords, newsletters and e-books (downloads).
With these you’ll provide guidance for the prospect instead of leaving the decision solely to them.
You’ll want to create content that builds trust and builds the prospect’s relationship with your business.
This tactic is different yet again for the decision stage of the buying process.
Decision stage content
This is where people are actively looking to buy.
They already trust your business. And are familiar with your products and what your business represents.
The person is either going to become a paying customer or not.
This is the place where your opportunity pipeline, size of orders, order frequency, and sales come into play (optin monster).
This is the stage for conversion optimisation using your content marketing.
This stage requires you to target even more specific longer-tail keywords.
When people type these into search they are really ready to buy from you.
If the long-tail keyword includes your brand name, then people want to buy something specific from you.
Just consider this keyword: “best CRM for small businesses.”
The first result?
It’s from Hubspot.
If you know anything about Hubspot, then you know that it’s a full end-to-end CRM for small businesses to manage their customers.
For Hubspot, they do well to appear in that search.
The people who type in that keyword are most likely ready to take their next step in the buying journey.
You just need to convince them that your business offers the best solution.
Hubspot doesn’t let up when they try to convince visitors that they are the best option.
Below is that same blog post.
The first thing you notice is that they have CTAs throughout the content to try and push people towards the buying line.
CTAs in the middle of the content encourage visitors to start their trial right away – especially when you label it as free.
Would those CTAs work for everyone?
In content that caters to people who are simply in the awareness or consideration stages of the buying journey, for instance, Decision based CTAs would probably come off as too pushy (Neil Patel).
But in this context, they are supposed to cater to people who are ready to buy.
You want to strike the same chord that Hubspot does.
Use your blog to create content that caters to long-tail, high-commitment keywords and then include compelling CTAs within that content.
Remember: these people are ready to buy. You just have to give them that push.
That was only the tip of the iceberg
The above should give you a good idea of what it takes to produce content that resonates.
What’s more, is that it doesn’t take a huge marketing budget.
Today anyone can use content marketing to their advantage.
The world gets noisier each day. Before long we will have to utilise content marketing if we want to remain successful.
This is where you should always focus your energy on telling good stories.
These will always win in the long run.
Yelling louder won’t help anymore. Only yelling better things will.