Content Marketing: 13 Factors Critical to Success
What’s the hype around content marketing, and why does it matter? The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as: “a technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
According to IMN’s Content Marketing Survey Report (July 2013), the number of US companies with formal content marketing strategies in place jumped 21% in the last year alone; 49% of US companies report having a formal strategy in place in 2013.
What’s the goal that content marketers aim to achieve? According to a recent eMarketer survey, it’s lead generation. “As more have focused their efforts on content, the purposes of the tactic are converging on one key goal: lead generation.”
Content may range from a popular blog, to a helpful how-to video or engaging mobile app. The key is this: consumers and search engines value high quality, rich content when making decisions and connecting with brands. And, great content can fuel the rest of a successful marketing campaign (i.e. social updates, PR and thought leadership).
Rank Your Content Marketing Efforts
While the value of content marketing is undeniable, of the 10 Marketing Score sections, Content Marketing is the lowest rated, at an average of 25%.
Blogging, landing pages and email newsletters are the top three rated factors, while original/research reports, mobile apps and podcasts are the lowest rated factors.
How would you rate your organization's content creation, distribution, and lead generation across digital formats? In this post, we walk through 13 factors from Section 9 of the Marketing Score assessment, which is all about content marketing. Take Marketing Score to rank your content marketing efforts.
Blogging: In 2005 Business Week wrote that, “Blogs Will Change Your Business.” Eight years later, it still holds true. According to HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing report, blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. "Marketers who produce more than 15 blog posts a month generate an average of 1,200 new leads in the same timeframe."
Our Marketing Score research shows that the higher organizations rate their blogging, the better they perform in critical marketing metrics, including website and lead volume.
Quality blog content is critical to successful overall marketing campaigns. Consider how your blog content helps your organization:
- Address buyer persona needs, questions and challenges.
- Maintain a well optimized website.
- Attract new web visitors via organic search.
- Fuel social media content and PR efforts.
- Position your brand and its subject matter experts as industry leaders.
- Repurpose resource content throughout the entire sales cycle with nurturing.
Are you blogging, and is your marketing team happy with the impact the blog makes on bottom-line business? See Social Media Today’s 7 Ways to Magnify the Impact of Your Blog for tips and inspiration.
Case Studies: Case studies analyze completed projects—from challenges addressed, to solutions with actual results. Content like this is an excellent resource for generating awareness, and for motivating prospects as they consider your product or solution deeper into their decision-making process. If a prospect can see just how your organization helped another similar company, you’re building third-party trust and validation.
Lee Odden (@leeodden) writes a great post on B2B case studies, in which he dives into the pros, cons, and specific expert advice. Odden also notes that although “71% of B2B content marketers use case studies, they are often an under optimized form of brand storytelling.”
Does your brand have a library of success stories from happy, successful customers? Build awareness, show impact, resolve concerns and improve existing customer loyalty with this powerful content.
Ebooks: Ebooks are changing the publishing industry. “Anyone can be an author,” rings true with this digital publishing category. Use ebooks to dive deeper into topics important to your customers and buyer personas, and to position authors as subject matter experts. (Hint: Great assets to have on-deck for future PR pitches.)
Ebooks are a powerful tool to establish thought leadership, connect with buyer-personas, generate leads and nurture prospects through the marketing funnel.
Email Newsletters: If you’re sending regular communications to your contact database, do those readers look forward to your daily, weekly or monthly enewsletters? A handful of emails come top-of-mind when I think through my own inbox.
Stephanie Sammons (@stephsammons), founder and CEO of Wired Advisor, reminds us that our contact database is our most valuable business asset. Use emails wisely when building a trusted network:
“Email presents an opportunity to go deeper with your connections by building trust and loyalty. If you can win a spot in the email inbox, you will have a competitive advantage.”
Enewsletter content keeps your brand in front of its current customers and leads. Take the opportunity responsibly, and keep content fresh and relevant. Measure engagement with click-through rates, time on site for those entering your website via the enewsletter, and pages viewed via this source.
Infographics: In the midst of a data explosion, it’s no wonder that more visual storytelling has taken off for consumers, content marketers, and analysts. Infographics allow brands to present valuable data in a more engaging, digestible and sharable format.
According to this infographic on infographics, a search for the term “infographic” on Google generates more than 15 million results. And that number continues to grow: every day, infographic production increases by 1%. Read—or visualize—more in the Lifehack post and infographic infographic, Why Infographics Are Irresistibly Popular, by Anthony Dejolde (@AnthonyDejolde).
Evaluate the original research available to your organization, or look at industry data and curate in a way that tells your brand (or customer) story visually. Is your organization doing a good job of supplementing written content with visual infographics?
Another Tip: Once you have a library of visual content, be sure to promote on channels that are visual-friendly. Along with your blog and social media, consider a presence on Pinterest, SlideShare, Tumblr, and other channels that are right for your audience.
Landing Pages: Encourage website visitors to take action with dedicated landing pages. Whether the end-goal is a download or a payment, landing pages guide website visitors to take a specific action or complete a specific goal.
Is your marketing team able to spin up landing pages without IT support? Are landing pages well trafficked with high conversion rates? Consider A/B testing to evolve messaging, layouts and calls to action over time as well.
For more on landing pages, check out this helpful post, 7 Key Design Tips for High-Converting Landing Pages [+ Free Templates], by HubSpot’s Anum Hussain (@anum).
Mobile Apps: By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on earth than there are people (Mashable). We’ve all gone mobile. And as marketers are learning, mobile users have specific expectations when it comes to simplicity, speed and the personalized experience.
Are digital natives your target audience; are they continually on-the-go with a device in-hand; and would they actually benefit from a mobile app from your business? It’s a case-by-case scenario, but a likely win if an app will help buyers research, connect, purchase or service your solution.
Consider the case for retailers: “Consumers spent 6x as much time in retailer apps in December compared to a year earlier, showing that shopping and commerce is finally beginning to take off on mobile platforms.”
Source: The Rise of the App & Mortar Economy, Flurry, Jan. 2013
Original Research & Reports: In what may be one of the most untapped areas for thought leadership, original data and the insights gleaned from that data is a content marketer’s secret sauce.
Consider what data you have access to, and whether it’s useful for your audience. From there, how can you bring this data to life as a resource for the masses?
For example, MailChimp helps email marketers everywhere by providing open access to average email campaign stats of MailChimp customers by industry. Everyone wants to know what a “good open rate” is when they send an email—when MailChimp goes that extra mile to compile its mass data by industry, marketers can compare their own success to industry averages. Not only is this resource excellent for MailChimp customers, it’s openly available online so those marketers using competing platforms (i.e. MailChimp prospects) find value as well.
Podcasts: Personal, on-demand broadcasts (aka podcasts) enable thought leaders to expand on ideas in a streaming rich media format. If you have a global, focused audience, podcasting lets you connect more personally—and provide a library of on-demand resources.
Check out a few of the more popular podcasts ranked by Business Insider: Top 10 Podcasts to Feed Your Brain and Ease Your Commute. Marketers may also want to tune into Mitch Joel’s (@mitchjoel) weekly podcast, featuring marketing industry thought leaders. PR 20/20’s Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) was featured in a 2012 session on scaling the personal brand.
Press Releases: Recently under debate in terms of SEO value (or harm), press releases help companies keep investors, customers, partners and communities aware of the latest organizational news.
Keep your press releases and media pitches relevant and informative. Maintain that your message is accurate, not a sales pitch, and professional. When you have a good story to tell, or when you have to report the basics to your public audiences, press releases are an effective tool in the content marketing mix.
For an overview on the recent SEO vs. PR debate, see the following Search Engine Watch articles: Can the SEO-PR Love Affair Survive After Panda & Penguin? and Google Revises Link Scheme Definitions: Guest Posts, Press Releases, Advertorials Can Hurt Rankings.
Videos: According to comScore’s June 2013 U.S. Online Video Rankings, 85.2% of the U.S. internet audience viewed online video in June. That’s 183 million Americans watching more than 44 billion online videos—in June alone.
Video is a continually growing channel. As marketers, we have to remind ourselves that our videos, as well as any of our digital content, like blogs, social updates and articles, compete with Gangam Style and Justin Bieber (currently most popular on YouTube) for consumer attention. Create helpful video content to grow your presence on video channels, and where it makes sense to demo a solution or how-to.
While the video mix is crowded, consumers do find video to be helpful in their purchase decision: 52% who watch product videos say they’re more confident about their purchases.
Webinars: Deep dive into a subject matter expert’s best topics with live and on-demand webinars. Webinars are excellent tools for providing insight into specific topics, collecting registrations and new contacts, and engaging directly with your audience during live Q&A.
“Webinars are the most valuable component of 19 percent of brands’ content marketing strategies this year, according to the BrightEdge 2013 Search Marketer Survey.”
White Papers: Expand on specific topics in detail, including original research and expertise. According to Wikipedia, white papers are “authoritative reports or guides helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”
Does your business take a stance on particular niches in the industry, or in your consumers’ industries? Get a pulse on what’s most interesting by reading industry news, identifying relevant search trends, and monitoring forums like Quora or Focus. Answer questions with in-depth content that aligns consumer questions with your business’ response.
What’s great about white papers and longer articles: readers and Google finds their value. Read more in the Copyblogger post: How to Write the In-Depth Articles that Google Loves.
Speaking of longer-form content, congratulations if you made it through this blog post!
How is your organization using content marketing to build brand, generate leads, convert sales and increase customer loyalty? How do your content marketing efforts compare to the Marketing Score average of 25%?
Rate your content marketing, and overall marketing performance, with Marketing Score.
Let us know your additional thoughts, and what’s next for content, in the comments below.
About Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller is VP and managing director of PR 20/20, where she guides strategy and performance, and champions the ongoing pursuit of building a great marketing firm. For more than a decade, Jessica has built lasting partnerships that connect marketing strategy to bottom-line business outcomes. Jessica joined PR 20/20 in 2011 with global agency experience. She is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Full bio.