More than 15 years ago, Bill Gates penned the famous words, “Content is king.” His point? That content is the wave of the future. The Microsoft magnate’s prediction came true — and then some. Content is not only omnipresent, but also holds tremendous weight, including as a marketing device.

If your business hasn’t yet gotten on board the content marketing train or if you haven’t adopted a comprehensive content marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to delight current customers, attract new ones, boost your brand, and generate revenue. The good news? It’s not too late to get in on the benefits of content marketing.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything about content marketing and the content strategy behind it, along with how content marketing services can help your business.

What Is Content Marketing?

Today’s internet users are inundated by thousands of marketing messages every day. The result? A phenomenon dubbed “attention scarcity,” in which marketers have to find a way to rise above the noise in order to get noticed.

Enter content marketing.

Content marketing refers to using valuable and relevant content such as blogs, videos, and social media posts to engage your target audience without explicitly promoting your brand but stimulating their interest in your product or services. Some businesses undertake this internally, while others enlist the expertise of content marketing services to help plan and execute content marketing strategies. The ultimate goal? Not only to catch the attention of your target audience, but to position your brand as a reliable go-to for your target audience.

In establishing your brand as a thought leader, content marketing can also help build trust and strengthen your relationship with customers.

There are several types of content marketing, including the following:

  • Blogging
  • Email
  • Ebooks
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Video
  • Podcasting
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Customer reviews/testimonials
  • How-to guides

One of the defining characteristics of content marketing is that it is “organic.” While paid advertising is a direct sell, content marketing is softer and less obvious. It’s not about making the sale, but rather about providing relevant content that adds value and builds relationships with your prospects.

SEO and Content Marketing

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It refers to the process of optimizing your website to be more visible when prospects perform a search. Effective SEO ensures that when people in need of the products and services you offer perform an online search, they’ll find you.

Google, Bing and other search engines rely on bots to “crawl” web pages, collect information, and compile it into an index. They then use an algorithm comprising hundreds of different factors to rank the order these pages appear on the search engine results page (SERP).

Think of it this way: If you had a specific question and you asked a librarian for help, they would draw on their knowledge and resources to recommend the book they thought would best address your concern. This is exactly what search engines do, and SEO is that resource.

SEO and content marketing are powerful partners. When you optimize your web content, you perform well on the algorithm and land higher on the SERP.

Content strategy: create, research, measure, promote, publish and optimize

The importance of SEO cannot be overstated. Research indicates that more than 25 percent of people click the very first Google search result. Meanwhile, the 10th result has a comparatively woeful 2.5 percent click-through rate. And that’s still on the first page. Searchers rarely make it to the second and third results pages — and even fewer click through.

The takeaway? SEO is an essential endeavor if you want as many customers as possible to find your business.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

We’ve explained what content marketing is, and how it goes hand-in-hand with SEO. All of which begs the question: Why does it matter so much?

Read on for a roundup of reasons why content marketing is a must-do in the digital age.

1. It builds customer trust and strengthens relationships.

Today’s customers resent marketing that is disruptive in nature, and are distrustful of the sales pitch. They’re all about authenticity. In providing prospects with useful and valuable content, you position yourself to win their trust thereby strengthening your relationship with them.

2. It lets you showcase your products and services.

Although content marketing is customer-centric, it’s still an opportunity to show customers the advantages of using your products and services. You may not directly be selling your offerings, but you can position them as front-of-mind when the time comes for a prospect to make a purchasing decision.

3. It’s an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

The marketplace is filled with businesses offering the same products and services you are, so what makes customers choose you?

On paper, customers are paying for your products and services. In reality, they’re making a decision to support something else with their hard-earned dollars: your brand. Content marketing provides an opportunity to differentiate yourself in your niche, assert your authority, and improve brand reputation and recognition.

The marketplace is filled with businesses offering the same products and services you are, so what makes customers choose you?

On paper, customers are paying for your products and services. In reality, they’re making a decision to support something else with their hard-earned dollars: your brand. Content marketing provides an opportunity to differentiate yourself in your niche, assert your authority, and improve brand reputation and recognition.

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Educating audiences
  • Building trust and credibility
  • Generating demand and leads
  • Nurturing subscribers, audiences, and leads
  • Building loyalty with existing customers and clients
  • Driving attendance to in-person events
  • Generating sales and revenue
  • Building subscribed audiences
  • Supporting new product launches

Which brings us to another advantage of content marketing: you can use it to set goals and to measure your progress in real time.

Compelling Content Marketing Statistics

Still not convinced that content marketing is a necessity? HubSpot’s Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2021 offers some eye-opening insights, including the following:

  • 70 percent of marketers report that they’re actively investing in content marketing.
  • 24 percent of marketers plan on increasing their content marketing spend moving forward.
  • Just under 40 percent of marketers report that content marketing is a “very important” part of their total marketing plans.
  • 74 percent of businesses say they have content marketing strategies.
  • 94 percent of marketers use social media to distribute content.
  • 70 percent of marketers believe that SEO is more effective than pay-per-click marketing.
  • More than half of shoppers say they use Google for research before making an online purchase.

And these are just a few of the statistics that tell the same story: Content marketing has transformative potential when incorporated into your marketing plan.

Content Marketing and the Digital Marketing Funnel

Content marketing is anything but one-size-fits-all. In fact, different types of content marketing serve different purposes. To make the most of your content marketing initiatives, you must deliver the right content at the right time in the sales cycle. Here’s a breakdown:

Content marketing and the conversion funnel: prospects, contacts, leads, final list, and clients

The Awareness Stage

In the earliest stage of the buyer’s journey, prospects know that they have a problem and are starting to look for a solution. During this stage, your goal is not to pitch your products and services, but rather to share content that makes prospective clients aware of your brand — and of its ability to address their problem.

Content in this phase is usually informational and educational. It may include articles, blog spots, videos, newsletters, and eBooks.

The Consideration Stage

In the consideration stage, prospective customers have become aware of the possible resolutions to their concerns, including yours. Your goal in the consideration stage? To provide content that demonstrates how your product or service is the best choice. The content in this stage should be aimed at continuing to build trust while simultaneously positioning your brand as top-of-mind.

Content in this phase combines educational information and marketing. It may include how-to articles, how-to videos, case studies, research and reports, checklists, and worksheets.

The Decision Stage

In this last stage, prospects should feel informed and close to buying. While content is more sales-oriented at this point, the focus should remain on why your brand is the best choice as opposed to merely selling. What are the benefits that differentiate your products and services?

Content in this stage often includes case studies, buyer’s guides, product videos, research reports, and user-generated content.

Getting Started with Content Marketing

    1. Know your audience.

      Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant and actionable information to your target audience. You won’t succeed at this if you don’t know who that audience is. Understanding your audience’s challenges, priorities, preferences, and goals can help you craft content that will speak to them in the most compelling and engaging way.
      creative representation of customer analysis and focus group: a group of people as target market being encircled with a red ink

    2. Explore different content types and formats.

      We established that content marketing is not created equal. Investing time to determine which formats will best showcase your value at the right time can help you deliver the more opportune messages to your audience.

      For buyers who are early in their journey, an educational blog entry that addresses their pain points may be best. For buyers who are in the final stage, meanwhile, customer testimonials and user’s manuals may be more effective.

    3. Determine your content distribution channels.

      Having amazing content is just one part of the equation. Also critical? Getting the word out. How will you reach your target audience with your content marketing. Email? A weekly newsletter? Social media? Different content distribution channels have their own unique benefits, as do social media platforms. Capitalizing on them can help you optimize your content marketing efforts.

    4. Determine who will produce your copy.

      High-quality content is vital — both in terms of generating trust with your audience and also in terms of SEO. While some businesses have staff writers, others may find themselves stretched thin by taking on writing, editing, and proofreading copy. In the latter case, enlisting professional content marketing services is a wise move.

      While the upfront expense may initially be off-putting, it will pay for itself in the long run. You’ll not only get better outcomes, but you’ll also free your team up to focus on what you do best.

    5. Set — and stick to — a sustainable schedule.

      Reliability is critical to establishing consumer trust. This is why it’s important to be realistic and not overly ambitious when making your content marketing plan. From beginning to end, how long does it take you to create a particular piece of content?

      Stick to a sustainable schedule: a clock placed on a grassy surface

      And remember: quality always trumps quantity. It is better to share high-quality content on a weekly basis than to share low-quality content daily. And whichever you decide on, stick to it.

The Benefits of Content Marketing Services

We’ve established that content marketing is well worth the price and effort. We’ve also given you some tips for how to get started. But the reality is that you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, in many cases, taking advantage of professional content marketing services can offer a multitude of advantages.

On the fence regarding whether you should hire a content marketing partner? Here are five benefits that come with outsourcing this pivotal task:

  1. Expertise in creating high-quality content

    The success of your content marketing initiatives hinges on the quality of your content. Content marketing experts will help you hone in on your audience, key messages, and other aspects that will help you perform well with audiences and algorithms alike.

    Not to mention that the digital marketing space is rapidly changing. Even if you are up on the latest trends, keeping up with them can be a challenge — especially if it’s not your area of specialization. Meanwhile, digital marketing firms are laser-focused on what’s happening right now, and will update your content marketing strategies to help you stay on the cutting edge — and ahead of your competitors.

  2. A consistent content calendar

    It’s not enough to produce top-notch content. When it comes to earning the trust and loyalty of your audience, consistency is also a key. Despite its potential, content marketing often becomes secondary to more business-immediate concerns leading to inconsistency. This can be confusing for your customers and detrimental for SEO; it may ultimately do more harm than good. Conversely, your content marketing will always be the top priority for a content marketing firm.

    Furthermore, while content marketing is cost-effective, it’s known for compounding returns. This means that while you might not see immediate gains, consistency and diligence will amplify your outcomes.

  3. Clear and cohesive brand messaging

    Clear and consistent messaging is also essential to building relationships with your target audience. This doesn’t mean posting the same content everywhere. Rather, it means using consistency of voice and tone throughout your messaging and across all platforms.

    Clear and cohesive brand messaging: a stamp that reads "the power of branding"

    Different platforms will call for different specifics. A content marketing firm will tailor messages for these specifics without losing sight of your brand message.

  4. Search engine optimization

    We already covered why SEO is so important. At the end of the day, none of your content matters if your target audience can’t find it.

    There is an art and a science to crafting valuable content that also acknowledges the critical role of SEO. This is complicated by the fact that search engine algorithms are always changing. Content marketing experts know how to balance the two toward optimal outcomes.

  5. Strategic direction

    Too many businesses think they’re covering their content marketing bases with the occasional blog and Facebook posts. Unfortunately, a haphazard approach not only fails to harness the full potential of social media, but may also detract from the impression your brand makes on your prospective customers.

    A content marketing firm offering a full lineup of content marketing services will approach your business’s content marketing from a strategic perspective aimed at maximizing outcomes. With a digital marketing agency, you get more than content marketing. You get the glue that holds all the pieces together: a content strategy.

    A content marketing agency will also know how to use analytics to determine whether their efforts are succeeding and where they’re falling short, in order to adjust and improve.

    From a la carte content marketing solutions to complete content marketing packages, today’s digital marketing agencies can offer the guidance, insights, and expertise you need to navigate the digital landscape and come out ahead.

Online advertising and marketing agency The Light Digital can help you attract and engage more customers through content marketing and other digital marketing services. To learn more about how to use content marketing to grow your business, contact The Light Digital team today.