Content marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most popular strategies for digital marketers today. Businesses are constantly searching for new ways to creatively reach their audience. So what exactly is content marketing? And what is all the hype about?
Inbound Vs. Outbound
First, we need to start with what we know about the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
- Inbound marketing is directing marketing strategies towards people that are already interested in your product.
- Outbound marketing is trying to reach new people in order to develop more interest.
An easy way to think about this is push and pull strategies. Inbound marketing is a customer-centric strategy that allows businesses to be apart of the conversation. By attracting consumers with relevant content, we are empowering potential customers rather than pushing unwanted content onto them.
This concept is crucial for digital marketers because our data is teaching us how to effectively reach our audiences. The hard truth that we need to learn is that:
Outbound = Interruptive
Outbound marketing is not only disrupting our consumers but it is becoming less effective. With the growing use of technology, there are ways more for consumers to avoid the noise of unwanted ads.
Ad blocking, caller ID, and spam filters are forcing our promotional content to get lost. In fact, a recent study from PageFair Ad Blocking found that roughly 200 million people worldwide employ some sort of ad blocking software.
Even though these advertisements can be an efficient way to reach a mass audience, we are not reaching the people who actually give a damn. This promotional content isn’t creating value for consumers and our job as marketers is to deliver this value.
Consumers are looking for brands that offer valuable content – something that ignites a conversation.
Inbound marketing is a strategic way to target an audience of potential customers for your business. It focuses on earning a person’s attention rather than buying it.
We want to send consumers down our marketing funnel by attracting them, converting them, closing them, and delighting them. Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to successfully convert strangers into customers and eventually promoters. What’s better than organically growing your business?
Inbound and Content Marketing
Now that we know what inbound marketing is, how does content come into play?
Inbound Marketing = Content + Context
Let me break it down for you. Content marketing is essentially a piece of the inbound marketing pie. While inbound marketing is allowing the business to be a part of the conversation, content marketing is creating something for businesses and consumers to talk about.
Since inbound is marketing towards people that are already interested in your product, content marketing is simply providing these people with original content.
I’m sure you’re wondering why content marketing has become such a hot topic. It gives us the ability to utilize the inbound marketing strategy to deliver original and relevant content while engaging our audience. These engagements can be long-lasting as opposed to the inapplicable email that gets shoved in the spam folder.
The key to long-lasting engagements is that is allows your business to build relationships. A recent study from MOZ determined that even though a Facebook ad might get more impressions, a content strategy can promote longer visibility and ultimately a lasting impact.
Although Facebook might have a wider reach, the interactions are less impressionable because the content is less engaging.
Zillow is the prime example of a company that began a minimal marketing budget and successfully managed to promote a strong reach. The popular real estate site distributes a variety of content marketing through blog posts, articles, and videos.
Its YouTube channel features a variety of videos that are useful for homeowners and real estate agents. For example, this DIY video is simple and effective for reaching a targeted audience. Agents are constantly sharing and promoting Zillow’s content marketing because it’s valuable information that helps educate the consumer.
Over time, Zillow has established itself as the leading real estate market place by becoming a hub for useful information. The organic shares and increased traffic from the content marketing strategies helped develop brand awareness during the first few years of business.
Many people assume that content marketing is as easy as pie. We get to write or create whatever we want, how hard can it be? The founder of MOZ, Rand Fishkin lays out the truth about content marketing in “The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing.”
Content marketing isn’t about getting conversions, its about building awareness. The hope is that the awareness turns into a relationship and the relationship progresses into a conversion. Fishkin emphasizes that this takes a substantial amount of time. And guess what else?
Practice, Practice, Practice.
It takes time to get to know your audience. So where do we start? When you’re initially beginning to create content, it’s essential that you critically think through the process. Content Harmony provides a free guide for beginners in content marketing. Here is a breakdown for those that want to get started:
Building buyer personas can help establish who you would like your content to reach. This persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. When building your buyer personas it’s important to ask two questions:
- Who are our top 2-4 buyer personas that will actually purchase from us?
- What other audiences can help us spread and share our content?
The only way we can answer these questions is by breaking down our data. Take a look at demographics, psychographics, motivations, and behavioral patterns of your past customers.
Your buyer personas will guide you to figure out what content you should actually create. The content should be something that appeals to your consumers interests and needs. Content comes in two forms: Topics and formats. It’s important to understand what kind of format your audience prefers while communicating valuable topics.
The most relevant example within this past year was Bernie Sander’s campaign for election. Whether you’re a Bernie fan or not, you have to give props to his marketing strategy. He mastered the what by understanding topics that will attract his audience by empowering them.
He created easily shareable content through YouTube videos and several social media platforms. The videos educate young voters on current political topics. These topics focused on the actual political policies that were up for discussion. Sanders understood his audience’s preferred format and took initiative to promote meaningful content.
It’s also crucial that we understand what phase of the buyer’s journey that our consumer is on. If consumers are just learning about our brand, try creating free videos like Zillow’s DIY tutorials. We much have content to match each stage of the buyer’s journey in order to reach our audience at the right time.
How are your consumers going to find your content? An easy way is to distribute content through owned media. However, this doesn’t always accomplish the reach needed to be effective. It’s important to leverage your content.
Distribution makes content relevant. It gets the content to the right website and the right person at the right time.
After beginning to produce content, we should consistently analyze our work to see what strategies are most effective. The more we create, the more we learn, the stronger the relationships we can build with the consumer.
Remember that original content and inbound marketing can build stronger impressions than traditional tactics. I hope that this introduction to content marketing inspires you to implement it in your own business. Marketers must communicate with an inbound strategy and original content because it is the future of our digital interactions.
Until next time,