What is Content Marketing?
Google defines content marketing as:
"A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services."
Based on this definition, it's easy to see how content marketing fits neatly within the inbound marketing methodology, as true content marketing is not about self-promotion, but rather creating awareness in your industry and positioning yourself and your business as thought leaders.
Using Content in Inbound vs Traditional Marketing
The content you create when using an inbound marketing approach differs significantly from a traditional marketing approach. With Inbound, your content reflects your industry knowledge and expertise and is intended for a specific and targeted audience. Promotional channels along an inbound methodology include utilising your paid, owned and earned media assets.
Traditional approaches to content marketing are not targeted and likely involve list purchasing, unsolicited phone calls, messaging and generalised email blasts. Examples of promotional channels include expensive television, radio and banner advertising.
One of the most significant differences is that inbound content marketing reaches further, at a fraction of the cost of traditional content marketing – as much as 62% less than traditional marketing and generates as much as three times more leads.
What does content within an inbound marketing mindset look like, and how do you know if it's doing what it should?
If your content is targeted toward a researched "ideal buyer", is served in a format that appeals to that intended audience, and is delivered at the right time during their decision-making or buyer's journey – then you're on to a winning start. Track your progress through the touchpoints of these buyers using their preferred media channels. Continually measure your marketing success by the favourable responses of your audience. Some important questions to ask yourself (and a handy checklist to follow):
1. Is my content valuable?
Content value is derived from how well it educates and informs your audience while offering them solutions to their problems and pain points.
2. Is the timing of my content accurate?
Accurate timing is crucial – offering up the wrong content at the wrong time may come across as "salesy" or pushy, and instead of fostering trust, you may just repel your audience and never hear from them again. Your content needs to align the inbound marketing buyer's journey matching the three distinct stages of Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Every buyer in each stage needs to be nurtured with different content that serves them and progresses them along their individual journeys.
3. Am I seeing adequate ROI and favourable response?
The inbound marketing process is focused on repeat business and creating evangelists and promoters. A buyer's lifecycle doesn't just end in a purchase. Your content marketing success should then be measured by metrics like increases in website traffic, social engagement, lead generation, and lead conversion through the stages of your marketing funnel.
4. Is my content attractive?
Beautiful images or well-designed pages mean nothing without substantial, informative content. But when you create easy to digest content which focuses on your audience, and is formatted to suit these readers, you'll be able to attract your intended audience and hold their attention all the way through.
5. Am I using the right channels?
The old technique of throwing everything at your targets and hoping something sticks is extremely costly and highly ineffective. An inbound marketing approach allows you to gear your content promotion to the promotional channels your audience spends the most time on. Better yet, with media convergence, you'll be able to attract larger crowds of your ideal buyers and appeal to prospects on appropriate platforms.
How do you use Content Marketing in a B2B industry?
With a definition firmly in place, and a deeper understanding of how content marketing differs in traditional and inbound approaches, what does it mean to market content within the B2B industry?
1. Creating trust with loyal, targeted buyers
If your content is published on the right channels, aimed to targeted personas and geared toward addressing their pain points along their specific journey, then you're well on your way to creating trust with your prospects.
2. Becoming an industry thought-leader
This is how you differentiate yourself from the competition by establishing yourself as a top-class source of industry-related information. Content marketing in the B2B industry should be focused on serving your audience, educating them and establishing yourself as a thought leader.
3. Helping you to sell faster
The length of the buyer’s journey often scares B2B businesses and causes them to shy away from content marketing within an inbound marketing framework. Latest statistics have proven that effective content marketing has in fact helped to shorten the decision-making process, and over the last five years has caused the length of the sales cycle to decrease by a whopping 22%.
How do you define a Content Marketing Strategy?
Developing an effective content marketing plan involves more than just creating content and distributing it, hoping for success and engagement. It's a process that takes lots of research and planning to deliver your step-by-step approach to reach your goals and achieve success.
First, you need to define your goals…
Your goals need to be defined as granular as possible – you need to outline exactly which marketing metrics and needles you'd like to move; whether it be an increase in website traffic or spiking your conversions.
It's always an excellent idea to set yourself KPIs (key performance indicators) wherein you outline your SMART goals to set your timeline and project your growth.
With all your goals in place, you can develop a strategy that aligns with your goals. Some elements of your strategy will involve:
2. Develop buyer personas
Who are your ideal buyers, where do you find them, what are their likes/dislikes, goals, and personalities?
3. Action a content audit
Look back and see what's worked in the past – how to distribute content, best keyword performance, best traffic content, engaging topics.
4. Brainstorm content ideas
Research your primary keywords, explore search opportunities, set SEO objectives, refer to data collated from your
5. Create topic clusters
Use your brainstorm results to create a web of linked topics that support and link back to a primary topic.
6. Choose which content format is ideally suited to your topics and buyer personas
These include blogs, eBooks, videos, podcasts, etc.
7. Content distribution
How will you distribute your content, what tools should you use, and which CMS is best for your campaign?
Follow these steps to creating your content strategy and you're ready to set up an in-depth content marketing process.
The Content Marketing Process
Your content marketing process sets out to fulfill the steps laid out in your strategy along four steps. Your process should see you creating your content along your ideal buyer's journey, where the types of content you serve depend on your target persona's readiness to progress further down the funnel.
Segment your efforts along these four steps:
The planning stage is where you uncover who your buyers are, what kinds of content would best serve them and when to deliver this content. You need to make sure to engage the right buyer at the right time with the right content.
Here's what you should be uncovering during this stage…
1. Your target/buyer persona
A buyer persona is a semi-fictitious character drawn up to represent your ideal, target buyers. These personas not only represent your potential buyers but should reflect your current, active buyers as well. Basing your personas on actual data retrieved from your existing customers means your personas are focused on real, data-driven assumptions.
Creating content is hard work – why would you want to create content for someone you don't know, or why would you create content for yourself? Identifying buyer personas means that your content is driven and purposeful. It highlights the needs of the people you are trying to reach and offers a solution to their problems – thereby creating a valuable association with your business and brand.
2. Topic Clusters
Topic clusters are content maps which allow interlinking keywords or "cluster content" to point back to a central keyword by means of blog posts and content that leads back to the central idea. Your central keyword/search term, known as "pillar content" is a high-performing search result which your entire topic cluster will leverage off. Your pillar content could be in the form of a long-form blog, eBook, white paper or detailed datasheet which is linked to from your cluster content. Your topic cluster should look something like this:
Here's an example of a completed topic cluster for SEO:
An SEO and keyword strategy is key to attracting your target buyers to your website. Use keyword tools to do extensive research, focusing on monthly searches, rank, difficulty and cost per click (for PPC). Your SEO will fully inform your topic clusters and can help to gauge/inform your content marketing success.
Creating great content isn't just a matter of entertainment or education, but rather about achieving a predetermined goal set in the planning stage. With set goals, you are geared to generate content that will attract, convert, close and delight.
1. The Inbound Marketing Buyer's Journey
A buyer's journey is the path your target persona takes from being a stranger in the awareness
2. Content along your Buyer's Journey
Here are some content ideas for every stage of the buyer's journey:
A) Awareness Stage
This stage identifies common problems your prospects may have. Content here includes:
- Data Sheets
- Research Reports
B) Consideration Stage
Your buyer has identified the problem and possible solutions. Formats include:
- Data Sheets
- Comparison Whitepapers
- Tip Sheets
C) Decision Stage
Your buyer has chosen a solution and is reviewing suppliers/vendors, by means of:
- Case Studies
- Live Demos
- Trial Downloads
3. Types of Content
It's of equal importance to vary your content formats along the buyer's journey to fully cater to all your persona's needs. What if your buyer persona needs quick answers? A long-form blog won't suffice, but what about a compact, informative infographic?
Consider all angles of your persona when deciding on what types of content to create. Kickstart your content marketing strategy today by using our easy all-in-one Microsoft Excel template pack.
The most popular content types include:
Content distribution is all about getting your hard work out to your target audience through relevant platforms. These are the tools of the trade:
1. Content Management System (CMS)
Before you can effectively distribute your content, you’ll need a platform to create and host it on. This is where a CMS comes into play. A CMS is a platform you’ll use to create your content on your website pages, landing pages and blog. Some of the most popular content management systems are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
We use HubSpot because they offer a full stack of products, including their CMS, a.k.a. content optimisation system (COS), marketing, sales and CRM software. This enables us to create and distribute content all in one place. How’s that for efficiency?
If HubSpot’s not your ideal solution, you can distribute content using any of the 8 Content Creation/Distribution Tools listed below. These are tools we recommend, but there are tons out there to choose from.
- Hootsuite - Social Media
- PitchEngine - Content/ Press Releases
- Contently - Content
- Papershare - Content/Social
- Slideshare - Content/Social
- Click to Tweet - Content/Social
- Buffer - Social
- AddThis - Social
Using the right platform cuts your distribution time in half; and as you know, time is money – so make sure to find a system that best suits your business requirements and budget.
2. Promotional Channels
Distribution across your various channels means activating paid media, and leveraging your owned and earned media platforms to get your content out as far as possible.
- Owned Media
Owned media refers to all media and content created and owned by you. This includes blogs, web page content, mobile site content and social media channels.
- Paid Media
Paid, is the media you pay to have promoted and shared. These are your digital advertising efforts such as Pay-per-click (PPC), Paid social ads, Display ads, Influencers, Retargeting, etc.
- Earned Media
Earned media, as the name suggests, is all the social shares, mentions, likes, comments, reviews, reposts, and press releases earned from your audience. This media sets you in good stead with search engine algorithms and is made up of content pointing to your site that excludes all your own branded efforts or paid advertising.
3. Media Convergence
Converging your media means targeting the overlapping points of each channel and focusing your efforts on these areas to affect the most precise change with minimal work.
You'll come across some tools that benefit you in your day-to-day marketing (depending on how you choose to distribute your content, and which features your platforms offer). Have a look at some of our favourite marketing tools, and how they relate to our HubSpot content management system.
Your content marketing metrics should be a clear indicator of whether all your efforts have been making a difference and moving your individual "needles". If not, then you need to take a step back and assess which of your processes are not meeting your SMART goals.
Employing efficient measuring is vital as it can be used to prove ROI and be able to pinpoint exactly where and by how much you're exceeding or falling short. Sometimes knowing exactly which metrics to measure is winning half the battle when it comes to content marketing.
Here's a quick overview of what you should be looking out for when measuring marketing performance metrics. Depending on the reporting tools you're using, these are some of the key metrics to look out for. Most of these metrics feature in the Google Analytics reporting tool and can be found in most adequate analytics tools.
1. Consumption/Retention Metrics
These metrics prove how much your content is being consumed, its rate of success, and if your audience is actively engaging with it.
What should you be measuring?
- Average time spent on page
- Bounce Rate
- New vs. Returning visitors
2. Sharing metrics
Your sharing metrics show you how successful your social campaigns are and lets you dig deeper into the performance of your different social media channels.
What should you be measuring?
- Social Page performance
- Shares & Engagement (likes, retweets, mentions, comments/replies, upvotes, etc.)
3. Engagement Metrics
These differ from consumption and retention metrics, as they go in-depth to not only prove engagement but lets you know if your content is causing your visitors to complete forms and take action.
What should you be measuring?
- Session Duration
- Page depth / User flow
4. Lead Metrics
If you're focused on increasing your leads and the quality of those leads, then lead metrics will be crucial to
What should you be measuring?
- Conversion rates on content and forms
- Amount of leads generated from various content pieces
- Content that successfully moved readers along their buyer's journey
5. Cost Metrics
These metrics highlight just how much it costs your business to create your content, and the exact worth of each piece of content.
What should you be measuring?
- Percentage of sales and revenue influenced by various content
- Content conversion rate, and how leads convert and become customers
- Percentage of sales and revenue generated by various content
It's essential to keep an eye on your metrics and measure your content marketing campaigns. Whether you're using Google Analytics, HubSpot or any other tool to measure your marketing metrics be sure to set up dashboards that may easily be referred to monthly or quarterly to assess if you're on the right track and growing along with your goals and projections.
Content marketing should be performance-driven, meaning that if it is not resulting in positive growth and revenue, identify where you may be lacking or missing the mark and adjust your efforts accordingly.
Developing an effective content marketing plan and strategy, while delivering on a distribution model is no mean feat. If you’re looking for a team to support you through this journey, chat to us about how to go about setting up a winning content marketing campaign or how to get your content to perform the way you'd like.