An A-Z Guide to Content Marketing

THE DEFINITION OF 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.

CONTENT MARKETING: INBOUND VS. TRADITIONAL MARKETING

Inbound marketing differs significantly from traditional marketing as your content here reflects your industry know-how 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 very broad and generally involve list purchasing, unsolicited phone calls, messaging and broad emails. Examples of promotional channels include expensive television, radio and banner advertising.

One of the biggest takeaways is that B2B inbound marketing reaches further, at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing – as much as 62% less than traditional marketing and generates as much as three times more leads.

What does content within a B2B, 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 and continual stimulation of these buyers through their preferred media channels, and continually measure your marketing success by the favourable responses of your audience. Some important questions to ask yourself (and a handy checklist to follow):

Is my content valuable?

In a B2B industry, content value is derived from how well it educates and informs your audience while offering them solutions to their problems and pain points.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Keep your content as original as possible (cite and reference wherever ideas are borrowed), informative (to satisfy readers' pain points or curiosity) and captivating (to make sure your readers engage with your content and keep coming back for more).

B2B CONTENT MARKETING

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. CONTENT MARKETING IS 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%.

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 …

Defining your goals needs to be 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 plot and plan your content marketing strategy which should involve:

  • Developing buyer personas: Who are your ideal buyers, where do you find them, what are their likes/dislikes, goals, and personalities?
  • Actioning 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.
  • Brainstorm content ideas: Research your primary keywords, explore search opportunities, set SEO objectives, refer to data collated from your persona research and content audits.
  • Create topic clusters: Use your brainstorm results to create a web of linked topics that support and link back to a primary topic.
  • Choose which content types best suit your topics and buyer personas: These include blogs, eBooks, videos, podcasts, etc.
  • Content distribution: How will you distribute your content, what tools should you use, and which CMS is best for your campaign?

With this outline in place as your content strategy – you're ready to take on an in-depth content marketing process.

THE CONTENT MARKETING PROCESS

Your content marketing process sets out to fulfil the steps laid out in your strategy along these four steps. Your process should see you creating your content along your ideal buyer's journey, where the types of content you serve depends on your target persona's readiness to progress further down the funnel.

Segment your efforts along these four steps:

PLAN

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 current 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 value 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 points 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 data sheet which is linked to from you cluster content. Your topic cluster should look something like this:

Here's an example of a completed topic cluster for SEO:

3. SEO:

A 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.

CREATE

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 stage, to becoming a lead in the consideration stage and eventually a customer in the decision stage. Each stage should speak directly to your persona’s needs and offer solutions or answer any questions they may have. They move along your funnel getting to know your brand and attaching value to your targeted content as it answers some of the questions they may have. They convert on your landing pages and grow from being leads to getting nurtured into customers and later promoters.

Along this journey, it is vital that the right content reaches the right audience at the right time.

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:

  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Data Sheets
  • Research Reports

B) Consideration Stage - Your buyer's problems should be identified as well as how they may deal with them. Content here includes:

  • Podcasts
  • Data Sheets
  • Comparison Whitepapers
  • Tip Sheets

C) Decision Stage - At this stage, you position yourself and your business as the best possible solution to your buyer's problems, by means of:

  • Case Studies
  • Live Demos
  • Webinars
  • Trial Downloads

3. TYPES OF CONTENT

It's of equal importance to variate 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? That will surely do.

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:

DISTRIBUTE

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 the platform you’ll use to create your content on, for instance 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 these 8 Content Creation/Distribution Tools listed below:

  • Hootsuite - Social Media
  • PitchEngine - Content/ Press Resleases
  • 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.

 

MEASURE

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:

KEY CONTENT MARKETING METRICS:

Depending on the reporting tools, 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?

  • Page views
  • Users
  • 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
  • Comments
  • 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 tracking your successes.

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 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 with 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.

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