How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy for Long-Term Growth

How can you create a content marketing strategy that works? We’ve got a few ideas.

Content marketing strategy (also called content strategy or putting a “content plan” in place) often fails to win the respect it deserves given its proven effectiveness.

Instead of being made a priority in order to build an audience and do it right, content marketing is often treated as an afterthought or optional accessory to “real” marketing happening elsewhere.

Effective content marketing requires something more, and here are three concepts to get you started:

1) Get clear on “content.” The phrase “content” covers a lot of ground. It’s text, to be sure, and text is a central component of almost every content marketing strategy, but it’s not limited to blogging. White papers and e-books can play a part. These days, you’ll want your content to include eye-catching graphics, including infographics, and sometimes video. Podcasts are an increasingly important medium. Social media also plays a part.

These days, the content in content marketing incorporates virtually every form of communication an organization can provide for its target audiences.

That brings us to an important aspect of what defines effective content marketing as distinct from the haphazard “maybe we should have a blog” school of thought.

2) Think strategy. Effective content marketing is a strategy, not just a one-off action. That strategy needs to be integrated into the organization’s entire marketing approach, and it needs to be planned. Once it’s planned, it needs to be provided with resources that are sufficient to execute that plan. Just winging it is not content marketing if you want successful outcomes.

And successful outcomes in content marketing are similar to successful outcomes from other marketing efforts. The goal is always to generate leads, to find customers, to get return business and to foster brand loyalty.

Content marketing is a proven strategy for those objectives, but it also offers something more. It’s a supremely effective way to build your digital footprint and establish yourself as the trusted expert in your field, as the knowledgeable and effective source that consumers, clients and businesses are happy to turn to. That’s an identity that should appeal to any organization.

3) Go beyond the blog. When all is said and done, content marketing is more than simply putting up a blog.A blog can certainly be an important part of a content marketing strategy. It can even be the most important part, but it’s still only a part. It shouldn’t exist in isolation.

Here’s a more expansive definition: Content marketing is a marketing approach that can include text, video and audio, that is driven by a consistent strategy and directed at a defined audience, that offers relevant, effective and valuable content and that seeks to motivate a desirable action on the part of the consumers of that content.

Why Does It Matter?

In other words, why does a business need content marketing? The answer to those questions is simple. Content marketing matters, and businesses need it, because it works.

And because of the times we live in, content marketing works better than many time-honored marketing approaches, and it’s more cost effective to boot.

At this point in our cultural evolution, we’re inundated by attempts to sell us everything under the sun in every possible situation. The marketing noise is deafening, and the sad truth for marketers is that consumers have found ways to tune it all out. They’re more skeptical of advertising in all its many forms. They know how to block ads and skip commercials. They’re increasingly cynical.

At the same time, though, consumers are voracious consumers of information that gives value. One manifestation of this phenomenon is seen when you compare content marketing organic search results or SEO (search engine optimization) to paid search. Learn more about quality content for SEO.

When consumers find services and products because they’re actually looking for them, and when the information they find actually helps them to make decisions, they’re much more likely to follow through. Content marketing that generates organic leads outperforms paid leads by some 31 percent.

It’s similar when you compare inbound and outbound leads. Inbound leads, the kind that content marketing is specifically designed to generate, close at a rate eight times higher than outbound leads.

Content marketing is also an unparalleled SEO strategy. Americans take to the Internet to perform around 20 billion searches every month. Search engines prioritize quality content, content that’s more than a sales pitch. It doesn’t take much of a mathematician to see why these two factors add up to something mission-critical for any organization.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re B2B or B2C, whether you’re dealing in products or services, whether you’re in any given industry or field. Search placement, and the ability of great content to drastically impact that placement, matters greatly to every organization.

In a 2015 survey conducted by Fractl and Moz, content marketing gets high marks on two fronts, performing well in terms of both efficacy, a measure of a medium’s ability to develop awareness, generate action and influence decisions, and efficiency, in essence a measure of the cost-effectiveness of a given medium.

Perhaps the least surprising survey finding was the fact that more than 90 percent of respondents used online search to learn about a company or product. Close behind, at 89 percent, were respondents who had read an online article for that same purpose.

When asked to judge the likelihood of purchasing a service or product after exposure to different media, online reviews and search were seen as most effective, cited by 85 and 77 percent of respondents respectively. Online articles, a medium that might be called the meat of content marketing, were seen as a positive influence on purchasing decisions by close to 57 percent of those surveyed. Meanwhile, email marketing had an actual negative effect on 44 percent of respondents, and press releases and social media posts were neutral in their impact.

When asked about the most effective way to attract customers’ attention, coupons and discounts led the way, but, perhaps surprisingly, online search was not in second place. Instead, second place was held by online content about a topic of interest. What about traditional advertising, email marketing, social media posts and online ads? They all have their proponents and their place, but they all lagged behind.

In terms of efficacy, content marketing truly shines. A 30-second TV commercial served to a prime-time audience of around 3 million viewers would cost $75,000 in broadcast cost alone, without accounting for the considerable cost of creating, writing and producing the ad itself. Fractal points to a Buzzfeed campaign that reached an audience of similar size via content marketing for a fraction of the cost, around $10,000 in total. And, for that $10,000, there are secondary marketing benefits, including social sharing and SEO impact, that a one-time TV spot simply can’t deliver.

Content marketing works. At this point, it has a proven track record. Furthermore, it’s demonstrably cost effective. If those aren’t reasons enough to jump in with both feet, consider a few statistics. Content marketing is used by 93 percent of B2B marketers. More than half of all organizations have dedicated at least two people to ongoing content marketing initiatives, and 70 percent of content marketers are producing more material than a year ago. In other words, leaving content marketing out of your plans might just amount to asking to be left behind.

Need help with content strategy or content marketing? Let’s talk. Call us at 1.877.796.9737.

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