Content marketing is a marketing strategy that uses content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and to convince them to take some sort of profitable action (also called a conversion).
I’ll be explaining why you should explore investing in content marketing (as part of your general marketing strategy) and breaking down 3 ways you can do it to increase your site traffic and your sales.
Why Content Marketing?
People are over ads. Just think of your own online behavior. When is the last time you clicked on an ad on Google or saw a billboard that you thought was cool?
Enter content marketing. Content marketing isn’t exactly new… in fact, it’s positively ancient.
A century ago, seed companies and farm suppliers like John Deere gave out almanacs to farmers. It was how they established relationships with their customers, found out their needs, and did long-term sales.
It’s 2016 and things haven’t really changed, except for the fact that content marketing is actually more suited to our digital age. The Internet is awash with attention grabbing headlines, which means no one even sees your ad unless they are looking for it (which is where Google AdWords comes in), or if it provides real value, which is what content marketing is all about.
Content marketing is also incredibly versatile. You can build an entire business around your content marketing efforts because it hits each stage of the funnel. It also integrates with nearly every type of advertising, from paid media to SEO, meaning you get more bang for your buck by creating great content to support your other marketing efforts.
So how can you put it to use? Here are three broad ways to approach content marketing:
Increase Reach & Awareness
One of the primary ways to use content marketing is to create content that gets you in front of new audiences. Basically, this boils down to creating unique and valuable content that’s broad enough to reach those who aren’t familiar with your brand.
Take this YouTube Channel by Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc. This content is broad enough that even someone who doesn’t know the brand can find it and even appreciate it. It fuels the “awareness stage” of the funnel (AKA, when someone learns about a brand).
When you’re using content marketing to increase reach and awareness, consider utilizing these three primary methods to achieve your goal:
By creating content that people are happy to share with friends on social media, you can expand your reach exponentially. Take the “This Girl Can” video from Sport England. This video went viral as thousands of people shared it across social media. Chances are, most of the people who came across the video had never heard of Sport England.
If you create content that ranks for broad topics that solve issues that correspond with your project, you’re reaching people that may not know you, but definitely have issues your business can solve. REI does a great job of this. They site provides resourceful content that addresses issues their target audience are trying to solve. So, when a hiker searches for “backpacking trips in the US” on Google, the top ranked content comes from REI – a brand.
By creating ads that are broad and applicable to a large audience, a brand can utilize advertising to expand their reach and audience scope. Think about Buzzfeed, which is funded solely with this business. They create epic content that goes viral on a regular basis, reaching a HUGE audience for their content and advertiser’s content, which exposes even more customers to brands (and Buzzfeed).
Increase Inbound Traffic
Content marketing it also useful for increasing inbound traffic. Inbound is just marketing jargon for being where your customers are. In terms of content marketing, it means putting content out there that brings people to your website, instead of throwing ads at them and interrupting whatever they’re doing (like YouTube video ads…). Let’s take a look at REI again and see how they do this through social, SEO, and advertising.
REI creates interesting and clickable stories that they share via their social media channels. This post about duct-tape hacks is a great example of interesting educational content that is applicable to REI’s outdoor enthusiast audience.
We’ve already seen how REI excels using SEO to find other audiences, but the brand has a host of useful educational content that can both be linked and that shows up in search engines. ￼
When it comes to advertising, REI uses content marketing exceptionally well. The brand was featured in AdWeek for sharing inspirational stories of dedicated campaigns as a new advertising campaign called “Every Trail Connects”.
The campaign highlights the strategic difference between inbound and outbound marketing: the inbound style here uses emotional content in order to connect with an audience, instead of making a cold sale to a potential customer through a paid media ad focusing on a big sale.
A third quick way to use content marketing is to create content that you can use to sell, reassure, or educate existing customers and visitors. This can come to life in three ways: through using retargeting, using on-site content, or using email.
When you retarget a customer, you’re reaching back out to someone who visited your site but did not convert. In terms of content marketing, this means using content to draw existing fans back. The content should be interesting and educational, and provide additional value that the customer didn’t originally find on your site. Perhaps you offer a special PDF download guide, or a webinar course that only few have access too. Whatever it is, make it valuable.
Getting customers to convert isn’t just something that happens outside of your site. You can actually use on-site content that educates or reassure high consideration visitors that they are making the right decision in doing business with you. This content can be customer testimonials, reviews, or third party references about your products and services.
Content marketing through email looks similar to retargeting in that you’re using it to serve content that brings customers back to your website. This email content can be anything — exclusive discounts for email list, advanced-access to a tool or educational video, or even a pre-sale announcement for a new product. The ultimate goal here is to get customers back on the site and to convert.
Whether your are a business owner or work for an agency, marketing in 2016 means that you understand the importance of content marketing.
To get started, decide which of the above approaches has the most immediate and significant impact on your business. Then, start building that by creating educational, entertaining, and thoughtful content that aligns with your end goal.