What is Content Marketing? And Why is it Important?

Content Marketing Masterclass: Part One

How do you make sure you’re marketing your business in the most effective way? In today’s world, traditional forms of marketing have become far less persuasive than they once were.

Enter content marketing: a way to provide your audience with engaging content all while increasing conversions, raising brand awareness, boosting revenue and more.

But what IS content marketing exactly? And where do you even start implementing? 🤔

If you’d like to learn how your business can benefit from content marketing, keep reading. You’ll find out everything you need to learn in this comprehensive, step-by-step guide.

This post is Part One in a brand spanking new Masterclass Series on Content Marketing. We believe it’s an incredibly important topic – and according to a little survey we did, you do too. Trouble is: there is so much content on content marketing out there (talk about meta) and a lot of the intel is conflicting.

We bring this Masterclass to you in partnership with Anouck Meier, Chief Storytelling Officer at Ampersand. Anouck is a conversion copywriter and a content marketing strategist who has worked with numerous brands, big and small, to help them achieve their business goals through strategic content. Let’s get the story on content straight once and for all in a comprehensive guide. Ready to dive in?

– Jeroen Corthout, Co-Founder Salesflare, an easy-to-use sales CRM for small B2B companies


What is Content Marketing?

Even though the very concept of content marketing has been around for centuries (literally, check out this example from 1672), there still seems to be a lot of confusion about what it entails exactly.

I’m reminded of this fact pretty much every single holiday period, when random family members ask me for an update on the job front. My response is consistently received with a quizzical look. “So what is it exactly that you do”, my uncle asks after I’ve explained what I do for a living.

What usually does the trick is contrasting content marketing to the traditional marketing he knows all too well. 🙂

Traditional marketing revolves around bombarding your audience with a sales message over and over and over again. It’s Mad Men-style marketing: hitting prospects hard with a promotional message (“BUY. ME. NOW.”) on mass media, like print, radio or TV. Because it’s hard to target a specific audience or differentiate the message, it’s like marketing with a bazooka (which comes with a hefty price tag too).

traditional marketing vs content marketing: traditional marketing
Traditional marketing tries turning complete strangers into paying customers in – well – one step.

And there are more problems on the horizon for the classic approach to marketing: audiences have become more wary and critical. 🧐

People are just not that into ads anymore. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust In Advertising report, people trust text ads less than any other content medium, especially on mobile.

Moreover, the noise has increased dramatically since Don Draper’s heydays, making it even more difficult to make your message heard. Let alone convert customers.

Enter content marketing. ✨


Content Marketing Definition

According to the Content Marketing Institute (you’d figure they know what they’re talking about), the definition of content marketing is:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

So instead of pitching your products or services, you’re providing relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues. It’s is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a relationship with your audience.

When it eventually comes to making a purchase decision, the loyalty of your audience already lies with you. You’ve already shown them that a) you have the relevant expertise and b) you care enough to share that knowledge with them.

High-quality content allows you to move customers along the know-like-trust (and eventually buy) path without forcing their hand.

Think about it like dating: if traditional marketing is like popping the question on a first date (good luck with that!), content marketing is like pulling out all the stops to woo your object of desire customer bit by bit until they feel weak in the knees. 🥰

Comparison of traditional marketing and content marketing: can you spot the difference?

As I mentioned before, content marketing is hardly a new concept. Brands were already publishing content in magazines and newspapers centuries ago. Then, like now, the aim was to strengthen customer engagement, acquisition and brand awareness by providing relevant, engaging information.

Of course, in recent years, content marketing has exploded. The reason is obvious: the internet, and arguably even more, the smartphone. 📱

With the rise of digital and the possibility for brands to speak to prospects even when they’re spending time in the tiniest room of the house, brands are using content marketing as an advanced method to attract high-quality leads, nurture their engagement down the funnel, and convert them into paying customers.

traditional marketing vs content marketing: content marketing
Content marketing is all about building relationships in the long run.

Why is Content Marketing Important?

Teaching your customers and giving them the resources to know, like and trust you is the new marketing. On the list of trusted mediums, editorial content outranks ads on all traditional channels, including TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines.

All the leading brands are doing it. Your competitors are too. In fact, over 91% of B2B companies are using content marketing. And marketing guru’s with yellow glasses have been claiming for over a decade now that it’s really the only marketing left. 😎

But you shouldn’t even think about adopting a content marketing strategy because it’s what the cool kids do. You should because the benefits of content marketing will knock your socks off.

So what are some of these benefits of content marketing? Let’s take a closer look.

 

1. Content marketing servers the needs of your audience (and it pays to put your audience first)

Content marketing addresses a shift in the needs of audiences across industries. When consumers change, marketers need to apply different strategies. At least: if they want their messages to stick. 😏

Or as Virgin Media’s Head of Digital Marketing, Gill Worby, said:

“Previously we always thought about what we wanted to talk about and now we talk about what our audience wants us to say. This is against a backdrop of people wanting to be educated, entertained, and stimulated every minute of every day, and it is harder than ever to grab people’s attention.” (source: How Virgin Media Got Executive Buy-in for Content Marketing)

Just have a look at some of these key stats:

  • People want content from brands. According to Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands study, 84 percent of people expect brands to create content.
  • 70 percent of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements. (MDG Advertising)
  • Consumers can smell a sales pitch a mile away – and they think it stinks. You might think your advertising is resonating with your audience, but 71 percent of readers say they were turned off by content that feels like a plain old sales pitch. (Economist Group’s “Missing the Mark” report)
  • 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)
  • Nearly all of the most successful B2B content marketers (92%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their promotional message. (Content Marketing Institute, 2018)

 

2. Content marketing powers the customer journey

So just imagine that you’re in the market for noise-cancelling headphones (good call, by the way, it should help you focus on getting all that content out of the door).

Now what is the first thing you’re going to do? My guess is that you’ll head on over to Google and type in some sort of query: “best noise-cancelling headphones” or maybe “comparison noise-cancelling headphones” or even “what noise-cancelling headphones should I get to look like the office hipster?”.

Well, guess what, if that’s your strategy, you’re not alone. According to research by GroupM, a whopping 86 percent of buyers begin their customer journey with non-branded search queries. 🖱️

What’s more: users put their trust in the (non-promotional) content they encounter along the way. When researching a buying decision, 85 percent of users ignore paid ads and focus on organic search results.

But not only do consumers read before they buy, content also helps shape the customer experience. Content can feed a cohesive experience on multiple channels, which is something consumers have simply come to expect in this digital age.

 

3. Content builds brand awareness, trust & loyalty

Research findings strongly support the importance of customer-first marketing: when brands create valuable content that educates and informs consumers, it’s a win-win situation for both consumers and brands.

Content determines how people feel about your brand. Content strength accounts for 71 percent of how a brand performs on “improving personal well-being,” which determines how meaningful people feel it is. And customers are willing to pay more for meaningful brands. According to Havas Group, “meaningfulness” in brand marketing can increase wallet share up to nine times. 💸

Finally, consuming content greatly increases affinity and trust, and those positive feelings for the brand actually increase over time. (Source: Power of Content: How Content Marketing Impacts Purchase Decisions, Brand Affinity, and Trust)

 

4. Want more and better leads? Content can do the job!

Ads that are served to consumers whether they want to see them or not are perceived by consumers as pushy, interruptive, and intrusive.

Turns out, people today generally don’t respond to this type of product-pushing. 😩

Or are you one out of very few people who don’t hit the fast forward button when commercials come on and interrupt your favorite TV show?

There are other ways to find qualified leads – better ways: content marketing. And it’s not just us saying that. Here’s some of the research to back it up:

  • 74% of companies indicate that content marketing is increasing the quality and quantity of leads. If it’s sales-ready leads you’re looking for, nothing beats high-quality content based on an informed strategy.

Source: (Curata)

Finally, paid advertising on digital platforms often relies on good content as well. Or did you think your pushy “BUY NOW” ads would fare well on Facebook?

 

5. Content powers sales & drives purchase decisions

Content marketing may require more time, patience, and effort over the long haul, but the rewards are far greater. Just consider the impact on purchase decisions and sales: 👇

  • Content marketing drives higher conversions. In fact, according to research, it has six times the power of traditional marketing for converting people into leads and leads into customers.
  • 47% of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.  (Source: Demand Gen Report)
  • Content influences purchasing decisions. Three-quarters of buyers said that the content of potential vendors had a “significant impact” on which one they chose. Additionally, 89 percent of respondents stated that winning vendors “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.”
  • Consuming educational content dramatically increases likelihood to purchase. The effect is strongest immediately, and decreases somewhat a week later. (Power of Content: How Content Marketing Impacts Purchase Decisions, Brand Affinity, and Trust)

 

6. Content marketing saves money

Traditional marketing methods like print, radio, and broadcast media are pretty expensive places to start your marketing campaign. And let’s face it: for some of us, prime ad space on mass media will never be a feasible option.

Content is much more cost effective. What’s more, it’s also easier to target the exact right audience. 🎯 (Source: DemandMetric)

When content marketing and paid search are pitted against each other:

  • Content marketing has both lower up-front costs and deeper long-term benefits (Source: a recent study by Kapost).
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional channels and generates 3x as many leads. (Demand Metric)
  • A recent study took into account the cost of hiring a content marketing team vs. creating a paid search campaign. For medium- and large-sized businesses, content marketing cost up to 41% less per lead than paid search.
  • The most effective B2B marketers spend 42% of their budget on content.  The more you spend on content, the better the return. Source: (Content Marketing Institute)

 

Don’t Even Consider Content Marketing if You Haven’t Got This

If you want to provide a better experience for your customers all while making a positive impact on your business – both in terms of how it’s perceived and its bottom line – content marketing is a great bet.

In fact, with so many tangible benefits, you may be left wondering why everyone isn’t on the content marketing wagon? 🤔

The reality is: content marketing is hard work. It takes consistent effort (hey, these masterclasses don’t exactly write themselves, if you see my point). Moreover, the fruits of your labor are often only enjoyed in the long run. No instant gratification or dopamine shots to be had right here, right now, I’m afraid. 😔

And finally: it’s only companies who have a solid strategy who are able to reap the benefits of their content marketing efforts. Don’t even dip your tiny toe in the content marketing waters without doing your homework and developing a clear content strategy first.

And guess what? Content strategy is exactly what we have lined up for you in the next installment of this series. Talk about putting your customer first with content… (see what we did there?). 😏


Are you already using content to grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

And don’t forget to tune in next week for Part Two of our Content Marketing Masterclass: Building a Content Strategy

We hope you liked this post. If you did, spread the word!

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Anouck Meier

Chief Storytelling Officer at Ampersand Copy & Content
I help companies engineer content marketing strategies to build their tribe while adding to their bottom line. I’m also notorious for writing converting copy for sales funnels that doesn’t make you want to rip out your eyeballs.