Last updated on February 24th, 2018 at 11:01 am
You know about content marketing: 91% of B2B and 86% of B2C marketers are using it this year.
Not everybody’s strategy is effective, though. Somewhere in all the buzz, you’ve likely heard – and believed – a few untrue things about different content strategies. But do you know which ones are costing your business time, money, and customers?
First: What is Content Marketing?
In today’s online marketing, content is one piece of a strategy that will increase your chances of stand outing out amongst your competition. Content marketing acts as a non-intrusive marketing technique that involves creating content relevant to your business and it’s customers.
Not only is content marketing useful in building a brand, it is also cost-effective. Best of all, content marketing can effectively complement your Search Engine Optimization efforts.
If you’re new to the game and still aren’t sure what this is all about, let’s make it clear with an illustration.
Content marketing creates a productive experience – purchase or not.
Let’s say you’re out shopping and a salesperson approaches you. They push a product toward you, spout a steady string of superlatives to prove that you need what they’ve got, and ask what you’re waiting for. They urge you to buy now.
You’re out in the same place, but this time you come across a promising storefront. You enter and find an attractive display. The display shows a short film on the brand’s story and philosophy. It offers brochures on how to best use the product, free samples, and a discount code if you text this number.
You get the idea: Scenario 2 uses content marketing. But what does that mean, exactly?
The Technical Definition: Content-Based Marketing Strategy
The popular definition, provided by the Content Marketing Institute, calls it a strategic approach that’s “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.”
It’s a wordy definition, sure. But if all you get is “distributing content to drive action,” you’re missing the point. The functions of this strategy are to attract, engage, retain, and sell. All those extra words are the secret to effective strategy.
The Simple Definition: Relationship Building
Look back at that definition: valuable, relevant, consistent and defined.
You need to build a lasting relationship with consumers. When you are consistent with your content creation and offer a defined, target demographic something valuable and relevant, you will begin to see results.
So, how does content marketing work?
Think about this:
The buyer’s path to purchase begins with awareness of a product. Awareness leads to consideration and research. Research culminates in a decision. The decision hopefully continues into brand loyalty. Today’s buyers lead themselves through the majority of this journey. Plus, now the path is largely non-linear, with consumers hopping back and forth between phases as they find new info.
It Works By Putting the Consumer First.
All that in mind, your job is to join consumers on their journey. Predict what they need and be there to give it to them, through every step of the way.
Looking back, Scenario 1 is not buyer-led. While it offers information on the product for sale, it targets a buyer ready to purchase.
Meanwhile, scenario 2 is buyer-led, offering a host of valuable information relevant for the consumer. This earns consumer trust – bringing them into a long-term relationship built on trust.
Ditch the Pitch; Reach the People.
Traditional marketing focuses on Scenario 1-type tactics (indiscriminate reach, sales-focused copy, and interruptive marketing). These methods worked well in the past when buyers were dependent on salespeople and catalogs, but not-so-much anymore. Let’s dive into why.
Today’s consumers have the wealth of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. They’re not looking for a pitch. They’re looking for practical solutions. So are you. Enter content marketing.
Help yourself, and your clients by avoiding the top 5 misconceptions and blunders plaguing the content marketing industry.
Top content marketing myths, ranked by prevalence
We’ve scoured the web for the most popular myths, and how to approach them. Clearing out the misconceptions will help make a strategy that works for you, and your website visitors.
Myth 1: Content marketing is social media/is SEO/is blogging.
Truth: It’s actually a unique strategy.
This myth is by far the most prominent, and you’ll find it worded a few different ways. Ultimately, all variations suggest that it’s not a unique strategy. Folks tend to think that if you throw up a blog post, show up on social, or feed the search engines more keywords, that’s content marketing success.
This is so far from true because the whole goal is to develop a standing relationship with the consumer. That won’t happen without being valuable, relevant, and consistent. Presence is good, but not good enough. Not only that: this myth ignores the variety of media available.
There’s a mind-boggling number of types of content. Video is growing immensely popular right now; over half of the professionals say it’s got the best ROI out there. TV, at one point in time, was known as the most effective method to reach target audiences at scale.
That target audience, is now reaching for their phones once a commercial comes on. Now, 1 in 3 consumers have never subscribed to cable, or no longer do.
Other than video, few other types of popular content you could include in your marketing plan are:
- case studies
And that’s just thinking about digital marketing. There are other traditional options such as whitepages, pamphlets, and displays. Even in-person activities, like trade shows and promotional events can be content marketing.
This myth also smacks a little of the same misunderstanding that says content marketing is a campaign.
It can be part of your campaign strategy.
But, It can’t be the campaign because it’s just that: a strategy.
Why is this myth so prevalent? Effective content marketing is closely linked to blog posts, social networks, and SEO because a good marketer knows how to leverage buyer personas to target an audience on social media, establish a content strategy and drive brand awareness. Great content is useless unless -wait, let’s just get to the next myth.
Myth 2: Content marketing is content creation
Truth: Remember our definition? Creating and distributing. Consistently.
As we were saying: Yes, you have to create content. But even great material is useless without planning, promotion, distribution, and interaction. (All the things it takes to build and maintain a relationship.)
You can create content and publish it all day, but you may never see a bit of return for your effort.
Why is that?
Results happen when your project management team can develop and execute a strategy built to zero in on your targeted audience, focusing marketing efforts on audience engagement.
This is where people confuse content marketing with social media and blogging.
This is because there are many platforms on the market that work well for distributing the type of content their typical users engage with.
The world has heard the saying “content is king.” Even search engines care about it. The better and fresher it is, the better you’ll rank in search engine results. But quantity won’t get you to the top anymore. Consumers and computers are looking for high quality, which means:
If you think keeping up with all that sounds like a breeze, you’ve probably been contributing to our next myth.
Myth 3: Content marketing is a quick, easy, and cheap solution.
Truth: If you’ve gotten this far, you understand by now that this is no small undertaking.
Any good marketing manager can tell you, content marketing done well is a high reward strategy. Any good project manager can tell you, doing a job well requires an investment of time, work, and money – and then tracking it all with tools such as Google Analytics and constantly adjusting everything for performance.
Good writing is not cheap, and great content takes time and money to produce. One of the reasons businesses claim this strategy doesn’t work for them is that they’ve forgotten that you get what you pay for.
Some sources say revamping and recycling old material makes content marketing a breeze. The truth is that while old stuff will continue to work for you, you have to publish new, fresh, material to maintain relevance and grow engagement.
To get the most of your content marketing, you’ll probably be throwing a chunk of money into:
- Developing marketing communications strategy
- Implementing content management systems
- Tracking website analytics and social media metrics
And, as with anything worth doing, these things take time – just like a relationship. A great content marketing strategy is a commitment.
Myth 4: Content marketing is service & product-focused.
Truth: An engaging strategy is user-focused.
When your effort is product-focused, it’s a pitch. Don’t focus on your product, focus on a person. Or, in other words, “teach, don’t sell.” Your products or services may not be what the client needs now. Offer what they do need now, and they’re more likely to come back to you.
The point of content marketing is to be relevant through the whole path to purchase. The path to purchase includes four main stages:
Come alongside your client at the beginning of the path by answering their questions. Doing this allows you to begin that relationship. Build client trust by maintaining your presence. Stay with them on their path, through decision-making and on into follow-up and support.
Tailoring your marketing communications for content marketing means you not only write to support brand awareness, but also predict the needs of your target customer and meet them, whether with answers, advice, tools, entertainment, or something else.
Myth 5: Content marketing is a fad that doesn’t provide measurable results.
Truth: It’s not, and it does.
Okay, so we squidged a little and combined two myths – five is such a great number for lists, though, and these two are equally popular.
First of all: this strategy has proven it’s here to stay, because, again, it’s about the relationship, and relationships aren’t going anywhere. We know the claim that content marketing doesn’t work for B2B efforts because you’re marketing to business is patently untrue. Businesses are groups of people. People are always seeking out stories and connections.
Just look at some of the world’s top brands. Experience proves that a focus on engaging with consumers and offering them valuable information gives businesses an edge in the competition.
Second, if you’re concerned about tracking the return on investment (ROI) of your content marketing, don’t be. There’s a whole list of trackable metrics you can use to monitor your marketing success.
- social media ROI
- lead quality
- web traffic
- SEO results
If you’re new to this, figuring out which metrics to track and how to quantify your success over time can be tricky. But it can definitely be done.
And while, yes, you can track ROI, it’s important to keep in mind that sales aren’t the only indicator of success. Brand exposure and engagement should be a main focus. Even if you can’t tie your content marketing to a specific sale, you know sales aren’t happening without those two things.
Also, you need to share your content once it’s published. People may eventually find it through search engines if it’s optimized correctly, but don’t rely on it. Don’t forget to always share your content on social media, email, and through digital PR.
Implementing Your Content Marketing Strategy
Equipped with the knowledge of how to effectively use this strategy to increase your business, it’s time to put the knowledge to good use. You’ve got a few options for implementing this strategy immediately, including:
Getting active on social media
Create, post, connect. Short-form pieces are great for social media. People scroll through their feeds quickly, so make sure your content packs a punch. And don’t just post, comment on other people’s posts, share their posts, etc.
Develop a blogging strategy
You know that blogging is only a small facet of the content marketing world. However, it is a fairly simple facet to execute and track. Blogging is a better platform for long-form pieces, but don’t let it drone. Keep your posts fresh, accurate, relevant and engaging. We’ll continue more on this below.
Use email to your advantage
Email marketing gets overlooked as a strategy from the past. The truth is that email is a great way to drive conversions and people continue to use it every day.
Keys to Producing Quality Content
Every writer has a unique style of writing. And all writer’s should feel free to create awesome content however they like. Although without clear plans and tools, consistency in voice and quality can vary.
Managing a suite of writing tools effectively requires time, money and committing to learning how to best utilize them.
Whether you’re creating ad copy for social media marketing, writing blogs, press releases, or any other web content, you’ll want to create a thorough checklist for yourself to review before submission of any work.
Remember: you want to simplify editing of spelling and grammar errors as much as possible.
While on your content marketing journey, there are a few books I’d consider to be “must-reads”. So, here are my personal favorites:
The Story Engine by Kyle Gray. One of the best takeaways from the book is the downloadable content resources. While you might want to adjust things here and there and make it specific to your niche, the guides provided by The Story Engine offer a strong foundation to ensure success and a consistent voice in your future writing projects.
Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi. This book is just incredible in so many ways. Joe Pulizzi not only reviews how many top brands became what they are today through “Epic Content Marketing” but also gives strategies that, when implemented, work insanely well.
Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. This book is great for understanding the importance of building your brand around…. wait for it…. stories! Stories of your client’s success journeys – it hits hard on focusing on the consumer, and how you, your products and services benefit them.
There’s no specific order on which you should read first, just grab ’em all.
Here’s a quick overview of different important categories to focus on in your writing:
Have you ever went to a popular website and caught grammar errors? What were your thoughts?
Take responsibility for creating properly constructed, readable content. It’s always ok to have someone check your work. But you should always double check your work first with writing tools to save whoever is double-checking your writing some time, which we’ll explain more on below.
The last thing you want is for your readers to face confusion over misplaced commas, dangling modifiers, and all that other stuff that sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Poor grammar makes content look unprofessional. If readers cannot make sense of the information, what good is it?
And who knew basic English grammar in school would be so important now….
Although, yes, everyone makes honest mistakes.
If you’re a business owner, employee, freelance copywriter, new to blogging, an industry influencer, or even if you’re the director of an established content marketing agency, you should constantly learn how to better your writing.
Although you’ll begin to realize, if you haven’t already, that time can begin to slip through your fingers while studying, learning more, researching, writing drafts, editing, etc.
So, Is there a solution to help me save time?
Here at Direction Inc., we use many awesome tools for creating content. Below are a few of the tools, descriptions, and my reasons for choosing them. I believe strongly that these tools will benefit you significantly in your writing career.
My review of Grammarly:
It’s a sophisticated software that scans text for grammar and spelling mistakes and suggests stylistic changes. The pro version also crawls the web for any possible instances of plagiarism. You can install it as either a Google Chrome / Microsoft Word plugin or as a standalone application.
You’ll want to use some common sense as the program does not understand context, slang, and brand lingo. Grammarly will automatically grade content a percentage score. We like to set the bar high and post content with a 95% overall score or higher.
Keep in mind, It’s fairly difficult for anyone to get a 100% since it is just a computer program scanning text and not a perfect system. As an editor, you should direct writers to use the program themselves before any submissions. It’s a relatively inexpensive program also, which is nice.
An incredible tool which leverages your content against your competitors. It analyzes the readability score utilizing the top readability tools online. Internally, we always ensure that our content (for most industries) scores an A.
This is the ultimate marketing tool. The ways you can use this tool for content are limitless. You can analyze all top ranking websites for a topic or keyword – as many as you want. You can also create an incredible marketing calendar for your blog(s). I wouldn’t trade this tool for the world.
Writers should generally write directly to the point, but this strategy should not imply avoiding pertinent details and necessary information.
The more relevant and useful content you can provide on a subject, the more likely Google will crawl the site and give it a higher ranking in SERPs. The research concludes that the average top results for queries have well over 2000 words. You can set your own guidelines that vary per project. You’ll want to provide clear and consistent word count requirements. Although you should be reasonable in what you expect within a timeframe. For instance, writing over 7000 words on “How to Tie Your Shoes” might prove difficult for any writer.
Whether you set a goal of 500, 1000, or 2500 words, make writers accountable themselves for matching content length with valuable information. Writing shouldn’t ramble on on tangents just for the purpose of meeting word counts.
SEO Best Practices
Writers for digital marketing agencies can come from a variety of backgrounds. Strong writers might have experience from the fields of public education, print journalism, broadcasting, or in library science. A strong writing team should have a range of talent, yet apply the same SEO strategies. Everyone should be on the same page for creating optimized headers and incorporating keywords.
For example, you want to properly construct a logical outline using header tags. Writers shouldn’t feel pressured to overload content with target keyword phrases.
Instead, they should let the content speak for itself by addressing as many trending questions and related terms surrounding it. As writers become more acquainted with the content niche, they’ll develop a strong grasp of how to utilize search terms you give them.
The ideal content writer starts themselves by researching trends, using programs like the ones above and evaluate the structure of a similar competitor’s page. Google favors pages with highly specialized, user-friendly outlined content.
You can dominate some market niches online just by starting off with strong content.
Okay, so let’s say you have solid grammar, match word counts, and include optimized headings and keywords.
In reality, a robot could do all those things (and there are ai programs that do out there.)
Creativity makes writing come alive and connect with the reader!
Word choice deals more with the art of writing, rather than strict methodology and structure. Writing should speak to the target audience in a personal way by using the right voice and wording.
For example, writing for B2C should sound different than if you were to target B2B customers.
Implement clear, appropriate styles and tones based around the target audience. Be mindful of the connotation some words carry in different industries and maintain a fun, positive, and beneficial tone.
Always try to present content in as clearly and concisely as possible. Sometimes it’s a good idea to avoid passive voice sentences and awkward phrasings. How do you know if it’s an awkward phrase?
Read what you wrote out-loud.
Professional online copy should involve more than just opinions and witty marketing lines.
Now with tools like Copyscape and Grammarly – someone can find out in a split second if you’re plagiarizing. So, don’t even think twice about it unless you give that person or company credit for writing it.
In today’s day and age, fact checkers and public review listings will harshly criticize a website’s content. These negative reviews and downvotes can substantially affect SEO and harm credibility.
Include quality research from verifiable authority sources to substantiate claims.
Follow a particular writing style guide for formatting citations and bibliographies.
Whichever one you choose may depend on your niche. Academia, and most other organizations involved in the liberal arts (literature, philosophy, mathematics, etc..) follow the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines.
Science fields tend to use the American Psychological Association (APA) style.
Historians and a other social scientists write using the Chicago Manual Style (or simply Chicago Style).
If you’re not careful, you may end up in legal jeopardy for publishing plagiarized content! Every statistic, direct quote, and even paraphrase should give proper credit to the original authors.
This extra step will give you more credibility and make it easier for readers to continue research on their own.
Stick to sourcing material from subject authorities in an industry, as well as universities, government departments, and well-known NGOs. It’s also proper search engine optimization practice to link out to authoritative resources. Google will smile upon you, and potentially allow more people to find what you wrote!
I know what you’re thinking: formatting citations take forever! Fortunately, the internet is full of tools that automatically format links into correct citations.
EasyBib and CitationMachine are popular programs, but the features are limited.
But as you know, money talks. So unless you pay for their pro subscriptions, you won’t experience their full benefits.
There’s also one called Zotero which is popular. It offers a free standalone program to store and organize references which is very helpful if you have a team producing large amounts of content.
On top of that, there’s also a Google Chrome and Firefox plugin extension that allows you to save bibliographic data with a click of a button!
At the end of the day, manually check all your work. Although advanced, computer softwares and internet applications still may miss important things.
In the end, don’t stress to hard about this or lose sleep over wondering if you quoted someone correctly or not. Formal citations are not always required in the digital world, but they never hurt!
Marketing Best Practices
Finally, set clear standards for “call to action” lines or copy that compels the reader to make a decision, such as buying the product, calling the business, or donating online. Even if you’re writing for a purely public information site, writers should open with a strong personalized hook and end in lines that invite the reader to “read more” on a related internal page.
Use snappy catchphrases that incorporate fun literary devices, like metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. After researching the product or service niche, you’ll find different ways to connect with the psychology of the target audience.
Don’t forget to implement original, clever sounding CTAs that represent your goals and your purpose.
Hire a content marketing strategist!
Creating and implementing an effective content marketing strategy is no small task. Let a content marketing specialist use their expertise to grow your business while you run it. But don’t trust any “expert” with a computer: find a company whose results are proven.
What to Look for in a Content Marketing Specialist
If you’ve decided to get serious about content marketing, make sure your team is as serious about results as you are. If you need assistance in growing your brand through content marketing, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. That being said, there are a few things you should look out for before signing a contract with a marketing agency.
Have a conversation with the marketing manager. Can they give you clear examples of past work and show you positive results? It’s not a good sign if the conversation is lacking in confidence, clarity, or professionalism at all. Content marketing is about building a relationship with the consumer. It’s not a good look if your marketer hasn’t already built great relationships with their own clients first – check reviews online.
Does the company you’re considering have a proven track record of driving results?
Do they offer examples of content marketing they’ve done for other clients?
It’s easy for a company to make big claims. The test is whether they can they stand behind their work with real results. If they’ve increased visibility, generated leads, inspired clicks and conversions while overall boosting the image of other businesses and can prove it – chances are, they may be able to do it for yours as well.
Look at the examples you’ve been provided: do they showcase creativity? Are they attractive, informative, engaging, and trustworthy? Further – are they unique?
Your new agency should be able to create a host of content types, and be able to emphasize various tones and purposes based on personas.
While effective solutions can be formulaic, a truly impressive content marketing team creates content that is 100% unique to the client, and speaks in a voice that resonates with the target market.
Marketing agencies are typically business founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Meaning they know what it takes to build a business from the ground up, and understands the struggles and growing pains in launching a brand and it’s exposure online through quality copy and blogging.
For us, digital marketing isn’t just a job – it’s our passion. Everything we do here, Copywriting, SEO, Web Design, Social Media, we’ve tried and tested a plethora of methods and continue to learn through books, podcasts and more.
Because, just when we’ve found something we did is proven effective in our own business model, something new and better is out. The industry is continually changing and is becoming increasingly competitive. Although there are over 2 million new blog posts every day, only a small percentage of them actually capture an audience correctly and are worth reading.
So, don’t be afraid of competition or put off by it. Content marketing works if you keep with it, learning and improving along the way. Enthusiastic comments, reviews and record-breaking industry results is what drives us, and it will soon be driving you.
Testing the newest and most effective digital marketing tools on the market is important. Don’t get too attached to one tool or software – technology is growing rapidly.
There are many goals to have in your new content marketing strategy, and they need to be written down and tracked. For some, it’s monetary results that increase your bottom line. For others, it’s brand awareness.
Creating, distributing, and promoting strategic content to increase your brand awareness, drive new income and create a lasting relationship between your and your target audience is just the start.
But of course, once you’ve experienced the results, you’ll understand that behind it all – you are positively impacting lives through providing information. Sometimes a single blog post is years of knowledge, all in a 5 minute read. Incredible if you really think about it. And sure wasn’t possible 50 years ago to have access to so much knowledge so quickly.
So, no matter how great or terrible you think you may be at writing, just get started.
Put your pen to the paper (or fingers to the keyboard). Don’t hold back great knowledge, don’t fear reprisal, don’t make excuses.
As one well-known company famously said, “Just do it.”