Seriously, What Is Content Marketing?

In today’s digital landscape, there are countless types of digital marketing, and even more articles explaining them. Instead of adding to the noise, let’s focus on one type that lies at the heart of all others: content marketing.

What is content marketing? Content marketing is the process of creating relevant and valuable content (articles, podcasts, videos, social media posts, and other forms of media) to help your audience solve specific problems. The goal is to capture and hold the attention of a clearly defined audience.

This content is created to establish your expertise, promote brand awareness, and ultimately drive profitable customer actions—like signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form, or making a purchase.

Simple enough, right? Not exactly. Creating a successful content strategy involves a lot of work, but if you focus on meeting the needs of your audience, you’re on the right track.

Is Content Marketing Dead in 2024?

No, content marketing is not dead. In fact, it’s more important than ever in 2024. While AI tools like ChatGPT can generate content quickly, the quality often falls short compared to content created by subject matter experts or even seasoned copywriters. So yeah, it’s easier than ever to churn out content in 2024, but the quality is sure to suffer, and it’s only a matter of time until your site is penalized by search engines like Google.

High-quality content is essential because it provides value to an audience inundated with useless, irrelevant spam. Searchers are often frustrated with content that prioritizes SEO over actual usefulness. Imagine the impact of genuinely answering a searcher’s question with useful, relevant content. This adds value to their experience and helps your brand stand out.

Content marketing is a cost-effective and sustainable way to grow and nurture an audience. It builds trust, ensures you have full ownership of your audience, and isn’t subject to the whims of social media algorithms. While social media is important, it should drive your audience back to your website, where you control the presentation and access.

High-quality leads come from educating your audience and building trust, which is exactly what your content marketing strategy should aim to do. This, in turn, will make them more comfortable spending money on your products or services. Your content should nurture your audience through the marketing funnel.

How Content Marketing Actually Works

Alright, now let’s dive into the nitty gritty and talk about how content marketing actually works. To create an effective content marketing strategy, you need to understand two major concepts: the marketing funnel and the buyer’s journey.

The Buyer’s Journey describes the steps a potential customer takes to decide if they want to buy something to solve their problem. It has three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

The Marketing Funnel, created by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898, simplifies the customer journey into stages that businesses can use to track, analyze, and categorize customer interactions. Typically, it has three main stages—awareness, consideration, and conversion—often referred to as TOFU (top of the funnel), MOFU (middle of the funnel), and BOFU (bottom of the funnel).

Awareness Stage: At this stage, a potential buyer realizes they have a problem and is seeking more information. Useful content includes informational blog posts, educational webinars, how-to videos, and whitepapers.

Consideration Stage: Here, the buyer evaluates different solutions. Useful content includes customer reviews, case studies, and comparison guides. Offering free samples or trials can also be beneficial.

Decision Stage: The buyer is ready to choose a solution. Useful content includes discount codes, coupons, free trials, live demos, money-back guarantees, or free consultations.

Stages of the Marketing Funnel

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

At the top of the funnel, customers are in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey with your business. They’re looking for more information on a specific topic. TOFU content examples include blog articles that boost SEO and inform the audience about a problem they’re trying to solve.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

In the middle of the funnel, customers are in the consideration stage. They know about your product or service and are evaluating it. This is the time to build a relationship and highlight your unique features. MOFU content includes newsletters that follow up on TOFU content, which helps to build trust and move prospects closer to purchase.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

At the bottom of the funnel, customers are in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. They are ready to convert into paying customers. BOFU content should drive action and remove any barriers to purchase. Examples include a well-designed pricing page that provides essential cost and feature details, promotes transparency, and aids in conversion.

Importance of the Marketing Funnel

While no marketing funnel can account for every buyer action, it helps businesses understand customer needs, engage deeply with their audience, and build trust and brand recognition. An effective funnel identifies what buyers need to move through their journey, providing insights into the best approach, products, services, and messaging to use.

Real-Life Examples of Content Marketing

If you’re looking for some inspiration, there’s plenty of great examples of content marketing strategies to learn from.

Spotify Wrapped: At the end of each year, Spotify users receive a summary of their most listened-to music, which they can share on social media. This campaign effectively combines personalization and social sharing.

Wendy’s on Twitter: Wendy’s uses a witty and sometimes snarky tone on Twitter, engaging with followers and competitors in a way that humanizes the brand and entertains the audience.

Duolingo on TikTok: Duolingo’s humorous and trendy content on TikTok has amassed millions of followers, raising brand awareness without directly promoting their app.

Marketer’s First Content Marketing Strategy

So your boss just asked you, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed digital marketer grad fresh out of college, to create your first content marketing strategy. Don’t freak out, you’ve got this, and we’re here to help!

Here’s how to get started on your first content marketing strategy:

1. Identify Your Audience: Use customer segmentation to create detailed buyer personas. Understanding who your content is for will help you to better communicate with and understand your target audience.

2. Understand Their Needs: Identify what problems your audience faces and how you can help them. What are their priorities? Do they have preferences when it comes to the type of content they like to consume? What challenges are they facing? How can you help them succeed? Do they need your product or service? Once you have a better understanding of the problems your target audience is trying to solve, you can craft your content marketing strategy around answering questions related to those problems.

3. Choose the Right Format: Determine the best format for your type of content, whether it’s blog posts, videos, or infographics. For example, a blog post is a type of content, but there are also various formats that a blog post can be written in, like listicles, how-to guides, comparison posts, and more.

4. Select Distribution Channels: Decide where your audience consumes content and promote your content on those platforms. Start by asking “where.” Where does your ideal customer consume content? Where should your content live and be shared from? By asking “where,” you’ll get a better idea of which platforms to promote your content on.

If, for example, the buyer personas you created in step 1 found that your ideal customers consume information in the form of blog posts they find on Google, the best way to reach them is to write a blog post of your own and get it to rank on Google.

5. Set KPIs: Track key performance indicators (KPIs) like traffic volume, conversion rates, and social media engagement. KPIs are essential for measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy. So, before you launch your content marketing campaign, make sure to choose a few KPIs that align with your goals.

6. Create High-Quality Content: This part should seem obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning because high-quality, well-written, compelling, and informative content is at the heart of any successful content marketing strategy. Make sure your content is clear, concise, does not include any industry-specific jargon that may confuse your audience, and is tailored to your audience’s needs.

7. Establish a Schedule: Consistently publish content to stay relevant and grow your audience. Consistency is key when establishing your brand. Not only is it good for growing your audience, but it could also signal search engine crawlers to visit your website more often. Try to set a schedule that’s sustainable for you.

While publishing seven blog posts a week might sound good in theory, it takes time to create quality content and trying to keep up with more established brands can get overwhelming fast. On the other hand, publishing one blog post a year might not yield the results you’re looking for either.

Find your balance based on your budget and resources, and keep track of how long it takes to create each type of content so you can take that into account when creating content calendars in the future.

8. Monitor and Measure Results: Use the KPIs you chose earlier to evaluate your campaign’s success and refine future strategies. Knowing what did and didn’t work for each content marketing campaign you run will influence future campaigns and ultimately help you create more effective content.

Did you meet, exceed, or fall short of your goals and KPIs? Answering that question will help you figure out what types of content and content marketing strategies are more likely to be successful so you can focus more of your budget and resources on those types of campaigns going forward.

Final Thoughts On Content Marketing

Content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable content to attract and engage your target audience. Despite the rise of AI-generated content, high-quality, user-focused content remains crucial for standing out and building trust.

An effective content marketing strategy follows the buyer’s journey through the marketing funnel created by the business, providing tailored content at each stage to guide potential customers from awareness to purchase.

Done right, content marketing can take your brand to the next level. If you want to learn more about our content marketing services, contact us today to discover how we can drive traffic, engage your audience, and boost your sales.