What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a phrase that is often thrown around, but it's not always clear what it involves or how you can use it. There are so many different sub-topics that the term encompasses, as well as various techniques that can take trial and error before they begin to work effectively.

As with other areas of marketing, content has experienced a drastic change in the past few decades. Digital marketing is at the forefront of most campaigns, as most content marketers concentrate on finding the best photos and video content to publish on their websites and social media channels. However, this doesn't mean that more traditional methods, such as print media, should be ignored.

The content strategy that your company needs and uses should be entirely unique, as what works for one company may not work for another. Your customer base deserves valuable content that is specifically made with their pain points and desires in mind. The goals you have will also develop and change over time, which will influence the direction in which you take your content.

In this guide, we'll take a look at what content marketing is, how it can help you to reach your company goals and the steps that you need to follow to produce your own successful content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is a type of marketing that companies use to attract and engage with an audience through the use of media (such as videos and podcasts), written content (like subject-relevant articles) and other types of helpful content (such as blog posts and newsletters). This kind of marketing can help you to promote your company in a tailored form that fits where the customer is in terms of the buying cycle. The combination of different visual and written elements can help increase brand awareness and build your company's authority within your niche.

Rather than simply pitching your company's products and services, content marketing aims to give your target audience valuable content and resources that will set them off on the buyer's journey. The content you produce should attract and retain their attention long enough for them to realise that your company can offer them something that your competitors can't. For this reason, the content needs to be carefully curated so that you can reach potential customers in what feels like an organic way. Your audience is more likely to positively respond to the content if it is tailored, authentic and engaging because they will feel like they are getting their questions answered and you are genuinely trying to help and entertain them.

You can use content marketing to generate leads by promoting your products or services when potential customers are looking at what they should buy and then run through different strategic points until you can close the sale.

A survey conducted in 2021 found that 73% of companies that spent between 10% and 70% of their full marketing budget on content marketing considered themselves 'very successful'. These results were recorded from 1,500 different companies in over 20 industries, demonstrating the tactical use of content across the board.

Below is a breakdown of the different stages of a content marketing strategy that can be applied to whatever industry you work in:

Brand awareness

This is the first step to grabbing the attention of your audience. You need to show them that you understand their pain points and desires and establish how your company can provide the solution. The content you present should be knowledgeable and in formats such as blog posts, videos, newsletters and e-books.

For example, if your company provides antivirus software, you might create a blog article titled 'Five Ways To Protect Your Computer Against Cyber Attacks'. The article could list different ways that the audience can avoid cyber attacks, such as creating strong passwords. You can also promote your company's software and explain how it can detect malware and delete malicious files.

As and when someone searches for ways to protect their computer, they may find your article, read the content and realise that your company can provide the solution to their question and needs. The blog article doesn't have to come across as a sales pitch, as the information should speak for itself. Potential customers can read the educational content and decide that you are an industry expert and that your company's service or products can help them without you including an obvious advert that insists they should buy from your business.

Consideration

This next stage is a combination of marketing and useful information that is aimed at your target audience. You can present a host of information that could help educate potential customers on what systems and products could help them, while also adding a slant that promotes your company.

The content you produce for this stage could be how-to videos, articles, and case studies that back up your statements with clear data. You could also host events or webinars to help familiarise potential customers with your brand, services and products. The content should aim to build trust within your audience so that they believe your company can provide a better solution than your competitors.

Transaction

At this point, you change your strategy to focus more on sales than educating. You want to promote your company's products and services by demonstrating why you are the best option so that your potential customers feel confident when they decide to make the purchase.

While the previous steps of the strategy were centred around gaining customer interest, the transaction step aims to convince customers why they should invest in your company. At this stage, you could offer customers a free trial or sample products so that they can see for themselves how your products and services could benefit them.

Content marketing can help you to attract more customers, build brand awareness and improve customer relations. Marketing campaigns should feature visual and written information and media that audiences want to consume. The content you publish can help you reach your goals in the short and long term as your brand authority and presence grow.

Adverts are often avoided by consumers because they may not appear truthful. Companies are clearly going to release adverts that promote themselves, even if they aren't necessarily the best in the business. Consumers also want to know that companies understand their needs and desires, which a few photos and captions can't always show. However, tailored content can provide consumers a useful source of information and entertainment. This kind of content will be actively sought out if it is informative, engaging and answers pain points.

When you create a marketing strategy, you need to think about the area of your company you are trying to promote and the message you want to communicate with your target audience. You may want to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website or lead generation, for example.

Another major factor to consider is your target audience, as they will impact how you run your marketing campaigns and which platforms you'll use. For example, if you own a clothing brand aimed at teenagers, you may make videos for social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

A good content marketing strategy should be a mix of different visual and written elements. It's a good idea to make informative blog articles to attract the attention of people searching for products and services via search engines. You could also catch people's eye by posting photos and videos on social media and build brand awareness by sending out regular newsletters via email.

Although most companies would like to have universal appeal, the likelihood is that you have a certain group in mind when you create your products and services. Your target audience is the group of individuals who are most likely to buy items and services from your company because what you sell will solve an issue or meet their desires.

There are various categories that you can analyse customer bases by using data, such as:

  • age
  • gender
  • social class
  • purchasing power
  • consumption habits

These categories can be analysed and defined using surveys and other research tools. However, your target audience can also be defined by their customer persona. Rather than basic facts and statistics, a customer persona helps you build a deeper understanding of the mindset and actions of your target audience and can better guide your marketing decisions. A persona could include the following concepts:

  • Lifestyle
  • Personal characteristics
  • Career
  • Personal interests

For example, you could run a fashion brand that sells affordable clothing ranging between £5 and £50. The clothes you sell may echo designs currently trending in women's magazines. Since conducting market research, you have found that 75% of your customer base is women aged between 16 and 30.

It's up to you to work out why you appeal to certain individuals more than others so that you can tailor your products, services and marketing campaigns effectively. Your company could appeal to younger women because they can't afford designer clothes but want to keep up with evolving fashion trends. The products you sell are more within their price range than higher-end alternatives.

In this type of company, it's no use bringing out a new line of clothes with price tags ranging between £100 to £200 because your target audience won't be able to afford them. In the same vein, it's not a good idea to start designing clothes aimed at women between 50 and 65 because your target audience won't respond to them.

A clearly defined audience profile and the way you use it will play a major part in the success of your marketing campaigns. In the given example, you may decide to produce a series of short videos that showcase how your clothing can be styled.

You could also post blog articles with titles such as 'Best Autumn Trends in 2023' or 'Top 10 Stylish Ways to Wear A Scarf'. These articles and videos will be informative and draw traffic to your website, fulfilling the brand awareness step in your content marketing. It wouldn't be as effective to place a series of adverts in a national newspaper as your target audience probably won't see them and are more likely to find your content if it's posted online.

Below is a breakdown of each stage of a content marketing campaign.

Define your goal

The first step is to define your goal so that you can easily summarise what you want to achieve. This could be anything from more sales to brand awareness or even increased traffic to your website. Your goal will likely change over time as you find new areas of your company that could use some improvements or attention.

Create a customer persona

The next step is to work out who you are trying to target. This is a crucial step, especially if your company is newly established, as you need to know who your target audience is so that you can tailor your content, products and services in a way that will attract and retain your customer base.

Your target audience doesn't have to stay the same as your company evolves. You could decide to target a new group of customers or increase your target audience to encompass more people.

It's a good idea to regularly review your target audience to make sure that your marketing efforts aren't going to waste. Even the most professional and sleek content won't automatically translate to sales if it draws the attention of people who aren't interested in your products or services.

Conduct a content audit

There are so many content options to choose from, which is why you need to know which areas prove most effective for your company. It's easier to review your previous marketing efforts if your company is more established. An easy way to do this is to analyse your visual and written content's views. If there's obvious higher-performing content, such as a particular type of blog post or video format, you could try to increase that type of content in future marketing campaigns. You can also review areas that aren't performing as well and may require more attention, such as your social media channels.

Plan content creation

You can choose from several different areas of content creation, although it's best to work on multiple areas to create a well-rounded content marketing strategy. You could create visual content such as videos, audio content such as podcasts and written content such as blog posts. It's helpful to look at industry trends to see what types of content are performing well for other companies.

You should create a content calendar that ensures you are regularly posting and sharing content on your various platforms. A large portion of your content will likely be evergreen, which means that it will be just as relevant in the following months and years as it was when you first published it. However, some of your content will likely focus on timely topics, which will only be relevant for a limited amount of time. you'll need to factor in whether your content is evergreen and can be published at any point versus content that has a shorter lifespan, such as Christmas content.

Publish and review your content

The last step in your content marketing strategy is to organize your content, publish it and review how well it performs. You can track your posts' interactions on social media and review your website traffic to see if your blog content garners a high volume of views. It's also a good idea to compare the performance of content interaction with the number of sales you make in a set time period. Certain types of content or ideas may resonate with your customer base and create a surge in sales.

Yes, you can create content as a sole trader or small business, without the need for a dedicated department within your company. It's easy to set up social media channels, where you can post images and videos centred around your company ethos, products and services. You can also write your own blog posts, newsletters and white papers that can be posted on your company website. However, it's important to remember what you are trying to achieve from your content marketing and who you are trying to target.

Your content marketing efforts need to be both informative and engaging in a way that sets your company apart from competitors. It may take trial and error until you find what works for you and helps you to reach your evolving goals.

Content marketing is a type of strategic marketing approach focused on creating visual and written content that educates, informs and entertains potential customers. A good marketing team will use a combination of physical and online content marketing content in a variety of formats. Content marketing examples include newsletters, videos and subject-relevant articles.

You can use content marketing tools to produce high-quality content that raises brand awareness, engages potential customers and hopefully translates to profitable customer action. Creating content should be as much about educating and entertaining your target audience as it is about encouraging them to buy from your company. You want your audience to walk away thinking they have been provided with valuable information rather than just seeing a sales pitch.

A content marketer should define the target audience, establish the goals of the content strategy and plan content around both of these factors. You can use a combination of paid advertising and organic content on your own website and social media channels as part of your content marketing strategies.