For businesses that have previously relied on traditional forms of marketing such as print or telemarketing, the perceived complexity of content marketing strategy can be intimidating.
Nonetheless, in a world that is increasingly digital online marketing can significantly increase your reach and the presence your business has within your sector.
Among the benefits of content marketing, businesses experience:
- higher rankings on search engines,
- increased referral traffic,
- enhanced customer loyalty,
- lower overall marketing costs,
- versatility, and
Content lives forever
High quality content adds significant long-term value to your brand.
Once you publish content online it can remain live for as long as you wish it to. Your website is your own domain so content can be edited and updated over time to keep it ‘evergreen’, or deleted once you feel it has served its purpose.
BuzzSumo defines evergreen content as:
“Content that retains its relevance and value over time, regardless of trends, industry changes, and the ebbs and flows of the market.”
This means that content you put on your site, if you intend to keep it there long-term, should be updated for relevance, or written on subjects that are unlikely to change over time.
As an example, a website like an online course platform could publish content such as case studies, how-to guides for using their courses and learning tips for evergreen content – these subjects are unlikely to change in the near future and are simple to update.
In contrast, articles covering timely topics, news or events related to individual courses are only relevant in the moment and would not be considered evergreen.
Content that performs well with your audience, generating consistently high engagement over time, is a valuable asset to your marketing strategy.
An effective content marketing strategy means carefully constructing strong evergreen content that can be recycled, repurposed and renewed to continue driving web traffic over long periods of time.
In a multi-touch world, you get a chance to build a relationship with a client
The main aim of any marketing strategy is to position your business as a respected authority in your field and compel customers to engage in business with you.
The marketing ‘rule of seven’ stipulates that the average customer needs seven individual interactions (or ‘marketing touches’) with your company before they make a purchase from you.
More Than Words note – this blog from B2B Marketing offers a comprehensive look at the rule of seven and why it is applicable to B2C and B2B businesses alike.
Keeping prospects engaged for the length of time necessary for you to make seven marketing touches means using your content marketing strategy to map out how and where these interactions will occur and how they will keep customers interested.
The first step is visibility, also known as brand awareness.
As you create and release quality content, the number of backlinks on your website increase.
The more backlinks on and to your site, the higher your search rankings, meaning that more people will find you online.
Among the benefits of the ‘rule of seven’ is that multiple marketing touches mean multiple opportunities for businesses to build a relationship with prospects.
If you use content to not only inform prospects about your business, products and services, but also to educate and entertain, potential customers build up a favourable impression of your business. If they are not able to buy from you for this purchase, this impression could stay with them and lead to them returning to your website in the future.
So, how do you decide what content to create, to appeal to your target audience?
The first step is to define your target audience in as specific a way as possible, creating what is known as a ‘buyer persona’.
A buyer persona is an in-depth description of a person that represents your target audience and includes all of the characteristics of the type of customer that would be most valuable to your business.
- research your existing customer base and the customer base of your competitors to help you to choose the ideal demographics for your buyer persona,
- decide what their interests and common behaviours would be – you can even give them a name, and
- determine what your target buyer’s overall goals and issues are, and what pain points they may come up against when making purchases.
When you have a well-rounded ‘ideal customer’ you should find it much easier to establish how they would prefer to be interacted with, which content would most appeal to them and what type of personality they are looking for from the companies that engage with them.
More Than Words note – the Alexa Blog features some excellent examples of buyer personas to help you to get started.
Your buyer persona is a useful entry point for new content marketers but also provides a valuable aid for developing new content marketing ideas in the future. You can adapt or add to it over time as you get to know your customers better.
Content marketing not only works better with multiple touches, but also across multiple channels.
Businesses should include email, websites, social media and online communities into their content marketing strategy, to ensure that prospects are being engaged frequently but not overwhelmingly in a single place.
More Than Words note – to find out more about building your brand awareness with multichannel content marketing, we love Kuno Creative’s comprehensive blog.
An effective multi-channel strategy will take into account what your readers expect of you and your online presence.
Not all social platforms are right for all types of businesses and content.
You want to choose a platform where your readers will be the most engaged with the types of content you are putting out.
For example, Instagram is good for aesthetically pleasing images, Facebook works well for surveys and engagement and you can find valuable business infographics on LinkedIn.
Consumers no longer stick to one channel for their understanding of what you do, but they do want to see consistency across all of your content, both online and offline.
Furthermore, a website that features reviews, case studies and testimonials, as well as transparent problem-solving for customers who may have had a negative experience – is much more likely to be considered trustworthy, well-established and reliable.
Audiences are much more willing to engage with businesses that are open, honest and have a thorough resources, information and positive client engagement.
As this grows, so does the good reputation of your company.
Repeated exposure brings brand recognition and awareness
Repetition is often the key to a successful campaign.
While it is important to create content that is specific to your target audience, content must be carefully scheduled in order to reach prospects at the right time and stage of their buying journey.
The key to brand awareness is maintaining consistent messaging with your prospects. In an oversaturated marketplace, it is otherwise easy for a company to slip into the back of a customer’s mind.
Repeated exposure works to create subconscious trust in a client. This is known as the mere exposure effect.
From the APA Dictionary of Psychology, the mere exposure effect is:
“the finding that individuals show an increased preference (or liking) for a stimulus as a consequence of repeated exposure to that stimulus.
“This effect is most likely to occur when there is no preexisting negative attitude toward the stimulus object, and it tends to be strongest when the person is not consciously aware of the stimulus presentations.”
One of the cognitive biases of the human brain, the mere exposure effect is the universal preference human beings have for things that are familiar to them, as long as their initial reaction is either positive or neutral.
In marketing, small but regular exposures to your business, products or services can help people to register your company as familiar, making them more likely to choose you for future purchases.
More Than Words note – you can read the science behind the mere exposure effect and how it works in content marketing here.
Email newsletters are one way for businesses to take advantage of the mere exposure effect and build trust with prospects and customers.
Regular, repeated contact via email not only reminds potential customers of your business but can also be used to alleviate potential pain points – in some cases before they even arise.
As an example, if you are a supplier to schools, knowing their regular seasonal patterns can help you to target clients in the run up to particular key events.
You could advertise construction services for making building improvements as the summer term ends or market a new range of computer or stationary supplies before the autumn term begins.
The effectiveness of these marketing campaigns will be enhanced if you have been communicating with the school throughout the year as they will be more familiar with your company than they may be with your competitors.
Building business credibility in a digital world
Content marketing establishes credibility, reputation, and authority in a fast-paced, digital landscape where business relationships are formed more quickly.
Content marketing helps you to demonstrate these key elements to prospects by:
- offering answers to questions posed by your prospects.
The majority of internet searches are questions. You can use content to answer the question and provide a solution (your product or service) while demonstrating expertise and positioning yourself as a valuable source of information.
- presenting yourself as an authority figure.
People trust and want to build relationships with businesses that they perceive to have higher authority, thanks to their knowledge or access to things the customer needs. Content allows you to show that you know what needs your prospects have, how they want these needs met and how your solution is best placed to do so.
- engaging with customers.
People feel more comfortable with businesses that present a human side, so content that showcases your customers and community can go a long way to increasing customer trust.
Maintaining a personal connection with customers requires consistency, so you should have a strong onboarding strategy designed to follow up with customers post-purchase.
Surveys and testimonials allow you to build your community while simultaneously working out what is currently working in your strategy – and what isn’t.
Create greater trust and loyalty among existing customers and potential customers
Trust in online content marketing is key for making sales, as well as for customer retention and loyalty.
According to research from FreshDesk, 83% of customers say that they would recommend a brand they trusted to friends or family.
So how can businesses increase the trust built between themselves and their prospects and customers?
In one of her TED Talks, economist, author, and online trust expert Rachel Botsman explains that internet users are expected to place a significant level of trust (or ‘trust leaps’) when dealing with businesses in the digital marketplace.
In order for them to do that, they need to be reassured in three specific ways – what she refers to as a ‘Trust Stack’:
- Trust in an idea – evidence of social proof – that the business has a regular user base and a legitimate purpose,
- Trust in the platform – reassurance that the information provided on the marketplace is true, that the business is accountable and there are guarantees in place to protect the user, and
- Trust in the other user – verification that the products or services advertised correspond accurately with what is being sold.
More Than Words note – you can watch Rachel Botsman’s full Ted Talk here.
Good content marketing provides users with:
- advice, and
Marketing materials that focus on the value to the customer rather than simply pushing the benefits of a specific product or service tend to be better received by audiences and help them to see your business as trustworthy and useful.
Case study – Bleach London’s Hair Party
In an attempt to reach customers who were unable to attend hair salons during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bleach London’s virtual solution provided internet users with a digital salon – the Bleach Hair Party.
This platform allowed customers to attend live conversations with salon stylists and celebrity speakers, who gave advice and demonstrations to help consumers to buy and apply their hair colour at home.
Post-pandemic, Bleach London continues to provide informative content, including step-by-step guides, on their website and social media channels, creating valuable and important content that builds trust and increases the value of the business in the eyes of their customers.
Building trust means full transparency in your business operations and content marketing.
According to research from Cohn & Wolfe, just a quarter of consumers believe that businesses are “open and honest”, yet 86% say that authenticity is a key factor for them in making purchase decisions.
Speaking to Managing Editor, Andrea Hickerson, director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, says:
“Transparency is necessary for trust because we’re not good news consumers. We can’t process all of the information. We’re relying on the writer or content producer to help us.
“The audience is looking for authenticity [and] negative examples come from a disconnect between the content producer and the audience.”
Today’s media literate audiences are aware of the tricks and gimmicks that were successful in the past and are wary of businesses that use them.
Authentic content is honest and useful and has personality that is unique to the business and their customers.
When writing authentic content you should:
- identify and use your ‘brand voice’,
- be consistent,
- study trends and news in your niche to stay relevant to your audience, and
- be respectful to your audience in every interaction and throughout your content.
More Than Words note – a ‘brand voice’ is a distinct personality cultivated through language, branding and even customer service interactions. We like Sprout Social’s actionable guide for identifying an appropriate brand voice for your company.
Your employees are invaluable when it comes to creating authentic content as they already have the requisite skills and knowledge you want to share.
Give them the tools and support necessary to create content and they will be able to provide your business with a steady supply of authoritative, valuable and educational content.
User-generated content is another reliable source of authentic content. It works as a form of testimonial and demonstrates transparency to prospects new to your business.
Traffic generation to your website
One of the main aims of content marketing is to attract qualified leads.
Content must be easy to find and access before it can be useful, authentic and entertaining so search engine optimisation is a key part of content marketing strategy.
Search engine optimisation (or SEO) refers to the key words and phrases that your audience will type into a search engine in order to find your content.
You need to use these throughout your content to maximise the opportunities for prospects to find your business, products or services when they are looking for anything related to what you do.
An effective SEO strategy will have your business appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) for any query or problem asked by your target audience, with content that provides some value in order to persuade prospects to click through to your site.
The more relevant your content is to the questions being asked online, the higher your site will appear on SERPs.
This is why it is important to research what keywords are currently trending and include them in your content.
In doing so, you are building authority with search platforms as a trusted and valuable source of information.
More Than Words note – new to SEO? Moz’s exhaustive guide is essential reading.
Allow existing customers and potential customers to share your content and comment on it
The aim of a social media campaign is to build a community around your business – an engaged audience of followers that is responsive to what you do and why you do it.
In the long-term, this audience takes an active role in advertising your business by sharing your messaging with their own networks, but initially all you need to do is compel your target audience to take an interest in your company values, products and services.
The top eight platforms for sharing marketing content, ranked in order of active monthly users are:
- Facebook – 2.20 billion active monthly users –general engagement, brand communication, surveys, customer service, advertisement and company information,
- YouTube – 1 billion monthly active users – video demonstrations, how-to tutorials, livestreaming, highlighting exceptional company culture, product design,
- TikTok – 800 million active monthly users – user-generated content, engaging with younger audiences, influencer partnerships, viral content,
- LinkedIn – 562 million active monthly users – B2B opportunities, staff expansion and development, showcasing the team working for you,
- Instagram – over 400 million active monthly users – sharing photos, videos, image content, great for building brand identity, utilising trend influencers,
- Twitter – 320 million active monthly users – real-life updates, launches, building industry authority,
- Snapchat – 187 million active monthly users – real-time video, live streaming, promoting events, and
- Pinterest – 175 million active monthly users – sharing products, DIY ideas, crafting tutorials, aesthetics.
Social media is important for marketing because it offers a genuine form of social proof, demonstrating that your business has an active community and that you are engaged with your customers.
Because social media also allows your community to share their honest thoughts about your business, prospects may feel more at ease with your company because they can see others’ experiences.
With social media content, it is important that you stick to certain themes and types of posts, so that your output is consistent and your profiles are worth following to your specific target audience.
The types of posts that you produce will depend on your industry, products or services but some ideas to consider include:
In the first quarter of 2020, TikTok set the record for the most downloads in a single quarter for a social app – 315 million installs.
In response, Instagram rolled out Reels to join the platform’s existing posts, Stories, Live and IGTV.
The high engagement rates across these platforms indicate that short-form videos are a key trend for marketers – over the longer YouTube videos that they have relied on in the past.
Brandon Sanders, a digital marketer for HubSpot Academy, agrees that shorter videos are growing in popularity, saying:
“With the rise of platforms like TikTok, Reels, and Vine, short form video is actually getting shorter and lending itself more to 60-second to two-minute videos.
“The growth of social media is causing the human attention span to become shorter and shorter. So, leveraging the power of short-form content will give you a leg up on your competition and help engage your audience.”
Social media platforms are some of the most effective online spaces for businesses to build relationships and trust with prospects and customers.
Posts and interactions on social platforms should feel like two-way, personal conversations between your business and your target audience.
Talking to Forbes, Korena Keys, CEO of KeyMedia Solutions, suggests a more casual tone in social media interactions:
“Avoid using industry slang, formal sentences and third-party language. Social media is all about creating dialogue and building relationships.
“Create posts that are conversational in nature and use “you” and “me” phrases. Act like you are talking with your neighbor and post content in a way the creates that environment. Be human.”
Hosting live conversations, presentations and Q&As with your team can provide opportunities for you to promote your business, products and services as well as making your audience feel that they are part of an exclusive community.
Testimonials and customer case studies are another way to show the inner workings of your business, only from the perspective of your existing customers.
Customer stories are a reliable way of increasing trust and showing that you care about your audience as individuals.
‘Stories’ were first introduced by Snapchat in 2012, when it evolved from a standard messaging platform to a storytelling one.
Instagram rolled out their own ‘stories’ content in 2016, quickly followed by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and even YouTube.
The popularity of stories lies in the temporary nature of the content. Stories are videos or images shared in the moment by users, that are played in full-screen and are only available for 24-hours. In some cases they can only be viewed once.
This creates an immersive experience for the viewer, offering a brief glimpse into a moment that feels more immediate and exclusive than other social content.
Because stories are removed after 24 hours, content shared in this way takes advantage of users’ fear of missing out (FOMO), especially if your business is known to share exclusive promotions, news and information in this way.
More Than Words note – find out 10 effective FOMO marketing techniques and how they help to increase online results in this blog from Crazy Egg.
Position yourself and your company as a sector leader
Being recognised as an authoritative voice in your niche or sector helps to generate leads and increase conversions on your website.
‘Brand authority’ refers to where a company ranks in their niche based on the trust that their customers have in them.
It is earned, meaning that the higher your brand authority the more your prospects will trust you, and the more credible your business will appear.
In turn, this ensures that Google’s algorithm recognises your authority, making it easier to rank highly in SERPs.
Content marketing is one of the ways in which businesses build brand authority, as it provides opportunities for you to demonstrate your expertise and provide value to your customers.
One of the best ways to demonstrate authority in your sector is to be a reliable source of new information or insight and this is easily achieved through original research.
Original research in the form of studies and surveys provides valuable new data for your industry that will appeal to your readers, but also the media.
It makes it more likely that your website will be referenced in other high-authority content and can earn you high-quality backlinks.
To carry out valuable research you should look at what has been done recently in your field, what the newest discoveries were and what is still to be understood.
Customer questions are a useful source of inspiration for research studies and answering these with your content is another beneficial way to position yourself as an authority.
As mentioned earlier in this piece, people make online searches in order to find a business, product or service that will provide them with information that they need or offer a solution to their problem.
Your content marketing must include the answers that users are looking for in order to demonstrate why they should trust you and see you as an expert in your field.
Google plays a significant role in this tactic as users trust Google implicitly, assuming that any highly-ranking page on search results has been chosen by the algorithm for good reason.
You can find out what your target audience is interested in, and which questions you need to be answering, by performing keyword research and looking at the content of your competitors.
Your customer service reps may also be able to help you to identify any questions specific to your business or niche.
Differentiating your content from that of your competitors is essential.
Find a new angle to explore and expand on what your target audience data tells you about your prospective customer base.
Quality, personality and accuracy is at the heart of an authoritative, effective content marketing campaign and the strategies listed above make it simple to create this type of content.
Drive conversions and sales – ideally suited for moving clients from awareness to discovery to decision
Moving a customer from awareness to discovery and then decision is a delicate process.
The sales funnel is a term used to address the varying stages a customer will go through between becoming aware of your business and making a purchase from you.
We can measure these cycles with key metrics to find out which stages are working well and which stages require adjustment.
We have read about the importance of creating target specific content and, using online analytics, it is possible to collect key facts on content used throughout your chosen platforms.
One of the main advantages of an online e-commerce marketing strategy is that it is easy to see at a glance the levels of interaction users are having with your content – allowing you to see what is resonating with your customers.
When a lead advances to the purchase stage you will have a complete impression of what works for that particular customer, enabling you to duplicate this winning formula if it suits your business and strategy.
Email marketing and telemarketing perform most effectively when you measure the return on investment not just of the initial sale but of all future subsequent sales to the same customers.
Content marketing allows your company and its products and services to be seen by a much wider (yet equally relevant) audience than your existing customer base.
In fact, using the content marketing tactics outlined in this piece, the cost per lead and cost per customer acquisition can be significantly lower than for your traditional outbound direct marketing campaigns.
The sustained, regular posting of blogs and articles will, over time, deliver consistently high traffic to your website and significantly increase lead generation.
Furthermore, as we covered earlier in this article, you can use content marketing away from the internet, including in your current outbound marketing efforts, to achieve dependable returns.
Working with our copywriters and content marketers
More Than Words offers clients a full range of content marketing and distribution services created to meet your online and offline revenue and business growth targets.
Please get in touch with us on 0330 010 8300 or click here to email our inbound marketing team.