Content marketing provides buyers with timely, relevant information in relatable language. A strong content strategy draws on detailed buyer personas to address buyer pain points and to nurture leads at different stages of the buyer's journey. Creating the right content for your buyer personas helps initiate meaningful connections and establishes you as an authority in your field. Content can take many forms – text, images, videos and infographics among them – and can be distributed through a variety of channels – such as blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, reports, FAQs – allowing you to meet the buyers where they spend their time online.
Valuable informative content speaks to buyers in their own language.
In an astounding feat of bytes and bits, the internet is abuzz with activity, crowded with thousands of terabytes of digital content flowing every second. It is such a spectacle, though invisible to the naked eye. Amongst all this enormous amounts of data are insights that many of us are earnestly seeking on a daily basis. These insights not only improve our lives through better decision making, but also enable us to learn new skills, and ultimately achieve our business goals.
As a matter of fact, by September of 2014, there were more than 1 billion websites humming through the internet. As it stands today, more than 1000 websites are opened every single day and over 60% of marketers post at least one piece of content every single day! And 70% of B2B companies plan to provide more content than they did in 2016. Even then, with all this gigantic amounts of data present online, the amount of quality, unique, interesting and authoritative data, the kind which individuals would want to come back to day after day, is few and far between; it is almost like an endangered species near extinction. Having quality content cannot be overlooked, that kind of content that marketers salivate over which is the primary driver of relevant traffic. That means that content marketers have to work a little bit harder to create outstanding content so that they stand out.
Well, it might be surprising to know that content marketing has been around for a very long time. Because basically, content marketing is all about “storytelling” and if you would remember, human beings have been fond of storytelling right from the time of their existence. Humans tend to be attracted to those who can tell great stories. The Content Marketing Institute’s timeline traces the first occurrence of content marketing to Benjamin Franklin back in the year 1732; the Richard’s Almanack. So while the idea seems modern, the concept and practice have been around for a long time. Customers appreciate quality and free content by engaging with the brand, spreading the brand message and probably buy from that particular brand. There is no arguing that content marketing is critical to the success of an integrated full-funnel marketing strategy. This page has simplified everything you need to know about content marketing.
Content marketing is one of the fastest growing ideas in recent history, and its revolutionary model has being appropriated by industries far and wide.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. Content refers to anything your organization creates and shares to tell its story. It may be the offer in your email campaigns, the link you share on social media channels, the collateral you hand out at events, the case study you showcase on your website or the silver bullet your sales team uses to close a deal.
It is essential for anyone taking on content marketing to understand that content marketing is a long-term strategy that is after building strong relationships with the target audiences. Take for instance Mashable, according to Forbes:
“Pete Cashmore started Mashable in 2005 from his home in Scotland. The site grew with Cashmore's dedication to producing excellent content on a consistent basis. He wrote fortuitously in those early years, and in 2009, Time Magazine called Mashable one of the 25 best blogs in the world.”
With content marketing, the customer learns to trust you so much so that when they eventually want to buy, they will buy your product and prefer it over your competitor’s. High-quality content will ensure users come back over and over again. While one-off advertisement is keen on getting the customer to buy without really caring for them, content marketing proves to your customers that you care. Today more than ever, in the noise that envelops the world-wide-web, people want to feel that you care for them; giving them the much-needed attention is a great tool to enhancing your content marketing strategy. This is very important in content marketing. If a business organization produces helpful and relevant content to its target market that is free, they will engage with it, and share the message with their friends.
Here is a look at some of the features of engaging content, that is, highly quality and relevant:
In today’s digital world, content underpins most-if not all-of a brands’ marketing efforts. Why do businesses create content? Businesses create content because the buying process has changed and content is the way sales & marketing teams now start conversations and engage with prospective buyers. Content marketing is about publishing content in a variety of forms, in the channels where your audience spends time so that you can address their interests and concerns. Content marketing is no longer a nice-to-have – it is a must-have and an essential part of an integrated marketing approach. When done right, content marketing can elevate your brand above those thousands of marketing messages, and will become the fuel for engagement with your customers.
Content marketing has found its way into the common vernacular of many marketers especially B2B marketers in companies of every size across just about every industry. In fact, stats from CMI indicate that 86% of B2B marketers are using content marketing. 55% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago and 70% of B2B marketers plan to increase content marketing spend in the next year. Content creation and content marketing is a significant investment; marketers cannot afford to leave its effectiveness to chance. Content is the fuel for demand generation and a full-funnel marketing approach. It enables all the programs that marketing spends time and money to create with the goal of driving awareness, generating demand, and converting prospects to customers. In other words, it is the key to effective branding, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, display advertising, PR, events, and more.
Before the marketing team flips on the ‘on’ button, the team has got to make sure they have a clear blueprint of their content marketing strategy in place. The first stage is mapping out buyer personas and their buying stages, consider the types of content options you need, determine your brand voice, design the content, publish and promote, then measure the results of the published works, and lastly review and adopt what works.
Whether you are just starting out with content marketing or you have been using the same approach for a while, it is essential to revisit your content strategy plan to make sure that it is up-to-date, innovative, and strong.
Simply put, content strategy is the piece of a business marketing plan and development that refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own – be it written, visual, or downloadable. When you develop a content strategy, there are some key questions to consider:
Here is a look at the various steps for creating a solid content marketing strategy.
Content mapping is the art of understanding your clients and audiences so well so that you can create content that is tailored for each of their purchasing stages in their buyer’s journey. Today’s consumers expect a personalized shopping journey versus a cold, one-size-fits-all experience. Rather than show off a laundry list of potential products, personalized recommendations have become a cornerstone of modern ecommerce. In fact, in a recent poll, 59% of online shoppers note that personalization makes shopping easier. These same consumers also note that they are more likely to return to a store that provides relevant recommendations. Ecommerce giants such as Amazon thrive on their ability to churn out new recommendations based on their shoppers’ buying behavior and purchase history.
This means that the earlier you know the reasons behind each of your prospects’ purchasing behavior, decisions, and history, the easier it becomes to develop a solid buyer persona and personalize content appropriately. You want to reach a level where your entire audience is one person, and you are speaking to their demographics, goals, desires, pains, gains, and successes among others. Depending on your research, you may want to create multiple personas. Only then will you be able to speak to the hearts of the people that matter, who can turn from a visitor to a prospect, to a buyer and finally to one who delights in your products/fans and who will vouch for your brand. Did you know that 55% of clients would pay more to have a better customer experience? Better yet, 86% of B2B buyers would choose to pay more for a great experience. If you want to know just how serious this is, 89% of buyers have decided to stop doing business with a company because of the company’s poor customer experience. You cannot improve customer experience nor do personalized content unless you understand who your customer is. But on the other hand if you guide your clients through their buyer’s journey with kindness, availability, and helpfulness, then they are more likely to end up loving your brand and they would tell their friends about it. Personalized insights are essential, and what experience they are after, is key to developing content for a story that will speak right to the hearts of your readers and clients. This is a top-of-funnel strategy.
Segmenting customers based on where they come from allows enterprises to personalize the buyer’s journey. Digital intelligence platforms are available on the market to help track every step of a visitor’s experience on-site from the landing page to the shopping cart. Rather than attempt to optimize UX based on assumptions and gut reactions, brands should strive to look at actual visitor behavior and data.
Understanding your audience and buyers will, of course, require some initial investments; but which will surely pay off throughout the customer lifecycle. Buyer personas are representations of who your buyers are. The most basic of a buyer persona is their demographics, their goals, their challenges and their pain points, their needs, why they make decisions the way they do, what are their values and principles.
Consider the following:
In summary, a marketer needs to understand the mind of their prospects. The purpose of the persona is to inform the brand what their prospective customer is thinking and doing as they evaluate their options in choosing a solution to a problem that your company among others is offering. It is much more than a one-dimensional profile or database of the prospects that you need to influence your brand. It is more than a map of their buyer journeys. Actionable buyer personas reveal insights concerning your buyer’s attitudes, behaviors, decisions, criteria, and concerns that drive prospects to choose your brand, or select your competitors or even maintain the status quo.
Having the right insights into what prospects think (including insights into verbatim quotes from other candidates who have decided to solve a similar problem recently), businesses will be able to get the knowledge they need to align their brand’s content decisions including content positioning, and messaging. Companies need to research both internally (think CRM programs, etc.) and externally (think social media interactions, among other avenues) to create these personas. Consider doing a 360-degree research on your customers to get a complete view of your target market niche. You may want to conduct market research through interviews, and surveys among others. Forms on your website can help collect information about your leads and customers that would form a basis for collecting data for analysis. Your contact database could uncover trends in your leads and consumers. Do interviews with prospects, customers, third party networks, referrals, and leaders in the industry among others. Be sure to answer the ‘why’ behind your respondent’s answers. For instance, why they prioritize some solutions over others, which pain point is of higher priority, how do they define success, what would they want to see as best results if they choose the solution you are advocating for? Other aspects could be things like what are their success factors, their barriers to choosing your option/product (avoid guesswork and be real), their decision making process, and finally, which aspects of competing for content are critical to your prospects like price.
What steps do buyers take before they make any purchases? Brands can only answer this question effectively once they establish what we call a buyer’s journey. A buyer’s journey maps out a buyer’s decision-making process for their purchase journey. It helps businesses determine what content and information they need at each of those stages. Different types of content will serve different customers at various stages of their buying journey. Answering the ‘why they make decisions the way they do’ as discussed above will help a brand understand the process buyers go through when making a purchase. As a result, this will help in developing a personalized content strategy that speaks directly to their joys and struggles as they make their purchases.
Also known as an awareness stage, buyers are merely becoming aware of your business. They are not necessarily ready to buy yet. They may even not want to be in your email list or subscribe to your newsletter, but because they have come across the content you created, they now know who you are.
So why is this important?
If people do not know you, they would care less to join your audience leave alone buy from you. At this point, content marketing is the best option for any marketer as it will help create awareness. So let us assume we are searching for ‘how to write great blog posts.’ One of the first places people would run to would be Google. Most people would click on the first, second or third results of the first page. This only goes to show the need for considering SEO even as you develop your content. The two working together are powerful tools for creating awareness. You may want to remember that people often prefer to click on organic searches more than the paid ones. It is important that when people click on your option, they should find all the necessary information.
For instance, this search’s first option was Hubspot, and for sure they had taken time to think of everything anyone would need for writing a great blog post: they had free blog posts templates and even went ahead to include the estimated time required to read through the content. The design of the content was simple to access and the layout was appealing to the eye. You do not want to get a high SERP position and end up losing it due to high bounce rates because the audience did not find the necessary content they were looking for. In effect, we are saying that measuring how your content is performing is critical. Pay keen attention to high-level metrics like the number of people that have read your content, your viewership, the engagement rate, bounce rate, number of articles viewed and time on site. Using this, determine which of your content is performing well so that you strengthen it, and also determine which one is not performing well so that you benchmark with performing content and try to bring it up to speed. The sooner you are able to determine your weak content and adjust it to being great content, the quicker it will be to achieving top-of-funnel content strategy that will build your brand.
It is also known as the middle stage. And just as the name suggests, at this stage, prospects have heard about you and are now making considerations on whether to buy from you or other options. This phase does not require awareness content. Your audience at this time requires guidance with insights on what works and what does not work for their choice of a solution. You will need to be keen on how your audience is consuming your content that is to help them consider your product. Consider their form submissions, downloads, number of returning visitors and newsletter sign-ups among others. Consider such types of contents like ebooks and newsletters. Long tail keywords are common at this stage. If you stay with your audience in guiding them through this stage then you can be sure they will stay with you through the last stage. Be consistent and progressive in discharging the insights and content as you seek to build trust by covering all their questions as well as responding to any query.
With the research done, think of what you can do in developing content that is personalized to every stage of their buying process and one that will give your prospects insights into solving their challenges and achieving both their primary and secondary goals. Go on to prepare personalized content for the respective personas and for their specific stages in the cycle. Make use of real quotes from interviews citing their burdens and what they want. It is important to think through whatever objections they may raise as they read through your content, and be the first to identify with them and address them.
For instance, if you are targeting managers and HR and one of their quotes reads:
“It’s been difficult getting employees and users to adopt our new technologies countrywide. And besides, replacing our existing technologies could be costly and I don’t have time for training new employees on the numerous platforms and databases.”
You may want to develop content for your persona that seeks to identify the particular pain points, elaborate on the challenge for a better understanding then offer a solution.
“The industry has for some time now experienced difficulty in getting employees to adopt new technologies due to varied reasons like fear of technology replacing them at their jobs. Understandably, managers roles require a lot of their time so much so that little time is left for effective training of employees. There is no cause for worry; we offer an intuitive HR Database management system that integrates with your existing software and platforms so that you don’t need to be worried about costs of replacing older systems. Additionally, the package includes lifetime training for new employees to get up to speed as well as refresher causes for those already in the system.”
You may want to go as far as including the vernacular nitty-gritty of your prospect’s language so that you resonate well with them.
3. Decision stage or late stage
At this point, they already trust your business, and it is now time to buy. It is time to make or break, purchase or ditch your product. You need to pay attention to the opportunity pipeline, the size of orders on average, the frequency of requests, and take a keen interest in sales. Seek to optimize conversion rates. Focus on even more extended keywords, and if you notice your brand name is included in the keyword then most likely they are considering your brand for purchase.
Consider, for instance, Shopify; they are great at convincing one to buy from them. They have CTAs all over their content to try and push their audience into buying. For instance, they have one in the middle of the content for a webinar and another to encourage visitors to consider starting their 14-day trial immediately. This works perfectly for the decision stage but would be bad for the awareness stage.
It is essential to determine the kind of content that best serves your objectives for the particular personas at their level in their buying cycles. Factors that affect this choice include industry standards, preferences of your audience, and your budget among others. Here are some types of content you can use:
Content mix, on the other hand, ensures more visibility and balance for your content by those who read your content. You may want to make your content more visually appealing by including pictures, infographics and other eye-appealing features among others. Simply put, if you do not tap into your audience’s visual side, then you are missing huge opportunities to connect. Visual language aids decision-making, is more persuasive and leaves a longer impression than simple text. In fact, it is vital to include a visual element in every content asset and campaign. Doing so differentiates your content from all the copy-heavy content out there. Additionally, it makes it much easier for your audience to get a snapshot of your main points and easier for you to draw them into the bigger conversation. To enhance this point, consider the following stats:
Be sure to adhere to your brand guidelines, your industry standards, and your persona’s preferences.
Content balance is just as essential as when you would want to give a balanced diet to your family. Considering a variety of content types for your audience is essential. There are those content pieces that offer definitive guides on your product, those which are simple and tasty and can be consumed often, there are those that are insight packed and great for education, those which are entertaining, there is content that challenges conventions, there are others that spurs innovation, and there are those for strategy. You may want to have a balanced diet of your content for your audience.
Here are some of the ways you can use to enhance your content marketing strategy.
Experts in the industry predict the following when it comes to the future of content marketing:
Here is a look at how various industries can use content marketing as a strategy to supercharge their content marketing activities.
Adobe/Econsultancy ranked content marketing as the biggest digital marketing opportunity for chemical industry brands. The recent past saw an era of digital marketing that employed “push” marketing messages. The online ads, sales campaign, promotional emails which would plug products as well as offer incentives. These kinds of messages have since been overtaken by engagement content marketing.
There is an increased call for cultivating relationships between brands and their consumer base. With this strategy, chemical industry marketers could provide content that benefits the consumer; educational, informative and entertaining. Consumers engage better with this content as the content “pulls them in” to engage with the brand. Close to a third (29%) of marketers confirm that this is the way to go – they will definitely have it among the top three priorities for this year. Marketers are now using infographics, webinars, blog posts, and how-to-guides for their content marketing strategies. Social media marketing and targeted/personalized marketing came in second and third recording 28% and 25% respectively.
The bottom line here is that digital can give chemical companies the power to unlock more than $200 billion of new value by reducing cost to serve, improving pricing, and for fast movers, capturing growth from competitors. A case in point is BASF, which wanted to expand its footprint in China by addressing its attractive small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), which account for 99 percent of the country’s companies and 60% of GDP. This segment is challenging to serve profitably because of the customers’ relatively small scale and diverse needs. Therefore, in 2015, BASF decided to open an e-store on Alibaba and secured access to the large number of Chinese SMEs that already use the Alibaba platform. This also helped to serve its customers with minimum complexity, to keep its selling costs low, and to manage its portfolio easily.
The pharmaceutical industry is known for being traditional, conservative, and burdened by regulations and protocols. These regulations make pharma marketers wary of embracing new approaches, including the growing trend toward content marketing. Despite being the term on everyone’s lips, content marketing has been side-lined by the industry either because they do not fully know how to implement it or because they give up on it after not seeing immediate results.
The clearest focus of the content marketing being done in pharma is in influencing the opinions and behaviours of health care providers. Pharma has been using whitepapers and KOL content forever in this aspect. What has changed is the increased reach possible with digital distribution, and the ability to control content release schedules. On the consumer side, public confidence in pharma is less than inspiring. Telling some trust affirming stories about drug effectiveness, drug development and social responsibility efforts would appear to be shooting at an open goal. In a study by Kantar Media, 47% of patients said reading stories online from fellow patients made them feel better about their own treatment.
In this case, content marketing in the pharma sector is applied by institutions such as Bayer Healthcare. About 6,000 people are affected with haemophilia in the U.K.. A preventative treatment (known as prophylaxis) allows those affected to lead virtually normal lives, with sport and exercise playing a vital role lessening the risk of bleeds. Bayer healthcare hired Oi Media and Langland to create FactorFitness, a website giving haemophiliacs tips on how to get the most out of sports, while educating others on special requirements needed, such as the dedicated ‘Teachers Zone’. By far the most popular area of the site, the ‘Ask an expert’ feature lets people submit questions to resident physio and occupational therapists – providing a value resource. The site has a number of interactive features such as games and user generated photo galleries, while patients on Bayer gets access to a special members area. This is not directly promotional but does advance its brand position and builds trust. They are positioning themselves as a helpful friend rather than a salesperson.
Content marketing is still possible even with a more specialist B2B audience. GE Life Sciences targets scientists and lab workers, and they discovered that nearly 60% of customers were choosing to do their own research before having commercial conversations. Thus, it was vital that they used a content-led approach earlier in the sales cycle, and that they used social listening to find out what their potential customers were talking about.
Marketing in the SaaS industry is quite different from conventional marketing. Marketers in the SaaS industry market products and/or services that have no physical presence. What is more, their solutions constantly change and may only interest a minority niche of the market, while not even making sense to the common citizen. When a SaaS customer needs a solution, they may watch a demo, and if they like it, then buy. There are no procedures and protocols in the process; in fact, the whole of such a process could last less than an hour. 6 months for a SaaS product or service is enough for more than 12 developments, advancements or even revisions.
So what causes this rapid sales cycles? The nature of SaaS products is that it changes and evolves so often. The only way for marketers in the SaaS industry to increase value, profits and revenues is by increasing the velocity of sales processes.
Survey marketers would readily have informative, educative and entertaining content just at the click of the mouse to satisfactorily answer the many queries of the clients. This engages the client with the brand causing a build of trust and relationship that would not only get a customer but also retain them.
Studies have shown and confirmed that engineers prefer recommendations from their peers to reading something on a social network. Here, we will introduce a character, the content engineer, a marketer who creates and optimizes the many forms of content required to engage social customers, based on the data presented by available analysis tools. They listen to the customer, through all the newly available media, before crafting the content (and marketing messages) for each medium. For example:
Web analytics tell them which content is engaging which types of visitors, and from which sources.
Search engine optimization tools present them with the right keywords to include in their content to improve online visibility.
Content engineers have to be good at creating relevant content that speaks to their target audiences. One of the best ways to create relevant content is to use analytics to understand what has worked in the past. Find out what topics sparked interest among your readers, and use these topics as a jumping-off point to brainstorm other useful topics. A great way to do this is to speak directly with your customers and ask them what interests them in the here and now.
As customer relationships evolve from in-person transactions to omnichannel engagement, customer-facing banks and insurance companies have realized it is time to step up their game. Finances are complicated, and banks able to teach customers something or curate the massive amounts of data can win customer loyalty. Liberty mutual, for instance, launched a partnership with HowStuffWorks and Amazon’s Alexa to provide educational content through the voice-activated home gadget. Users can ask Alexa to “Open Liberty Mutual” to access educational kits on topics like how to prepare for a hurricane or questions to ask your car mechanic. Besides, banks and insurance companies can also leverage personalization as a strategy for effective content marketing. This is because knowing your customer’s needs and anticipating their next move is essential. After all, consumers expect their digital banking experiences to be as efficient as the business they do with the ‘Amazons and Zappos’ of the world.
But it is also important to note that the financial health sometimes requires a human touch, and customers cannot have a relationship with an algorithm. Therefore, financial and insurance companies that will be able to win are those that can figure out how to use technology to scale that one-to-one personal relationship with their customers.
Content marketing helps a company become more than just another business to customers – it can become a valuable resource for everything related to their products and services. A good content marketing strategy is about understanding the questions and concerns that are particular to your customer base, and offering quality information and analysis that answers those needs. Content marketing for logistics is all about building credibility and trust early in the sales cycle using helpful information that makes it more likely that prospect will find you.
Some of the channels or means used to apply content marketing in logistics include:
Logistics professionals divide their time across many online information sources. The key is to place your content when and where it is most likely to be seen by your best prospects.
Content marketing is already a widespread practice within the supply chain and logistics industries. If you are not producing content to attract prospects and retain customers, you are missing out. A study shows that this year, 75% of marketers are increasing their investments in content marketing. Why? Because it works. Successful content marketers experience drastically more site growth than their competitors. In fact, content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than their competitors.
As a sophisticated marketer, you are probably aware that the world does not need more content – it needs more relevant content. When you factor in today’s noisy marketplace, crowded with a considerable amount of information, mastery of content marketing is a must if a marketer wants to succeed. Today’s buyers live in an age of information abundance. This means that they are more inundated by marketing messages than ever –more than 2,900 per day, by current estimations. As a result, marketers are challenged by attention scarcity – the more messages your audience is forced to filter out, the harder they become to reach.
Therefore, marketers now have to go the extra mile in creating unique and great stories that are personalized for each persona. They should understand that content marketing is all about understanding even the most minute actions which potential and returning customers take in real-time and this is paramount to fine-tuning any webstore. And as noted earlier, marketers should consider the many moving pieces of the buyer’s journey that need to be optimized. The bottom line is that they have to ensure their story remains consistent when it comes to the message and tone among others. Ensure to customize the content to the different stages of the purchasing journey as well as the unique attributes of the particular buyer personas for more efficient output.