This is a very complex question. Believe it or not. To answer what is content marketing, I’ll start with a simple answer:
Content marketing is the use of value adding content to entice potential customers, and even current customers, to perform an action that benefits your business. tweet
In theory this is also the definition of inbound marketing, however to perform inbound marketing you need content. So with that reasoning content marketing and inbound marketing are the same thing. Now let’s build on the above definition by understanding the phases and tactical approaches that make up the life-cycle of a content marketing campaign.
What is content marketing: The life-cycle
Content marketing can be broken into phases in which the objectives of your content marketing change in order to achieve different outcomes. Content marketing spans across your entire marketing spectrum. So lets look at each phase and what objectives you should be aiming to achieve.
Building traffic (cold leads)
In the build traffic phase, we’re working to generate more visitors to your website, or your social media communities. This is done by targeting potential customers through various tactics, both online and offline, and getting them to your website to find out more about your product or service. A true cold lead.
Building traffic can be done through many different online and offline tactics. From digital advertising to handing out cards at a trade show. We’ll get more tactical in future posts and podcast sessions.
Conversions (warm leads)
Now that we have traffic on our website, we need to turn those visitors, or cold leads, into warm leads through conversions. A conversion can take on many forms, but the idea is that we get a piece of information from the visitor that allows us to reach out and deliver more value (most likely more content).
The type of information that can be gathered and thought of as a conversion, includes email addresses, phone numbers, or the visitor giving you a call. It’s also possible that a conversion for your business is a sale. If you have an online store for example. However, for businesses who don’t operate on sales through their website a conversion still needs to be turned into a paying customer. So let’s look into turning website conversions into sales.
Leads into customer (sales)
If you are not an online store, you need to take an extra step to turn your website conversions into sales. For example, if you provide a coaching service to youth baseball players but don’t accept payment online, you would need to reach out and schedule a lesson and take payment at the lesson. So turning your conversion, your website lead, into a customer takes on a whole different process than an online store would use.
This is actually the phase where the crossover between marketing and sales funnels most likely happens. But as a one person business you get to wear both hats anyway. If you do have a marketing and sales team it is important to know who is responsible for which piece of the content marketing and delivery of content. Having a seamless process in this phase has the ability to make or break your business. So spend some time on it when business planning.
Customer support and satisfaction
By now you have a paying customer. YAY! But it’s not over yet. At least not if you want to optimize your marketing and generate more sales for less effort.
Now your customer is primed for delivering on the promises you’ve made earlier and has more time for you and your product. Don’t miss this opportunity!
This is when you provide amazing support for their purchase and start developing your product advocates. Helping customers get more value out of their purchase will ensue that they know how to use it and increase the chances that they will help you generate more customers by telling their friends. Doing this plays a huge role in getting your customers ready for the next phase.
Nurturing customers (up-sells)
We all know current customers are much easier to sell to than potential customers. There’s no disputing that (in 99% of instances).
It’s never been more true then in a content marketing campaign. Why? Well the reason is that you can provide customer support and build rapport with your customer by helping them out, and also delivering cross-sell or up-sell content at the same time. So to your customer your helping them out. If you do it right they won’t even know they’re being up sold.
Amazon is the most amazing example of up selling. Next time you buy something on Amazon try and catch the number of up-sell and cross sells they deliver. It’s ridiculous, but it works.
What is content marketing: The end of the process
Once your content marketing has worked as expected and you’ve made some sales, you’re job is far from over.
Your current customers should be cycled through a support and up-sell mail sequence. If you have a new product or service to sell to current clients set them up in a new sequence or provide a lead magnet in a regular email that allows them to self start that new sequence. I’ll get into email sequence strategy in the podcast but that’s a lesson for another day.
What’s really important at this point of the content marketing process, is that you have a process in place for nurturing your current customers. Otherwise you’re just letting them go out the end of the funnel for good.
What is content marketing: Types of Content
So we’ve discussed the process of content marketing, let’s talk about what types of content can be used. Content comes in all shapes and sizes, and you can use virtually any type of content in any phase of your campaign. However, some do perform better than others at certain points. Here’s a list of different types of content you can use in a content marketing campaign:
- blog posts/article – written content (like this blog post)
- white papers or research papers – data driven content
- eBooks & how to guides (essentially training documents)
- sales materials – product service details (print media like a tri-fold, and downloadable pdf docs)
- videos – lifestyle advertising footage, how to guides, product demos, and much more
- audio – podcasts, music, radio commercials
- apps – interactive applications to entice action (like build my car on car manufacturer sites)
Essentially anything that can be distributed online and offline could be considered a form of content and used in your campaigns.
What is content marketing: Channels of distribution
With the phases outlined and the types of content outlined, how do you get your content in the hands of those potential customers? Answer, through a number of channels both online and offline.
Offline distribution channels would be things like, trade shows, talking engagements, demo days, presentations at conference, and where you can deliver your content to someone.
Online channels should all lead to the center of your digital marketing universe, your website. Except in some very unique cases, like you run a Facebook community as your business. Which is a little dangerous but it can be done. You should check out a podcast by my buddy Troy Meier where he address digital sharecropping and some of the horror stories of setting up shop in someone else’s platform. Anyway, your website is where you have the most control over your messaging and how your content is delivered. So it only makes sense to send your potential customers there.
Another online channel for distributing content is social media of course. Then there’s online advertising, driving paid traffic with advertisements (textual in Search engine marketing, web banners in display network advertising, and video in pre-roll style advertising). Don’t forget email as a distribution channel for your content. I say that as it’s still the best channel for digital marketing online for many reasons.
What is Content Marketing?
I hope this post answers the question what is content marketing for you. Now that you’ve made it this far, you’re pretty much an expert to me. So you’re ready for the long answer.
Content Marketing is the development and distribution of value adding content in a format that best delivers the value proposition of your product or service to a customer whilst understanding the current phase of their journey in relation to your product and/or service to entice the next desired action. And breath.
So there you go. Thanks for reading, if you have any questions leave them below and I hope that helped you figure what content marketing is all about. Stay tuned for more posts and podcast sessions where I dig into the minutia of content marketing and the different tactical approaches you can take in different phases to achieve your content marketing strategy goals and objectives.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Digital Marketing Setup Checklist
Enter your name and email to get instant access to the Digital marketing setup checklist. This step by step guide to setting up your online presence will ensure you're ready to start marketing online!