Hand writing Content Marketing with black marker on transparent white board.

Content marketing, it’s the soup du jour in marketing. Ask almost anyone in marketing and they’re likely to recommend that you create content marketing pieces. But do you really know what content marketing is, or more importantly, how to produce it so that it gets you the desired results?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “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.”

The strategic approach behind content marketing is that you are not pitching your products or services. Instead you are providing information that makes your buyers more intelligent. In essence, you are producing content with the believe that if you provide meaningful, insightful information to your customers, they will reward you with purchasing your product or service.

So, if that is the case, how do you go about creating content marketing that will hopefully convert into sales? Let’s take a look at some key considerations that you need to incorporate in order for your content marketing to be effective.

Target Audience
Who are your current customers? Who are your prospect customers? How do they function in their roles? What role do they play in the purchasing process? How do they consume data? Where do they go for research? Get a solid understanding of your audience by creating buyer personas. Remember, the key to content marketing is to help your customers help themselves and you can only do that if you know your audience.

Sales Cycle
Your content should be mapped to the phases of the sales cycles (awareness, interest, demand and purchase), meeting the needs of your prospects at each stage, to help them move to the next stage in the sales funnel.

Let’s take a brief look at these stages and the types of content you should be producing during each:

In this phase, the prospect may have very limited exposure to the product/service category and your brand. They are trying to get a feel for the landscape. Content in this phase should be informational and high level focusing on the category or service and less about your product. Think of this as the 30,000 ft. overview of the category and brand.

Some content examples in this phase include eBooks, infographics, blog posts, educational webinars, informational videos and white papers.

In this phase, the prospect has identified a need and is researching various solutions. This is the phase where lead generation begins. Content in this phase is still informational but also begins to build brand recognition for your product.

Content examples are similar to the Awareness stage with more detail, research papers and analyst reports.

This is the phase where prospects are evaluating products more closely. Content needs to be detailed and focused on how it meets the prospects current business pain points.

Content examples include product sheets, case studies, testimonials, product webinar and presentations.

In this phase, the prospect is in ready to buy mode and your content should make it easier to select your product over the competitor’s.

Content examples include implementation guides, free trials and live demonstrations.

Content Creation
Now that you have an understanding of the target audience and the buying phase that they are in, you can begin developing the appropriate content marketing pieces. Keep in mind that you will need to develop multiple types of content based on the persona and the stage. You need to have an understanding of which personas are involved in which phase and map the content being developed to each. For example, the technical buyer in the interest phase will require more information than the executive in the same phase; or the end-user will require informational on how easy your solution is to use in the purchase phase, while the technical buyer is more interested in how the solution will be implemented.

One key thing to consider is your content length. Most people in the digital age want short, quick nuggets of information. However, a recent study found that longer content ranks higher in Google search results. Additionally, longer content is shared more on social networks and will generate more inbound links (great for SEO).

With videos, I recommend creating multiple shorter videos, about 45-90 seconds in length, focused on a single topic/question rather than one long video that is 5-10 minutes long addressing all topics. This will allow you to focus the topic of each video on the persona and stage.

Content Promotion
Now that you have created the content, you have to promote it. Remember, content marketing is two parts: content AND marketing!

Your promotion tactics will vary based on your persona. Refer back to how one of the person identifier questions was how do they consume information and where do they turn for research? Some avenues to promote your content include: Google AdWords, content aggregating sites, social media and email marketing.

The last and one of the most important steps in content marketing is the analysis phase. Your work is not complete until you have a thorough understanding of how your content marketing is working.

You need to explore the following questions in this phase:

  • How many views/shares is the content generating?
  • What type of content is viewed more?
  • What type of content is shared more?
  • How are prospects searching for content? What keywords are more effective?
  • How many leads did the content generate?
  • How successful was the content in generating the right type of lead?
  • What was the conversion rate from lead to customer based off of the content?

Content marketing can and should be an effective tool in your arsenal. If you follow the steps highlighted above, you should be able to show a direct return on marketing investment, increase brand awareness, generate leads, convert leads to customers and create cross-sell/up-sell opportunities.