Content Marketing Basics: Everything You Need to Know
Have you created your content strategy yet? Do you know what a content strategy is? Here are all the tips and info you need for truly effective content marketing.
On a fundamental level, content marketing is a form of promotion that utilizes digital content to achieve goals. These objectives center around your target online audiences and getting them to take a desired action, whether that’s to learn more about you, download your ebook, or make a purchase.
As effective content strategy requires a delicate balance of excitement, expertise, quality, and intrigue, however. It’s all about knowing your audience and what makes them tick, creating the right mix of content, and understanding where the heck to share it.
Fear not: Content marketing is what ContentBacon does best! Here is your guide to all the basics involved in creating a winning content strategy.
What is content marketing?
- Content marketing helps brands connect with audiences through engaging online materials.
- Key content strategy elements include defining the brand and audience, and outlining which channels will be used to reach potential customers.
Content marketing focuses on producing the materials online that excite audiences and deliver value. It’s comprised of items on different outlets – social platforms, email, websites, blogs, and more – and may involve copy, images, video, graphics, or all of the above.
Content marketing succeeds when it’s consistent and tailored to a specific audience. This way, you can deliver more personalized information that will attract the right kind of customers. Consumers go online to find pretty much everything now. A solid content strategy thus helps you:
- Build relationships with loyal customers
- Build brand awareness
- Improve SEO and your online presence
- Boost sales and revenue
- Save money since content marketing is cost-effective
Having the right content strategy is crucial in our digital world. You just can’t build up the following you want without great content.
Who needs a content strategy?
Businesses of all sizes and across all industries should have a content strategy. You need to reach customers where they are, and they are online more than ever. People also want to feel connected to the brands they support. They’re looking for personalized content, to feel understood, to have their problems resolved, and to see their questions answered quickly.
Content marketing helps you do all of that by delivering well-researched and valuable information that is relevant to your target audience. No matter which industry you’re in, you need digital content – now!
Elements of an effective strategy
So, what does a solid content strategy look like? It starts with a strategy document that outlines your approach, outlining why your brand exists, the channels you’re using for content, the channels you’re using to share that content, and all your tactics. It explains the how and what behind your strategy.
Included in this document should be:
- Everything about your brand (what you do, brand voice)
- Who your customers are (demographics, interests, online behaviors, pain points)
- Your business goals (what you want to accomplish with content)
- Who your competitors are and why
Think of your content strategy as the plot of your story, with you and your customers as the protagonists and your competitors as the antagonists. Then come the components that will help you put everything into action. These include:
- Channels you’ll use (website, blog, social media channels, webinars, podcasts, email)
- Internal workflows (editorial calendar, writer and editor roles and responsibilities)
- KPIs (metrics like clicks, conversions, sales, and SERP placement that tell how things are going)
- Types of content for each channel (blog posts; social media images, videos, and copy; website copy; white papers; webinar slides; podcast episodes)
- Infographics and other exciting visuals that help you tell your story
Another element to explore is user-generated content. This is content that was created by users and not brands, but sharing it with your channels allows you to interact with your audiences in exciting and engaging ways. It brings opportunities like boosting lead generation and social media interactions and helps you establish thought leadership.
What is a marketing flywheel?
- The sales funnel is the quintessential inbound marketing framework, but the flywheel is gaining traction.
- The flywheel plays on the sales funnel’s strengths while addressing its weaknesses.
- Growth is the center of the flywheel, which constantly generates leads.
- Promoters, or customers who shout your praises, are the force that moves the flywheel.
- Addressing friction lets the flywheel keep turning without obstacles getting in the way.
First, we know it may be tempting to want to stick with the traditional lead generation methods. Sales funnels have been a staple of inbound marketing frameworks since their inception in 2005, and they’ve been a sales concept for well over 100 years! We can’t deny that the it is an incredibly useful concept, but it’s not the only way to move prospects closer to an eventual purchase. Enter: the flywheel.
Engineer James Watts originally designed the industrial flywheel to store rotational energy, which must otherwise be used as it’s produced. When the wheel loses momentum and reaches inertia, the kinetic energy is gone. This is a great metaphor for the process of growing a business by maintaining customer satisfaction, turning happy customers into word-of-mouth marketing machines. You attract prospects, engage with them in authentic ways to convert them to customers, and delight them at every touchpoint to turn them into tireless promoters of your brand.
HubSpot is one example of success with the flywheel model. They shifted their business to it when they realized two fundamental incompatibilities between their growth process and traditional sales funnels:
- HubSpot invests in a customer-fueled growth process that is circular rather than top-down.
- It systematically targets friction in the customer experience to build meaningful experiences.
Sales funnels require you to spend energy to acquire each customer, then sacrifice that expenditure after getting the sale. The model does nothing to keep the momentum after landing a customer because it’s not focused on an ongoing relationship. But what about all the resources you pour into every sale, never to be replenished again?
This is where a flywheel approach makes a huge difference. All your content strategy components work together to get your flywheel turning. Once you’ve got everything in place, you translate that strategy into a content calendar you can use to engage with current and future customers for years to come.
Your team comes together to turn your flywheel and keep your strategy working. One group generates customer-focused content to boost retention, while another thinks through content to support new customers and improve sales. Yet another helps with team cohesion and recruitment. This keeps everyone on the same page and moving toward the same goal: happy customers who sing your praises.
The flywheel vs. sales funnel
Getting a customer is the beginning of the flywheel, definitely not a stopping point. The framework is structured around growth as the primary force that drives a three-stage cycle: attract, engage, and delight.
- Attract helps strangers become prospects who want to know what you can do for them.
- Engage helps prospects find the information they need to make buying decisions.
- Delight is where you go above and beyond to make customers so delighted they become a promoters, thereby inviting a steady stream of potential prospects to keep the flywheel turning.
A sales funnel moves your prospect through the stages awareness, interest, decision, and action. that customer is gone from the funnel after action, though – and so is the energy you spent to acquire them. There’s no room for a promoter or analogous role in this framework. It moves in just one direction and stops following the customer after they convert.
That’s the problem with sales funnels. While the model still has its applications, there are a few gaps that the flywheel steps in to fill. For instance:
- The sales funnel doesn’t address the potential to turn customers into promoters of your brand.
- The journey ends at the bottom of the funnel with no plan for retaining hard-earned customers.
- The customer is a goal to be attained instead of a person with needs.
How the flywheel harnesses promoter power
Growth is the axle that the flywheel turns around, and promoters are the driving force that keeps it moving. The first thing you’ll notice about a flywheel is that it’s circular, not linear like most sales frameworks. It keeps moving instead of coming to a stop when the prospect becomes a customer. Delighted customers become promoters, and promoters bring in fresh potential prospects.
A “promoter” is a thrilled customer who wants to tell the world how great their experience was, and there is no more powerful force on earth than a loyal customer’s word-of-mouth. Recent research has found that 69% of consumers seek out opinions before making a buying decision. Promoters are vocal about their experiences, and hopefully loud enough for those searchers to find their opinions on social media and review sites first.
How the flywheel increases retention
Retaining customers is critically important. This is because:
- 65% of the average company’s business comes from existing customers.
- It costs 500% more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
- It also costs 16 times more to bring that new one up to the existing one’s level.
Obviously, to promote a customer, you have to retain them. Every single time a prospect becomes a customer, the focus becomes delighting them with the hopes of upgrading them to a promoter. And delighting the customer makes them want to stick around. You can delight customers by anticipating their needs and overdelivering the experience they want. Finding points of friction and sanding them down is an indirect way to delight and retain as well, since every customer wants a seamless experience.
How the flywheel respects the customer
The flywheel reveres the customer, as it should be. The customer is the lifeblood of your company, the only path to business success, and the driving force behind the flywheel, after all. Who deserves more respect than them?
While the sales funnel writes the customer off once they’re acquired, the flywheel treats each like the person that they are. Instead of invoking awareness, interest, and decision, the flywheel attracts, engages, and delights prospects and customers. The language itself is telling, since it focuses entirely on the customer experience. Who doesn’t want to be delighted or engaged?
Plus, the customer has the promoter’s role to ascend to once you’ve sufficiently delighted them. That means every customer has an active role in growing your company.
Taking your content strategy a step further
So, now you know why content marketing is important and the basics of your content strategy. But why do all the heavy lifting yourself? At ContentBacon, we’ll help you nail your content strategy with a well-defined audience and brand voice. We make sure your content delivers the results you want on each channel that’s important for your business.
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