Is Content Marketing the Key to Your Business Growth?

In just a few short decades, the internet has exploded into an expanding universe of content – and content marketing.

Run a web search and prepare to spiral into a black hole of possibly interesting but often false and distracting material that risks sending you spinning across a galaxy of irrelevance.

Information consumers — all of us — in this dense and fast-moving medium are challenged to know which sources to believe, especially when the term “fake news” is tossed around like confetti by our most powerful leaders.

“What’s gone from the internet isn’t ‘truth’, but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be,” writes Max Read in New York Magazine.

It may sound counterintuitive – using more content to battle the content overload we are now experiencing – but high-value content marketing is critical for any business looking to separate itself from its competitors and effectively engage their target consumers.

In fact, a robust content strategy has fast become a key element of many business sales processes.

Standing out from the crowd

Amid this tide of dishonesty, it’s imperative for your business to open up an authentic channel of communication rich with real and valuable content.

But if it’s never been more important for businesses to generate quality content to stay competitive, how do you deliver high-quality, targeted information to current and future clients without getting lost yourself in the endless forests of information?

And more importantly, why do so many of us find it so hard to produce effective content marketing?

According to Doug Kessler, creative director at Velocity Partners, the answer to succeed with inbound marketing is to build a great content brand:

  1. Aim high and strike your target.
  2. Become known for producing top-notch content.
  3. Deliver on your promises.

Hit these three goals and you’ll attract quality producers who can power your upward spiral.

By providing reliable, engaging branded content and thought leadership that your customers opt in to read and share, you build trust – far more effectively than by throwing advertising at them – and can set your business apart from the competition, improve your brand recognition and reputation while highlighting your expertise in your industry.

According to DemandGen, 95% of B2B buyers consider content to be a trustworthy means of evaluating a company and its offerings, while Hubspot finds that prospective customers consume at least five pieces of content before buying – both points offering clear indications of content’s importance.

Anna Rosenman, an executive at customer relationship management software leader Salesforce – which just launched a content management system within its platform to enable businesses to harness customer data – says that without content, your commerce site is a mere webpage facilitating transactions.

Your own content also can serve as a forum to develop your brand’s voice, a place where you can present a more personal face of your business.

Marketing expert Michael Brenner notes that forcing the brand name on the customer’s attention can be counter-productive, so try to mention it as little as possible. This restraint could also help you to decide whether to host your content on your main branded website, or on a separate domain.

With trust and a relationship established, your content can educate your audience with the information they need to take the next steps in the conversion process, whether making an actual purchase, getting in touch for more information or engaging with you online.

The key is to provide highly readable content that enriches the reader with new insights and ideas. The Content Marketing Institute says that after reading recommendations on a blog, 61% of American online consumers made a purchase.

Case studies

Brenner offers examples.

A personal favorite: A few years ago, consulting company Capgemini suffered from poor brand awareness and was falling behind the competition. Vetoing a proposal to buy display advertising in golfing magazines — and even to sponsor a professional golfer — its brand manager opted in 2013 for a content marketing strategy based around Content Loop, a storytelling website integrated with LinkedIn featuring topics such as big data and the cloud, stories aimed at putting the company “at the heart of business and IT conversations”.

After one year, the brand site had drawn nearly one million new visitors, the firm had gained more than 100,000 new followers to its LinkedIn page and enjoyed 1.8 million shares of its content.

Crucially, the strategy generated nearly $1 million in sales the first year and has been growing since.

Other examples range from luggage company Away, which created Away Here, a high-end, magazine-style blog focusing on travel and lifestyle topics to enterprise chat provider Slack’s blog, “Several People Are Typing”, with tips on productivity and collaboration and Home Depot’s Garden Club portal, which is packed with how-to guides.

How to quantify your content marketing efforts

Quantifying the efforts you put into content marketing is difficult. Don’t fall into the mistake of identifying financial gain as the immediate goal. Rather, you’re in a marathon, not a sprint.

Nevertheless, return on investment can be maximized by creating a strategy that focuses on select topics for your target market rather than simply churning out content for its own sake.

Media and competitor monitoring for current trends are key. Same for harnessing data on the customer experience on your site that’s useful for future content planning, such as journey maps, user feedback and customer profiles.

Improved search engine optimization for your business provides consistent and relevant content, including a variety of topics and keywords. Indeed, Tech Client provides this heartening statistic: Websites that post consistent blog content boast on average 434% more pages indexed by search engines than those that don’t publish at all.

Believe this: Content costs about 62% less than traditional marketing techniques — and generates three times as many leads, according to DemandMetric. Obviously, that’s a highly efficient and effective way to maximise your budget.

While it’s cheaper than straight-up advertising, dedicating budgets to this effort is important. Data from the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs shows that B2B marketers allocate 29% of their total marketing budget, on average, to content marketing (26% for B2C). The most effective allocate 42%, and the most sophisticated and mature allocate 46%.

Key takeaways

• Know your audience. Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes, be aware of their challenges, needs, interests, desires and concerns – and tailor your content accordingly.

• Choose the right tools and software to produce and show off your content.

• Unless you have an in-house team, outsource to content-creation professionals.

• Decide on, then develop your brand’s voice: serious, funny or whatever. Just have a voice.

• Post consistently and regularly across content types and platforms.

Should You Relaunch Your Website?

by David Schrieberg

For much of our eight-year history, our COO has loved to repeat that “we should eat our own dog food.”

It’s a standing joke between us – he knows I’ll smack him (half-)playfully every time he repeats it. But after years of rolling my eyes, I’ve finally admitted that there’s meaning in his cliche.

Which brings me to the point: After barely touching it for eight years, we’ve just overhauled our website and now that I survived the process, I have to say that you should probably take a look at yours and at least consider doing the same, if you haven’t recently.

The reason I held off for so long, given my experience with websites, was because I knew what kind of a project we would be taking on: Days, weeks and months of distraction, negotiations, back-and-forth, development, design, time, money…and arguments. Endless arguments.

If I’ve learned anything over 20 years spent in digital media, it’s this: Everybody and his or her mother know how to design a website. They know that this color should be changed, that quote should be dropped, this photo should be moved, that font should be altered, this text should be rewritten, that graphic killed…on and on and on.

Creating or relaunching a website is like living in an extended family argument: The fight is never really about the subject of the fight. Rather, it’s about lots of other things going on under the surface (and on the surface, too). Underlying tensions and issues have a way of bubbling over during the debates. Things can get heated. Ugly, even.

Yet, here’s the bottom line: That’s all healthy and all to the good of the organisation. It forces everyone to look hard at, and focus on, the strategy, goals, operations and products or output. Because the website is a window on your collective organisational soul.

In our case, our previous website was a thing of beauty, design-wise, but it wasn’t specifically intended to “sell” our services or products. So we decided it was time – go ahead and smack me – to eat our own dog food. And while it was painful in the preparation, it was a necessary meal and I couldn’t be happier we ate together.

Because in a world where trustworthy, accurate and engaging content is ever more important, effective storytelling is really about “story selling.” In this context and in our case, that means creating thought leadership content that showcases expertise, authority and trustworthiness – EAT – which mightily helps you get top-of-Google-search-results. That’s what our clients rightfully expect from us.

The process forced us to look hard at ourselves. We surveyed our customers and gathered new testimonials in order to better understand the value we offer them, and presumably our prospects. We added a revolving, regularly-refreshed carousel of examples of the content we produce for them across 25+ different industries including finance, technology, HR, Space and content marketing.

And maybe the most important outcome: We revised our own core message from “the cure for information overload” (still true) to a message more relevant in today’s confusing world: “content you can trust,” because we consider ourselves one small antidote for a world beset by fake news.

So take a look at www.vitalbriefing.com. Then I invite you to ask yourself whether it’s time to join us at the table.

Content Marketing Comes Into Its Own

The digital world has become ever more content focused. Companies across every industry are realising that producing original content — from blogs to articles to videos to social media posts — not only helps their marketing efforts, but also provides clients and prospects with what they want most: easy-to-consume, engaging stories and information.

Consider this: 90% of all marketers now use content marketing. As a result of the growing consumer demand for insightful, high-value content, experts forecast the entire industry will more than double from less than $200 billion in 2016 to $500 billion in 2021.

For more on a rapidly expanding marketing sector, read this article prepared by VitalBriefing for its client, Ziff Davis: Content Marketing Comes Into Its Own

How to Find the Right CDP: Expert Interview

Consumer data is now the undisputed linchpin of digital marketing, with experts declaring it the “new currency” among businesses. From personalisation to consumer targeting to improving campaign reach and engagement, consumer data is fast evolving into the foundation of the most effective marketing efforts.

But…there is a problem: Many, if not most, marketers struggle to make use of the data tsunami. There’s simply too much, while traditionally disparate data silos across a company complicate its attempts to unify the various datasets.

Enter customer data platforms (CDPs). This technology, as VitalBriefing Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Yves Lanneau writes, is “fast becoming [a] key brick in any robust stack.” These systems manage the data of a company’s customers and produce actionable insights for marketers.

As the CDP sector continues its rise, many marketing teams are looking into integrating such tools. They just don’t know where to start.

VitalBriefing’s Ethan Schrieberg interviewed Derek Slager, co-founder and CTO at Amperity, a Seattle-based customer data management company that recently attracted $50 million in investment, for insights on finding the right customer data platform for your specific needs.

Discover the interview on Toolbox.com.

If the audience is engaged, ROI will follow

Content marketing pre-dates the printing press, but in this age of information overload and endless product pitches, it’s never been as important – or as effective – as now. That said, the question on marketers’ minds as they consider their annual budgets is as old as the printing press: What’s the ROI?

At the strategic level, content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain well-defined audiences – and to drive them to a specific action. In practice, it means creating and effectively telling a story to illustrate a product or service, but not as intrusive, distracting or irritating advertising.

In other words, as we define it at VitalBriefing, bringing valuable information that helps guide your clients and customers into the decisions they need to make even if it’s not your product or service they eventually buy.

Sound counter-intuitive? It’s not. The point of the content, as Heidi Cohen, author of the Actionable Marketing Guide puts it, is to give customers and prospects “useful information” before, during or after a purchase. The narrative, in turn, should and will drive business if the customers find it truly useful. (A mistake we see marketers often make: placing their product pitch at the center of the content –reinforcing the notion that the source of the content only wants to ‘sell them, not help them.’). If the content is valuable, showing off your thought leadership, they’ll hold you and your service in high esteem.

I love this pre-Internet example (remember those prehistoric days?): In 1982, Hasbro and Marvel teamed up to create a comic book series called “G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero!” with the goal of selling more action toys. As consultant and tech company co-founder Neil Patel points out, seven years later two of every three American boys from ages 5-12 owned at least one G.I. Joe.

Tough to argue with that ROI.

The digital age has brought content marketing to the fore as a marketer’s principal weapon, as savvy professionals increasingly acknowledge. In 2013, a survey of marketers by Adobe and Econsultancy, cited by Emarketer.com, found nearly 40% naming content marketing as a top priority – up 10 points from the year before. As of 2016, the Content Marketing Institute found a full 93% are using content marketing – the “most effective” among them allocating 42% of their budgets to it. This uptick in its use means content marketing will be a $300 billion industry in 2019, more than doubling in value in under four years.

So how do marketers measure the value? Three ways:

– Higher conversion rates

– Lead generation

– Sales

Reviewing available literature and studies, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) points out that “content marketing ROI is higher than the average marketing ROI in every place” they looked. At the Content Marketing World, Kraft’s former senior director for data, content and media said that content marketing ROI was four times greater than their most targeted advertising.

Think about it and it makes sense.

Source: Content Marketing Institute 

With more than 27 million pieces of content shared every day, according to AOL/Nielsen, people are hungry for good content that helps them understand their world, and make solid decisions. In a 2016 Demand Gen content survey of B2B buyers, 95% said they considered content as trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings. Similarly, the Content Marketing Institute says that 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles as opposed to advertisements.

Meanwhile, key performance indicators regarding the efficacy of content marketing are overwhelming:

  • YoY growth in unique site traffic is some eight times higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (source: Aberdeen)
  • Costing roughly 60% less than traditional marketing, content marketing also generates about three times as many leads (source: DemandMetric)
  • Conversion rates are almost six times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (source: Aberdeen)

These are good metrics to set when thinking about ROI as you craft your content marketing strategy. “Shares” are another one – how often your content is passed along via social media. Time spent on your site is also useful.

Calculators such as this one and other statistical measuring tools track ROI through “increased organic rankings as a direct result of earning a diverse, high-quality link portfolio,” according to SEO consultants Moz. But some experts argue – and I agree with them – that the best ROI metric of all is engagement – how and to what extent your audience is involved with the content you create and promote to them.

Source: Fractl

To develop those metrics, you need to have a clear call-to-action that lets you track the performance. These include conversion, scrolling and comments on the piece.

Effective content marketers by far use blogs, case studies, e-newsletters and articles placed on websites as their preferred formats. Their four favorite distribution channels, unsurprisingly, are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Once you set the metrics and goals, you can start measuring how well your content is performing. If you get it right, you’ll be able to determine the real ROI on the content, as effective content marketers have mastered.


Source: Content Marketing Institute

 

In the 2017 U.K. Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, CMI found 65% of marketers could demonstrate how content marketing had increased the number of their leads, 61% could show how it increased audience engagement, 54% could demonstrate increased sales and one-third said it had decreased their cost of customer acquisition.

So…what are you waiting for? Build it into your thinking and your budget. And start measuring the results.