Content marketing is an incredibly popular method of brand communication in today’s marketing landscape.

But what is content marketing exactly? The term is used as such a buzzword these days, yet many companies don’t truly understand all that goes into and what to expect out of a content marketing strategy.

Start With the Basics

Simply put, content marketing is the process of developing, executing, and delivering content to create, nurture, and grow a company’s customer base. It’s the practice of attracting prospective customers to your owned media properties by creating and publishing content aimed at educating, entertaining, and providing value to your audience. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, there are three core components you must have to frame a well-crafted content strategy: business goals, target audience, and audience needs.

Content plays a pivotal role in search engine marketing initiatives and can be the driving force behind a holistic digital strategy. However, rather than pushing products and sales messaging on your audience, provide content that delivers valuable information to help them along their journey. This, in turn, makes them more likely to reward you with their business and loyalty.

Content Marketing is projected to be a $300+ billion business worldwide in 2019. Per dollar spent, content marketing generates about three times as many leads as traditional marketing (source) and converts at a higher rate than alternative methods as well (source). In fact, content marketing helps consumers at every stage of the consumer journey.

Awareness: 70% of consumers prefer to learn about companies through content, not ads. (Source)

Discovery: 81% of shoppers research online before setting foot in a store. (Source)

Consideration: 61% of consumers prefer to buy from companies delivering custom content. (Source)

Conversion: Website conversion rates are 6 times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters. (Source)

Retention: 68% of consumers spend time reading content from a brand they’re interested in. (Source)

Types of Content

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of content marketing is truly understanding which types of content formats best serve consumers based on where they fall within the purchase cycle. So, let’s dive into which formats best suit each stage of the sales cycle and why.

Stage 1: Awareness

Often considered the first stage in the buyer’s journey (and the widest part of the funnel), the awareness stage represents the period of learning and information gathering. At this point, customers typically have little intent to make a purchase and are much more focused on finding answers, resources, and insights.

Within this stage, it’s important to create a solid foundation of content designed to satisfy a user’s intent while also offering valuable solutions to their problems. This type of content will represent the bulk of your content marketing strategy and should be both evergreen and brand agnostic. The best types of content for this stage of the funnel are going to primarily be text-based. The following formats work well to achieve these goals:

  • Articles & Blog Posts – A helpful leader is full of free advice. Articles and blog posts are the best way to provide advice to an interested audience and are typically what people think of first when they think of content marketing. Blog posts are relatively easy to produce and shouldn’t require much time, provided they aren’t too lengthy. For some blogging best practices, check out this article. Additionally, you can incorporate guest blog posts to help lighten your load, forge partnerships, and build your inbound link profile. Pro tip: If you’re looking to create content at scale, your best bet — unless you have a fully-functional editorial team — is to work with a seasoned content production company.
  • White Papers & Case Studies Seventy-nine percent of B2B buyers share white papers, which means you have a huge opportunity to increase your brand’s awareness and win new business. But, remember: white papers aren’t necessarily a sales pitch. They should educate, inform, and help their target audiences; not explicitly try to sell them something. Keep them relatively short (no more than 10 pages), focus on one primary issue, and include visual elements (if possible).
  • Podcasts & Interviews – Podcasts not only continue to grow in popularity; they also hold the attention of the audience longer than many other formats. Additionally, they’re a great opportunity for you to repurpose existing content as you can often turn the audio from a video into a podcast or use the outline of a blog post as the main topic of discussion for your latest episode.

Stage 2: Engagement

The second stage begins when a prospective customer decides if your product is what they want or not. At this point, you can speak directly to your target audience, since they should have some familiarity with your brand.

Of course, you’ll want to get your prospective consumer to engage with you, but equally as important is how they engage with your content. To achieve this goal, content should be highly shareable and can be either evergreen and/or timely/trending. The following formats are great ways to satisfy engaging your audience:

  • Infographics – Infographics are visual representations of information. They present data in a quick, concise, and fun manner utilizing graphics, patterns, and trends. Infographics are some of the most frequently shared content online because they showcase information in an easily digestible and attractive way. Make sure it tells a story and has good headlines and subheadings. Tools like Canva or Piktochart are among the many fabulous (and mostly free) resources available to help you create beautiful infographics.  
  • Videos – Video is a proven attention-grabber and a trusted source of information, especially among millennials. Numerous reports have shown that video is also a great format for lead generation and increasing brand awareness. You can incorporate video into your content strategy in a number of different ways: explainer videos introducing or unboxing your product, clever or funny videos that fit within the identity of your brand, and general lifestyle videos are just a few ways your video strategy can fit into your overall strategy.
  • Quizzes – This interactive format is not only highly engaging; it’s designed to collect valuable insights on your audience. Quizzes are some of the most engaging types of content, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

Stage 3: Loyalty

This stage focuses on consumers who have already converted — either by purchasing your product, subscribing to your service or newsletter, etc. — and with whom you want to continue nurturing a relationship.

It’s hard to build loyalty, but once you have, understand that these are the people who are going to help get your content out into the world. The best formats to achieve this goal often require creating snackable derivatives from content used in previous stages. The following are viable examples of formats geared toward this stage:

  • Email Newsletters – Email newsletters are vital to any content marketing strategy. It’s a way to regularly engage your consumers and remain top-of-mind. Newsletters are also a great way to highlight important topics as well as content you’ve previously published. With email as one of the biggest revenue drivers for digital businesses, sending out a newsletter (on a consistent schedule) is a great way to remind existing consumers of your products and keep them engaged with your company.
  • Social Ads – Perhaps the thought of any type of ad doesn’t inherently scream loyalty. However, incorporate your retargeting skills and make sure your social media marketing strategy involves placing your ads in front of existing consumers. By retargeting people who have already interacted with your brand, you’ll be creating additional touchpoints through which consumers can engage with your brand. Doing so helps build trust and brand awareness, stay top-of-mind, and increase overall consumer engagement.
  • Surveys/Giveaways – Surveys and giveaways are both excellent ways to show your consumers that you care about their needs and opinion of your brand. Incorporating these formats into your strategy helps to maintain contact with your customers, make them feel appreciated, and show that you’re ready to listen to their feedback.

Go Forth and Prosper

Now that you know some of the basics and are aware of how certain content formats fit within the buyer’s journey, it’s time to incorporate some of these tactics into your own digital marketing strategy. And with more than 85% of marketers (in both B2B and B2C) utilizing content marketing as the backbone of their digital strategy, it’s no surprise that it’s a vital component to any marketing plan.

If you need some additional help, the content experts at Hawke Media are ready and waiting to help bring all your content marketing goals to life. Just give us a shout!Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endorse or review brands mentioned; does not and can not investigate relationships with brands, products, and people mentioned and is up to the author to disclose. VIP Contributors and Contributors, amongst other accounts and articles, are professional fee-based.

Hawke Media

Hawke Media is a full-service marketing consultancy. We act as an Outsourced CMO for our clients, growing businesses of all sizes and industries.