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Content Marketing Strategies

Updated on September 27, 2015
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising and public relations.

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Learn More about Internet Marketing, including Content Marketing

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is creating, sharing, selling or curating information resources to help market a business. Content can include:

  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Tips
  • Guides
  • Books and Ebooks
  • Reports and White Papers
  • Videos
  • Audio Recordings, Music and Podcasts
  • Live Events or Conferences
  • Online Events such as Webinars
  • Social Media Posts and Community Activity
  • Content Curation and Sharing (i.e. Pinterest)

The content resources are usually not the primary product or service of the company, although there are companies for whom content is their main offering.

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Benefits of Content Marketing

If creating and offering content is not the primary objective of a business, why would they do it? Content marketing is a "soft sell" technique which attracts people to the business, as opposed to the business pursuing prospects. Therefore, it is an inbound marketing strategy.

Here are ways that a business can benefit from content marketing strategies:

  • Build an Email List. Content can be offered as an incentive to join a company's email marketing list. Free ebooks, reports, white papers, checklists and articles can be used. Click here to learn more about email marketing.
  • Greater Engagement. Live or interactive content such as webinars, conferences and events can help get prospects and customers more engaged and committed to the company in a lower pressure setting than a traditional sales call.
  • Become an Expert. Offering valuable content can help build a person's or company's reputation as an expert. Also being a curator of content can demonstrate expertise. This can build trust and encourage sales. Click here to learn more about content curation.
  • Lower Marketing Costs. Though it is not the case for all types of content and circumstances, content creation can often be done for a lower cost than traditional broadcast advertising. And the expertise is usually already in-house! The major cost is in the preparation and packaging of information. As well, developing content that is "evergreen" or easily repurposed can reduce the cost and effort of always creating new material. Click here to learn more about evergreen content.

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Challenges of Content Marketing

The very simplified sales funnel for content marketing would look something like this:

Sales Prospect Consumes Content > Prospect Becomes Customer

However, there can be a significant lag between the time when a prospect first engages with a company's content and then becomes a customer. Sometimes it may never happen!

So content marketing is not without challenges such as the following:

  • Free Never Gets to Fee. Some fans and prospects love a company's content, but they never advance to a sale for a variety of reasons including having an interest but no real need or budget. While they may represent a viable sales opportunity at some point in the future, they're stuck at "Interest" in the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) sales model. Click here to learn more about "Ready, Willing and Able" customers.
  • Content Costs Drain Resources and Bandwidth. While, as noted earlier, content can be a low cost and cost-effective marketing effort, there are times where it can present such an investment in the company's personnel and resources that it drains profits. This is especially the case when, as just discussed, free content consumers never graduate to fee paying customers. Click here to learn more about dealing with bandwidth limitations in a small business.
  • Difficulty in Measuring ROI. Content can create a groundswell of conversation and connection, much of it not directly dealing with the sales process. So how should the value of that be measured? Website and offline traffic need to be connected to sales results in some way and monitored regularly. This is especially the case for social media activity.
  • Keeping Up With the Bloggers. Just because everyone seems to have a blog doesn't me that everyone NEEDS to have a blog. Have a good why for starting a blog or any other content strategy.

Learn to Make Better Decisions by Asking Better Questions

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Developing a content marketing strategy can be a daunting experience! Where does one start?

Here are several questions to help evaluate content marketing options:

  • Need for Information. Is there an information gap or other need in the industry that the company could fill with a content marketing program? Researching related keyword search terms can help home in on areas that might have a void... and an opportunity. Filling an information gap can help build the business' reputation as an expert and resource. Click here to learn more about finding relevant keywords for SEO.
  • Time and Talent Pool. Does the company have experts on staff that have the time or talent to develop content such as blog posts, reports or events? If no, what would it cost to outsource? If the cost for existing or outsourced personnel to do this is too high, are there other types of lower investment content or resources that could be developed? Or could the frequency of creating content be reduced to a manageable level? Avoid "spurts and sputters" (see discussion below).
  • Customer Behavior. Are customers readers? Or do they prefer watching videos or listening to audio information? Are they mobile? Or at they home or office bound? Do they read their email regularly? Questions like these can help determine the content format and delivery possibilities for blogs, marketing videos, audio downloads, etc.
  • Desired Results. What results are desired from developing and offering content? Just saying "sales" is NOT enough since, as noted earlier, that may be difficult to quantify. Select metrics that are relevant, achievable and quantifiable such as website traffic or email subscriber and open rates. Then monitor religiously!

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How "Spurts and Sputters" Can Kill a Content Marketing Blog

Starting a new blog is exciting! Usually everyone is on board for the first few months. Those responsible for creating the content are bubbling over with creativity. They're posting weekly, even daily, and getting a lot of positive recognition and feedback. Owners or managers are thrilled with the content and the traffic to the blog (not the organization's main site), making it look like this will be a success.

Then here's what often happens about six months in (sometimes even sooner)...

  • Management is looking for "results" (translation: sales) and are no longer satisfied with irrelevant blog traffic stats.
  • Bloggers run out of ideas and posting becomes rare or low quality.
  • In other cases, bloggers, who are existing employees with added blogging duties, may be spending more time on the blog than management thinks they should. This frustrates everyone. Management is looking for ROI while blogging employees start looking for new jobs (maybe even as bloggers elsewhere). And the company blog eventually dies.

At the root of these situations is the fact that the company did not accurately assess their bandwidth to handle the rigors of regular blogging or content development. Additionally, they do not have an inkling of how to measure the results of their activities.

The end result of these "spurts and sputters" is usually an abandoned blog which makes the company look unprofessional, uncaring and unworthy of customer dollars.

Lesson: Calculate before you create.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Hello, John! No kidding! Thanks for the kind words and stopping by. Have a great day!

    • joinmartin01 profile image

      John Martin 2 weeks ago from San Francisco

      Creating original content that people will like to share is a difficult task. These tips are helpful for content writers to improve their content strategy.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello TolovagWordsmith! Thank you so much for sharing your international writing market perspective! I encounter new writers (some young, some older) here, too. And, like you, while I don't want to rain on their parade, I do hope they will think more critically about the writing paths they choose. Appreciate your support. Have a beautiful day!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 2 years ago from Ljubljana

      Yes, it's sad, but true, writing is not enough. As far as I managed to investigate the history of most successful writers ever, it never was. I was full time writer with huge freedom of selecting my themes for well over a decade before the publishing market in our country crashed and I decided to try my luck on Web with much bigger market, more chance to find my niche, but also much more competition. I already knew how important is marketing, because I worked for several marketing agencies (among which many also get out of business in last decade), but situation in the world is even rougher. Many young writers still come to me to get an advice and I try not to kill their enthusiasm, so I don't give them best possible advice (to do something else), but the reality is, well, reality ...

      Thanks for sharing all this useful info.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      You got that right, ologsinquito! Interestingly, it's the same for almost every small business, not just writing. We often spend more time marketing our businesses than doing business. Thank you for reading and your kind comments! Have a great week ahead!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for writing an article that can help so many of us. I'm learning that writing is only half the battle, or even less. Promotion is often what gets you enough readers to make it worthwhile.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello ChitrangadaSharan! I learn new things here on HP every day, too. So much good stuff. Glad you found the info helpful. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very informative and useful article!

      All those who write online and are into content writing, must read this. Everyday I learn something on HP.

      Thanks for sharing your expert knowledge! Voted up!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      You're welcome, CMHypno! I fell into sputter mode on one of my blogs, too. When I realized it, I really had to look very carefully at the value and return I was getting from it. When I realized it was costing me more (time AND dollars) to keep it active, I shut it down. I then ramped up and/or refocused my presence in other ways (such as here on HubPages, public speaking, email marketing, etc.) to continue to get my name out there, as well as beefing up my primary website. It's still a work in progress, but this new direction has helped to reduce my stress and costs. It's good to occasionally take a hard look at all your web presences to determine what they are (or are not!) doing for you and then make the call about future directions. Thanks for joining the conversation and have a great weekend!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi AliciaC! Even though writers are content creators, we are content marketers, too. :) It pays for all of us writers to think more like marketers. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful weekend!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Yes, Mel Carriere, it DEFINITELY applies to writers as well as marketers! I think a lot of us writers have, at one time or another, fallen into sputter mode. When I saw that happening to me, I pared down and refocused. Thanks so much for stopping by and joining the conversation! Have a great weekend!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi FlourishAnyway! So, so true. It's easy to get started with lots of different efforts because we have the easy-to-use tools to do them. This is one of those "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" scenarios. I figured you'd appreciate. Have a lovely weekend!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Thanks for the great information Heidi. I'm on a 'sputter' with my author blog at the moment mainly due to procrastination and putting my attention elsewhere, but I do wonder about the value of it. Yes, I know I have to get my name out there and establish a presence in the market place, but it still doesn't seem to translate into book sales

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing your expert knowledge in a very informative hub, Heidi. There is a lot here that applies to people whose product is their writing!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I think your notes on blogging apply not just to marketers, but all writers in general. I'm kind of sputtering along on my own blog now, sometimes sort of reaching for ideas. Great hub - highly readable and informative.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Begin with the end in mind. It's easy to get sidetracked when its fun, but bills must be paid. Useful as always, Heidi. You are such a pro.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello Radcliff! Agreed, it's so easy to get caught up with the create mode that measuring the true cost gets lost. (Been there, done that!) Glad you found it useful. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Great lesson: calculate before you create. A good idea isn't enough. Thanks for sharing this useful information!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Howdy, billybuc! Yep, we'll be Marketing Bible evangelists until all freelance writers are converted. :) My book marketing hub will be following soon. Feeling much better (woohoo!) and am finally getting back to some semblance of normal (including back to writing). So, yes, it's a good weekend. Hope yours is spectacular!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This should be required reading for every freelance writer. Excellent information and suggestions...the Bible of Marketing thanks to Heidi...and it's free for those who want to succeed. Thanks, Heidi, and have a great weekend.