Content marketing is an increasingly popular form of marketing, but the ROI you receive depends on the strategy you implement and your general approach to content marketing.
To help you use content marketing to scale your business, here’s a complete guide with all the critical information you need to succeed with content marketing in 2023.
Specifically, you’ll learn:
- What is content marketing?
- The key benefits of a successful content marketing strategy
- Different forms of content marketing
- How to execute a successful content strategy
- Some examples of outstanding B2B and B2C content marketing
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that attracts users to your brand by providing useful or entertaining content – usually in the form of text, video, or audio.
Content marketing is valuable to companies because it helps them build relationships and trust with their potential customers and existing customers at scale.
As a result, it’s easier to sell your products faster.
The ROI of content is notoriously difficult to measure as it’s often just one step in the customer journey, but brands with strong content marketing strategies tend to have lower customer acquisition costs and generate compounding returns.
Content marketing also has a snowball effect, as those who use content marketing to build an audience see higher returns for each additional piece of content they publish.
How Does Content Marketing Work?
Effective content marketing attracts people to your brand.
You might publish a video, podcast episode, or blog post, and then people interested in the topic consume it and become acquainted with your brand voice.
Once you have that person’s attention, you can build a trusting relationship with them. As a result, you can sell them products and services.
If you’re looking for content marketing and SEO services, check out Copyblogger’s agency Digital Commerce Partners. We specialize in delivering targeted organic traffic for profitable businesses.
4 Ways Content Marketing Can Help Your Business
Companies with excellent content marketing strategies have an unfair advantage over their competitors for several reasons. Below we’ll discuss just a few of them.
1. Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs
Quality content creation isn’t cheap, but you’ll see a stronger ROI from each piece of content you produce because your audience will grow.
It’s a snowball effect.
The first video, blog post, or social media post you publish might only be seen by a few people, but as more and more people find your content and become followers, each sequential piece of content you publish will be seen by more people and produce a stronger ROI.
So unlike paid ads, where you and your competitors can earn roughly the same ROI for each dollar spent, brands with strong content marketing strategies and a large audience can earn significantly more for each piece of content published.
2. Improve Lead Quality
Another benefit of content marketing is that you can filter the type of customers you attract based on the content you produce.
For example, if your target audience is exclusively CMOs, you can discuss only topics that a CMO would be interested in, like hiring great talent. You might also offer access to exclusive reports on industry benchmarks that would be interesting to a CMO.
In contrast, paid ads force you to rely on the platforms to accurately identify your target audience. With privacy concerns on the rise and less accurate audience targeting, these platforms are producing lower returns.
3. Build a Stable Lead Pipeline
Content marketing has a flywheel effect and produces higher returns over time – especially if you produce evergreen content.
With evergreen content (content that is relevant for years), you can continue to generate returns from it even years after it was published.
So even if you stop producing content for a period of time, you’ll still likely have a steady pipeline of leads thanks to your evergreen content.
4. Increase Customer Retention and Loyalty
Content marketing is essentially a cheat code to build trust with your potential customers at scale.
The more they become familiar with your brand’s viewpoints and identity, the easier it is to trust your brand and the more likely they are to continue purchasing from your brand.
Forms of Content Marketing
Content marketing can be any type of media across a variety of platforms, though the most common forms of content marketing include:
- Long-form text (Blog posts, white papers, case studies, etc.)
- Social media posts
- Video content
Below we’ll discuss each of these types of content in detail and when you should use them.
Long Form Written Content (Blogs, White Papers, Research, etc.)
Blog posts are the bread and butter of the content marketing strategy for most B2B and even many B2C companies and local businesses. Blogging is valuable because it can help you rank in search engines for keywords that your ideal customers may search.
For example, if you sell CRO software, ranking first in Google for the term “best CRO software” will help you drive valuable leads because those searchers are clearly looking to purchase a product like yours.
The process of optimizing blog posts to rank at the top of Google is called SEO (search engine optimization).
While blog posts are excellent at generating organic traffic to your website, effective marketers know that they need to also provide a next step to move the visitor through the buyer journey and eventually convert them into a customer.
Check out our guide to simple SEO and content marketing.
Therefore, savvy content marketers often include a call to action in the blog posts to download a lead magnet, like a white paper or research study, in exchange for their email address.
Once you have a website visitor’s email address, you can retarget them with other valuable content to move them through your marketing funnel.
Another major benefit of long-form content like blog posts is that they often produce compounding results (assuming the content is evergreen or updated every few years).
Social Media Posts
Social media content is excellent for generating brand awareness, and many brands (particularly those in the B2C space) rely heavily on social media for audience building.
Social media marketing is also becoming increasingly popular among B2B brands as more and more people turn to individual thought leaders for professional advice and industry news.
LinkedIn’s revenue alone is an excellent reflection of the rise of B2B social media, as the platform grew 26.2% in 2022 to $14.5 billion – the highest percentage of growth it has seen in the past three years.
The benefit of social media marketing is that you can develop relationships with your audience much more quickly, as it’s a very personal form of content marketing.
The downside is that social media content isn’t evergreen, and the key to winning with social media marketing often comes down to publishing a high volume of high-quality content. This can be tricky as it’s important to publish high-quality content readers want to consume.
Video content is also becoming increasingly common in B2B and B2C content marketing strategies, as it’s now easier than ever to record a high-quality video on even a simple iPhone.
It’s also easier to quickly build a relationship with your audience if they can see and hear you, which is likely because body language makes it easier to trust a person.
Video content is also excellent for content repurposing, as you can turn a single video into podcast episodes, social media clips, emails, or blog posts.
The downside with video content is that the best video content usually features a person, so it might not be a great option if there isn’t anyone within the company who enjoys being on camera. In addition, the person on camera will likely become the face of the brand. If that person later leaves the company, the audience might leave as well.
There are more podcast listeners (and podcasters) than ever before. But even with the competition, starting a podcast is an effective way to grow your audience.
When people hear your voice and stories repeatedly, it’s easy to quickly build a deeply loyal following. Podcasts also have very high retention as, unlike other forms of content marketing, the audience can passively consume your content. So, unlike videos or blog posts that require the listener’s undivided attention, they might multitask while listening to your podcast.
Your podcast will also likely become part of that person’s routine, which makes the audience even stickier. For example, they might always listen to your podcast while driving to work or working out at the gym.
Like video content, the downside of podcast content is that you’ll likely lose your audience if the podcast host decides to leave your company.
Email marketing is arguably one of the best content formats because it’s the only platform you own entirely.
For example, a social media platform might change its algorithm, causing you to lose access to your audience, or a Google algorithm update could cause your blog content to drop in the search results, and you’ll lose organic traffic.
However, after someone gives you their email address, you own that list and can retarget them until they unsubscribe because you aren’t at the mercy of a platform.
Another benefit of email marketing is that the people on your email list have demonstrated interest in your company by giving you their email addresses, making them higher-quality prospects.
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A Simple 5-Step Process for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
Many content marketing efforts fail because they lack a solid content marketing strategy to attract the right prospects and nurture them through the buyer journey.
If you randomly begin publishing content on different platforms without a thoughtful approach to which channels you’ll focus on, how you’ll position your brand, and how each piece of content moves the customer through the user journey, you’ll likely be disappointed by the ROI from your content marketing efforts.
To solve these problems, here’s a step-by-step approach to creating a successful content marketing strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Ideal Target Customer
Content marketing only works if you attract the right customer.
Otherwise, you’ll have low conversion rates or convert customers who are a poor fit for your product or service, creating unnecessary customer support headaches and high churn.
To identify your ideal target customer, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the title and position of the person who buys our product or service?
- What type of company does this person work at (size, industry, etc.)?
- What pain points does this person come to our brand to solve?
- What is the person’s knowledge level on this subject (this is key to avoiding beginner level keywords when you’re targeting advanced executives)?
Once you answer those questions, you’ll have a good sense of your ideal buyer persona, and the rest of your content strategy will become clear.
Step 2: Map Out Your Marketing Funnel And Choose Content Formats
Most customers don’t make a purchase the first time they visit your website, and that’s okay.
Content marketing aims to build a relationship with prospects to eventually lead them to make a purchase.
However, given that they probably won’t immediately purchase your product, you must create a path to move them into the next customer journey phase. Otherwise, they’ll likely leave your content and never return.
There are several stages of the content marketing funnel, from awareness (the customer is just learning about the pain point and potential solutions) to the purchase decision phase (the customer is solution aware and ready to purchase a product to solve the pain point).
The bread and butter of any marketing funnel are the customer touchpoints.
While no two customer journeys are identical, and the reality is that it’s often highly complex, mapping out a sample customer journey of various customer touchpoints is a useful exercise to ensure there is always a logical next step for the customer to take.
For example, after they read a blog post, where will you send them next to ensure they don’t just leave your website and never return?
Here’s a sample marketing funnel complete with three customer touchpoints:
As you can see, this marketing funnel has multiple different content formats. So how do you choose the best content format for your marketing funnel?
It comes down to two variables:
1. What type of content do your customers already enjoy consuming?
Some audiences gravitate more towards specific platforms than others. For example, most people don’t go to TikTok to hire a lawyer or marketing agency. However, TikTok would be an excellent place to sell beauty products.
The good news is that you can quickly identify the most effective platforms by analyzing your competitors’ platforms.
2. What type of content will you be able to produce consistently?
Even if you know that all of your competitors are producing video content, don’t try to create video content unless you know you can consistently publish high-quality video content. The key to winning with content marketing is consistency, so selecting a form of content you enjoy is important.
Now that you know what content you’ll produce, you can map out the top, middle, and bottom-of-funnel content.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t necessarily need a different form of content for each funnel stage. For example, you can create TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content with just blog posts.
The reason it’s important to map out your marketing funnel at this stage is to ensure you have a clear call to action at each step to move the visitor forward in the buyer journey.
Step 3: Generate Content Ideas And Establish a Brand Voice
An effective content marketing plan is about more than just mapping out the types of content that it will take to produce. You have to actually have something unique and interesting to say to get people to pay attention to your content.
So the next step is to figure out how to consistently generate content ideas that are unique and appealing to your ideal audience.
We created an entire blog post on generating content ideas, but a simple framework you can use to consistently curate interesting content ideas is this:
- What is the pain point our ideal customer faces that our product solves? This question ensures you are discussing the right topic, and if you’re doing SEO, it’s essential for your keyword research process.
- What is the “best practice” advice on solving that pain point, and why isn’t it working for our reader? This will help you develop an interesting angle that stands out from the rest of the “me-too” content.
- What is a better and more effective method to solve that problem, and what evidence/personal experience do we have to support that idea?
With the rise of AI writers flooding social platforms with “me-too” content, thought leadership content with a unique and contrarian viewpoint will continue to stand out, and you’ll actually find it easier to build an audience.
So before you publish any content, ask:
- Does this idea already exist in the market?
- Is this advice truly the best method to solve this problem?
If you can’t authentically say “yes” to both of those questions, don’t publish the content. If you consistently publish content with an authentic brand voice and don’t regurgitate the same ideas that have already been published, you’ll gain trust much more quickly, as people will look to you as an industry leader.
Step 4: Create a Content Calendar and Workflow
Your content marketing strategy will only scale if you publish new content consistently.
In fact, the formula for a great content marketing strategy is pretty simple:
If you do these three things, you’ll find that your content marketing strategy is highly effective.
The problem is that most people give up too quickly or don’t publish consistently.
As a result, the audience you build forgets about your content and you’ll have to restart the relationship from zero.
The good news is that implementing a simple content calendar and workflow process can reduce inconsistencies.
To get started, adopt a project management platform, like Trello, Basecamp, or Asana, and then break down each content marketing campaign into various tasks that you can assign to your marketing team members with due dates.
Here’s a great sample editorial calendar in Trello:
Once you’ve created a workflow process, it’s pretty easy to then ensure each piece of content is published consistently.
Step 5: Test And Measure Results
The final step is to measure your results.
This is tricky as content marketing is a long-term play, and you probably won’t see any immediate returns on your investment.
However, some early signs that your content marketing strategy is working include:
- Your sales team is generating higher quality leads that close faster
- Your general brand awareness has increased (more social media mentions, backlinks, brand queries, etc.)
- Your website is driving more traffic
- Your existing customers are staying longer and are generally happier
In addition to tracking these general brand KPIs, be sure to also track specific campaigns so that you can assess what content performed the best and double down on producing more of those content formats and ideas.
Most marketers track the majority of their content marketing efforts in Google Analytics, though you can also use third-party tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to measure these metrics.
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Excellent Examples of Content Marketing
To inspire your content marketing strategy, here are a few excellent examples of outstanding content marketing.
#1: Blog Content Marketing Examples
As one of the most popular SEO tools on the market, it’s no surprise that Ahrefs has plenty of in-depth blog posts with actionable information.
From their detailed beginner’s guides to more specific blog posts around advanced SEO topics, they always deliver original ideas with thought leadership authority.
Here’s an example of an original research blog post they wrote on how long it takes to rank in Google:
They also tastefully pitch their product in many blog posts by showing readers how to use it to actionably solve the keyword they’re searching for with the product.
While blog content isn’t typically a go-to form of content marketing in B2C, it can be an excellent tool for any product where education is necessary before the customer purchases.
The company Levels is a glucose monitor that does an excellent job of creating helpful and authoritative advice about glucose and healthcare. They do a great job of breaking down complex topics and have doctors and other authorities write/edit the posts to ensure they provide accurate information.
So even if you’re in the B2C market, blog content might be a viable option depending on the customer journey.
#2: Social Media Content Marketing Examples
GoPro is one of very few companies that expertly leverages user-generated content. Rather than just creating content themselves, they consistently run social media contests where users can submit their own content recorded on a GoPro to win a new GoPro.
This kind of content performs incredibly well because, rather than just sharing a branded post, contestants share their best social media content with the GoPro hashtag. As the content itself is already the creator’s very best work, it naturally earns tons of engagement, which multiplies the reach of the GoPro hashtag.
While GoPro has an advantage as their audience is mostly creators, any brand can use the contest blueprint. Instead of asking contestants to share a branded post, ask them to create their own content.
B2B brands are beginning to realize that the best way to win on social media is to boost the executives’ presence.
Justin Welsh is an excellent example of a B2B influencer who has amassed a substantial following by consistently publishing high quality content on Twitter and LinkedIn.
In fact, he now has an entire course on his process and the heart of his strategy is:
- Create a unique viewpoint by combining two different, yet valuable skills.
- Publish consistently and then capture your audience in an email list.
Even if you’re a member of the marketing team and trying to discover methods to level up the company’s brand awareness, building your own social media presence or the social media presence of executives is a great way to then communicate the brand’s messages to a loyal audience.
#3: Video Content Marketing Examples
Most B2B brands assume that creating a video content marketing strategy means you must produce YouTube video content.
However, Ocho is an excellent example of a brand that creates full video courses for its customers. They also collaborate with other industry influencers to create adjacent courses.
For example, they collaborated with angel investors, tax strategists, and other experts who then helped them promote the content.
This is an interesting YouTube channel that covers everything you could possibly want to know about Disney.
Unlike most consumer YouTube channels that show off the creator’s personal life, the host, AJ, never even shows her face on the channel and instead provides detailed descriptions of her experiences at various Disney restaurants, theme parks, and hotels.
She even has a team of people who go to various Disney locations to try out different foods and rides and then report back to her to deliver authoritative content for the YouTube channel.
It’s an outstanding collection of truly expert insider tips that you can’t find elsewhere, and it’s packaged in well-organized videos (there’s usually a list of tips or rankings for each topic covered) that she narrates.
This is also a very scalable business model as she doesn’t have to personally show her face or test out the various theme park amenities herself.
#4: Podcast Content Marketing Examples
My First Million is a B2B podcast hosted by Sam Parr and Shaan Puri, both of whom have successfully built and sold multi-million dollar companies.
However, the podcast is popular not just because they’re successful entrepreneurs, but because they deliver unique perspectives through entertaining stories that most people have never heard of before.
With over 100,000 listeners, it’s one of the top business podcasts, but it’s actually owned by the HubSpot podcast network.
So even if you’re a B2B brand, you can elevate some of your executives to start a podcast and then use the ad space to promote your own company.
This is a popular consumer podcast about relationships and dating that has succeeded largely thanks to the host’s entertaining stories about their personal experiences.
They also have interesting guests on the podcast, though it’s their raw authentic stories that seem to keep the audience hooked.
So if you have a podcast and are talking to a consumer audience, the best way to build trust and remain entertaining is sharing your own personal stories and being vulnerable about past experiences and challenges.
Copywriting For Content Marketers
While video and audio content is on the rise, text based content is still very popular and is still critical for blog writing, email marketing, and even a lot of social media content. So while there is a difference between copywriting and content marketing, many copywriters are content marketers and it’s a valuable skill to acquire.
Therefore, learning how to be a copywriter is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve the results of your content marketing. It’s the difference between a reader getting bored or frantically sharing your content with everyone they know.
There’s no way I’ll be able to cover everything you need to know about copywriting in this blog post. It’s simply too broad and deep of a topic.
However, I can share some of the essential elements of good copy that you can use to start improving your content right away.
Obsess over your headlines
Good copywriters know that headline writing is important.
Great writers obsess over their headlines.
It’s the one thing that determines whether or not your content gets read. You could have the most incredible content in the world, but if your headline is boring or weak, it won’t matter.
A good headline is clear, specific, and intriguing. It should both tell the reader what to expect while also teasing them about what’s inside.
Your headline should also qualify your reader, meaning that it should attract your target audience. If it’s too vague, a reader will start reading — thinking that the article applies to them — only to discover it has nothing to do with them. They’ll feel tricked.
This is critical. You aren’t just trying to get anyone and everyone to click to read your article. That becomes meaningless. You want the right person reading your article, someone who you know will get value from it.
So spend the extra minutes, hours, even days getting your headline right.
Write to someone specific
Copywriting is all about understanding the emotional and psychological state of the reader. You have to be able to get inside their heads and join the conversation.
One way to do this is to write to someone very specific. This could be an avatar of your ideal customer that you’ve created, or it could be a real person who fits the bill of your target audience.
Either way, picture this person as you write. What do they struggle with? What are there experiences? How would you talk to them if you were sitting on the couch at a coffee shop together?
Once you’re clear on that, write to them. Ignore all of your professionalism and grammar rules.
Just write like you’re there at the coffee shop with them, or like you’re writing an email to them.
Without fail, your writing will become more personal and you’ll form stronger connections with your readers. They will feel like you’re talking right to them because you are, to some extent.
That’s the kind of writing your audience will read, share, and buy from.
Keep it simple
One of the cardinal sins of copywriting is too much complexity that makes your message confusing.
Good copy is all about breaking things down so that your reader can easily and quickly understand what you’re talking about. This means not using complicated words, insider speak, technical jargon, and long, perfectly structured sentences.
That’s like a death warrant for your copy.
Instead, break up your sentences. State your point simply. Find the easiest, simplest way to say what you’re trying to say. Otherwise, your reader will have to work hard to sift through what you’re writing and get confused.
As a result, they don’t do anything. They don’t read, they don’t share, they don’t buy, nothing.
That’s not what you want. So keep your writing simple and to-the-point.
Content Marketing Statistics
Hopefully you can see the value of content marketing, but if you want some additional proof that it’s one of the most effective long term marketing strategies, here are some statistics.
Is content marketing effective?
Yes, content marketing is effective as about 62% of B2B buyers will read at least 3-7 pieces of content before they’ll agree to talk to a salesperson, making content marketing essential for your marketing funnel.
How many brands invest in content marketing?
About 73% of B2B marketers and 70% of B2C marketers incorporate content marketing into their overall digital marketing strategies.
How much does content marketing cost?
Content marketing costs range, but about 39% of companies spend between $1,000 and $5,000 per month on content marketing, 33% spend over $5,000 per month on content marketing, and about 27% spend less than $1,000 per month on content marketing.
A recent study by SEMrush broke it down:
- 27% of companies spend less than $1,000
- 19% of companies spend $1,000-$3,000
- 20% of companies spend $3,000-$5,000
- 17% of companies spend $5,000-$10,000
- 10% of companies said they spend $10,000-$20,000
- 6% of companies said they spend over $20,000
In addition, most companies (69%) increased their content marketing budgets in 2023, while only 3% planned to decrease spend.
Which social media platform is most popular?
According to data from Statista, the most popular social media platform is Facebook, with over 2.9 billion monthly active users.
YouTube is the second most popular social media platform with over 2.5 billion monthly active users.
How many companies use social media marketing?
Surveys show that about 93% of marketers worldwide use social media marketing in their business’s marketing strategy.
How do companies promote their content?
According to statistics from SEMrush, the most popular form of content promotion is publishing organic social media content (73%).
Here’s a full breakdown of the most popular content promotion strategies:
- 73% post organically on social media (organic posting)
- 53% send emails
- 51% use paid social media ads
- 33% optimize for organic traffic
- 29% leverage sponsorships (webinars, events, etc.)
- 28% invest in PR
- 25% use influencer marketing
- 11% guest post
How many companies use video marketing?
Studies show that 91% of companies use video marketing in their marketing strategies, which is the highest it’s ever been!
Do people still read blogs?
Yes, about 77% of internet users still actively read blog content.
How many companies use AI in content marketing?
Statistics show that 61.4% of marketers have used AI in at least one of their marketing campaigns, and 44.4% have used AI to aid their content creation process.
For those who are not yet using AI, a lack of understanding of AI (41.9%) was cited as the top reason for not incorporating it into their workflow.
The Future of Content Marketing
Paid costs continue to rise, and as targeting becomes less accurate due to privacy concerns, the ROI of paid ads will likely continue to decline. Therefore, it’s likely that more and more companies will invest in content marketing.
In addition, the introduction of artificial intelligence, from AI content writing tools to AI video editing tools, has made it easier than ever before for any company to increase its content output.
As the volume of content increases, B2B and B2C content consumers gravitate more toward content that reflects personal experiences and unique and original ideas.
Therefore, it’s likely that individual content creators will be critical to any brand’s content marketing strategy over the next several years.
If you want to be one of the creators at the forefront of content marketing, consider joining the Copyblogger Academy.
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