Creating and executing a growth-generating marketing strategy and plan requires executive-level commitment. Marketing is one of the easiest disciplines to adopt haphazardly; most companies are bought into the idea of managing a social presence, the virtue of sending outbound emails, and the necessity of maintaining a compelling website. But, for the growth-minded executive, an investment in a sound marketing strategy rooted in analytics and a deep knowledge of the customer is foundational to long-term business success.
At its core, investing in marketing is about investing in relationships with your current and future customers. Like all investments worth pursuing, building relationships takes time. There are also myriad ways to approach this relationship-building through marketing—from social media to programmatic advertising to billboards. And, these tactics can become costly quickly.
For businesses without large marketing budgets, many executives wonder what the right mix of growth-driving tactics is to drive long-term relationships with customers in a way that doesn’t negatively impact profitability.
Enter strategic content marketing.
What is Strategic Content Marketing?
Strategic content marketing helps facilitate the building of relationships with current and future customers. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Many executives wonder what the difference is between “regular” advertising and content marketing. Whereas traditional advertising focuses primarily on paying for or “renting” audience attention, the marketing discipline generally targets defined audiences in paid, owned, and earned outlets. As a specialty within marketing, content marketing is about creating and sustaining genuine engagement and interest over time that ultimately leads to sales. In other words, traditional advertising is about selling, content marketing is about “compelling”—building audiences through owned and earned channels.
In the last few years, the lines between traditional advertising and content marketing have become increasingly blurred. Content marketing is so effective that it’s often distributed through paid media. And advertising often uses compelling stories to promote products and services.
4 Ways Strategic Content Marketing Drives Revenue
So, what makes strategic content marketing a more cost-effective option for revenue generation? It comes down to how it follows the path of the customer journey in a more intuitive, human way than advertising.
Content marketing invites free attention rather than demanding purchased attention. All companies long to create a fan base that reaps large returns, but actual relationships with customers are what it takes to get there. Those companies that are customer-obsessed, according to Forrester, enjoy increased profitability and revenue growth. Here’s how content marketing aligns intuitively with the real buying habits of customers:
1. It Taps into Your Customers’ True Interests.
If you’re a B2B technology company, the easiest way to blow your budget quickly with a small return is to talk about the features and benefits of your technology all day and all night. But if you’re looking to capture a new audience who may be unfamiliar with your offerings, content marketing is a wonderful tool. By creating a unique piece of content featuring proprietary data, conducting a fascinating new study, or writing an interview series on a technology topic that your customers care about, you can quickly enjoy a host of benefits from increased social engagement to press coverage to new and return traffic on your website.
The overall intent of top-of-funnel content marketing is to connect your brand loosely with your customers’ interests and position your company as a thought leader. Content is fuel for attracting your customers by informing them about trends and key industry issues.
Though its cost-effectiveness is a clear benefit, it shouldn’t be the primary focus. Top-of-funnel content should be worth writing, worth reading, and should be treated as a front door to your brand.
2. It Links Your Customers’ Interests with Needs.
Many executives get hung up on the idea of creating thought leadership content and never pursue investments in content marketing because it tends to seem “fluffy” to ROI-focused execs. It all seems too cerebral, too high-level, too forced, or too expensive. The beauty of strategic content marketing is that, when executed well, it creates a natural path from an interest to a need—and can be done for minimal cost.
If you are a technology company, for example, your top-of-funnel content might consist of a study on the top 40 tech trends in the US. By publishing and promoting the study, you might attract a following of potential customers who are interested in technology and are ripe for continued communication with you. This is where your content efforts can begin to focus on getting more specific—perhaps about a specific tech trend that relates to a product you create. Content at this phase can be educational in nature, focusing on how technology can benefit your customer, or stories about how a specific type of technology has evolved, and can be served to the folks you’ve attracted in your top-of-funnel efforts.
3. It Connects Your Customers’ Needs with Your Company.
Eventually, your customers will have defined needs. Your audience will understand what you do and will want proof that you’re the right company to do it for them. At this phase, content marketing can bring in tactics to link the need with your products. Content in the form of brochures about your specific technology offerings, offer pages on your website with a seasonal discount, customer testimonials, and FAQs can help your customer overcome the final barriers to buy from you. Gartner calls facilitating this behavior “buyer enablement.” And these steps can all take place before the customer has spoken with a single salesperson.
4. It Unites Your Current Customers with New Customers.
Driving loyalty and advocacy is a core component of content marketing. Once your customer is hooked, they’re likely to follow you on social media, read your blog, talk to your employees, and share the content you create with new audiences, thereby creating a flywheel of new leads, new relationships, and new fans.
Content Marketing Should Be a Part of Your Strategy
Although successful content marketing takes planning and hard work to execute well, it’s tough to argue the science behind why it’s so effective at lead generation and influencing buyer behavior. The best part of content marketing is that it can be done entirely in-house or entirely outsourced, and it is over 60% more cost effective than traditional advertising and should be considered as a central set of strategic marketing activities to help you drive growth.
Want to learn more about the ins and outs of creating a marketing plan for growth? Then get your free copy of 5 Benefits of Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan.