Marketing has progressed in both form and approach over the past decade. Here’s a quick overview:
Traditional Marketing + Technology = Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing + Audience Insights = Digital Content Marketing
Content marketing is at the core of a broader shift toward personalized marketing experiences and overall more audience-centered B2C communications.
The umbrella term for this consumer-centered approach is called Inbound Marketing, which basically means marketing that draws customers in organically as opposed to outbound marketing, which bombards and catches consumers off guard.
Content marketing falls right in line with this shift and has become lucrative for businesses around the world. So, let’s get into it.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing definition: any marketing strategy that involves creating, publishing, and sharing content to reach specific audience segments, with the goal being to inform, engage, and ultimately provide relevant content that “sticks,” or impacts its viewers.
Content marketing ditched generic, in-your-face, outbound marketing for personalized, strategically-positioned Inbound Marketing.
Here are the three basic steps behind successful content marketing as part of a sustainable Inbound Marketing strategy:
Step 1: Know Your Audience
This is what differentiates content marketing from traditional digital marketing: content marketers really, really understand their audiences, and they do this through audience research and segmentation.
There are a few ways to do audience research, but the goal is to identify behavioral and lifestyle patterns to break one large audience into smaller micro-audiences.
So, if your main audience is women age 25-34, a segment of that audience would include at least one additional variable, such as professional industry or education (e.g., college-educated women, age 25-34, who work in retail).
The same goes for B2B. If your main audience is cosmetic manufacturers, you could segment by ownership (public vs. private) or company size.
Audience segments create easily-identifiable customer archetypes, and figuring them out is necessary for a successful content marketing campaign. Why?
Because your marketing content must change in order to match the specific needs and motivations of your audience segments.
Helpful audience research tools to get you started:
- Analytics (social media, search engine, website)
- Google alerts
- Customer surveys and interviews
- Social media monitoring
- A/B testing
- Industry news
- Keyword research
- Market segment data tools
Step 2: Create Relevant Content
Once you decide which audience segment to target, it’s time to create quality web content based on their needs.
For instance, if we know that your largest segment uses Instagram and works in a city, we’ll create campaigns tailored to the mobile, fast-paced lifestyle - much different content than the content we’d create for, say, a smaller Facebook-heavy segment from a rural area.
Even if they share an affinity for your brand, these are two different types of people. While a blog distributed on Facebook might appeal to the 9-5 desk-jobbers, the freelancing city-dwellers are more likely to scan Instagram on the go.
Different segments have different lifestyles, and therefore require different content forms.
Here are some starter questions to ask about your audience segments:
- What does this segment care about the most? What motivates them to purchase? (time, money, technology, values, etc.)
- What type of content does this segment prefer? (blogs, newsletters, infographics, case studies, graphics, podcasts, videos, etc.)
- Where does my segment find information, and where should I publish (or send) this content?
Step 3: Analyze Results
The thing about marketing is that you won’t always reach the audience you expect, so always be open to trial, error, and discovery.
Unsuccessful content usually indicates incorrect (or too broad) audience targeting – not the content itself.
So, if the results of your first content marketing strategy don’t pan out as planned, revisit your audience insights. The more precise your segments, the more qualified you will be to not only create compelling content, but also predict the future behavior and needs of your customers.
Every content marketing strategy is an opportunity to measure, analyze, and improve. Therefore, ongoing A/B testing, analysis, and optimization is key to a successful content marketing strategy.
The best content strategies evolve over time - with and for customers.