Content marketing: What is it, and why is it important?

Content marketing: What is it, and why is it important?
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Content Chef - arrow down

Discover how content marketing can attract customers to your business, generate sales and reengage your audience to create a loyal following for your brand.

It was a simple time. It was a happy time.

Before the days of instant gratification and clickbait culture, people were patient.

Patient to read, understand and nurture.

Yes, back when we built things to last, when quality outweighed quantity and when a good thing went a long way. Remember that?

So, what if I said it doesn’t have to be that way with your marketing?

What if I said content marketing could take us back to those former golden times?

For sustainable, long-lasting and hard-earned results, let’s discover why content marketing is the method that’ll keep delivering for your business.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing that develops interest and engagement in a business without directly selling to your consumer, like traditional marketing techniques.

For example, blogs, social media posts or videos can provide high-quality content to engage your user with valuable insights, information or entertainment.

So, beyond selling directly and at random, content marketing is about brand building.

With quality-driven content targeting a specific audience demographic, content marketing supports your business in providing relevant information and messaging to your consumers before distinguishing yourself as the solution to their problems.

When did content marketing become popular?

The term “content marketing” was first coined by John F. Oppedahl at a journalism conference in 1996. However, people could argue that content marketing began with the earliest paintings or the invention of the printing press in 1436 by Johannes Gutenberg.

The 1980s saw a rise in content marketing across printed purposes. Brands such as Marvel and DC would produce comic books to ignite the imagination and build a lasting connection with their young audience.

Despite countless accounts throughout history, with individuals and businesses producing content for promotional purposes, we can attribute a more modern (marketing) popularity to content marketing with the dawn of the internet.

By the 1990s, home computers and online access changed the content marketing game. Businesses soon began creating their own websites where they shared content and began building brand awareness and online authority.

Soon enough with the mainstream introduction of the internet, content marketing became what we know today.

Content marketing Vs. traditional marketing

Another way we can help define content marketing is by comparing it with traditional marketing techniques. To help with this distinction and the benefits between both sides, let’s use the analogy of an electric car versus a petrol car.

Traditional marketing: Your petrol car

We associate traditional marketing with the term “outbound marketing”. The aim is to send the same marketing message to reach as many people as possible.

Examples of traditional (outbound) marketing techniques include the following:

  • Direct (cold) email campaigns
  • TV and radio adverts
  • Print and display adverts
  • Online paid advertisements

Traditional marketing instigates the conversation with your consumer and deals more with short-term gains. A bit like pulling into a garage to fill up with petrol without waiting for the car to charge.

Content marketing: Your electric car

On the other hand, content marketing is concerned with the opposing industry term we call “inbound marketing”.

Inbound marketing doesn’t instigate the conversation with your consumer but waits until your consumer is interested before providing the relevant information.

Examples of content marketing include:

  • SEO blogs and articles
  • Social media posts
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters

You can apply these forms of content marketing in various ways and position your brand as an expert in the industry. They don't communicate sales directly but look to inform and add value to your audience. With content marketing, you answer questions, solve problems, and provide guidance.

And yes, of course. We hope it all results in sales for your business somewhere down the line.

Content marketing (electric car) Vs. traditional marketing (petrol car): The verdict  

Before we begin, we’re not implying there’s any particular winner between these marketing techniques. After all, we provide traditional marketing services too!

For example, petrol cars are popular because they can get you from A to B more conveniently to produce instant results. Just pull up in the garage, fill up your tank and away you go.

On the other hand, the electric car takes longer to charge, but you have something for the long term that’s more sustainable for your business.

So, it depends on your preferences and priorities. We'd recommend trying both marketing techniques simultaneously. Both sides can inform and enrich the other with market and consumer insights while generally boosting your brand presence.

Why is content marketing important?

In marketing speak, content marketing is crucial because it generates leads, builds engagement, and drives conversions.

In layman’s terms, it delivers sales, generates trust, and generally gets more eyes on your business.

But regardless of your preferred terms, here are seven statistics that stress the importance of content marketing:

7 shockingly good content marketing statistics

  • 79% of brands use content marketing to generate leads. (Startup Bonzai)
  • 82% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. (Ahrefs)
  • 86% of marketers use video content to drive traffic to their websites.(The Social Shepherd)
  • 64% of successful B2B marketers utilise a content marketing strategy.(Content Marketing Institute)
  • 68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. (Brightedge)
  • 70% of consumers prefer blogs to traditional advertisements. (Demand Metric)
  • 25% of UK adults listen to podcasts regularly. (The Social Shepherd)

Through an emphasis on quality, content marketing enables you to become an expert in your field, outmanoeuvring your competitors with more sophisticated and valuable content.

Sometimes, the “Sell! Sell! Sell!” agenda can only get you so far. While it can work and boost your outbound avenues, content marketing aims to nurture a loyal and target-specific customer base.

Essentially, too much time spent “selling” can cause your consumer to go elsewhere where they can receive more valuable content from your competitors.

How to create a successful content marketing strategy in 8 steps

Now you understand the definitions and importance of content marketing, let's begin to address the ideal content marketing strategy:

1.     Establish your goals

Like any good plan, it needs an overall aim or objective. While we all want the best overall business results from our content marketing, it helps to ask a few questions that can clearly establish your goals:

  • Do I want more leads?
  • Do I want more website traffic?
  • Do I want more conversions?
  • Do I want a stronger brand presence?

Rather than using one piece of content marketing to exceed every goal, we can divide our goals into specific forms of content marketing to give us the best chance of success.

2.     Define your target consumer

Second in line is determining who we’re targeting. With the power of personalisation and target-specific marketing capabilities, try to utilise the marketing tools available to pinpoint your ideal consumer.

With your data, help define your audience with a few questions, like:

  • What age is my target consumer?
  • Why do they find your products/services valuable?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • Where do they live?

By defining your audience, you can begin to build consumer profiles that align with your overall brand story.

Remember, alongside your brand, the consumer is the most integral character in your story.

3.     Get a handle on the competition  

No General ever goes out to battle without a handle on the enemy. And when it comes to consumers’ time and attention, the fight is on!

Now, we’re not saying to copy your competitors. But it’s still important to assess their approach with what’s working and what isn’t.

When analysing competitor websites, blogs, and social media content, ask yourself:

  • What type of content are they producing?
  • How does their content rank on search engines?
  • What keywords are they using?
  • Do they have a specific tone of voice (TOV), and is it consistent?

You can apply further SEO keyword research by comparing competitor websites to try and expose any keyword gaps that you can target.

4.     Keyword research and SEO strategy

On the back of our competitor research, we should have some keyword insights to work with and apply. A good start, indeed. But we want to cover all SEO angles to give ourselves the best chance of ranking high on those all-important search engine results pages (SERPs).

So, we use our target audience insights from stage two to list the keywords our consumer is actively searching. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the main keyword our consumer is searching for?
  • What volume of people is searching for this main keyword?
  • How difficult is it to rank for this keyword?
  • What questions is my target consumer asking?
  • How can I answer these search queries?

Once you’ve determined your main keywords, you can support your SEO content by answering long-tail keywords (questions) with concise and valuable answers for your user.

Moving on, you can then begin to cluster topic your keyword themes and start to stamp your expertise and authority across your industry as a thought leader in your field.

5.     Evaluate your existing content

If you have already published content on your website or other platforms, applying some marketing metrics can provide valuable insights into amendments and improvements.

Before you begin producing more content, it’s always helpful to see what has worked (and what hasn’t). Ask yourself:

  • What previous content engaged more consumers?
  • What previous content aligns more with my content marketing goals?
  • Is there anything specific about this content that makes it more engaging?
  • What content was less engaging and why?

Using website analytics tools such as Google Analytics can reveal the marketing metrics you require to evaluate the performance of your website content. On social media, you can assess impressions, comments, “likes”, etc.

6.     Plan your strategy

Research finished, it’s time to devise a content marketing strategy worthy of killer campaign status. With all your information in hand, begin answering the following questions:

  • What’s the most appealing type of content marketing for my target consumer?
  • What platforms will I use to publish my content?
  • How many times do I need to publish to create the most engagement?

Multi-channel content marketing is what many successful brands apply by dividing different types of content marketing to align with different stages of the consumer journey.

So, in line with establishing your strategy, you should create a buyer journey (similar toa sales funnel) with various stages, from awareness to interest, purchase and re-engagement.

7.     Execute and schedule

By this time, no doubt you’ll have tonnes of ideas and inspiration to grow your business with content marketing capabilities. However, now comes the importance of execution.

With multi-channel content marketing to consider, it’s about producing quality content and scheduling it out on time.

So, be realistic and answer:

  • Do I possess the resources, skills, and time to produce the content I need?
  • If not, should I contact a freelance copywriter or content marketing agency?
  • What is my budget in comparison with the content I wish to produce?
  • What existing content can I repurpose to save time and creativity?

You might feel stacked with heaps of content to produce and limited time and energy to do it. But don’t rush and publish something not thoroughly quality checked.

Honestly, rushing a piece of content goes against the principles of content marketing and isn’t worth it.

If you need to outsource some of your content marketing, feel free to explore our range of content marketing services.

8.      It’s never too late to modify

Just because you’ve got to grips with your content marketing strategy with scheduling and execution doesn’t mean the job is done.

So often in content marketing, we come across crucial points soon after we’ve published our blog or updated our website content. Never mind. It’s not too late. We just go back and add it in. Simple.

Make sure you monitor your content to check how it’s performing with a keen eye on how you can improve any pieces to drive more engagement.

8 content marketing strategy services

As mentioned in step seven of the previous section, you might have the ideas but not the means to deliver your content marketing strategy by yourself.

But whether you have writing experience and lack video content capabilities or have a handle on SEO but a shortage of social media visuals, here’s a list of content marketing services you should expect a professional agency or freelancer to cover:

  1. Copywriting
  2. SEO content (including research and strategy)
  3. Content strategy
  4. Organic social media content
  5. Video production
  6. Imagery (Graphics/photography)
  7. Email marketing (Newsletters)
  8. Website content

Each type of content can serve a specific purpose for your content marketing strategy. Whether establishing consumer awareness to conversion and re-engagement techniques, content marketing services can cover all platforms and stages of your consumer journey.  

Speak to a specialist content marketing agency

At Content Chef, we specialise in all areas of content marketing. We aim to make the content in your marketing the core ingredient of your campaigns.

For over a decade, our digital content marketing agency has supported a dynamic range of clients to build an online presence and engage their ideal consumers with authentic storytelling.

So, if you’re interested in enhancing your content marketing campaigns and strategy, get in touch.

Written by Archie Edwards
Archie Edwards - Content Chef