The term "content marketing" is gaining currency in recent months, becoming the new lingua franca of online marketers. But what is it? Simply put, content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases. The idea behind content marketing is pretty straightforward: by delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers, businesses can kindle reader interest, attract targeted prospects, generate relevant leads, and foster brand loyalty.
Online content marketing consists of blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, webcasts, webinars, podcasts videos and emails. Brands use content marketing to achieve a variety of business goals. These may include: thought leadership, lead generation, increasing direct sales, brand loyalty, and customer retention.
Thanks to the widespread adoption of mobile and social, consumer demand for online content is increasing geometrically. A 2011 survey of US Internet users conducted by research firm JZ Analytics found that nearly 87% of respondents consumed 11 hours or more of online content per week at their workplaces or homes, whether surfing the internet, watching online video or checking email. Moreover, 54% of those polled said they consumed at least 21 hours of digital content in a given week.¹
Marketers have taken notice. Earlier this year, creative firm Outbrain surveyed senior-level brand marketers and agency executives as they gathered to judge entries for the 2012 Effie awards. 100% of brand and agency marketers surveyed utilize content marketing in their overall marketing strategies. Of those surveyed, 82% of brand and agency marketers expect to increase content marketing efforts in 2012: ²
FOR EVERY PROBLEM THERE'S A SOLUTION
Unfortunately, many small businesses simply don't have the time and resources to craft premium content specific to their target audience. In the face of these new realities, many brands are choosing to outsource their content marketing needs to a professional team of content creators. Rather than spending the time, effort and money to source and hire talent, businesses are able to leverage the expertise of others to build up a veritable content arsenal.
As a company's digital "home base," many brands use their website as a distribution hub for online content. They then build unique calls-to-action (CTAs) directed to landing pages, where prospects offer up basic contact information such as email address in exchange for the content, free of charge. Capturing this information, companies set up lead nurturing email campaigns where they send out middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) and eventually bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content, oftentimes resulting in sales conversions.
Aside from a brand's website, social media is clearly the most powerful means of promoting online content. According to the Outbrain survey, social media is the actually the most popular channel for driving traffic to content, with 96% of respondents currently utilizing. In fact, the marketers participating in the survey listed social media engagement as the most popular indicator when measuring the success of content marketing efforts (89%), followed by views or content downloads (76%).
Many companies utilize all-in-one marketing automation software such as Hubspot to tie all of these elements together. Hubspot's platform is ideal for supporting the entire content distribution cycle, giving companies the tools necessary to manage SEO, social media, and lead nurturing, as well as offering back-end web and social analytics to measure the results of their content marketing efforts.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As consumers become more reliant on the Internet and social mobile for information and purchase decision, the demand for informative and relevant content will continue to grow apace. No company is immune to this online evolution. In order to compete, brands will have to adjust their marketing efforts to the new realities of our content-driven era. For many, outsourcing content creation will prove a more efficient and affordable alternative to building an online marketing team.
¹ eMarketer, "Hunger for Online Content Remains Undiminished"
² Outbrain Blog, "Report: The State of Content Marketing, 2012"