70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, according to the Content Marketing Institute, and content marketers around the world are celebrating. The result of ten years of solid growth has resulted in a mature market where 86% of B2B businesses now use some form of content marketing.
Yet diving deeper into the number reveals major issues with how companies are approaching content marketing. 48% of businesses leveraging content marketing reported having an “undocumented strategy,” which broadly translates into: “yes, we talked about it and we write some stuff on our blog and social media.” Amongst companies with no written strategy, only 32% found their efforts to be beneficial.
Content marketing is not a strategy in itself, but a means to achieve desired results as part of a greater sales and marketing strategy. Companies stand a lot to gain by thinking of content marketing in the context of their inbound marketing strategy.
Content marketing vs. Inbound marketing
The term “content marketing” is rapidly becoming an industry catch-all and popular buzzword. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “owning, as opposed to renting media. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.”
Inbound Marketing, on the other hand, is defined by Square2Marketing as “a broad, high level, descriptive term for marketing tactics that, instead of pushing interruptive messages OUT to clients, engage prospects and pull them IN to your business. The goal of this approach is to help prospects get to know, like and trust your company—building comfort until the moment they’re ready to hire you.”
Content marketing is an activity of creating and publishing content to mainly attract people to my channels. For example, a company can write informative articles about their field of expertise. Or, a business can make a funny video to show off their award-winning customer support. The options are endless, but they are all fundamentally just different types of media.
Inbound marketing is complex strategy and approach which interconnects marketing and sales activities in one process including content creation, content delivery and sales via sophisticated tools and techniques. This dictates not only what sort of content a company should create, but what to do to maximize how effective it is at every stage of the way.
Attract, convert, close, and delight
Looking at the HubSpot methodology for inbound marketing as an example, they talk about a four part process: attract, convert, close, and delight. In this case, content marketing as we’ve defined it is really the attract part. Content is created to catch the attention of potential customers. Drawing people to that content involves SEO, following trends on social media, coming up with original ideas, and seeding links from other relevant content.
But what happens once someone is attracted? That’s usually where businesses see poor results, because the content they are creating does not have a lasting effect, and little to no impact on sales. In the extremely competitive business climate of the 21st century, just attracting is not enough.
Think of content marketing as a part of your inbound marketing strategy
Having an inbound marketing strategy creates a structure to content marketing. How often will a company create content? Will they create in-depth series or short listicles? Then come the convert, close, and delight stages. Once someone is reading my content, are they continuing to other articles on my blog? Is the call to action button getting clicks? Are they subscribing to my newsletter because they want more? Which of my content is the most valuable in terms of conversion?
Inbound marketing takes into account analytics, segmentation, and automation with the help of powerful digital platforms. Through analysis, personification, and optimization, a company can increase their conversion rate by directing more customers through their sales funnel. They can also provide their sales team with better leads, all resulting in more direct ROI from their content marketing.
If you’re interesting in learning how to maximize your content marketing strategy, you can take a look at what I’ve done in the Marketing section, or you can get in touch directly. Please feel free to share this article if you found it helpful. Thanks!