Content marketing is a hot topic. It's something that's frequently misunderstood by both business owners and marketing professionals alike.
So often, digital marketers and business owners will attempt to embrace content marketing by putting all their effort into content creation. While this is great (and an important first step) it's so important to look at the other crucial elements of content marketing and integrate them into your processes.
Unless your content has an audience, a way to reach that audience, and a deep connection with the wider goals and ambitions of your organization, your content will fail to deliver any meaningful ROI.
What is Content Marketing?
CMI defines content marketing as:
...a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Content marketing is more about the creation and distribution of content that attracts, acquires, and engages your customers and prospects. Therefore, any content that is created to meet this objective can be defined as content marketing.
The objective of marketing is very similar: communicating the value of a product or service to customers. Content marketing is a vehicle for the "communicating" part of the marketing machine and can (and should) be easily integrated into most aspects of the marketing mix.
Let's look at how this works within a few relevant and specific fields.
Content Marketing & SEO
Link related metrics have never been more important to SEO. High authority, relevant links will improve your website's search visibility.
Content marketing tactics can drastically help generate links by publishing content through guest blogs (read the latest on this from Google's Matt Cutts), publications and external websites. Though it's only content of the highest quality and usefulness that will get shared in this way, for companies who invest in the right type of content and make sure that they have clear, effective channels to promote that content to the right people, this can deliver an extremely high ROI.
The key to making sure your content delivers SEO value is to invest the appropriate time and resources into creating the right type of content in the first place. Sure, you could just write a blog post in the two hours you have free on a Friday afternoon, but it's unlikely to be groundbreaking. However, if you commit to creating a one-stop resource that your target demographic will find really useful, even if it takes you weeks, the return you will get from it will make it extremely worthwhile.
The second important consideration is that, when you click "publish," your work is only just beginning.
At this point you need to start utilizing every connection at your disposal to get your content picked up. This means email outreach, social promotion, PR even PPC campaigns. Do whatever you can to make your content the content people are sharing that week!
Content Marketing & Sales
Content marketing works best when it isn't dictated entirely by the marketing team. True integration means getting your sales team involved in the content creation. After all, they are the front line communicators of your organization.
Your sales team can use thought leading content to establish credibility, infographic content to spark interest, and whitepapers to maintain dialogue and engage prospects. By utilizing the knowledge and experience of your sales team, your content will help move prospects down the sales funnel and you will see a much greater ROI.
Content Marketing & Branding
Content marketing can be the most effective branding tool you have at your disposal. Many experts have even claimed that content marketing is the new branding.
You can use content marketing to teach, inspire, connect, and even entertain. By publishing content that strongly communicates the appearance and personality of your brand, you can greatly increase awareness and visibility. Each time your content is viewed, shared, or discussed, your brand will be fortified and your reach extended.
Content Marketing & Social
Rather than simply seeing your social networks as a means to publicize and promote your content, you can also look at it from the other side. Your content provides crucial talking points for new and existing members of your community. They will provoke conversation, engagement and, sometimes, controversy.
If you share your content and then engage with those who have read it, shared it, or responded, you will keep the buzz going for much longer and prolong the ROI. Social media enhances content marketing, but the reverse is also true.
Another crucial bonus of sharing and promoting high-quality content through your social networks is its ability to help increase the size of your network. How often have you followed a new person or company on Twitter because a friend of yours retweeted a great piece of content they have produced?
Content Marketing & Syndication
Content that's generated as a part of your content marketing efforts can be easily repurposed for lead-gen and syndication efforts. For example, if you're working with a content syndication organization like Netline, you can use whitepapers, infographics and even videos as the gated content on these outlets. This is a great way to maximize the value, reach, and usefulness of your content.
Do You Have a Corporate Publishing Culture?
Many experts believe that brands now need to be publishers. I couldn't agree more.
The key to seeing a positive and consistent ROI from your content marketing efforts is to take a wider, integrated approach. By integrating your content marketing with all the other elements of your marketing, sales, and branding processes, your content will have a much wider appeal, more visibility and deliver greater results and benefits.
Over the next few years we will slowly see a corporate publishing culture emerge. Unfortunately, only companies that can adopt this wide, integrated approach and mobilize their whole organization into the process of creating and promoting their content will see the true value of content marketing.