One of the first documented instances of content marketing was created by none other than U.S. Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. In 1732, the inventor and politician produced Poor Richard’s Almanack, a pamphlet he used to promote his printing press business.
Fast-forward a few hundred years, and the general premise of content marketing has, mostly, remained the same but the way in which it is disseminated has evolved. The reason for this evolution? The Internet and the dawning of the Digital Age.
In today’s business world there is a seemingly infinite number of ways to use content to promote your company. Content marketing has become less of a commodity and more of a necessity.
If you want your business to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace, providing engaging and value-driven content is essential.
Why? Let’s take a look at the stats:
- In 2014, content marketing revenue worldwide generated $144.81 billion USD. It is also expected to reach $313.42 billion USD by 2019. (Statista)
- Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers. (Aberdeen)
- While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than three times as many leads. (Content Marketing Institute)
Content Marketing Defined
Unfortunately, the definition for content marketing can vary depending on who you are talking to. For the purposes of this article, we thought it would help to break apart the term and define each keyword separately:
Information made available by a website or other electronic medium.
The action or business of promoting and selling products or services.
When you combine these two definitions, you get something along the lines of “the action of selling something via information online.” However, content marketing is more often the creation and sharing of material that passively promotes the brand. The goal is to stimulate interest in the brand or company behind the content—regardless of where or how it is delivered.
Contently’s James O’Brien offered a great explanation in a recent Mashable article: “The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story.”
An easy way to approach content marketing is to think of your brand as if it were a lifestyle magazine. You want to provide your audience with valuable and insightful information, but also pepper it with relevant ads that promote your business.
Breaking Down The Content Creation Process
Before we jump into the types of content marketing, let’s take a look at the overall process. There are four major components when it comes to content creation:
- Strategy – The plan.
Is there a clear strategy in place for your content efforts? If not, you’ll need to create one before getting started.
- Copy – The words.
What will this piece of content say?
- Imagery – The pictures, videos, icons, graphics, etc.
What will this piece of content look like?
- Medium – The final home for the copy and imagery.
Where will this content live? On a website, app, or social media post?
The natural starting place for content marketing is the strategy. Your strategy will dictate how the rest of the process unfolds. Let’s say, for example, your strategy states you need to engage with a key demographic on Facebook. In this case, you would lead with the medium, and the copy and imagery would need to fit Facebook’s format. On the other hand, if your strategy determines that you need to create text-based content to be delivered via a variety of platforms, then you would lead with the copy, and the medium and imagery would need to fit the copy.
Overall, think of your strategy as the foundation of your process. The copy, imagery, and medium need to adapt and evolve based on what the strategy dictates, so it’s important to have a team that understands the fluidity of the process.
Popular Types Of Content Marketing
Once your strategy is nailed down, then you can start to consider the many different types of content marketing options available. Of course, we don’t recommend picking one and hoping for the best or simply jumping on one content marketing bandwagon solely because it’s trending at the moment. The key is to figure out what your target audience will value and determine which type of content marketing tactics will work best.
So, without further ado, here is a list of some of the most popular types of content marketing:
- The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media. (McKinsey)
- Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue. (Data & Marketing Association)
- Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%. (Data & Marketing Association)
Email’s imminent death has been predicted for well over ten years now, but this popular form of content marketing is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Keeping in touch with your audience via newsletters is a fantastic way to promote your business and sell your products.
But beyond the basics like a newsletter, today’s e-marketing automation capabilities offer a wide variety of possibilities. You can run drip campaigns, warm up cold leads with insightful messaging, and even personalize and customize messages based on segments.
- 82% of marketers who blog get positive ROI from their inbound marketing activities. (Hubspot)
- 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (BlogHer)
- Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI. (Hubspot)
Blogging is a great way to show thought-leadership in your field while providing your target market with valuable information. Excellent blog posts tend to go viral and will easily get shared across social channels. Some blogging options to consider include:
- Guest blogging – Guest blogging can expand your company’s reach and get your products in front of a new prospect pool. When done properly, guest blogging can also help improve your SEO rankings (just be sure to not abuse it as search engines like Google are cracking down on shady guest blogging practices).
- Medium – This popular blogging platform is like if Twitter and WordPress had a baby. Medium’s algorithm delivers content it believes users will like directly to them via a newsfeed, so it’s highly effective at getting the word out to new audiences.
- LinkedIn – If most of your target audience is other professionals or if you’re in the B2B space, then publishing your articles directly on LinkedIn is a very effective tactic for thought leaders. Keep in mind this is very different from sharing a post on LinkedIn. Publishing an article needs to be done via a personal profile and cannot be done on a company page.
- Internal – The obvious space for your company blog to live is right on your homepage. The only downside is that you won’t necessarily reach new audiences when posting on your internal site. You’ll want to either advertise these posts or promote them via email and social networks.
- Contributor posts – Becoming a contributing columnist for companies like Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, Mashable, etc., is a great way to get your content in front of new audiences and to position yourself as an authority figure in your industry.
- Reps using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers. (Forbes)
- A lead developed via social media is 7x more likely to close. (IBM)
- 33% of Millennials identify social media as one of their preferred channels for communicating with businesses. Less than 5% of those 55 and older agree. (MarketingSherpa)
Business leaders and marketers can easily get overwhelmed when it comes to content marketing efforts on social media. Overall, social media is an excellent vessel for getting the word out about your company. You want to fill your company’s profile with long-form content your audience will like, share, and comment on. This can include everything from fun images to sharing the latest company blog post. Just be sure to pepper in the occasional advertisement or call-to-action promotion.
The most popular social media channels include:
- Embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%. (Hubspot)
- Mobile video consumption grows by 100% every year. (YouTube)
- 65% of business decision-makers visit a marketer’s website after viewing a branded video. (Hubspot)
Video content is catching fire these days. From Facebook feeds to basic website layouts, video is quick to grab attention, build brand awareness, and draw prospects into what your company has to offer. You can easily disseminate video content on your website, social media, emails, and, of course, on YouTube.
- Through the success of content marketing, 49% of B2B marketers follow up with quality sales leads for further assessment. (Content Marketing Institute)
- Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. (CSO Insights)
- 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than by traditional paid marketing. (Hubspot)
Lead generation is an important part of any content marketing strategy. You want to draw prospects to your company and get them to trade contact information for content. While, arguably, all the content marketing types we’re listing here can be used for generating leads, there are a few types of content that excel at generating leads.
We typically refer to these types of content as lead magnets—aka opt-in bribes. This content contains information a prospect would be willing to exchange their contact information so they can access it. Some of these types of content include:
- Infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3X more than other any other type of content. (Massplanner)
- An infographic is 30 times more likely to be read than a purely textual article. (Search Engine Journal)
- The median cost to reach one reader for an infographic was $0.04 versus $1.77 for a blog post. (Contently)
Visual content is a fantastic way to stand out. Your audience will be drawn to the imagery while also engaging with the actual content.
Just remember, when you’re creating an infographic, make sure you’re not leaning too heavily on either the copy or images—an infographic needs to strike a perfect balance between the two.
- Between 20% and 40% of webinar attendees turned into qualified leads. (ReadyTalk)
- Of the lead generation tactics available, webinars are the second most effective type of high-quality content for marketers. (Ascend 2)
- Over 60% of marketers are using webinars as part of their content marketing programs. (Content Marketing Institute)
Webinars position you and your company as experts in your field. Your customers will love it because they’re getting invaluable knowledge out of the process, while you get to passively sell yourself and your product.
- The average quiz has a 33.6% lead capture rate. (LeadQuizzes)
- 82% of consumers engaged with quizzes they were exposed to via their newsfeed. (BuzzSumo)
- Interactive content, such as apps, assessments, calculators, configurations, and quizzes, generate conversions moderately or very well 70% of the time, compared to just 36% for passive content. (Ion Interactive)
Interactive content gets your customers to engage with your brand. This can be done through quizzes, assessments, or games. Get creative and brainstorm topics that your target audience will be unable to resist.
- 1 in 5 Americans make podcasts a priority in their busy schedules. (Edison Research)
- 63% of podcast listeners actually purchased something the host had promoted. (Midroll)
- 88% of podcast listeners that subscribe to your podcast will listen to every episode. (WhyPodcasts)
Podcasts are enjoying a surge in popularity these days. People love to listen to quality content while at work, driving home during a long commute, or working out at the gym. Or course, storytelling is at the heart of this content marketing type so if you’re considering creating a podcast, you’ll need to offer a compelling, story-driven premise that will hook your prospects.
So, what type of content will your prospect and customers find valuable? Regular blog posts? Snapchat videos? An informative podcast? While the options out there are exhaustive, it’s best to use a combination of all the types of content marketing in a way that will serve your audience the best. And remember, this is an ever-evolving digital marketing field—what resonates with your target market today might be old news tomorrow. Continue to adjust your strategy as needed.