“Content marketing” is a buzzword-sounding term that unfortunately tends to get used interchangeably with influencer marketing, native advertising, and audience-centric marketing. Here at Sway Group, we often hear from clients who are confused about what content marketing is all about, and how to do it correctly. In this post that was originally published on Forbes, we’ll share our best-practice advice for getting the most from your content marketing efforts — while avoiding some of the most common mistakes.
In a nutshell, content marketing is the art and science of creating and sharing valuable free materials for a specific audience. While it's wildly popular today, content marketing has in fact been around for centuries.
Content marketing is different from traditional marketing like brochures or commercials; instead of trying to make a sale, content marketing is meant to educate, entertain or otherwise meet an existing customer need.
As writer and content strategist James O’Brien put it in an article for Mashable,
"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. The value returned is often that people associate good things with — and return to engage with — the brand."
Many businesses are realizing that digital content marketing is an extremely effective way to reach existing customers. In fact, according to Nielsen's 2018 CMO Report, 82% of respondents were "planning to increase their digital budgets by about 50% in the next year."
For all its advantages, a content marketing program does come with some challenges. The good news is that with a little planning, you can avoid these five common barriers to success.
1. Falling Short On Resources
This is a frequent stumbling block for brands: They simply don't have the resources to keep up with content demands. From daily social media posts to website content and promotional assets, you may need a lot of content — and once in-house resources are exhausted, using creative agencies can be expensive and unsustainable.
A great solution to the content problem lies with digital influencers. Influencer-created content can capture consumer attention in a credible, authentic way, and it’s usually much less expensive than working with a big agency. Many influencers are available on a freelance basis and can take photographs, write copy for social media posts, create video assets and more. One way brands can find influencers is by identifying those who are already creating content for their target market.
2. Failing To Secure Content Rights
Don't assume that you can share, edit or repurpose content that influencers or others create without their permission. Make sure to secure commercial usage rights to avoid any copyright infringement issues. While this may be more expensive upfront, it’ll likely be a worthy investment in the long run.
3. Inconsistent Publishing
The process of building your brand and engaging both prospects and existing customers with content is continuous. Don’t just publish around product launches or events; be consistent to keep stoking the fire. By posting regularly, your audience will likely come to rely on you as a credible source of insight and information. You also can boost your search engine optimization results by publishing fresh, relevant content regularly.
Map your brand's content cadence to larger marketing goals. While there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to publishing volume, a strategic approach can keep interest high and help maintain a focus on quality. An editorial calendar can help you maximize your content marketing efforts by allowing you to track content categories, ideas, posts in progress and published works. You can use an Excel spreadsheet or tools like Google Calendar or Trello to create your editorial calendar.
4. Missing Most Of The Sales Funnel
A common misconception is that content marketing is only appropriate for outreach and lead generation, but the truth is that content can help brands create touch points for every part of the sales funnel. From awareness to conversion to encouraging ongoing loyalty, content marketing can be used to keep customers engaged no matter where they are in the buying process.
Different types of content can be strategized for different parts of the funnel. Consider creating educational blog posts and videos for the discovery phase, for instance, and use case studies and demos for bottom-of-funnel calls to action.
5. Creating One-Time-Only Content
Once you’ve invested time and money into a great piece of content, make it keep working for you to get the most bang for your buck. One-and-done content offers less return on investment since you miss out on the opportunity to appeal to more audiences and extend your reach. Consider the ways that you might repurpose that amazing blog post: Could it be included in a newsletter or mentioned on a podcast? How about a particularly compelling influencer graphic: Would it work on your website or as part of a paid advertisement?
When you repurpose content, you’re not only improving your return on investment, but you’re also creating repetition, which can help you become top of mind for customers and potential customers. By continually adding new touch points for your target market, you also can increase credibility — and ultimately, drive more engagement and sales.
By consistently producing credible, compelling content, you can build trust and loyalty with your audience — and increase the likelihood that new audiences will discover your brand. However, your content marketing results are only as good as your strategy, so be sure to invest some time in planning to avoid pitfalls and get the payoff you desire.