Understanding Content Marketing

Anna Sonnenberg


September 6, 2016 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Whether you’re the head honcho or you oversee marketing and sales efforts for your business, it’s time you got a handle on content marketing. With a mix of creating digital media assets, promoting great content, and pursuing influencer outreach, you can generate conversions and drive sales. This post will explore understanding content marketing, and discover how it can benefit your business.

Content Marketing Explained

Image via Flickr by Text100

On the most basic level, content marketing makes use of online content to meet a company’s marketing goals. These objectives can vary from business to business, and they might include anything from reaching new markets to retaining existing clients to developing a brand identity to making sales. The content that you use in these marketing campaigns also depends on your company’s goals. In most cases, it will include a mix of text-based and image-based material.

Who Needs Content Marketing?

Virtually every business needs some level of content marketing. In fact, an estimated 86% of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies use content marketing, and nearly 45% of business-to-business (B2B) companies rely on this marketing tool. In the foreseeable future, about 60% of companies plan to increase their content marketing budgets. In essence, no matter what type of business you run, you should be pursuing content marketing.

When To Dive Into Content Marketing

Depending on your company’s goals, it might never be too early to dive into content marketing. Startup businesses, for instance, often start developing brand identity and promoting awareness months in advance of launching a product or service. If your company is already established, there’s no time like the present to begin planning a campaign and start meeting your goals.

Related reading: Content Creation in Marketing: What It Is and Getting Started

How the Content Marketing Process Works

When you’re first getting started with the content marketing process, you’ll typically follow a standard timeline. Create a solid strategy before producing content, and don’t forget to measure the results.

1. Strategy

First comes content marketing strategy, or developing ways to meet your company’s goals through effective marketing. Start by listing the reasons for creating content and the platforms you’ll use to market the material. Your strategy may include blogging, promoting content on company social media profiles, distributing content through email newsletters, or producing high-level white papers.

This is also a good time to start organizing teams to handle each part of the workflow. You’ll need idea people, content creators, detail-oriented editors, rich media producers, and social media mavens. You may already employ staff members that fit the bill, or you might opt to contract some components to experienced creators, copywriters, and producers.

Early on, you’ll also want to do essential audience research. Make sure you know your audience demographics and understand the types of problems your audience is dealing with. Many businesses opt to develop personas, allowing you to market to different types of people in your target audience.

Create style guides and content calendars before moving on to the next stage. The former ensures that your team keeps its writing and content consistent throughout the campaign. The latter establishes a schedule for publication and promotion, and it also helps your team stay on track every step of the way.

2. Ideation

When you reach the ideation stage, come up with fresh ideas for content topics. Since you’ll reference your marketing strategy and content calendar often, be sure you have a detailed framework for content quantity and quality. You’ll also reference the marketing personas and the company style guide you’ve created to ensure that your plan stays focused.

3. Content Creation

Once you’ve approved the ideas, the content creation process can begin. Whether you’re tackling this step of the process in-house or you’re hiring experienced writers and editors, you’ll need to leave time for research, writing, editing, and quality assurance (QA).

Adding digital media like interactive infographics to your marketing mix can be a smart way to explain complex ideas and create highly shareable content. When creating infographics, be sure to leave time for research, developing wireframes, and approving content and graphics.

4. Promotion

Content promotion is crucial for increasing reach and engagement with audiences to meet the goals you’ve set. This is the ideal time to reach out and build relationships with influencers and other industry experts, as they can help grow your audience and promote your content. In most cases, you’ll also want to share your content on the social media platforms that your target audience uses.

5. Measurement

Finally, track and measure your content marketing success to make sure your efforts have the desired effect. Establish the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your campaign, and spend time looking over the analytics. From there, you can determine which areas need improvement and which could use a bigger budget or a larger team.

Related reading: How To Plan a Content Strategy That Achieves Your Goals

How Your Business Can Benefit From Content Marketing

Businesses large and small benefit from content marketing in a number of ways, both tangible and intangible. When you know what you want to get out of your marketing efforts, you can design your campaigns for optimal success. Here’s a list of the biggest benefits of content marketing (which isn’t exhaustive, by the way):

Grow Your Brand Identity

Content marketing can be one of the most affordable ways to build brand awareness and grow your audience at the same time. Creating material that tells your company’s story and gives your audience something to identify with goes a long way toward audience growth. With effective influencer outreach, you can also increase your number of potential customers and loyal fans.

Position Your Business as an Expert

No matter if you’re a big fish in a small pond or vice versa, content marketing can help emphasize your company’s expertise and standing in your industry. Blogging regularly, participating in social media conversations, and producing specialized white papers can position your business as an expert in the field.

Drive Conversions

Top-notch content marketing also has tangible benefits. Great content drives traffic to your company’s website. When done right, it can also generate leads and boost conversions and sales.

Whether you run a B2C or a B2B company, content marketing can serve as a key component of your promotional efforts. Start developing a strategy today, and your company can be well on its way toward effective content marketing in no time.

Author Image - Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is a digital marketer who specializes in paid social strategy, social media management, content strategy, and email marketing. For over five years, she has run Sonnenberg Media, a digital micro agency that works with small businesses in the natural food and beverage industry, health and sustainability market, and travel space.

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