Whether you love it or hate it, if you invest in marketing your business then you are investing in content marketing. Consider this:

  • For social media marketing to work, you need a solid content marketing strategy
  • For PPC to work well, you need quality content to back it up
  • For your PR campaigns to work, you need content around issues your audience really cares about
  • For your SEO efforts to pay dividends, you need content that both search engines and people will appreciate
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing
  • 65% of companies say that generating traffic and leads with content marketing is their top marketing challenge

No matter what tactics you use, content will inevitably be part of it. So, content marketing is not really something in addition to or separate from your marketing efforts, but part of it.

Your customers are already searching the web with questions that your business is uniquely positioned to answer. Addressing that with content marketing offers three key benefits. They are:

  • Increase reach at a lower cost: Over time, your growing library of content can continue to reach qualified leads and buyers
  • Increase your brand awareness: Potential buyers searching the web for answers will likely come across your content
  • Increase brand preference: Content can help establish your brand as an industry thought leader and help strengthen relationships with customers and prospects.

What is content marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Marketo has a similar definition:
“Content marketing is the process of creating high-quality, valuable content to attract, inform, and engage an audience, while also promoting the brand itself.”

The terms “content marketing strategy,” “content strategy,” and “content marketing” are used interchangeably quite often.

Moz has created an illustration to help distinguish between these concepts.

How content marketing can work for your business

To engage in content marketing, as with any other forms of marketing, you need a strategy and a plan of action. Also, your efforts must be monitored and measured to ensure you are on track with the overall strategy.

Your content strategy and content marketing strategy need to be aligned to your audience’s buying decisions and journey. The graphic below provides an overview of how content can be used to nurture your audience through the major stages of a buyer’s journey and some content types that could be created for each stage.

Producing industry-leading content that grows your business involves:

  • Understanding your audience and audience segments
  • Identifying the topics that your audience segments are interested in
  • Gathering the information and talking about those topics or telling stories around those topics
  • Deciding on the appropriate medium to communicate with your audience segments
  • Finding people who would be interested in what you have to say and devising a plan to determine their interest and propensity towards acting on your call to action
  • Creating content
  • Promoting the content

How to monitor the effectiveness of your content marketing endeavors

While you may be able to produce content, publish it, and promote it, a critical part of a sound content marketing strategy is ability to measure its effectiveness in the context of your business goals.

Getting started
If you are starting out with content marketing, keep the following in mind as you set up your analytics and look to acquire the metrics you need:

  • Start small: You don’t need to measure everything from the start. Instead start with something easy and then build out from there.
  • Start with the TOFU: The Top of Funnel (TOFU) of your buyer’s journey is often the easiest place to start.
  • Start with a class of metrics: It would be easier to get metrics around retention or consumption than trying to get metrics around every aspect of the journey and matching it to revenue.
  • Be consistent with measurement: It is necessary to generate metrics for your content over a period, not just as a one-off. This way, you can determine what is working and what isn’t and adjust your content or strategy as needed.

Key types of metrics to monitor on an ongoing basis include:

Consumption: These metrics look at the numbers primarily in your TOFU. They look at the number of visitors that consume your content, the frequency with which they do so, and channels they like best.
Retention: Retention-related metrics look at the effectiveness of holding your audience’s attention beyond the first contact.
Sharing: Sharing-related metrics provide insights into what content is being shared, by whom, and where, and what platforms or channels they use to share it.
Engagement: These metrics help gauge whether the content resonates with your audience, what action they take after consuming your content, if any, how frequently it happens, etc.
Leads: These metrics form part of your lead generation analysis. As your audience progresses through the buyer’s journey, some will come to a point in the middle of the journey where they become a lead. This is where you want to measure the number of new leads being generated and the consumption of content by existing leads.
Sales: Toward the end of the buyer’s journey, you’ll want to look at the dollar amount of opportunities influenced, generated, and won. Other metrics such as lifetime values of your customers also help paint a more detailed picture.
Production: These metrics have to do with content operations. It looks at how the team is performing against editorial calendar deadlines and goals. How long it takes to turn a content idea into a published piece of content. How many pieces you publish in a week or month.
Cost: Knowing your costs will help establish your ROI. You’ll need to track what it costs to produce and distribute each piece of content, including design fees, paid distribution costs, and related customer acquisition costs.