What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic approach to digital marketing focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience. Done right, content marketing not only helps you attract ideal prospects, it moves those prospects through the Customer Journey to drive more conversions, grow your business or organization, and help you achieve your goals.

Content Marketing Methodology

Most businesses and organizations miss out on a lot of opportunities because their vision for content marketing is too small. As a result, they’re churning out content but not getting great results. And here’s why: content in and of itself isn’t what drives traffic and sales.

Content is not about you, your brand, or your objectives. It’s about delivering the right information to your ideal prospects at exactly the right point in their Customer Journey. Content is any information that keeps the funnel full…even a pricing page is content.

Another big misconception is that content marketing is just blogging. While blogs are a major component of content marketing, they’re only one part of the bigger picture. In most cases, a blog is not the most lucrative form of content marketing.

1. Content Marketing Is A Funnel

Ella J Designs Content Marketing Funnel

For a prospect to become a customer, they traverse three stages:

  1. Awareness & Attraction – Your prospect must first become aware they have a problem or a need, and then be attracted to your solutions.
  2. Engagement & Evaluation – Prospects now evaluate their options and become more comfortable with possibly doing business with you by engaging.
  3. Conversion – Finally your prospect is now in a position to make a purchase, register, or whatever your conversion goal(s) happen to be. The objective here is to convert prospects into [repeat] customers.

Successfully moving prospects through the content marketing funnel requires content specifically designed to satisfy their needs at each stage:

  • Top of the funnel attracts and facilitates awareness.
  • Middle of the funnel engages and facilitates evaluation.
  • Bottom of the funnel facilitates conversion.

Blogs are fantastic for generating awareness and attracting new prospects, but they are poor for engaging, evaluating, and converting. Moving prospects through the middle and bottom of the funnel requires other content types.

Top Of The Funnel Content Marketing – Awareness & Attraction

Ella J Designs Content Marketing Funnel - Awareness & Attraction

Prospects entering the top of your funnel are usually unaware of your solution and, sometimes, unaware of their problem or need. As a result, you need content with a low barrier to entry—because at this stage, prospects have little to no motivation to put skin in the game (such as giving your contact information or money). There also is little to no relationship that’s been developed at this point.

It’s important to position freely available content at the top of the funnel that entertains, educates, or inspires:

  • Blog Posts
  • Social Media Updates
  • Infographics
  • Photographs
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Microsites
  • Videos
  • Newsletters
  • Informational Web Pages
  • Interviews

Content Distribution Drives Awareness & Attraction

Ella J Designs Content Distribution - Act Like A Media Company

The ideal approach to drive awareness and attract ideal prospects is content distribution.

Your content — images, blog posts, videos, etc. — are valuable assets. To maximize their value, content assets can and should be used more than once. They can be spliced and then can be repurposed to accommodate different distribution channels.

Our favorite strategy is to publish long-form, pillar content (blog, white paper, video, podcast, etc.) and then splice and repurpose it as short-form, micro content that is shared across your social profiles.

Content Distribution Benefits

  • Repurposing, rather than always creating new content, reduces your creative investment, in both time and money.
  • Content distribution multiplies the value and impact each content asset can have by making it to easy to manage social media syndication and be “everywhere” your ideal prospects are.
  • It maintains consistent messaging across channels and builds strong brand awareness.
  • Content distribution guarantees a perpetual life for your content, improving your return on investment in content marketing.

6 Step Content Distribution Process

  1. Splinter: Splintering pillar content into micro content is the process of breaking off bits and pieces of content and sharing them on their own. This varies from headlines quotes images questions or even statistics. We want to get this content in front of as many people as possible. The goal here is so that people don’t become blind to your content when you’re sharing it over and over again.
  2. Visualize: Visual micro content is absolutely necessary to drive engagement and clicks on social media. Quote boxes, images, infographics, gifs and screenshots keep micro content fresh and people see something different, that makes them stop.
  3. Broadcast: Before sharing posts all over the internet, proper links with UTM parameters need to be created to measure performance. UTM parameters are simply tags added to a URL — when a link is clicked, the tags are sent back to Google Analytics and tracked. You can’t optimize what you don’t measure so we make sure links are prepared to capture clicks, time on the page, and tell us as much information about an audience as possible.
  4. Tagging: When broadcasting a post, tagging people (influencers if applicable), brands, and hashtags makes sense because the longer the reach your content can get , the better. This is also an opportunity for networking.
  5. Monitoring: Most social media action occurs in the first 48 to 72 hours so it’s essential to monitor immediate performance. Monitoring involves listening and responding — tactics from social media marketing). These reactions are then taken into consideration for future long-form content.
  6. Schedule: Scheduling micro content into a social media management tool results in perpetual sharing and content distribution. This means content will continue breathing, and continue getting eyeballs on it in an automated fashion.

Awareness & Attraction Stage Goals

The big content marketing goal of the Awareness & Attraction funnel stage is to make prospects “problem/need aware” as well as “solution aware.” Content needs to raise awareness of your offers while providing valuable information that attracts ideal prospects. It works in any industry, including non-profit organizations, and for any type of product or service.

Middle Of The Funnel Content Marketing – Engagement & Evaluation

Ella J Designs Content Marketing Funnel - Engagement & Evaluation

Middle of the funnel content transitions “problem and solution aware” prospects into leads. Free content that incentivizes prospects to submit their contact information and opt in to receive future marketing works best. This type of content is called a lead magnet:

  • Educational Resources (Case Study, White Paper, etc.)
  • Useful Resources (Swipe File, Checklist, etc.)
  • Downloads
  • Discount/Coupon Clubs
  • Quizzes/Surveys
  • Webinars/Events

Lead magnets are free content that incentivize prospects to opt in to list, typically email, and become leads.

Leads are great, but amassing an impressive leads database is not the end game. A another content type is required at the bottom of the content marketing funnel to convert leads into customers.

Bottom Of The Funnel Content Marketing – Conversion

Ella J Designs Content Marketing Funnel - Conversions

Content at this final stage enables prospects to make an informed purchase decision:

  • Demos/Free Trials
  • Customer Stories
  • Comparison/Spec Sheets
  • Webinars/Events
  • Mini-Classes

Leads may be reading your blog posts and downloading lead magnets, but content that helps them decide between you and your competitor moves them through to purchase.

Creating top of funnel (TOFU) content for a blog is important, but failing to build a full-funnel content marketing plan will leave you disappointed and deliver subpar content marketing results. This is why we develop a complete content marketing funnel when working with clients.

2. Content Marketing Is Intent-Based

The key to content marketing is understanding intent creating the content assets to address that intent.

To come up with valuable content assets, anticipate current and future needs. Most lucrative content assets (if you have an existing business) are assets that meet intent at the bottom and middle of the funnel. We optimize for this existing bottom and middle of funnel intent before going to work on generating awareness at the top of the funnel with an expensive and time-consuming blog roll out. That’s not to diminish the power of a business blog it just happens the quick wins in content marketing are in the middle and bottom of the funnel.

3. Content Marketing Is Ascension Focused

Failure to provide an ascension path from every piece of content isn’t just bad marketing—it’s a bad user experience. Smart content marketing anticipates the next logical intent and removes as much friction as possible to create a clear path to conversion. For instance, a “Risk-Free Trial” offer for software removes friction. In blog content, prospects can be given the opportunity to opt-in with their email address to get more information about a topic. They get the info they’re seeking, you get a lead.

4. Content Marketing Is Segmented

You don’t actually know what people are truly interested in until they give you their money or time. When a prospect visits a piece of content (spends time) they have raised their hand and indicated interest. And, because of the magic of ad retargeting you can follow up with these prospects with a relevant ascension offer.

5. Content Marketing Is Cross-Channel

Content should meet intent in any channel where groups of prospects are searching for and sharing content including:

  • Website/Blog
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

Per the content distribution model, any single content asset (pillar content) should be repurposed (as micro content) and syndicated across numerous channels to maximize exposure.

6. Content Marketing Is Avatar-Based

Last, but certainly not least, perfect content marketing assets are produced to satisfy the intent of your customer avatars. A content asset can satisfy the intent of multiple avatars or it can be published to target a single avatar.

When we develop your content marketing strategy, we identify your major content avatars (your typical customer profiles) and make sure your content is speaking to those audiences in a way that resonates.

Content Marketing Success Metrics

  • Traffic by Channel – The top of the funnel is designed to raise awareness for your business, brand, and products. We measure traffic from channels like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Net New MQL’s – We measure the number of leads generated in the middle of the funnel that require further nurturing before they are ready to make a purchase.
  • Conversion Rate – When content marketing is done correctly, it sends traffic to lead forms and product pages. We measure the conversion rate (Page Visits/Conversions) on lead forms, product pages, and other calls-to-action.
  • Net New SQL’s – We measure the number of leads consuming content at the bottom of the funnel (demos, customer stories, etc.), indicating they’re ready to buy.

Content Marketing Terminology

  • Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) Content – Content designed to raise awareness for your business, brands and products. This content is delivered through a number of channels including blogs, podcasts and video hosting platforms like YouTube.
    Middle-of-Funnel (MOFU) Content – Content designed to generate leads and move the prospect through the evaluation stage. Content in the middle of the funnel often takes the form of a lead magnet.
  • Lead Magnet – An irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information. The goal of the lead magnet is to maximize the number of targeted leads you are getting for an offer.
  • Bottom-of-Funnel (BOFU) Content – Content designed to convert a prospect into a customer by providing the information needed to make an informed purchase decision. Bottom of funnel content includes webinars, product demonstrations, and customer stories.

Content Marketing Services

Our approach to content marketing follows the methodology outlined above. The content marketing services we include are as follows:

  • Crafting your content marketing funnel and developing assets that match intent at the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel.
  • Identifying your avatar(s) and then assigning which assets will target each avatar.
  • Creating pillar content and knowing which format each asset will take: text, image, video, or audio
  • Planning your content distribution workflow and then managing it micro content syndication via social media marketing.
  • Mapping how prospects will ascend to customers. What will be your call-to-actions with each asset?
  • Ongoing content research that leverages search engine optimization as well as social listening.