4 benefits of content marketing (and when to hire a marketing agency for help)
We’re calling it — content marketing is having its moment. It’s about time because it used to be seen as an obscure tactic. The idea of blogging to attract and retain customers seemed laughable.
But then something happened. Marketers started seeing results from creating and distributing original content that resonated with their target audiences. That’s probably why Semrush’s The State of Content Marketing 2022 reveals that a whopping 97% of marketers include content marketing in their overall marketing strategy.
But is it worth investing in content marketing just because everyone else is doing it? Of course not! But there are some tangible benefits of content marketing you could realize, especially if you know when to hire a marketing agency to bolster your efforts.
Before we get into all of that, it’s important to start with some content marketing basics. Let’s dig in.
A closer look at what content marketing is
So, what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute (yes, this is a real and very reputable organization) explains it this way:
“Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
As you can see, that’s a pretty broad definition. It’s not all about publishing blog articles. In fact, content marketing has been around for much longer than computers, let alone the internet. There are many early examples of content marketing that appeared in print, as Verizon points out. Today, more and more marketers are beginning to say that Benjamin Franklin actually became the original content marketer when he released Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1732 as a way to promote his printing business.
As for what’s considered content marketing, the list continues to grow. There are many different formats that fall under the content marketing umbrella. Here are 12 that HubSpot highlights:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- User-generated content
- White papers
- How-to guides
- Influencer and paid ad content
Each of the above formats can be effective when done well, but video is proving to be a particularly important area for content marketing. So much so that brands have begun to build out strategies for optimizing YouTube content.
According to Wistia’s 2022 State of Video Report, video plays increased 77% from 2019 to 2021. You might be surprised at how successful long-form video content can be as well. Nearly 60% of companies in this report included videos longer than 30 minutes in their strategies. Many of them found that webinars were the most successful formats for encouraging viewer engagement.
If you’re just getting started in the world of content marketing, you might not be ready to explore video content. That’s absolutely OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. Perhaps you kick things off by publishing one blog post per month. In a few months, it could be two blog posts per month. And in a few years, you might be well on your way to generating nearly every type of content mentioned above.
The takeaway? Start small and scale your operation as you gain more experience and more team members.
4 impactful benefits of content marketing
Regardless of how robust your content team is — perhaps it’s a team of zero right now — there are some tangible content marketing benefits that you should know about.
1. Increases brand awareness and visibility
One of the most cited benefits of content marketing is that it helps you reach more of your target audience as well as entirely new audiences. Of course, this doesn’t just happen on its own. Simply throwing together an article about a topic that you think is probably interesting to your target audience and hoping it starts to gain a lot of traffic isn’t a good way to go.
The solution is to take an SEO-focused approach. This means that rather than guessing about content topics, you conduct keyword research to identify which topics your target audience is searching for. It reveals which challenges your prospective customers are facing and presents you with the opportunity to provide valuable information and, ultimately, solutions.
Anchoring blog posts — or any type of content, for that matter — in relevant keywords is essential. Yet, surprisingly few marketers approach their work this way. Research from Orbit Media Studies shows that only 27% of bloggers always incorporate SEO research into their content, but they’re far more likely to see strong results.
This makes sense when you think about it. Incorporating keywords into your content helps search algorithms find and assess your content. If you do it well, you’re likely to be rewarded by high search rankings, which makes your content more visible to those who are looking for answers to the very questions you’ve addressed. Over time, this helps you to build a strong brand identity.
2. Improves customer loyalty
Content marketing is all about providing education. This is what gives it a leg up on other marketing tactics.
To illustrate this, let’s consider a customer who’s interested in buying a mattress. This customer doesn’t just want any mattress, they want a comfortable mattress that’s going to help them fall and stay asleep at night. So, they start to search online for “comfortable mattresses.”
They’ll see some paid search ads for a few different brands highlighting their luxurious mattresses, but ads don’t provide much information about why those mattresses would be a good choice. Instead, the customer’s eyes go toward an article from a furniture store titled “5 Features the Most Comfortable Mattresses Always Have.” Reading this article helps them to understand which features they should be looking for, helping them to find a mattress that’s going to best suit their needs.
For the most part, this is how customers like to conduct their research prior to making a purchase. According to Demand Metric, 70% of customers prefer to learn about a brand by reading articles than by seeing ads.
And think about the potential that brands have to become a go-to source for customers like these. If this furniture store has similar content about comfortable armchairs, durable patio furniture, and easy-to-clean coaches, they could very well become this customer’s trusted source for all things furniture. At some point, this customer might even bookmark the furniture store’s blog and head directly there rather than using a search engine.
3. Complements your other marketing activities
No marketing tactic exists in a silo, and that goes for content marketing as well. In fact, the benefits of content marketing become even more apparent when it’s incorporated into an integrated marketing strategy. Just think about a customer journey.
For many customers, the first touchpoint with a particular brand happens when they arrive at the website via organic search. They might read a helpful article that makes them aware of the brand in the first place. A week later, they click on a social media ad from that same brand promoting a white paper that leads them to a form where they submit their information. A few days after they download the white paper, the brand contacts them via email and encourages them to sign up for a free trial. It ultimately convinces them to become a paying customer.
This is just one example — a pretty abbreviated one — but it definitely illustrates how content plays a key role in marketing. In this case, content was even leveraged in multiple ways at different points of the funnel. It just goes to show that content marketing is more than an awareness play.
4. Drives conversions and profitability
The end goal of marketing is always to drive business. While content marketing might not seem as laser-focused on this objective as other tactics, it’s something content marketers are keenly aware of. In fact, the Semrush report notes that 36% of businesses say generating leads is one of their key content marketing goals and 27% say generating sales is a key goal.
You obviously need an effective content marketing strategy to improve conversions and sales figures, and there are many organizations who’ve pulled it off. ServiceNow is a particularly good example. Their editorial site, called Workflow, focuses on engaging target audiences with intriguing topics rather than trying to sell them on products. The results? Here are just a few that the Content Marketing Institute highlights:
- Workflow’s website sessions increased by 50% during 2020
- Repeat visitors have proven more likely to convert
- 15% of all form submissions on ServiceNow’s website come from people who’ve visited Workflow
There you have it — proof that content marketing really does work. That said, you need to make sure to invest the time and resources that it takes to consistently create and share high-quality content.
When to hire a marketing agency vs. growing an in-house content team
So, you understand the value of content marketing and are ready to take the plunge. But figuring out the specifics of how you’ll create and execute a strategy can be tricky. Should you hire an internal team? Should you hire a marketing agency?
The decision is ultimately up to you, but there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. Hiring an in-house team can be difficult if you’re new to content marketing. You’ll need to hire someone quite experienced who can build everything from the ground up, so it’s worth thinking through everything it takes to be successful with content marketing.
The Semrush report highlights a number of elements that are key:
- Having a documented strategy
- Promoting content on paid channels
- Regularly auditing and updating content
- Spending at least 10% of your budget on content marketing
Getting all of this in place will take time, but it could be worth it if you’re willing to put in the work.
On the other hand, working with an agency means you’ll be collaborating with a team that has the knowledge, tools, and resources — not to mention fresh perspectives — that it takes to be successful. A content marketing agency (or a marketing agency that excels at content marketing) already has a team of qualified experts ready to hit the ground running the moment you sign a contract.
From a practical perspective, working with a marketing agency also tends to be less expensive than investing in recruiting, onboarding, and training a new team member. You can also pick and choose your content marketing agency services. Maybe you need a fully functional department. Or perhaps you just need additional support in a few areas.
Plus, outsourcing content marketing is both more common and more effective than you might think. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2022, 57% of the most successful B2B organizations outsource their content marketing.
It’s pretty easy to see the benefits of using a content marketing agency.
How to choose a content marketing agency
While working with an agency for your content marketing needs can be a great option, you do need to be thoughtful about selecting the right one. The Content Marketing Institute report highlights that some of the top challenges organizations face when outsourcing content marketing include finding partners with adequate topical expertise, finding partners who empathize with their audience, and budget issues.
When it comes to choosing the right agency, there are a few steps you’ll want to take:
- Search for agencies that specialize in content marketing — You don’t necessarily need to find an agency that focuses exclusively on content marketing, but it’s a good idea to focus only on those that have extensive experience with it. Agencies that know the ins and outs of content marketing go beyond simply creating. Typical content marketing agency services also include distribution tactics (like organic social media posts), SEO auditing, and monitoring digital marketing metrics to report on performance.
- Ensure they have experience in B2B and your industry — Knowing that B2B companies struggle to find agencies that have the right subject matter expertise and an understanding of their audiences, it’s wise to ensure that any agency you’re considering is deeply familiar with your industry and the B2B space. This will limit your options, but that’s a good thing. It means you’re one step closer to finding the right partner
- Look for an agency that meshes well with your team — Finding someone who’s a good culture fit is a key part of hiring internal team members, and it should be for choosing a marketing agency as well. Do they have a similar communication style? Do they collaborate in a way that works well for your team? Remember, a successful partnership is just that — a partnership
- Review examples of their work — You wouldn’t hire a new writer without reviewing samples of their work, so take the same approach with hiring a marketing agency. Ask to see not just blog posts, but also white papers, videos, and other formats you’re interested in exploring. This is the best way to get a sense of whether an agency can pull off the type of high-quality work you expect
- Ask to see customer reviews and results — Lastly, don’t forget to ask about how satisfied the agency’s past and current clients are. Do they have customer reviews they’re willing to share? Are they able to speak to the impact their content marketing efforts have made? If not, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Kick-start your content marketing program
The great thing about content marketing is that it’s really never too late to get started. When it comes to absorbing information and finding solutions to their challenges, prospects have an unquenchable thirst. So, you don’t have to worry about missing out on the benefits of content marketing.
You also don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach. Perhaps your biggest challenge right now is brand awareness. If that’s the case, your time will be better spent focusing on top-of-the-funnel content that provides information related to questions your audience has about high-level topics than bottom-of-the-funnel content that gets into the finer details of your products and services.
Of course, it can be daunting just determining where to start. Maybe you’re unsure of what type of content to focus on or which topics make the most sense for different parts of your funnel. Hiring a marketing agency can be a great solution because they’ll figure this out for you.
If you’ve decided that outsourcing content marketing is a good choice (it often is!), you can still benefit from gaining a better understanding of which types of content work best for different stages of the buyer’s journey. To learn more, check out this primer on how to create content for every stage of the marketing funnel.