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How these content marketing tactics can give you a leg up on the competition

Last Updated 
Posted on
August 30, 2019
Janet Mesh

What is content marketing?

If you’re at the start of your content marketing journey, the road ahead looks daunting. Your competitors are pumping out blog posts, infographics, and videos daily. Every time you check LinkedIn or Twitter, they’re racking up likes and engaging with followers.

You want to compete, but you’re not sure how to start. Or better yet, where to start.

Good news! We’re here to help. First, let’s establish a clear understanding of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is a lead generation philosophy that flips the traditional business dynamic of chasing and cajoling customers on its head. Your business doesn’t chase customers. It attracts and educates customers by showing them why your product or service is the best fit.

Content marketing is the driving force for your inbound marketing methods.

It’s the engine that generates value for your customers before they ever use your product or service. Your potential customers have infinite information available at their fingertips. Content marketing ensures that when they’re searching for answers on a topic related to your product, your brand becomes their educator and eventually, their problem solver.

Once you view your content marketing as a tool to educate customers and generate leads, choosing specific content types becomes straightforward.

What type of content can your content strategy include?

There are over 100 content types you can throw on your content calendar. Content is a catch-all term. It includes everything from blog posts and e-books to spec sheets and TikTok videos. Some of the most popular content types include:

  • Blog articles: From narrative-style articles to step-by-step tutorials, blog articles are among the most popular content types. There are over 600 million blogs on the internet, and 86 percent of content marketers use blog posts, so your articles must add value to stand out.
  • Whitepapers: Whitepapers describe the status quo in an industry or breakdown a specific approach for solving a problem. They are highly educational content pieces, especially for B2B marketers. In one survey, 71 percent of B2B buyers reported using white papers to make a purchasing decision.  
  • Case studies: Case studies establish your expertise, experience, and credibility. If you’ve been in business for some time, you should have ample customer stories waiting to become case studies. Your case studies can be visual one-pagers, long-form content pieces, or videos.
  • E-Books & Guides: Is there an educational gap around the problem you’re trying to solve? Are you discussing methodologies and approaches that no one else covers online? Consider putting together an e-book or guide. These do require a significant time investment, but if there’s a knowledge gap, you can quickly establish authority in the space. Plus, your e-book becomes a great source for future blog posts and infographics.
  • Infographics: Infographics are a visual breakdown of a problem or solution. They’re an effective way to build brand awareness among a time-crunched audience that isn’t ready to invest time into your long-form content. Sixty-seven percent of marketers have used infographics and other visual content in their content marketing efforts over the past 12 months.
  • Social media posts: Marketers believe it takes up to seven interactions with your brand to land a sale. More conservative marketers say it takes seven interactions for customers to even remember your name. Social media posts help you develop this brand awareness and drive views to your higher-value content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books.
  • Videos: 87% of marketers use video content, while 51% of marketers say video content produces the best return on investment. Video is an easy and engaging way for prospects to hear what you have to say. Plus, you can get more bang for your buck by turning your existing content, like blog posts and case studies, into videos.
  • Downloadable templates and checklists: These actionable pieces of content are relatively straightforward to create but highly valuable to share. They instantly solve a problem your customer faces, before asking for any money, and establish a relationship. If you’ve developed an easy-to-use template, that prospect will return to your site for help in the future.
  • Podcasts: Audio content has skyrocketed in popularity lately, with 68 million people in the U.S. saying they listen to podcasts weekly. Since podcasts are a recent phenomenon, there’s an opportunity for content marketers to build a brand audience when there’s less competition. If your product or service exists in a high-knowledge area like finance, productivity, marketing, or tech, consider launching a podcast that shares unique insights about your field.
  • Webinars: Webinars are an effective way to build 1:1 relationships at scale. Since the beginning of COVID-19, webinars have also become the go-to replacement for in-person events. According to Content Marketing Institute, Fifty-seven percent of marketers use webinars and online events as part of their content marketing strategy.
  • Email marketing & email newsletters: With email marketing, you can directly share your content with a target audience. If a subset of your audience is closer to a sale, you can share lead nurturing content like case studies and spec sheets, while other contacts receive links to blog posts. Eighty-one percent of marketers use email newsletters for their marketing efforts.

You want your content to generate value. Content is a means, not an end. So before signing off on any content development, it’s important to ask, “How will this help my customer, and how will it move that customer closer to a sale?”

Applying lead generation best practices to your content marketing efforts will help answer these questions.

Best practices for inbound lead generation with content marketing

How do you produce content that’s valuable to your audience? How do you ensure you prioritize quality over quantity? And how do you make your marketing dollars go further?

Create a content funnel that reflects the buyer’s journey

First, define your ideal customer.

Answer questions like:

  • What are their concerns?
  • Where do they spend most of their time?
  • How do they like to consume content?

If you don’t have a buyer profile, working with an expert is a worthy investment. Once you have your buyer profile, map out your content funnel.

A content funnel starts with a large volume of visitors to your website, social media page, or other digital platforms where they interact with your brand for the first time. It narrows that group of visitors down to the people most inclined to buy. These prospects become marketing-qualified leads to give to your sales team.

How do you prevent your funnel from becoming porous? You don’t want people entering the funnel and then slipping out through the sides. You want them to travel down to conversion while also nurturing those who need a little more time.  

Prevent lost leads by creating great content and presenting it at the right time. Start by viewing your funnel in sections:

  • Top of the Funnel (ToFu) or Awareness Stage
  • Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) or Consideration Stage
  • Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) or Decision Stage

Content Funnel

Here’s what happens at each stage:

Top of Funnel (ToFu) or Awareness Stage

  • Audience: People at the top of the funnel don’t completely understand their problem. They’re still asking questions, so it’s your job to help them define their challenge. Your focus is on establishing a rapport and building trust by offering value without asking for anything in return.
  • Goal: Attract all the people who are trying to define the problem your product solves. Your metrics here are views, shares, and site visits.
  • Content Types: You should write blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, and any other content that’s focused on informing, helping, and guiding – not selling.
  • Example: You offer warehouse management software. Your ideal customer is someone who is using spreadsheets to manage their inventory. Create blog posts on topics like ABC analysis of inventory, common sources of warehouse waste like motion and waiting waste, or tips for getting through the holiday rush. All of these articles help your customer with their status quo (e.g., working with no or limited warehouse automation) while pushing them towards a better future (e.g., working with warehouse management software).

Middle of Funnel or Consideration Stage

  • Audience: Your ideal customer understands their problem. They need guidance in finding solutions. You want to describe the available solutions. You’re not going for the hard sell here, but you are starting to discuss your solution’s benefits and features and how they compare to other solutions on the market.
  • Goal: Demonstrate to your customers that they have a solvable problem and that there are solutions on the market. Your metrics are downloads of your premium content as well as repeat visits to your website. You want to generate qualified leads, so you’re asking for something small in return: a way to contact that customer, so you can eventually start a 1:1 conversation.
  • Content Types: You should create gated case studies, comparison guides, and downloadable templates. This way, you can build a list of prospects who are most likely to buy and continue nurturing them with targeted emails that offer additional case studies, guides, and information about your solution.
  • Example: Your target customer has been reading your blog posts about warehouse management concepts and tips. They’ve realized that their current manual or low-tech ways of managing their warehouse hinders their business’s growth. They download your case studies or implementation guides to understand what they should be looking for in a WMS. At this stage, you wind up with a list of Warehouse Managers and Supply Chain Managers, and they become the focus of your lead nurturing efforts.

Bottom of Funnel or Decision Stage

  • Audience: Your audience consists of prospects you’ve nurtured during the MoFu/Consideration stage. Thanks to your content, they have an understanding of what options are out there and which features are either must-haves or nice-to-haves for their business, and they’re close to choosing your solution.
  • Goal: Convince your leads that you’re the best solution on the market with detailed information about your features, benefits, and pricing.  
  • Content Types: Create pricing sheets, data sheets, spec sheets, shipping info, product details, and FAQs. At the bottom of the funnel, your prospect is itching to buy, but something’s holding them back. Maybe they’re considering a competitor or maybe they need reassurance about post-sale service or contract terms. Provide information that’ll ease their concerns and clearly answer their questions.
  • Example: Your prospect is close to purchasing a warehouse management subscription. Give them content about your subscription tiers and pricing options, specs about your system features, or technical documentation on how your software integrates with their existing technology.

Set-up a Lead Generation Campaign

Embrace strategic, revenue-generating content marketing

Excellent content marketing generates business by 1) understanding the brand’s audience; 2) identifying what this audience needs at every stage of the content funnel, and 3) sharing that content in the best format.

The road ahead is not daunting. It’s full of opportunity. With the right approach, you will have a clear content marketing roadmap that focuses on educating and delighting your audience. This methodology shifts your attention from worrying about what your competitors are doing to improving what you’re doing.

The result? An engaged audience, better leads, and increased revenue.

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