The pandemic has changed our world forever, especially when it comes to how businesses and customers interact. It is now standard practice for consumers to go online and research before buying a new product or trying a new service, and as a result, content creation has never been more important.
No matter the size of your business, content marketing plays a crucial role in gaining brand recognition as well as those all-important customers. Your content creation strategy should never be accidental; it requires research and planning. And definitely don’t be tempted to create content for content’s sake. If you are wondering why content marketing works so well, Neil Patel, a New York Times bestselling author and considered one of the top influencers on the web, puts it down to the fact that content marketing isn’t about selling to people: it is all about storytelling.
And if you are in any doubt as to the size of the content marketing industry, analysts from Technavio predicted that the content marketing industry would be worth over $412 billion dollars in 2021. This shows the exponential growth it has experienced and how seriously companies view content as part of their overall marketing strategy.
What is content marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “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.”
In simpler terms, they advise that “Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.”
Neil Patel expands on the above definition, saying, “Content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is relevant to them and delivering it consistently. It also means tailoring your content depending on what stage of the buying journey your customer is at. For instance, if you’ve got a prospect seeking more information, a good content offering would be an eBook or cheatsheet.“
His view is that when customers eventually make a purchasing decision, their loyalty already lies with you and that content creation shows that you actually care about your customers. Content also helps build trust and credibility with your customer base, but the challenge is creating meaningful, useful, and accessible content.
But before we delve into content creation strategies and ideas, Let us look at the latest research. A report on content marketing statistics by Startup Bonsai showed that 84% of businesses have a content marketing strategy, despite 35% not having a dedicated content marketing team. This can probably in part, be attributed to the fact that 50% of smaller companies have no dedicated content marketers. But for those that do, 79% of them use content marketing to generate high-quality leads.
From a trend perspective, Hubspot noted that 51% of companies that were surveyed intended to increase their marketing budgets in 2022, and their main goals were:
- Increasing brand awareness and revenue
- Improved engagement
- Advertising products
Why is content creation important?
Content is one of the most underrated assets around. It has the ability to bring your brand to life, add a human element and provide value or enjoyment for your existing and potential customers. And fabulous content goes a long way towards organically connecting your customers with your products.
Unlike you, the internet never sleeps, which means that your content is available 24/7. Let us put it into perspective, there are over 4.5 billion active internet users worldwide, with approximately 5.6 billion Google searches per day, equating to around 63 000 search queries per second! These are massive numbers that can’t be ignored, and can you really afford not to be part of that?
It doesn’t seem like we can talk about content creation without the phrase “adding value” entering the conversation somewhere along the line. But what does that actually mean? Ultimately you are providing a service by making free and useful information easily available to, firstly, attract new customers and, secondly, keep existing customers engaged.
When we think of the value-add element, we tend to define it as being educational in some way, like helping people solve a problem or achieve a specific goal. Inspirational or entertaining content shouldn’t be underestimated from a value-add perspective. Just think about how much time people spend researching topics online and absorbing social media content. Just remember to keep in mind who your customer is and why they are engaging with your content, and you can’t go wrong.
But another way of looking at it is that whoever has consumed your content mustn’t feel like they have wasted their time.
Building trust and credibility
Content is an effective way to help your customers gain insights into your business and is a powerful way of establishing your reputation. Content also impacts how your customers form an opinion of your brand, and when it comes to perception, it is one of the few areas you can control.
Creating meaningful content shows that you take your business seriously, giving your business a sense of legitimacy. Based on the exponential increase in online research, content creation has become a significant criterion for determining your business’s level of professionalism, credibility, and trustworthiness.
How your customers perceive your business determines whether or not they will buy from you or recommend your products and services. Consistent, high-quality content that adds value increases your credibility as you can be viewed as an industry thought leader or authority, and as a result, you will be seen as a business that can be trusted. By adding value as opposed to going for the hard sell, you not only show that you are knowledgeable but that you also care.
By being viewed as a thought leader, you will be well-positioned to gain a loyal following of people who will return to engage with your business on a consistent basis.
Growing your business
Growing your business through content creation is not a short-term strategy. Research shows that quality and useful content can increase your organic traffic resulting in those sought-after leads and higher conversion rates.
After all, according to Havas Group’s 2017 Meaningful Brands study, 84% of people expect brands to create content, and we can only imagine that number has increased. Content creation should be an integral part of any business’s growth strategy, especially when you take into account that research shows that the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before deciding to purchase a product.
Content creation strategy
Having a great content strategy is fundamental if you’re looking to increase your brand awareness, appear higher in search rankings, and gain those all-important leads and conversions. Content strategies should always focus on creating quality content, engaging with your customers or target audience, and continuously be measuring your successes and failures.
As we mentioned earlier, your content creation strategy should never be accidental. As tempting as it is to rush in and create lots of content, taking the time to properly define your strategy will save you from incurring unnecessary costs and wasting endless hours creating irrelevant content.
The Content Marketing Institute summarises it perfectly, “Your strategy should outline your key business and customer needs, and how your content efforts will address them.” In other words, it is critical to understand your existing and potential customers’ pain points; then, you can create content that provides targeted solutions.
Creating the perfect strategy needn’t be overwhelming if you break it down into the following steps:
What are your objectives?
Content should always be created with a predefined purpose in mind. It is crucial to identify why you are creating content. For example, are you looking to increase your brand exposure, generate leads, improve your conversion rate, attract new customers or improve those search rankings?
Clearly defining your objectives will help you establish which content strategy is best suited to achieve them. It is important to remember that each stage of your sales cycle will require different content, ensuring that you have the right interactions with the right people at the right time. So it is critical to establish what type of content is best suited at each stage.
If you are unsure as to which type of content is appropriate for each stage, have a look at this post by HubSpot for additional detail, where they divide the sales funnel into 3 main areas and list the various content types for each stage – Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Identify your target audience
The only way your content strategy will be effective is if you have defined who your target market is. Research is key, and you can find great insights as to what sites and content your customers are busy looking at. Tools like Google Demographics and Interests and Google Analytics are ideal for identifying which sites your existing and potential customers are looking at. You can also gain key insights as to what content and social media platforms they engage with.
Understanding your target market and their behavior will go a long way in helping you create customer-centric content. Content should be created with your target audience in mind so that the right people take notice. In other words, you want to be catering to customers whose problems can be solved by your products.
Hubspot takes it a bit further and recommends that you create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer, providing you with an in-depth understanding of who you are creating the story for.
In his blog, Neil Patel describes buyer personas as “Fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on real data about customer demographics and online behaviour, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.”
Once you have a clear picture of who you are marketing to, it is much easier to know which type of content will be the most effective. In essence, your buyer persona will form the basis of your inbound marketing plan and, ultimately, is a key element of your success.
And if you are still sitting on the fence when it comes to buyer personas, perhaps the following statistics reported by Semrush will change your mind. Recent research showed that persona-based marketing saw a 100% increase in page views, a 900% increase in site visitation duration, and a spike of 171% in marketing ROI.
Fortunately, creating a buyer persona has never been easier, and there are endless resources available online. Remember, your goal is to understand who you are speaking to, how you will engage with them, and finally, where you can find them.
Concentrate on your specific market segment
We don’t need to tell you how much content is out there, and getting noticed can be challenging. But if you create content that is unique, engaging, value-add, and stands out, you are more than halfway there.
The more focused you are on your niche, the easier it is to become recognised as that coveted industry thought leader or authority.
Continually monitor your results
It goes without saying that you need to be consistently measuring and monitoring the results of your strategy. Unless you are analysing your results, you won’t be in a position to know what is working and what isn’t.
For example, making use of Google Analytics will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of your customers as you are able to access a host of information that can help you adapt your strategy and take advantage of specific trends.
These tools allow you to identify how your customers interact with your site, who your typical customer is, how they found you, and even predict your customer’s future actions. Here are a few key metrics you can easily monitor with Google Analytics:
- Behaviour – average time spent on a page, bounce rates, page views, and values
- Social Value – conversions, contributed social conversions, and last interaction social conversions
- Goals – allows you to identify the value gained through your content creation
All strategies are implemented with an end goal in mind, and content creation is no different; It is all about increasing revenues. Parse.ly’s State of Content Marketing 2022 report provided some surprising insights showing that many businesses are not measuring their objectives –
- Almost half of content marketers don’t understand how their content is performing
- Seven in ten don’t have revenue goals tied to content
- The majority of content strategy decisions come not from data but from ad hoc requests
In summary, your content marketing strategy should never be fixed in stone; you will need to tweak it along the way in line with how your customers are responding. This is why it is imperative to understand how your content is performing both from a revenue-generating perspective as well as being able to identify what type of content is resonating with your customers.
Define your brand
Defining your brand may seem obvious, but it is worth reiterating. As with most things, consistency is key, and that extends to everything from fonts, colours, and layout and even through to your tone and voice.
Connecting with your target audience is crucial, and each piece of content represents your brand and whether you like it or not, how your content looks has a major impact on whether your customers will engage with it.
As part of your content creation strategy, it is worthwhile conducting a content audit. Content audits are not the most scintillating aspects of a content creation strategy, but you will reap the benefits in the long run.
Semrush defines a content audit as “a process of systematically analyzing and assessing all the content on your website. The final objective is to reveal strengths and weaknesses in your content strategy and content development workflow, and adapt your content plan to your current marketing goals.”
It is not always necessary to rush out there and create new content, but many businesses are completely unaware of what content they currently have at their disposal. A content audit will help you identify content that can be repurposed, updated, or improved, which inevitably will save you both time and money.
An audit also provides an opportunity to validate and test your previous content, providing insights into what is still working. In addition, you can also review your content from a branding perspective as there is nothing more unprofessional than outdated content and that includes everything from design to information.
Content creation ideas
One of the biggest challenges that a content marketer faces is continually having to create fresh new content, well, creating content that people actually want to read! Content creators need to produce content that your customers or target audience are currently interested in and searching for and, importantly connect with and enjoy.
Customers are looking for content that they can connect with and benefit from. This can only truly be achieved by creating consistent, original, engaging, and quality content. It is all about creating authentic content that your customers relate to.
There are a few fundamental concepts to keep in mind when producing content:
- Create engaging and interactive content
- Create original and high-quality content
- Create content on a consistent basis
- Create your content for people not for search engines
In her book, The Elements of Content Strategy, Erin Kissane defines the principles of great content as follows:
And it is worth keeping these in mind as you look to create stand-out content.
Hubspot defines content creation “as the process of generating topic ideas that appeal to your buyer persona, creating written or visual content around those ideas, and making that information accessible to your audience as a blog, video, infographic, or other content formats.”
Most people automatically think of content in terms of blog posts, but content includes everything from your website content to social media posts, videos, product information, reviews, etc. And at last, we are on to the fun stuff – content creation ideas!
Blogs happen to be a firm favorite of ours; they are one of the easiest ways to connect with your customer. Blog posts are ideal for creating original quality and engaging content, and if you are in any doubt as to the popularity of blogs, Startup Bonsai‘s report showed that out of the 1.9 billion websites in 2021, more than 600 million were blogs. To put it in perspective, bloggers publish over 6 million blog posts per day, equating to 2.5 billion posts per year.
Having said that, as you can see, competition is fierce! And while we are on the stats side of things, research by Hubspot showed that 56% of marketers say that blogging is their most effective content strategy. And if you thought blogs were a thing of the past, you may be surprised to learn that 77% of all internet users still read blogs. Speaking of surprises, according to Social Media Today, approximately 61% of consumers spend a lot more time reading blog content than they do emails, three times more to be accurate. Who would have thought?
Blogs aren’t just long boring articles, and besides 70% of people prefer to learn more about a company or it is products through articles as opposed to adverts. Blogs provide the perfect platform to tell a story about your business or product – and who doesn’t love a good story? Just make sure to keep it engaging.
Before we jump into some exciting blogging options, let us have a look at some of the latest trends on the blogging front.
- Word count is on the up, and according to HubSpot, the ideal blog post length from an SEO perspective is between 2100 and 2400 words, but that figure continues to rise. In other words, long-form content will inevitably lead to more traffic and better rankings.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) is not negotiable, and if you want to rank well in search results, you need to ensure you have this covered. However, many businesses make the mistake of writing content for SEO (search engine optimisation) purposes instead of writing content for their customers. In other words, write for your customers, not for search engines.
But filling up your content with keywords won’t make for a great article. Nothing beats high-quality, original content. Search engines follow users, and if your content is valuable, you will increase your rankings as more users will view your site because you are offering them something they need.
- Using keywords and long-tail keywords is an important aspect of content writing, but the trick is to use the right keywords! It is important to identify which ones to use. Fortunately, you can use sites like Keyword Tool, which are great for picking the best keywords, as you are able to see which words are popular and then work them into your content – just don’t overdo it! WordStream, is another great site that provides ideas for keywords based on your initial keyword search.
- Writing incredible content on it is own won’t see an onslaught of customers; you must ensure that you actively promote your content through social media, email marketing, etc. You want to be consistently sharing your content through as many platforms as possible.
Blogs also provide versatility as you can address a range of topics in many different formats. Here are our top recommendations:
Opinion pieces are brilliant for providing information with a personal touch that immediately gives your brand a personality.
Product information can be creatively shared through a blog post without giving the impression that you are aggressively selling. In these cases, it is always preferable to first present the “problem” and then position your product as a solution.
Questions are ideal topics for blog posts, and the options are endless; you can cover everything from beginners through to your FAQs. It is also an easy way to establish yourself as an authority on the subject.
How-to posts are a great way to create information content without being boring. By their mere nature, how-to posts are focused as opposed to covering a wide range of topics. Keep them fun, focused, and simple – no one likes to be bamboozled with the latest jargon you have to Google first!
Creating a scintillating series is one way to guarantee returning customers. When creating a series of posts, it is important to remember that you need to post consistently. For example, the easiest way to lose your interested audience is to not post your weekly series on the same day of the week, let alone miss a week or two. If you fail to deliver, your customer doesn’t need to stress, as with over 600 million blogs, one of them is bound to provide them with what they need.
Visual content is always a winner, and video ads have grown in popularity as a way for consumers to get more familiar with a brand before making a purchase.
According to research by Wyzowl, companies have seen a dramatic increase in website traffic and lead generation as a result of video content, and 83% of businesses indicated that videos helped increase the time users spent on their landing pages. But more importantly, 94% of businesses said that videos were very effective in helping customers and potential buyers gain a greater understanding of what their products were all about.
When it comes to creating video content, there isn’t much you can’t do, and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve “real” people. Animation is perfect, especially when creating those complex how-to videos. There is something about animation that just seems to simplify the learning process.
From an educational aspect, videos are the perfect medium to choose when creating tutorials. The trick is to keep it simple and informative and avoid information overflow by breaking it up into smaller clips.
Product demos are another way of exposing your product to your target audience, giving potential customers a chance to see your product in action and gain an indepth understanding of your product and it is advantages before making that purchase.
Another trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is unboxing videos. They havebecome extremely popular on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and you may be wondering what makes them so appealing. An easy way to think about unboxing videos is that they are, in essence, a live review. They are entertaining and a great alternative to your traditional advertisements.
Unboxing videos introduce that excitement and anticipation as your customer wait is for the big reveal. And in case you are wondering, they are exactly what they sound like! It simply is a video of a creator opening products and sharing their experience with you. Their biggest attraction is that they allow potential customers to experience a product up close before committing.
According to Google, “the amount of time people have spent watching unboxing videos just on their phones is the equivalent of watching the holiday classic “Love Actually” more than 20 million times.” The attraction of unboxing videos is remarkable, especially when you consider the following statistic reported by Influencer Marketing Hub, “One unboxing video that shows the toys inside Disney-themed Kinder Eggs has attracted more than 35 million views.”
A 2021 LinkedIn article reported, “According to YouTube, videos featuring amateur unboxing of everything from running shoes to dog toys have been viewed more than 1.1 billion times.
At least 60 million hours have been spent watching other people open things. Additionally, a Google Consumer Survey shows that 62% of those that watch unboxing videos do so when looking for a particular product.”
Videos also lend themselves to easily repurposing your content and HubSpot have some great ideas and recommend using text from one of your popular blogs as a voiceover. They also suggest breaking up key points from blogs into bite-size videos for your social media posts. And you can then add these to your blog posts – nothing beats a creative content combo.
Podcasts have become exceptionally popular and are a great way to increase your business’s exposure through this exciting platform. And a big advantage is that your content can be listened to over and over again. But just like blogs, the competition is fierce unless of course, you are Joe Rogan.
If you are contemplating a one-off podcast, you are most likely wasting your time; again, consistency is vital. The advantage of podcasts is that they immediately create that human connection and give a voice/face to your business.
Podcasts definitely veer towards the value-add side of things and tend to focus on a specific concept or topic and often engage with both experts and listeners.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Discussing the latest trends within your industry is always exciting and weaving your products into the story is a subtle way of marketing your strengths
With the rise in social media, influencers are here to stay, and interviewing influencers is a great way to gain exposure. Influencers generally have a large number of followers, and by interviewing them, you are immediately exposed to a huge audience. Having an influencer on your side is a major benefit.
Thought leadership podcasts have become popular as one of the attractions of podcasts is the ability to choose exactly who you want to listen to. This type of content creation leans towards the educational side and it is recommended to include case studies or real-life scenarios.
It is also important to remember that your audience will be diverse, and you need to cater to all levels of experience. But as with all content, the trick is to be authentic and provide meaningful insights and relevant advice.
No one likes boring content, and graphics are the best way to add some excitement to your content. Graphics include everything from infographics and photographs through to graphs and illustrations. Never underestimate the power of a great graphic!
Communicating information via an infographic is an ideal way to add visual interest and break up the monotony of endless text.
We can’t reiterate enough how important it is to write unique, high-quality content. No one likes boring content, so remember to plan your content in advance and ensure that it is relevant and consistent, and, most importantly, exciting and engaging.
Yes, consistency is key, and you need to be posting regularly. But that doesn’t mean you need to create new content from scratch. Instead, you can reuse your content in one form or another across your website and various social media platforms.
No matter which medium you choose, if you keep your customer in mind in terms of who they are, what they are looking for, and where they are looking for it, you will be able to create authentic content which resonates with existing and potential customers.
Remember that whoever has consumed your content mustn’t feel like they have wasted their time, so add value, be inspirational, be entertaining, just don’t be boring!