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What Is Content Marketing, and Why Is It Important?

According to Neil Patel, 60% of marketers make a piece of content every single day. And for some marketers (this copywriter included), that number is much higher. So why do many companies invest precious resources into creating new content?

Well, today’s businesses have learned that it’s not enough to solicit your prospective customers when you think they should be ready to make a purchase. Instead, you can draw them in slowly by creating informative, valuable content that speaks to their pain points and gives them the information they didn’t know they were looking for.

Both B2B and B2C businesses benefit from content marketing. It’s all about giving your prospective customers information that makes their lives easier and delivering that information reliably enough that your audience starts to view you as an authority. When you become the trusted source for high-quality content, it’s a natural transition to become the trusted source for goods and services, too.

Many businesses already use content marketing techniques as part of an inbound marketing strategy—some without even knowing it. By streamlining your strategy and putting a little extra thought behind your content, you can maximize the impact of your efforts and claim your territory in the minds of your audience.

Today, we’ll share what content marketing really means in the current marketing landscape, what it does for businesses that take advantage of it, and how to get started with your own content marketing strategy.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the strategy by which businesses create valuable, relevant content in order to engage their audiences. The long-term hope is that content marketing will create new customers (more on that later), but the near-term goal is to consistently deliver thoughtful content that audiences look forward to consuming.

The best content marketers deliver content that makes the audience feel seen. By engaging with your content, consumers feel like you inherently understand their needs and pain points—and they trust the solutions you provide.

So, what’s the difference between content marketing and spamming your audience with junk? The key to content marketing is the value you provide in your content. If you’re doing it right, you’ll build a reputation as the source with answers.

You probably already know this is true from a consumer standpoint. Think about your own email inbox. Chances are, you get dozens (maybe even hundreds) of brand-related emails on a daily basis. You probably send the vast majority straight to your trash folder without even considering an open. But, if you’re like most people, there are probably several that you actually look forward to.

Think newsletters from your favorite businesses or publications, reports and white papers from other companies in your industry, or even sales promotions from your favorite stores. On the surface, these emails look just like the rest of the junk in your inbox, but the difference is that you’ve learned that this particular subset will have value for you in ways that the others won’t.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what counts as content marketing. Here are some of the most common examples:

  • Blog posts
  • Website pages
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Informational videos
  • Infographics
  • Original reports
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Books
  • Speaking engagements
  • Conferences

Essentially, any method of delivering relevant, informative content to your audience counts as content marketing. Intuitive, right?

What does content marketing do for businesses?

Let’s back up for one second before we answer this question because to understand how content marketing works for businesses, we have to understand the buyer’s journey (or the marketing funnel—whichever term you prefer). The way we define it at Lemonlight, the buyer’s journey has four stages: awareness, consideration, decision, and delight.

Content marketing is one of the most effective tools at a marketer’s disposal for awareness and consideration. The awareness and consideration stages are all about the consumer realizing they have unmet needs and exploring the options available to them, and effective content marketing puts your brand at the top of their list as they explore the field.

It takes consumers who previously knew nothing about your brand (maybe even your industry) and turns them into well-informed consumers who understand the market and their own needs. Then, because you’re already the trusted source in their minds, it’ll take less convincing to get them to ultimately make a purchase. You’re lowering the perceived risk involved in the transaction because they’ve already internalized signals about your quality and expertise.

There are whole subsets of businesses that rely almost exclusively on content marketing. Many bloggers, social media content creators, and small business owners (especially on platforms like Etsy) build a customer base from scratch using the power of content marketing. While some forms of content marketing may take time to build (like starting a new blog), others take off right away (like small businesses on TikTok that get millions of views overnight).

How to create a content marketing strategy

Let’s talk about how to put this into practice within your own marketing strategy. The first step is to make sure you’re sold on the benefits of investing in new content. Some businesses have a hard time believing that it’s worth devoting resources to a strategy that isn’t directly linked to sales in the short-term. Hopefully, we’ve convinced you of the merits.

Once you’re committed to the idea of content marketing, begin with an assessment of your target audience. If you have buyer personas or any other data about who your prospective customers might be, now is the time to bring that info to the table. Before you can dive into creating any content, it’s critical that you intimately understand the people you’re trying to reach. What are they struggling with? What do they wish they knew more about? Where are they spending time online? What are their consumption habits? This background info will help tremendously when you start brainstorming topic ideas and distribution channels.

Once you have an idea of who your audience is and where you can reach them, decide on a realistic content cadence that you think you can stick to for several weeks—months, if possible. The goal is to start small enough that it’ll be sustainable for a while. After all, one of the pillars of content marketing is consistency; it’s not really content marketing if you share a ton of content all at once then go silent.

With your realistic schedule in mind, it’s time for the fun part: content development. The most comprehensive way to approach this step is to start with SEO keyword research, align with topics or information that you know your audience would benefit from, and then choose the content style and distribution channel based on where your audience is most likely to engage. At Lemonlight, our typical content marketing strategy involves a mix of blog content, email newsletters, webinars, and social media posts.

Finally, take note of how your efforts are faring over time. It’s important to track the standard methods for your distribution channel, like engagement on social media or views on a blog post. It’s also useful to keep an eye on revenue, site traffic, and other overarching metrics that may be affected by your new strategy. Then, reevaluate. Is your cadence still working well? Is one channel overperforming (or underperforming) compared to the others? Are certain topics getting more traction than others? Anything you notice about your efforts so far should inform tweaks to your existing strategy to aim for improvements.

Even if you consider your business to have a robust content marketing strategy, there’s almost always room for improvements, additions, and tweaks to make your results even more impressive. Give these strategies a try, and let us know how it goes!