To put it simply, Content Marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant content with the bottom end of achieving business goals. Over the past few years, Content Marketing has become an integral part of the overall marketing strategy, but although it's achieved results for many businesses, others find themselves frustrated and unsuccessful with the process.
As a B2B company offering Content Marketing services, we've learned how important it is to set goals and identify KPIs to begin the process. This does not only set the course for the entire strategy--it also sets expectations.
It's easy to expect higher traffic and more social shares, or more customer engagement and a bigger email list, but you often have to expect less from one area to expect more from another. To illustrate: if your number one goal was "Brand Awareness", the strategy and the metrics for this may be totally different if your main goal was "Thought Leadership".
Let's break down the most common goals for Content Marketing. Note that every Content Marketing goal has to be connected to a business goal; otherwise, you may be creating content in vain.
If you're a B2B company offering a specialized product or service, you have to become an authority on topics relevant to your niche or expertise. Being a Thought Leader means you're able to provide answers to questions in your target audience's minds. By answering their questions, especially the ones with higher levels of difficulty, you're able to build authority in that particular industry, therefore making your target market trust you enough to do business with you.
What not to expect: While many thought leaders and influencers are already popular in their niches and therefore already have big readerships, aiming to become a thought leader in a highly specialized niche may not earn you a lot of traffic or social shares. It's lonely at the top, as they say. People will come to you for answers, not for entertainment. Your topics may not be popular topics that get easily shared in social media, or talked about in public places, so don't fret if you're not getting as much attention as that senseless Buzzfeed article. You don't need a lot of traffic, you only need the right ones.
What to expect: Even though your hits and social shares are small, it doesn't mean that your content strategy is not working. Instead, expect (and aim for!) highly targeted traffic. When you answer those long-tailed keywords you see in your GA and keep creating highly specialized content about those frequently asked questions, your target readers are bound to find you--so make sure you have the answers when your target audience lands on your pages.
When I think of "Brand Awareness" in relation to Content Marketing, the following brands immediately come to mind: Redbull, Coca-Cola, and General Electric. These Brands have invested greatly in content marketing and media publishing, creating content that is entertaining, fun, and very share-able though not necessarily directly related to their products. Who can forget Red Bull's stratosphere jump? Or the countless of personalized marketing campaigns and lifestyle articles from Coca-Cola Journey?
How about General Electric's love memes?
These memes may have attracted a lot of shares and discussions, but most likely not from the right audience. Just the same, it allowed everyone get to know General Electric as a brand, and get a glimpse of its company culture and personality. If Brand Awareness is GE's goal, the campaign was surely a success.
What not to expect: Based from experience, when we write fun, share-able articles for B2B companies, they don't convert to leads well. Sure, a big chunk of traffic will find their way to the site and people will browse around, but they're not necessarily potential customers. This is why most B2B companies prefer highly technical types of articles that showcase what they can do (thought leadership, as I've discussed above), and would rather be shared in LinkedIn and Reddit than on Facebook--if you know what I mean. In that note, you also have to know which social networks are more relevant to your industry and focus your efforts there.
What to expect: While most B2B companies prefer a content strategy with Thought Leadership as the main goal, many B2C companies prefer viral marketing campaigns more. The good thing about viral campaigns, however, is the effect it does to the authority of the site. Social signals have proven to be one of the factors that make websites rank in search engines, so when people are sharing your content, your search visibility also increases.
Customer Service & Retention
An effective way to keep your existing customers happy and engaged is to create a content strategy that will help them use your product (or understand your service) better. You have to know their pain points, listen to their questions, and be able to address these concerns. Content may also be highly technical, and are often product or service-related.
What not to expect: These types of articles may not get shared a lot in social media. They will, however, get shared and discussed by your existing customers, so make sure to provide them great customer service lest you jeopardize your online reputation.
What to expect: On the other hand, when you provide great detail of your products and services for the benefit of your existing customers, this can also attract new customers. That said, when potential customers come into your site, be prepared also to provide them the right material.
Social Media Engagement & Search Engine Visibility
Social engagement and search visibility may be actual Content Marketing goals themselves. However, I find that these two are mostly means to achieve your goals. Social Media can be your strategy to establish Brand Awareness, and Search Engines can be the medium to showcase your authority in a specific niche. These two will always be part of the content strategy process.
This is not to say that you only have to aim one goal over another. More often than not, you want to achieve the above goals in one cohesive Content Strategy that converts to sales, which is the bottom line. You want to generate leads and gain new customers. How to get to that point varies across industries, and that's why you want to create a Content Strategy that's unique to your company. The challenge is to begin your strategy with the right set of business goals, create content that's relevant to your market, and know when you're hitting those goals.