Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has since been updated.
Ever wonder where the phrase “content is king” comes from? The popular refrain was first introduced by Bill Gates in a 1996 essay of the same name. In it he accurately predicts the content boom generated by the internet. Many of his statements still ring true today and speak to the hugely important role content plays in how people communicate, find information, make decisions and purchase products.
Looking back to the days of traditional advertising—or even a few years to AMC’s Madison Avenue hit, Mad Men—businesses were competing for space on billboards, magazine pages and broadsheets. The larger your ad, the more places it appeared and how strategically it was placed impacted your brand awareness and, ultimately, your sales.
Technology has fundamentally changed the rules of the advertising game. Gates talks about this in his essay:
The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.
First it was the television and then it was the internet. Instead of competing for space, businesses began trading in attention. Traditional advertising evolved into marketing which itself is experiencing an ongoing transformation. As technology changes, so do the strategies we use to reach potential customers.
Popular digital marketing methodologies like inbound and omnichannel experiences depend on content. If you’re trying to capture the attention of your target audience, you need to have content that appeals to them. In inbound marketing, this means you’re using content pieces to address their specific concerns or needs in a way that’s helpful and, ideally, moves them further through the buyer’s journey.
How you frame your message and the type of content you provide will depend on where they are in the buyer’s journey, but here are seven content pieces you should have to drive awareness, convert visitors to leads and close sales:
A blog is one of the most effective top-of-funnel activities for marketers. Blog posts give you the opportunity to regularly publish timely, relevant content. Using search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, you can optimize your blog for search engines to attract organic traffic from non-paid sources. Providing a call to action (CTA) in each post also gives your blog lead generation power so you can attract and convert leads in one place.
Brochures are often the first pieces of content potential customers encounter apart from the information on your website or blog. For this reason, it’s important to introduce your company as well as your solutions. Don’t worry too much about pricing or terms – focus more on the value of your offerings and how they will help prospects solve potential business challenges.
A successful omnichannel approach depends on consistency; your messaging should be consistent across your various communication channels, including your digital assets and corporate collateral. Working with your Sales team to create pitch decks and templates for presentations ensures the content meets both Sales and Marketing’s needs and effectively moves leads through the buyer’s journey. Focus on what your leads want to know about and how best to communicate that information.
Introductory eBooks and whitepapers
eBooks and whitepapers should be a vital part of your content generation engine because they’re high-value content pieces that can help you qualify leads. Typically, the more valuable a piece of content is, the more information you can ask for in a lead intelligence form. For example, if you’re offering leads a checklist, you might not want to use a form with a dozen fields. However, if you’re providing them with a complete overview of the industry, you could ask for more information to collect better lead intelligence. The more information you have about your leads, the better you can segment your contact database and provide them with relevant and useful information.
Case studies are another valuable tool you should have in your marketing toolkit. They often help bridge the gap between your Sales team and your leads by illustrating the value of your solutions. By providing potential customers with real, demonstrable facts and metrics about how your offerings helped current customers, you can move them from the Consideration stage to the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
Concise documents that help address common questions are also useful content pieces to have readily available. If you sell a software solution, consider creating an install guide, a requirements checklist, a best practices document for set up and ongoing use, common troubleshooting guides and similar resources. Help documents focus less on prospects and more on current customers, but they address one of the most important parts of the buyer’s journey that is often overlooked: Delight. Once you’ve closed a sale, you want to continue offering your customers value to not only build brand evangelism but help them succeed and grow as well.
Documentation is particularly useful because it enables customers to educate themselves and mitigates some of the traffic your technical support team deals with on a day-to-day basis. Trends in video reveal important changes in how people search for information and engage with content. By 2017, video represented 74% of all Internet traffic and Cisco projects that global internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all internet traffic by 2019 (Source: HubSpot). This doesn’t mean that your traditional documentation is not still valuable – it just means you can repurpose the content in your help documents to create short, helpful videos, including guided tours and online training modules.
In the words of Bill Gates, “Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.” Successful marketing in the internet age is fueled by content, whether it’s brochures, blog posts, technical documentation or advertisements. Understanding who is looking for information, how they’re looking and why they need it is the key to connecting with your audience. Core concepts like buyer personas and the buyer’s journey will help you create relevant, timely and targeted content that is useful for your leads and customers, helping them solve business challenges and drive growth.
We mention the buyer’s journey throughout this post because it’s one of the most important aspects of an effective content marketing strategy. If you’re not familiar with the buyer’s journey or you’re looking for a refresher, download our Introduction to the Buyer’s Journey Handout!