What is content marketing? A step-by-step guide for businesses in 2021

What is content marketing

 

It’s 2021, and unless you’re living under a rock, you know how crucial content marketing is for your business. All of the big brands that inspire you, do so with the help of content marketing - that’s why when we think about Coca-Cola, we immediately associate it with Open(ing) Happiness.

As a business, you need content marketing to reach your audience and gain their trust. That’s why we put together this guide that takes you through the perfect content marketing strategy.

So, without further adieu, let’s dive in!

The Plan Of Action

1. What is content marketing?
2. Why is content marketing important?
3. How to do content marketing?
4. What are examples of content marketing?

1. What is content marketing?

As opposed to traditional marketing where you pitch your product directly to your customers in the desire to make a sale, content marketing is a contemporary approach that allows you to build a relationship with your audience that then converts into profitable action.

As a business or marketer, you provide your audience with valuable and relevant information that helps give your audience a solution to their problem - this is the simplest way to understand content marketing.

Let’s take the example of AirBnB:

AirBnB puts out travel inspiring content every day on their social channels. Their audience now is not only made up of their customers who have experienced AirBnB stays, but also people who are travel enthusiasts.

In one of their most recent content marketing campaigns, they sent out photographers with their family and loved ones to AirBnB stays - and got them to document it. They posted these images as a video with a great background score.

 

Apart from their social channels, AirBnB also regularly interacts with their audience via email. These are audiences who have shown intention to travel with AirBnB (by signing up for their newsletter, logging in to their app, signing up for a promotional campaign, etc.) or have stayed/traveled with them.

AirBnB Newsletter Example


Lastly, if you go to AirBnB and lookup for stays or experiences, you will be targeted with paid content and ads which is the final step that will lead to conversion.

airbnb paid content and ads

2. Why content marketing is important?

Businesses around the world use content marketing to reach out to their audience. Before you start, it is important to understand why content marketing is important for your business. 

There are 4 steps in the buying cycle:

1- Awareness: When a customer understands that he needs something or identifies a problem that needs to be solved. For example, a marketer sees video creation as an expensive and time-intensive process. 

2- Research: After identifying the problem or need, the customer is now looking for solutions or if they do have a solution, they are researching to educate themselves to make the best buying decision. For example, the marketer is now trying to find quick and affordable video editing solutions - so he is researching online editing tools and video creation apps.

3- Consideration: At this stage, the customer is comparing options to get the best offers. For example, the customer has identified 3 businesses that offer online video creation solutions and he will now compare their price plans and what they’re offering in return.

4- Buy: The final stage of the cycle is when the customer has made a purchasing decision and moves forward with the transaction.

When you do traditional marketing, you catch the customer at the third stage - when they are considering solutions and choosing between offers. This means that they have already done their research.

In content marketing, you can get your customers’ attention at stage 1 itself. You will be able to create a need for your product or be the solution to a problem your customer is currently facing. Not only are you identifying customers early on in the content marketing funnel but you are also providing them with value-adding information. One of the biggest benefits of content marketing is that when a customer interacts with content created to support the value of your product - it helps him trust your business.

Now that you’re sold on the idea of content marketing, we’ve listed down 5 actionable steps for you to create your own content marketing strategy.

3. How to do content marketing?

So, you have the answer to ‘what is content marketing?’, what you need is a direction in framing your content marketing strategy from the ground up specifically for your brand. Amidst the myriad choices of platforms, formats, and touch-points you have available, let’s talk about how to zero down on a framework that’s custom-built from the ground up just for your brand.

Step 1: What Is The Purpose Of Your Content?

There can usually be two possible answers to this question: Either you want to build your user base, or you want to sell your product.

What Is The Purpose Of Your Content?

Building Your User-Base

People interact and engage with content that either brings them value or entertains them. Hence, when your focus is on getting people to come to follow your social handles or subscribe to a blog page you have up and running, your content needs to be less about you and more about what they’re interested in. This is what is typically called ‘Top of the funnel’, or TOFU content.

There are two keys to unlocking the perfect TOFU content for your brand: Research + Snackable content

If you are relying primarily on digital marketing and research to find out where does your target audience spend most of their time and what kind of content do they consume the most - this will let you zero down on the platform/channel that you would leverage for your brand + tailor-make your messaging and content.

Let’s say you own a pet-care shop and your audience is primarily made of pet owners- there’s a very good possibility that they spend a lot of time on cute animal pages on Facebook and Instagram that serve them funny/cute videos of pets.

content creation cue

Now, you will take this insight and turn it into a very interesting snackable video around pets. 

The formula for any snackable video is: Something interesting derived from your previous insight + Branded end-card

With just a bit of tinkering, you can arrive at an idea on the lines of 5 things you didn’t know dogs could do, and your snackable video could look something like this.

Use this template

Similarly, if you are a clothing brand, you can create a 60-sec video around 5 styles that are making a comeback in 2020.

Or, if you’re a yoga instructor trying to get people to follow your Instagram page, you can create content around 5 yoga asanas you can do anywhere at any time!

If your audience loves consuming this piece of content, there’s a very high chance they’d want to follow you to get more of your content. 

Selling Your Product

Once you feel like your user base has grown, it is time for you to start tapping into some of these users and get them to buy from you. How do you understand which user is ready to start receiving promotional content from you? Simple, use one of the most tried and tested content marketing tactics of all time; hand-raiser content:

Hand-Raiser Content

Let’s say you have a single product that you want to sell, like a membership to your gym. Now, initially, you are building your audience with appropriate digital content like blogs about ‘benefits of working out’ or ‘top 10 exercises to do when stuck at home’. You notice that your blogs are getting a decent readership, and now you gradually want to start selling the membership to your audience. 

However, if you bombard them with promotional content without gauging their position on your sales funnel, you will lose them. This is when you use something called a ‘hand-raiser content’.  Let’s say you send a ‘Sign Up’ post for a free one-hour session to figure out which of your audience is willing to come all the way to the gym for the free session.

This will get a warm lead to raise their hand, and flag that they are interested to try out, and eventually buy your gym membership. So, what the hand-raiser content tells you is which of your audience members are ready to view your promotional content. Now, remember, this isn’t necessarily a list-builder exercise. You are not adding new emails to your list, but rather, you are filtering your existing list for potential buyers, and moving them along your sales funnel.   

Use Hand-Raiser Content

Once you identify those interested, you can now specifically show them content that is geared towards selling your membership to them. For example, a mailer offering a “10% discount on membership if you buy it before the end of the month”.

Another example of a successful hand-raiser content piece is the price guide for your product. Many sellers are not comfortable putting that up on their website, but they can definitely make a price guide for email downloads.

Let’s say you run a homemade jewellery business and you want more sales. What you can do is mail your price guide for your top-selling products to the list of emails you have curated over time. Those who do download the complete price guide to check it out are usually hot leads, which you can then convert to buyers with calls or targeted emails.

Time To Go For The Kill

Now that you’ve filtered your potential buyers via targeted content marketing, It’s time to hit them with your promotional content. You can start showing your warm leads ‘buy now’ ads or start sending out mailers to them because they have clearly demonstrated interest in your business.

Here’s an example of a direct ad that’s intended to get warm leads to buy.

Use this template

Step 2: What Will You Create?

In the content marketing world, most suffer from a common problem called analysis paralysis. Imagine you are running a make-up business, and you don’t have a clue about the kind of content your users would engage with. A simple yet effective rule of thumb in content marketing is to let your audience’s demand guide your content.

Here three effective ways in which you can figure out what content you should be serving your audience:

1. Listen to your audience’s requests and make content that they have specifically requested.

2. Go over the statistics on the most searched topics in your industry, research your competitors’ channels and speak to your audience to understand what they are looking for, and make content around that.

3. Look at your audience’s consumption pattern on your channel and make a note of what they are liking and responding to - double down on those content ideas.

So, in the case of your make-up business, if your audience has requested a how-to video for your eyeshadow palette, then make a video on that. Alternatively, if you find out that ‘how to do smokey eyes’ is a popular search request, then make a make-up tutorial on how to do smokey eyes, using your range of products. 

A perfect example of the third approach is to look at various makeup influencers and the kind of content they are putting out, which is being liked by your audience. You can do an out-of-the-box piece like “3 different ways to use lipstick” or “a guide to finding your perfect foundation shade”, which will draw your audience to your content.

3 ways to figure content

Now, the approaches mentioned above usually help you build your user base, but what about when you are ready to sell? 

This time, you would want to create a much more direct video ad with a call to action, showcasing an offer to your audience, who have interacted and consumed your content. 

In the case of the makeup business example, your video could be a short 5-second video ad declaring a 40% sale on your products, and how it’s only valid for 48 hours. This will entice the user and project a sense of urgency, which will compel them to shop as soon as they see the ad.

Use this template.

It is important to remember that the products that sell the most are usually solving very real problems. For example, if a person can’t find sustainable make-up, and they come across content from your makeup brand claiming that your products are sustainably sourced, it will immediately appeal to them.

Accordingly, your content marketing approach should focus on highlighting the specific pain point that your product is going to solve for the user.

Now that you’re closer to getting your content creation framework in place, let’s figure out which channels you would be looking to leverage to distribute your content.

Step 3: Which Channels Will You Use?

As a marketer who is still figuring out the right content marketing strategy, it is quite common to draw inspiration from successful campaigns of top brands and try to dabble in a bit of everything. Most businesses are making content for users who are all on platforms.

So which platform should you make digital content for?

Let’s say you are planning a YouTube video, posting on Instagram, writing a blog for LinkedIn, and in general, going crazy. That won’t help you grow. Omnipotent marketing might be the buzzword, but it is rarely useful.

Small businesses simply do not have the resources to create content for every single platform, so they should not be spreading themselves too thin. You can’t be the jack of all trades and master of none, otherwise, the quality of your content will suffer. What we instead recommend is that you might do one thing only, but you must do it remarkably well. 

pro tip on omnipotent marketing

This is the 90/10 rule, where you dedicate 90% of your resources to create original content for a specific platform, and build your audience from that platform. The remaining 10% can be used to repurpose content or experiment with other platforms.

90/10 rule

For example, Steve Dotto’s primary channel for his audience is YouTube where he creates long-form content pieces like this:

This video is about optimization of sound on a Zoom call and he takes you through the exact steps required to achieve the best audio on Zoom. Here’s how this can easily be repurposed into a smaller snippet for Instagram, asking his audience to come to check out the original video on YouTube.

 Use this template. 

As a content creator and marketer, if YouTube is your primary platform, then you only have to worry about posting one video every week or fortnight. This gives you enough time to ideate the next video and shoot it really well. 

But, how will you decide which platform should be your primary platform? 

Again, the selection of your primary channel for content marketing goes hand-in-hand with what is the consumption pattern of your audience. What are their viewing habits? Where do they spend the most amount of time? How do they make their purchasing decisions? Where do their favourite influencers create content?

For example, if you are a B2B software selling business, most of your audience would be on LinkedIn. So, that would immediately become your primary platform, and you could use Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to that platform.

On the other hand, if you’re an up-and-coming food truck, Instagram or Facebook should be your platform of choice - that’s where people consume snackable videos and share their social life. The location tagging feature also lets your audience tag your business - allowing you to reach a wider audience. 

But, hold on! Your job doesn’t end at simply making a great piece of content. Promoting your content is equally important, if not more.

Step 4: Distribution – The 50/50 Rule

The world of content marketing has a golden rule which recommends that 50% of your time, effort, and money should be used for content creation, and the remaining 50% should be used to promote existing content.

The 50/50 Rule

Let’s say you have a car showroom and you’ve created a great video about some popular comedians buying their cars from your showroom. You have spent a lot of money on it, and it came out really well but it got no traction when you put it up.

Well, the key to getting eyeballs on your content is to promote it well. For example, you could get automobile influencers and blogs dedicated to car reviews to share the video with their audience which will help your content reach more of your target audience.

Another example that we can look at is that of an SEO expert and blogger Brian Dean, whose blogs on SEO are arguably the best blogs on the internet. Brian usually puts in a lot of research and time in writing an incredible blog but also spends close to six months getting as many backlinks to his blog as he can. He diligently promotes his blog once it’s actually published because he knows how important that is to get his blogs to rank on search results.

Follow the 50-50 rule religiously, and make sure that even if you produce two incredible pieces of content a month, you promote them equally well- as opposed to trying to post something new every week. 

Step 5: Paid Traffic

Paid traffic can help you amplify your content marketing efforts and leverage your best-performing content to keep getting you high-quality traffic and leads at scale. So, how do you identify which pieces of content you ought to spend ad budgets on? And, how much should you be spending in the first place?

There is no point in advertising every piece of content that you have on your platform. Rather, pick your best-performing content and invest your ad spends on that. 

Your ad spend is a function of your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). If you are ready to spend $50 on a paid customer since their Lifetime Value (LTV) is $200, that’s a great bet because the LTV: CAC ratio needs to be above 3:1. So, this means that you can spend $50 in terms of ads to (let’s say) get 100 people to watch your content, 10 people to visit your website/landing page (10% conversion), and 1 person to buy.

Another simple way to look at Ad Spends is to divide the revenue generated by your ad spends.

Ad Spends


For example, if you sold 5 products, each costing $20 from your Facebook ad campaign in a week, your revenue is $100. To make those sales, you spent $25 on Facebook advertising.

That means your ROAS is 100  ÷ 25 = 4x (where x is the multiple of 1). Simply put, every time you spend a dollar on Facebook ads, you get $4 in revenue.

We have broken down an ads budget strategy specifically for Facebook in this article but the math can be replicated for any platform. 

Now that we’ve broadly covered the five tenets of your content marketing plan, let’s do a quick run-through of everything we’ve learned so far!

5 tenets to content marketing

4. What are examples of content marketing?

We’ve listed some of the best content marketing examples to inspire you to create impressive campaigns.

Coke’s Share A Coke

This campaign by Coke went viral in Australia and was later duplicated around the world. The strategy for this campaign was to get more Australian youth to try Coca-Cola. The execution - Coca-Cola identified 150 of the most common names in Australia and printed those on their bottle labels. The campaign not only increased their transaction by 3% but Coke also set up a booth and later a website to print labels with your own name.   

ZenDesk

ZenDesk is one of the best examples of B2B content marketing. They have been constantly putting our video content to reach out to their customers - especially in the B2B space.

Old Spice

If you talk about content marketing, you can’t not mention Old Spice. Of their most recent campaigns, ‘PITFLUENCER’ has been widely shared on Instagram. Their witty and humorous content style is now a brand statement.

Fenty Beauty

Nobody does influencer content marketing better than Fenty Beauty. They have collaborated with beauty and lifestyle influencers from all over the world - every race and gender to get make-up to be more accessible for all races. 

HootSuite

While HootSuite is a social media management platform, it is also one of the most visited sites for its blogs. This is because HootSuite tapped into the needs of their audience to know more about these social platforms and created value-adding content for them. It also creates toolkits, content marketing trend reports, and courses to help its audience ace at social media.

hootsuite social media management platform

If you want to see more examples and get inspired, check out these 33 best commercials of all time.

5. 2021’s Best Content Marketing Tips

Here are 5 tactical tips that will help your content marketing strategy succeed.

Repurpose your content & amplify

If you’re wondering how you will fill your content calendar every month, for all the different platforms - the secret is to create a content mothership and repurpose it across all channels.

A content mothership is long from, value-adding content like blog posts, podcasts, and explainer videos. These can then be turned into snackable videos, social media posts like quote cards, behind-the-scenes photos, and informative carousel posts. 

So, how do you repurpose all of this content on your own, even if you’re not a pro at editing and you don’t have so much time on your hands?

Well, that’s why we’re here - our online video editor is very intuitive and super simple to use - and you’ll be creating a month's worth of content from one live video in no time. With InVideo, it will take less than 15 minutes to create scroll-stopping videos.
You can choose from over 4000+ templates and 12 million+ stock footage. Not only that - you can add effects, texts, stickers, and music to make your video complete.

Let’s take the example of our show - Just Between You & Me.

Our show is an online live podcast that was hosted on multiple platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and our own website. It has industry experts like Jordan Platten and Sue Zimmerman diving deep into marketing insights and practices that have worked for them - thus making each episode a content mothership.

Not everyone will consume the entire show, only an audience that is invested with our business will and so - we repurposed the podcast into many content pieces that are easy to consume and add value to our audience on social media.

For example, we created this explainer video that quickly summarises one of the discussions we had on the podcast. It gives our audience quick and actionable insights and also catches their attention to watch the full episode if they’re interested in the topic.

Use this template.

Next, we took out some great snippets from it and turned them into snackable videos that give small doses of information - giving people a peek into what the live podcast was like.

 
Use this template.

You can also create quote videos that are easy to consume and make for shareable social media posts, like this one.


Use this template.

Keep a track of your metrics

With content marketing, there is no one metric you can track. This is because not only are you dealing with different platforms - like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn but different content pieces will have a different purpose and a different role to play in your sales funnel.

You must set goals for each platform and content type to measure its success correctly. For example, if your business has a top-of-the-funnel Facebook group where you post content to attract new audiences - you should track the interaction and shares of each post. This is also important to understand so that you plan to correct CTAs for all of your content. Here’s an infographic by Business 2 Community that shows a content marketing sales funnel.

content marketing sales funnel

Segment your audience

If your audience can be divided into subcategories (most of them can) then you must segregate them so that you target content to them based on their requirements and needs. For example, if you were a paint store - you will have DIY kits, paint sets, and canvas books for a hobbyist painter or someone who wants to learn. They are not interested in investing money into extremely expensive artist-grade paints and so targeting them with that content will only make them turn off notifications from you - whether on email or on social. The same would go for a professional artist who is mainly interested in buying bulk artist-grade paints based on his requirement - he has no interest in DIY kits.

You can segregate your audience by understanding their preferences at the very beginning of their buying journey. This can be done by asking them their preference, gaining insights from their interactions on your posts, and having different sign-ups for different audiences.

For example, many gym coaches have a public group where they put out a lot of information for their wider audience. However, only when you sign up for their membership do you get access to their members-only group that has more exclusive content. You can now sell add-ons or more programs for your customers who have already invested in your business.

If you want to know more about how you can leverage Facebook Groups as a sales funnel, read this article.

Interact with your audience
Posting the content is only part of the deal - as a content marketer you will have to engage in conversations and interact with your audience on the posts.
Replying to comments, emails and direct messages are the untold part of a content marketer’s job.

 engage in conversations and interact with your audience

This will lead to two very important things:
(1) a deeper understanding of your audience and their needs
(2) building a trust-based relationship with your audience 

Consistency is key

Consistency is key - and we don’t mean #throwbackthursdays. Showing up every day with something new and interesting for your audience will help you keep the conversation going. If you’re a small business or a creator who is just starting - it is important to understand that you don’t need to post every day unless you can keep up with it. Choose a frequency that you can be consistent with and you can increase it as you have more content to post.

6. FAQs

1. What are the best ways to do content marketing?

The best way to do content marketing is to provide your audience with valuable and relevant information that helps give them a solution to their problem. We’ve listed down the best content marketing tips in this article which when combined with our perfect content marketing strategy will fetch you the results you’re looking for.

2. What is content marketing and how it works?

Content marketing is a strategy that allows you to build a relationship with your audience by focusing on their needs and providing solutions to their problems. Businesses and brands are known to create value-adding information for their audience in the form of blogs, videos, books, social media posts, on-site campaigns, etc. - that keeps their audience hooked and aids in moving them along the sales funnel. In this article, we have listed the only content marketing strategy you need for your business to get your audience to move down the sales funnel.

3. What does a content marketer do?

A content marketer is responsible for strategizing their business or brand’s content plan. This essentially involves researching and coming up with content solutions like blog posts, videos, social media posts, live interactions, emailers, etc. that will help build a relationship with their audience. While it is not a front-facing role, the content marketer is always interacting and understanding their audience to ensure they are serving only value-adding information. There is no specific qualification for a content marketer but a degree in communication and marketing is preferred unless you have experience from past projects whose results can vouch for your work.

Wrapping up -
We hope you’ve got enough gunpowder to hit the ground running. Remember that imperfect action taken today always trumps perfect knowledge that you’ll implement tomorrow. We’ve given you everything you need to know to get you started with your first leg of content marketing. This isn’t a time for excuses. Let’s go!

If you’re looking for more information on content marketing for specific platforms - we have written tonnes of articles that you can find on our blog.

If you found this article helpful - you may also be interested in these 32 Instagram post ideas and 41 Instagram Reels ideas for your business. 

Don’t forget to share this article with your friends or colleagues who are looking to get started with creating content for their business, and if you have any questions, drop them in the comments below.

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