What is the purpose of content marketing?
I recently posed this question to a few small business owners and e-commerce marketers, and most of their responses were along these lines:
- Brand building
- Connecting with our audience
These are all great answers, and I completely agree. But unfortunately, “connecting with your audience” doesn’t pay the bills.
So, how can we think about content as a tool to help you grow your business while building your brand? How does storytelling drive tangible outcomes at every stage of the funnel? That’s what we’re going to cover in this article.
Blogging is the #1 content marketing tactic for small teams
Content can mean a lot of different things: blog posts, videos, eBooks, social media posts, and on and on. Sometimes, it feels like everything is content. So how do you decide which types you need?
As a small team with limited resources, you need to put your energy toward the most efficient content—low cost, high impact. For most growing brands, this means building a blog. Blog posts are more affordable than videos, more engaging than eBooks, and better at driving traffic than organic social media. And if you’re using a tool like Matcha to source licensed content, it takes virtually no time at all to build a vibrant blog.
For those reasons, we’re going to focus on blog posts in this article, but you can just as easily apply this advice to any type of content.
The 4 stages of the sales funnel
Content marketing helps attract new customers and move them through the sales funnel, from awareness to purchase to retention. But no single blog post can do it all.
Every piece of content you publish has a job to do. What works to bring someone to your website won’t necessarily motivate them to make a purchase. That’s why creating content for every stage of the funnel is so important.
The basic sales funnel is made up of four stages.
- Awareness: Attract the right audiences and build brand awareness.
- Consideration: Build a relationship, create trust, and get your audience interested in your products.
- Conversion: Deliver a winning offer to convert your audience from visitor to customer.
- Retention: Continue nurturing customer relationships to retain customers and increase their lifetime value.
As a marketer, your goal is to move people down the funnel, keeping them interested until they’re ready to make a purchase, and then keep them coming back for more.
This is how the top consumer brands approach content marketing, and the strategy is just as effective for small businesses. Recently, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs partnered to publish B2C Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, and their findings validate the power of full-funnel content marketing. Among survey respondents, they found that:
- 56% create content based on the stages of the sales funnel.
- 79% use content to successfully build brand awareness.
- 52% use content to generate revenue.
- 81% use content to build customer loyalty and increase retention.
The bottom line? If you’re not publishing content for every stage of the funnel, your competitors have a clear advantage.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what kind of content you should be publishing for each stage.
Content at each stage of the funnel
You know what duties your content needs to perform, but how do you find the right content for each job?
Imagine you manage marketing for a company that sells hiking gear. Let’s dig into the types of content you should publish at each stage, along with real examples.
At the awareness stage, your content should not be about you. (No offense—we love you! But content marketing is all about building trust over time.) Instead of promoting your products, you need to deliver interesting content that consumers want to engage with.
Speak to their passions. Entertain them. Educate them. Build a relationship with them.
Just don’t go for the hard sell quite yet.
Your hypothetical hiking gear company might publish
an article like this to attract beginner backpackers who
have never heard of your brand…
…and an article like this one to attract more experienced backpackers.
Awareness content drives a very clear outcome: website traffic. When consumers visit your website, they’ve officially entered your sales funnel. Then, you can begin moving them down the path to purchase by retargeting them with ads promoting consideration-stage content.
Once people are aware of your brand, you want them to consider making a purchase—but it’s still not time for the hard sell. You can (and should) plug your products when it makes sense, but your content should not read like an ad. For example, our fictional hiking gear company might publish an article like this one.
To turn engaged readers into potential customers,
you need to get them thinking about your products.
Content at this stage of the funnel should be optimized for lead generation. Collecting email addresses on your website is critical because you own your email list. Unlike ads and other pay-to-play tactics, email marketing helps you keep your audience engaged, drive reliable website traffic, and promote your products at no cost.
At this stage, consumers know your brand and your products. It’s finally time to make that sale!
For example, your hiking boots business might publish a chart comparing your boots to “the other guys’ boots” to help consumers make a smarter purchase. Use this opportunity to frame your brand as the obvious choice (without bashing your competitors).
But we’ll let you in on a little secret: You may not even need content to convert people into customers. If you can get them to the consideration stage, your direct response marketing (i.e., product ads and emails) will often do it for you.
When it comes to retaining customers, it’s often less about what you publish and more about how you distribute it.
One of the best ways to keep your customers engaged over the long-term is to create an email newsletter they’ll genuinely look forward to receiving. You can accomplish this by pairing great content with a healthy dose of product promotion. Take this fantastic newsletter from Campman.com, for example.
Every week, Campman subscribers are treated to a new themed email that speaks to their interests. Interesting content is paired with product offers to create a compelling story customers and prospects want to read.
For example, the email above features an article about cozy winter huts accompanied by Campman apparel that a customer might need for such a trip. Base layers and down jackets are juxtaposed with images and stories of chilly nights spent in rustic cabins.
The Campman team even adds a few unique touches to each email, including a weekly review of beer and music. It’s the perfect combination of storytelling, selling, and brand authenticity that keeps customers coming back for more.
Put your strategy into action
At this point, you might be wondering how in the world you’ll find time to create and publish all this content. And that’s a fair question.
The truth is, marketing’s job is never done. To keep stoking the fire, you’ll need to consistently produce new content. The ultimate goal is to create a persistent, engaged audience through storytelling and brand building.
The amount of content you need to make this happen varies from business to business, but publishing and promoting at least one article per week is a great starting point.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a constant stream of new writing, that’s where licensed content comes in. Licensed content is content created by a trusted, professional publisher that’s available for you to use on your own blog. It’s a great way to fill out your content calendar and bring the right people to your website by telling stories they care about.
And the best part? You don’t have to write any of it yourself.
An in-depth NewsCred analysis showed that licensed content costs, on average, 3x less than original content while driving equivalent value in page views and shares. So, your strategy might be to publish a couple of original stories per month, and then supplement them with licensed content that resonates with your customer base.
This is where Matcha comes in. Our marketplace has nearly 10,000 high-quality articles available to businesses like yours, and our library is growing every day. Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation call with our team now.
Feature image provided by Creativity103