The Basics of Content Marketing: It Starts With a Story
Most of us have been there – absentmindedly scrolling through social media
when a post from a brand you follow catches your eye. You might laugh, you might feel intrigued, you might even get angry. The post makes you feel. And if the brand succeeds in doing what it intended to do, you click through to its website to hear the rest of the story.
For centuries, human beings have been answering questions and connecting with one another through storytelling. Good and evil have been explained by the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. To the ancient Greeks, the daylight hours weren’t created by a star orbiting the Earth, but by Apollo driving his golden chariot across the sky.
Nowadays, people crave truth and relevance in the information they receive, but the importance of storytelling hasn’t been diminished. Telling a story is essential to stir your audience’s emotions, and it forms the basis of any successful content marketing campaign.
Building Trust Through Content Marketing
Most well-known companies have a backstory, and the memorable ones are of the Cinderella variety.
Who doesn’t love hearing that Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in his garage and warned early investors there was a 70 percent chance the company would fail? It’s inspiring and helps us believe we’re capable of doing anything we set our minds to. And while Bezos currently keeps a low profile on the website’s About Amazon landing page, you can find a plethora of other stories about what Amazon does, the company’s core values, its global contributions and more. While the bulk of Amazon’s 206 million site visitors each month are probably there to shop, the company also deploys robust content marketing efforts such as its “Out for Delivery” email newsletter, social posts and more, each of which links back to articles on its About and blog pages to tell the Amazon story.
Sound intricate? It is. The Content Marketing Institute, the leading global content marketing education and training organization, defines content marketing as a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Basically, instead of sending your buyers a one-off pitch on a product or service, content marketing educates them. Through written, downloadable and visual media, content marketing helps them learn about your brand, expertise and products and services. This education happens at all stages of the inbound marketing funnel: the Awareness stage, the Consideration stage, and the Decision stage.
To do this the right way, you must know your customers inside and out. You also need to understand what resonates with them, appropriately allot the resources you’ll need to create the right content to reach them, plan out a long-term content strategy, and finally, measure and analyze your content so you can adjust future outreach efforts.
By providing content that engages, then helps your prospective customers, you can build a trusting, loyal relationship with them over time. People are more likely to buy from companies and brands they trust, with 85 percent of consumers surveyed for the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer going so far as to say they expected their favorite brands to solve their problems.
Content Marketing Throughout the Customer Journey
Solving a customer’s problems through content marketing may seem like a lot of pressure,
but remember, knowledge is power. The better informed your prospects are, the better they’ll feel about the decisions they make.
Think of content marketing as a reciprocal relationship that empowers your customer to make the most well-informed buying decision, while building awareness of – and loyalty to – your brand as they move through their purchasing journey. And that journey often isn’t taken in one day. Depending on the product and commitment associated with the purchase, the time from awareness to purchase could be years, and 67 percent of that journey will be completed digitally. It’s important to provide prospects with the right information in the right format at the right point in the marketing funnel to ensure they feel informed enough to make the purchase.
In the first stage of a journey, the prospect becomes aware that they have a need or a problem and begins conducting research to solve it. At this stage, it’s important for a company to show a prospect they understand the problem and can offer resources to solve it. Think of it as an opportunity to make a good first impression. The types of information to provide at this stage include:
- Blog post
- Social media post
- How-to video
- Kit or tool
The Consideration stage is when a prospect uses price comparisons, reading reviews and competitor analysis to compare available solutions. Providing the information below will be helpful to differentiate your business from the competition:
- Product comparison guide
- Case study
- Product sample
The Decision stage is game time… when a prospect is ready to select from their options and make a purchase. Limited-time offers are useful at this stage to drive urgency:
- Free trial / live demo
- Consultation offer
If you’re worried about where to start, remember that successful content marketing begins with defining the story you want to tell and understanding your audience well enough that you’re sure it will resonate with them.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll expand upon the various facets of content marketing in our – you guessed it – “Content Marketing: Everything You Need to Know” blog series. Next up, we’ll explore the planning phase: building a content creation framework, the tools and resources you’ll need, and how to plan a long-term content marketing strategy.