Inbound 101: The Basics of Content Marketing Strategy

Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks .

A coerced customer is and will always be a dissatisfied customer. The constant bombardment style of traditional marketing “wears down” customers to the point of buyer’s remorse.

Content marketing has been huge since the 2010s. Why? Because marketers are more emotionally intelligent whilst consumers thirst for more information. Many of the best content marketers are themselves “recovering” victims of buyer’s remorse.

The Information Age changes the world we do business in. Once buyers feel overwhelmed with all the shouting from traditional marketing, they can shut it all out and search for satisfying answers to their questions.

And if customers are more effectively shutting out the voices of traditional marketing and taking their problems to search engines (i.e., Google), will they find your business?

Only recently have marketers crafted an intentional inbound approach using content marketing. Before inbound and content marketing, businesses shouted at their customers and competed with each other for customer attention and retention.

This “shouting at” approach has been expensive for businesses and overwhelming for customers. In contrast, content marketing can dramatically lower acquisition costs and extend a customer's lifetime value.

Content Marketing Definition - What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is an inbound marketing approachIt attracts customer attention with engaging content online and patiently guides those customers through the buyer’s journey. 

How often are you enamored by a post, video, or podcast? Most likely, all the time!

This is content marketing. While not everyone uses content for business purposes, everyone is certainly trying to make an impression with others by sharing their content online.

Because inbound marketing uses online content to engage, inform, and empower customers, a company’s website sets a critical foundation. From the main website, all content extends to other owned media channels (to include company social media pages).

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Marketing in the 21st Century

In the history of sales and business, the strongest entrepreneurs have always known how to have conversations with customers. As a result, collaboration between providers and clients has significantly improved business processes and the consumer's quality of life.

Useful content should be at the core of your marketing. Traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute; as a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way.

Today, content marketing strategy owes much to search engines like Google. The Information Age turns consumers into walking encyclopedias, so long as they have a smartphone in their hand. Social media connects consumers with other informed consumers through the use of compelling posts and shared media.

A growing number of people in the 21st Century are “power users” of these digital channels. And everyone is insatiably searching for quality content.

Content Marketing is the fastest, long-term approach to making one’s business more profitable than they could have ever imagined.

Components of a Strong Content Marketing Strategy

Even though content is in great demand by Internet users, it’s not enough throw just any content on a website.

Good content marketing strategists know what customers are looking for. All content a business delivers to web users must be authoritative, informative, and easy to digest.

When visiting a business website, one should find well-developed written content. Any additional content – video, audio, images, etc. – should support that written content (and vice versa).

Today, we know that this written content takes the form of blogs, web page copy, and downloadable whitepapers/eguides.

Therefore, a solid content marketing strategy begins by understanding how Google and its sister search engines (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) recognize and refer your website to users on the basis of your owned media content.

Content Platform (Website)

To begin building a content marketing strategy, you need a website.

While it can be easier to build your own website on Squarespace or Wix, there is no other website platform as effective at helping Google index your site like WordPress. If you have help from an experienced web developer, you should consider a more robust platform for better content rendering and security (at krfort.com, we partner with Exobyte to launch our website through Gatsby.js), both of which positively impact your website's search engine performance.

In 1998, Google set up a user-friendly database for web use to find what they were looking for more easily without having to provide a direct web address (URL).

Today, Google far surpasses all its competitors as the leading search engine of our time.

Once you publish a website, Google instantly tries to make sense of it by launching "crawlers." These crawlers examine your content (using search engine user keywords as a critical point of reference) and index it (that is, organize for easy recall on search engine results pages, or SERPs).

That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is essential: crafting your website with Google users in mind is the most reliable way to gain consistent web traffic.

Good SEO involves keyword research (the words people are using on Google to find your content) and easy indexing for Google. The easier your site is to navigate, the faster it loads, and the more relevant the content on your site to the original search query, the more likely it is that Google will refer visitors to your site.

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Emotional Intelligence

While artificial intelligence (AI) plays a significant role in search engines development, content marketers and the businesses that employ them have to become more intuitive to the needs of buyers.

With the rise of AI, human engineers developing that AI depend a great deal on the emotional intelligence of content creators and search engine users. The fact is that as automation grows, so does the emotional intelligence of automation users. Humanity and AI have a strong "iron sharpens iron" effect on each other.

For example, many SEO experts have attempted to “crack the code” of Google algorithms in order to achieve higher rankings in search results. But visitors find the page, open it, and leave feeling that they haven’t found what they were looking for. Any attempt to articifically "hack" the system is known as “black hat” SEO, and when Google catches websites using black hat techniques, they penalize that website.

Consequently, Google developers are constantly looking for ideal interactions between users and website content. And each new algorithm upgrade makes it harder for people to “work the system” instead of working hard to understand their clients and, in response, produce original, relevant, and compelling content.

What is left for marketers to do is to produce great content that users actually enjoy viewing, sharing, and engaging. Great content marketing employs emotional intelligence in its SEO development - NOT black hat SEO.

Search engine trends are such that black hat techniques will grow increasingly outdated and ineffective. Smarter AI and the rise of influencers have accelerated these trends faster than industry experts originally thought.

Communication Skills

If a reader doesn’t understand what a blog is trying to say, they will leave. The same is true when online content fails to match (relevance) the reader's original question (search engine query).

Google Analytics notes the “bounce” (this occurs when a web visitor leaves your site after only viewing one page). If your website amasses enough bounces, Google will recommend other sites over yours in an effort to better serve search engine users.

Therefore, great content marketing must meet customers where they’re at. Whether the nature of your content is technical or whimsical, readers must be able to understand your message. Many brands fail at this critical step, because they don't really understand their target audience.

To meet clients where they are, you must understand who your audience is and what problems they have. You must be able to follow their logic and then effectively offer them a reliable solution, an alternative perspective, or a hybrid of both.

Without this in-depth knowledge of your audience, the relevancy of your content will be suspect. And your customers will happily go elsewhere to find the answers and solutions that they seek.

Social Media

Various social media channels will help you join existing conversations among your customers. Your social media channels are branches that extend from your website to help you engage your audience in a less formal environment.

Developing your content marketing strategy means repackaging your web content into shorter posts, graphics, and videos all linking back to your site. 

Sales Process

An inbound marketing approach that ignores a company’s basic need to tweak its sales process might as well not exist.

For those uncomfortable with the world of sales (yes, we all agree that it has gotten out of hand), they often feel that inbound marketing is the “new way.” In many respects, this is true.

Inbound marketing does, in fact, make sales coercion a thing of the past. But you must still have a process of iniating engagement customers, especially when your brand is new to the market.

As such, outbound markeing sand ales will never really go away. Additionally, you will need to learn persuade customers and guide them through the buyer's journey as your inbound strategy gains traction. In order words, you need a sales process.

Marketers often refer to a healthy sales process as a funnel. Your sales process should carefully guide your customers from first “touch” (the first time you enter their world) to close.

Your content marketing can be the key ingredient to solidify and reinforce your sales process. As your brand gains more momentum, more and more customers will guide themselves through your sales process as a result of your well-crafted content.

Collaboration

Inbound marketing requires you to know how to build content that nurtures ongoing conversations with your customers.

This conversation empowers customers to better understand you and the problems that you solve. Emotional intelligence can, in fact, be planted deep into the DNA of your content marketing efforts.

You must nurture a powerful listening ear for what customers are saying. Additionally, you will need to validate your customers’ feelings and opinions (even the wrong ones!), so that you can properly uncover their hidden needs.

Proper content marketing execution is highly in tune to customer perspectives and feeling, to include moments of discomfort and satisfaction. Your brand can master the collaborative power of validation without surrendering the essence of your message, product, or service.

Content Strategy and Management

Experienced content marketers build plans to address customers at every stage of the buyers’ journey. Typically this approach begins by establishing Pillar Content.

Using pillar content as a foundation, these marketers craft new and repackage old content on a schedule that ebbs and flows with market trends, brand solutions, and the everyday lives of customers. There are content marketing management systems (CMS) that help marketers build and manage their content plan.

For businesses that lack the talent in house, it is ideal that that business partner with an experienced content marketer to help them plan and establish a reliable content strategy. After initial setup, brands often rely on in-house or freelance writers to carry out the content plan.

Pros and Cons of Content Marketing

Content marketing is not for everyone. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if content marketing is right for your business.

Pros

  1. If your product/service is complicated for most people to understand at first glance, content marketing informs prospective customers about their problems, as well as the sustainable solutions that you offer.

  2. Great content marketing can seriously lower the cost of paid advertising. Compelling content spreads organically among your target markets. Furthermore, high-performing content is easy to repurpose for more effective paid ads.

  3. Managers that invest heavily into content marketing (with the help of content marketing specialists) typically undergo a transformation that makes them more collaborative with customers and staff members.

  4. In light of the point above, content marketing can have a strong unifying affect within the company's marketing team.

  5. Great content marketing usually makes your customers feel valued and empowered. Customers/clients will hire you feeling already emotionally invested in your brand.

Cons

  1. The inbound and content setup process can be rigorous. All digital channels need to be branded properly and user-friendly.

  2. Most managers and business owners feel frustrated by the paradigm shift that inbound and content marketing requires. For many brands, embracing an inbound strategy produces an entire marketing overhaul.

  3. If your product/service is simple to understand, careless content creation can come across as pandering. You will need to think outside the box to keep your audience engaged.

  4. Poorly-executed content marketing can prove a serious morale-killer on your marketing team. Many business owners employ content marketers before they truly understand their customers.

  5. Content marketing can take up to 6 months of consistent content development before marketers begin to notice serious traction. If your business has the budget and talent to be prolifically compelling, you can shorten this time frame significantly.

In conclusion, content marketing engages customers better than traditional marketing and advertising tactics. In contrast to the old way of “shouting at customers,” great content will nurture the finest customer relationships. Brands that make extensive use of great content grow faster and enjoy vibrant, long-term relationships with their customers.