Content marketing

Content marketing

Quick definition

Content marketing is a strategy and business process that uses valuable and relevant digital assets like images, text, and video to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.

Key takeaways

Content marketing is the answer to consumer frustration with advertising saturation. Engaging, informative content is more likely to engage customers than ads that push a product.

Companies will use different types of high-quality content to reach different audiences and achieve different business goals.

To effectively use content marketing and not waste resources, companies need to develop a cohesive content marketing strategy and get everyone on board.

Content marketing should help achieve a company’s overall goal of converting customers.

Elliot Sedegah is a Group Manager, Strategy and Product marketing for Adobe Experience Cloud. For more than 10 years, Elliot has worked with major brands and government organizations in software engineering, product management, and IT consulting roles. His focus and interest is in helping organizations take full advantage of content in online, mobile, and social channels to increase customer engagement with digital experiences. He holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, an MS in engineering management from the George Washington University, and a BS in computer engineering from the University of Maryland.

Why does content marketing matter?

What is the difference between content creation and content marketing?

What types of content do companies use?

How can marketers ensure their content is effective?

What tools are necessary for content marketing?

How do companies create content for different channels?

How do companies tie content marketing into a larger strategy?

What are content marketing best practices?

What is the life cycle for a piece of content?

How does content marketing differ for a small business versus a large enterprise?

Can companies successfully implement a content marketing strategy with a small budget?

What problems do companies face when marketing content?

How do companies ensure they target the right audiences?

How can companies produce content quickly?

Q: Why does content marketing matter?

A: The world is transitioning to a point where customers are tired of being fed advertisements. Consumers are inundated with information to the point where it all becomes noise. Content marketing is the answer to that challenge. Rather than spam customers with advertising that doesn’t matter to them, content marketing focuses on providing customers with valuable content and engaging users throughout the customer journey.

Content marketing goes beyond pushing a product to a potential customer. Instead, it puts the relevant information out there and follows the customer through their journey, from the research phase to the purchase phase. Content marketing includes presenting information like how-to guides or story-based ads that provide a real benefit to the consumer.

Q: What is the difference between content creation and content marketing?

A: Content marketing is a superset of content creation. It includes content creation but also refers to the management and delivery of content. Who tackles which task depends on the needs of the company, but a content marketer can also be the person creating the content, as well as publishing it.

Q: What types of content do companies use?

A: When developing content, marketers consider how they can show the value of a brand while telling their story in a way that will engage the consumer. They do this by leaning on types of content like blogs, images, and video, and by relying on search engine optimization (SEO). And the type of content a marketer uses will depend on the phase of the journey the customer is in, and whether the customer is an individual consumer or a business.

In a B2B scenario, a marketer will likely rely on content like whitepapers and infographics. But in a B2C scenario, especially where the target demographic is a younger generation, marketers will use more video and social media content. The type of content a company uses depends on their business strategy and the core audience they need to connect with.

Q: How can marketers ensure their content is effective?

A: One of the first things a company needs to do is identify and write out a content strategy. By articulating and defining the strategy, companies can get more people to align around that mission. Instead of siloing marketing efforts across different teams, companies can use a clear content strategy to tell a consistent story to a target audience.

In the current approach many companies are taking right now, the content creation process is siloed throughout the company. Each team is creating their own content. A company-wide content strategy everyone adheres to more effectively provides a way for customers to find the brand, make a purchase decision, and then stick around. It's also less wasteful. With siloed efforts, a company has to produce twice the amount of content to achieve the same goals.

Q: What tools are necessary for content marketing?

A: First, companies need a tool to communicate the strategy to stakeholders. Second, companies need a workflow tool to help with planning and scheduling content. A workflow tool is important for understanding where a piece of content is in the development stage, who’s working on it, and when and where it will be published.

A company will also need an asset management system to organize and house all their content. If a company is trying to speak in a single voice and go on the customer journey, using an asset management system ensures the content is organized in a way that all the different stakeholders internally in the company can help tell that story. A company needs everyone to be on the same page when creating content and launching a content marketing strategy.

Finally, companies need a tool to deliver the content to the different channels and a tool to gather data and run analytics to find out what content is performing well. An analytics tool helps companies know which pieces of content were effective and why, so they can pull or update a piece of content if necessary.

Q: How do companies create content for different channels?

A: It comes down to having a sound strategy on the audiences and all the different channels where the core audience is going to live. That typically influences how companies create content. One option companies sometimes choose is to have a core piece of content that they then adapt for downstream channels. For example, the core piece of content for a strategy might be a 20-page whitepaper or a case study, which they then break down into smaller infographics or quotes that they can then share on social media or on other channels.

Another option is to work in reverse — take a piece of content like a media asset and combine it with other assets to produce a larger strategy. One example of this in action is taking user-generated content and compiling it to create a new piece of content. A company might request that customers submit photos surrounding a specific theme, then share those photos on their own site or social channels.

There’s no one way to share content across different channels. It depends on the company and their business goals. And the role of technology has an impact as well. If a company needs to produce a large volume of content, they will use their resources on high-value content creation activities and use automation for downstream pieces. For example, since the aspect ratio for videos changes depending on the device, instead of manually recutting a video to work for mobile, a marketer can use artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically crop it. The company can show the video in more channels without needing to devote extra resources and time to creating something new.

Q: H ow do companies tie content marketing into a larger strategy?

A: With content marketing, you’re aligning every activity to specific business goals around customer acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty. Companies are trying to change the bottom line by using content differently.

Q: What are content marketing best practices?

A: The number one best practice is to create a content strategy plan and to put it into action. A company needs to know why they’re delivering content and what they hope to achieve. Another is to have a good strategy for reusing or repurposing content. Content creation is expensive, so it doesn’t make sense to think of a piece of content as a one-off asset.

Having appropriate KPIs, which should be defined in the content strategy, is also important. They should be measurable on every single piece of content as well as on the delivery so the company can understand what content is working in what channel for what types of users.

Q: What is the life cycle for a piece of content?

A: It depends on the business goal, the audience, and the company. If a company wants to market to high school kids, they need a rapid content marketing strategy where assets don't stick around long. But if they’re targeting an older or more traditional audience, or a business, they might choose to provide educational content that might live around for two to three years.

Q: How does content marketing differ for a small business versus a large enterprise?

A: A larger business has more people, so they should know a little more about how to scale it. A smaller business doesn't have as many people, and they could either need to think about how the community is going to help them or who they're going to be targeting. A chain of mom-and-pop shop grocery stores in the New York region will be thinking about a slightly different content marketing strategy than Safeway, which is going to be publishing globally or at least across the country. Companies need to take into account their size and their ability to deliver that experience and then the breadth of their audience as well.

Q: Can companies successfully implement a content marketing strategy with a small budget?

A: With content marketing, money is an advantage, but it’s not as important as it is in advertising. There are free or inexpensive ways to market your content, like social media or email campaigns. Companies can take advantage of cultural touchstones or viral moments to produce content that appeals to their audiences, or they can consider how to address a problem their customers might be facing. By producing quality content and distributing it through relatively inexpensive channels, companies can get their name out without aggressively advertising to customers.

Q: What problems do companies face when marketing content?

A: Companies need to get buy-in with executive leadership on the strategy that they create, and try to show executive leadership the value of moving in a new direction. They also need to get people on board, aligning both teams and budgets. Aligning budgets can be a sensitive subject, especially in a larger enterprise where people are trying to protect their space. Companies may also struggle to create a system for organizing and sorting content.

Q: How do companies ensure they target the right audiences?

A: Companies need to make sure they understand their audience and know how to engage with them. The first step is to create personas for their current and potential customers. Customer segmentation allows companies to build detailed views of the customers, their needs, and where they engage with the product or service. These personas not only help the company understand their customers, but also identify the types of content that will best resonate with different customer segments. By activating and acting on these personas, a company can successfully communicate with their audience, build trust, and find new customers to reach out to.

If the content is intimately aligned to the business strategy, then targeting the right user and creating the right content should be simple. Sticking to a strategy makes it easier to assemble those things down the line and pick the right pieces to personalize.

Also, if the content is organized, it’s easier for companies to find the right content when they need to quickly piece together a personalized experience. And if the systems are set up to test all the appropriate channels where the audience will be, whether it's mobile, social, web, or even print, the marketing team is in a better position to account for the user's personal touchpoint and deliver what the user wants to engage with.

Q: How can companies produce content quickly?

A: One strategy could be to create a larger hero asset that can be taken and remixed. An asset can be broken down, or an old one can be refreshed. It’s a good strategy if a team needs to get things out fairly quickly and has a significant repository of old content, which is one of the benefits of a digital asset management (DAM) system. The organization will already have millions of assets that could be used for different purposes.

Companies also have the option to source content. There are many different companies that sell content, like stock videos or photos. The purchased assets can be either remixed or incorporated directly into content that needs to be created and the team doesn’t have to create everything from scratch. But companies should be careful when sourcing content to align the content with the voice of the brand so the assets don’t seem generic. Sourcing content can also be expensive, so relying too heavily on outside help may not produce the best ROI.

Building a relationship with a creative team or agency can help a company to get quick content that matches their needs. Creating a working relationship with a business that excels at creating content allows a company to trust that the content producer understands their needs, their voice, and their deadlines.

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