It's a verb.
And a very active verb at that. In this article, Neil Patel, the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogger at Quick Sprout, makes it very plain:
Content marketing is an active verb, with ongoing action. You don’t just do it, and then stop. You do it, and keep doing it. And on and on. Content marketing and SEO converge again.
Content marketing does not replace SEO. In fact, Neil goes on to say that, "SEO and content marketing are actually two personalities of the same person."
When using SEO/content marketing, you unleash a powerful tool for generating inbound leads. Business understands the importance of content. According to Content Marketing Institute's B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the top 3 challenges B2B marketers face are:
- Creating Engaging Content
- Producing Content Consistently
- Measuring Content Effectiveness
But the challenge identified by marketers that saw the greatest increase, up 20% over last year to 31% in 2015? Finding trained content marketing professionals.
Content marketing was a buzzword a few short years ago. That's changed.
Content – engaging, customer-centric content – is now a necessity.
Content's vital role in marketing
No one was ever convinced or converted with a blank page.
No business was ever transformed into a likable expert by an empty article. And a poorly conceived and executed content marketing strategy can actually do more harm than good. That's why businesses have their sights set on finding trained and qualified CM professionals.
Content that truly converts requires good copywriting. Copyblogger Media's eBook, How to Create Content That Converts, puts it this way:
Elements of direct response copywriting applied to content work exceptionally well for gaining attention, increasing engagement, and prompting action. That’s why great headlines, compelling openings, riveting storytelling, and well-formatted text are hallmarks of great online journalism, as well.
Quality content is a must if you have any hope of converting prospects into clients, no matter what delivery system you employ.
Content humanizes your business, transforming it and you into someone who prospective buyers can know, like and trust. Readers learn to associate your business with you – a living, breathing, compassionate human.
People don't buy from businesses so much as they buy from other people.
Content makes that happen.
Content marketing’s wingman: “marketing automation”
There's a new kid in town and his name is "marketing automation."
You're going to hear a lot about automation all across the Web in 2015. And automation can help a business streamline its marketing, making it more efficient and cost-effective. Study it well, for the benefits can be substantial.
In this article – What is Marketing Automation – Hubspot explains the ideal:
At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
But if it's not done correctly, there are consequences to be dealt with. In the same article, Hubspot explains the reality of improper marketing automation:
However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.
The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers.
That missing "top of the funnel" solution is quality content marketing.
Content marketing gently persuades the reader to follow a path not taken. The storytelling aspect of a good content article helps put the prospect at ease. Effective content calmly invites the prospect onto the road of the buyer's journey.
It keeps them from feeling like they're just a number.
Marketing automation done right
Marketing automation can be a very effective tool for implementing an operative strategy. The Hubspot article reminds us of two key principles to keep in mind when developing your strategy.
(1) Recognizing that marketing automation does not do marketing and lead generation for you, but can help scale your successful efforts.
The first step is building a pipeline of good fit leads by generating relevant, optimized content that speaks to your prospect’s needs and challenges. This is where inbound marketing becomes the building blocks of your marketing funnel.
(2) Centering your marketing messages around the real, live person at the receiving end of your campaigns.
That means we should treat them like a real person, not a fragmented self across different tools like email, social media, etc. If we can leverage all the marketing tools, channels and behavioral data possible to paint a complete picture of a person, we can nurture them based on their unique challenges and interests, not based solely on the emails they open or click-through.
Marketing automation is here and it can be a game changer for many businesses.
Some will do it right and win. Others may not be so lucky. Remember that reader-centric, SEO content marketing fills the top of your funnel.
Without good content, even the best-designed automated marketing machine may find itself idling, with no place to go.
Keep your funnel full.