“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” – Joe Pulizzi
The digital age and its associated technologies have given rise to the need for online marketing. Thus, the rise of digital media marketing business model first came to prominence in the 1980s. This was primarily driven by the development of computer hardware and its mainstream adoption.
Equally importantly, the marketing model, irrespective of whether it was print or digital, switched over from emphasizing the brand or product to relationship marketing. Succinctly stated, this new shift in marketing emphasized the brand’s connections to its target audience and ultimately, its customers.
Content marketing versus digital media marketing
Digital marketing is the overall catch-phrase for any marketing effected via the online space. It includes Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and content marketing.
In other words, content marketing plays a fundamental role in the digital media marketing strategy. However, it is vital to note that content marketing not only plays a primary role in the successful digital marketing strategy, but it is, in fact, a cornerstone of the successful digital marketing strategy. Thus, without a well-structured content marketing strategy, the overall digital marketing strategy lacks a foundational aspect; thereby, reducing its effectiveness.
Additionally, research shows that that cost of content marketing is 62% less than traditional marketing. And, it generates circa three times as many leads. Thus, 90% of global business organizations are now using content marketing as part of their overall brand marketing strategy. And, 88% of all brand marketers believe that unique, custom content should play a central role in the overall marketing strategy.
The components and structure a successful content marketing strategy
Thus, the question that should be asked and answered is not whether content marketing adds value to the digital marketing strategy. Instead, the questions that beg are what is content marketing and what its components are, and how they are structured?
Let’s start out by looking at a comprehensive definition of content marketing and then move onto answering the next two questions.
What is content marketing?
Joe Pulizzi provides a concise answer to this question in the quotation highlighted above. In summary, he notes that content marking is the business process model that is responsible for “creating and distributing content” with the sole purpose of attracting a specific target audience and with the fundamental objective of “driving profitable customer action.”
The Content Marketing Institute further echoes this answer in their article titled, “What is content marketing” by stating the following:
Content marketing is a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.”
The elements and structure of a successful content marketing strategy
Now that we have a good idea of what content marketing is, and what its desired outcomes are, let’s consider the different components that make up a profitable content marketing strategy:
Research is a vital component of every successful content marketing strategy. The more the brand marketers understand the brand to its target audience, the more effective the content marketing strategy will be.
Thus, the research component consists of determining the likes and dislikes of the target audience, how to convert visitors to the brand’s online presence into returning customers. And, finally, the researcher needs to monitor the results of the content marketing strategy by looking at statistics and analytics as derived by a tool such as Google Analytics.
The bottom line that needs to be determined is the Return on the Investment (RIO) based on the marketing spend to the sales figures. It does not help to spend any amount of money on marketing if it does not drive increased sales and company growth.
Target audience or marketing personas
Because brand marketing’s emphasis has shifted to building customer relations between the brand and the consumer, it’s vital to determine who the brand’s target audience is. It also stands to reason that there will be different types of people in the target audience. Thus, building a persona type for each audience category that the brand could potentially target is a good idea.
By way of explanation, this quotation by Adele Revella describes the perfect audience or marketing persona:
“A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.”
Content: keywords and themes
Once the marketing personas have been created, the next step is to create a content plan. Primarily, the content must target each persona to highlight the brand’s value to the specific audience sector.
Integral parts of the content plan include focus keywords as well as content themes and topics. These focus keywords are linked to Search Engine Marketing. Practically speaking, when a potential customer types in a brand-related search phrase or keyword into a search engine such as Google, the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) needs to return a link to the brand’s online presence at the top of the page.
The question that needs to be asked and answered here is: How do search engines like Google know that the brand is linked to specific keywords and keyword phrases?
The short answer to this question is: Use link building to create and published content linked to these focus keywords. Google’s search engine web crawling spiders and algorithms will crawl through the blog or website where the content is published and link the keywords to the brand’s online presence.
Link building can be considered an infinite process as the number of keywords linked to the brand grows. The ultimate purpose is to ensure that every word or phrase that could describe the brand is connected to the brand’s online presence by publishing brand-related content on relevant blogs and other websites.
The traditional approach is first to link build on the brand’s name and then directly related keywords, broadening out to what is known as long-tail keyword phrases.
As highlighted at the outset of this discussion by Joe Pulizzi, the raison d’etre or rationale behind content marketing is to drive profitable customer action. Without driving profitability and customer sales as the aim and goal of any marketing strategy, there is no point in spending time, effort, and money on content marketing.