‘Content is king.’ A well-known phrase used as a marketing buzzword. Now in days, it’s more relevant than ever. When consumers have become more demanding and tech-savvy, businesses must up their content marketing game to attract, inspire, engage, and convert their prospective customers. But what is content marketing?

As officially stated by the Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for all things content marketing related, content marketing is:

“…A marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

The word that matters here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. A piece of content is valuable if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. The goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible.

At this point, you must be wondering what content marketing looks like and how to create and develop content marketing. You’re in luck – keep reading on to learn the four easy steps to developing content marketing.

Step 1: Understand types of  content

There are countless types of content, and our intent is to give you an introduction to content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you. Here are five content types to get your mind percolating:

  1. Infographics: These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time.
  2. Webpages: What’s the difference between a normal webpage and a webpage that is content marketing? SEO. SEO-optimizing your content marketing preps it for searchability by search engines. That’s the difference between simply putting content on your website and content marketing.
  3. Podcasts: A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. Scores of new people will say they had never heard of you until they stumbled onto you in iTunes. As your podcast grows a following, it will lead to more sales, more signups, and more interest in your company.  
  4. Videos: Videos and podcasts are a largely untapped form of content marketing because people think it’s expensive and hard. But with the falling cost of professional grade equipment creating high-quality video and audio content is easier than ever. Amateur video content marketing has been used to sell blenders, launch new dental products, and market Hong Kong visa consulting services. What video could you throw together for your company that might change your fortunes overnight? It might be easier than you think.

Those are just a few examples of content marketing. We could also have mentioned in case studies, white papers, ebooks, apps, public speaking, presentations, and blogs. Entire books have been written on using each of these in content marketing efforts.

Step 2: Understand the digital marketing purchase funnel

More important than understanding what content marketing is is understanding why content marketing is important to your business. First, we need to understand the four steps of the buying cycle:

  1. Awareness: Prior to awareness a customer may have a need, but they are not aware there is a solution.
  2. Research: Once a customer is aware there is a solution, they will perform research to educate themselves. For example, a car buyer will try to find out what different types of cars exist, and which one will fit their needs.
  3. Consideration: At this point, the customer starts comparing different products from different vendors to make sure they’re getting a high-quality product at a fair price.
  4. Buy: Finally, the customer makes their decision and moves forward with the transaction.

Traditional advertising and marketing are great when it comes to the second two steps. Content marketing taps into the first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and educating consumers about a product they may have never considered before.

Step 3: Develop a strategy

A content strategy helps you to find out who needs what information, and at what moment, in order for you to achieve your goal. In addition, it describes the best format and way to deliver this information. Connecting a content strategy to a company goal and measuring the results after implementation can prove your value as a content professional to your management. Here are the steps you should go about:

  1. Determine your goals: Each content strategy starts with a company goal. Whichever goal you choose, always make sure that it is aligned with the strategy of the management. They are working on achieving specific company goals, and if you can help them using a content strategy, you should explicitly state so.
  2. Define the success factors: Success factors are about improving or reducing something that is in the way of reaching the company goal. Success factors will appear automatically if you systematically focus on the goals and pain of the company.
  3. Keep your audience in mind: The more you know about your audience and the more you make use of that knowledge, the better chance you have of successful communication. Your audience consists of specific target groups. In your content strategy, you should always focus on someone you can shake hands with, and not “the public” or “the customer.” If you do not explore the social context of your audience, you risk making a content strategy that does not link you to the people you want to reach. Fortunately, much research has been done on the communications behavior of people, both on the internet and in other settings. You should research your digital audience: if a complete research project is too much for you, we would suggest the use of personas.

Step 4: Start Executing

  1. Determine the information: Now you know your audience and their personal motivations, you are ready to determine what specific information is needed to achieve your goal. Information should be complete, current, reliable, and relevant to your audience. What does your target group need to achieve its personal goal? And what information do you need in order to achieve yours?
  2. Think of a tactic: A tactic is essential in each strategy. Without a tactic, your strategy will never work. A tactic helps you find the right tools. When determining the tactic you will take, you should primarily focus on the social context and the motivations of your target group. How are you going to make your audience help you achieving your goal? It is tempting to think of starting from your own offerings, such as the homepage of your website. But from your audience’s point of view, it might be more realistic to start a question with Google. What results will they get? When defining a tactic people often forget that each dialogue with an audience should lead to some kind of follow up (action). Make a plan for this.
  3. Choose the right tools: Now is the time to determine what tools you are going to use to achieve your goal. Thanks to your tactic you know whether a landing page might be suitable for your goal. If your target group prefers to communicate with you by smartphone, you will have to adjust your online channel for that.

When used correctly, content marketing can drive visitors to a website, increase conversions and enhance a company’s profile within their given industry. And it proves to be what consumers want. A Roper Survey of business decision makers revealed that almost 80 percent of consumers prefer more information about a prospective purchase through articles than traditional methods of advertising.