As a content marketer, it’s my job to take the axiom “no stupid questions” to heart. And when it comes to answering the question “What is content?” on a content marketing blog, you may think I’m stretching that skill to its limit. But you would be wrong!
Content is often one of those words that means pretty much whatever you want it to mean, depending on the context. Even in 2015 we wrote about 40 different definitions of content. It’s like one of those things where it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
Still, for those just starting out, or those who always assumed they knew and are now looking for some deeper understanding, it’s important to step back and define what content is. Once we’ve done that, we can have a clearer idea of why this medium is such an effective option for marketers.
What is content?
In the marketing world, content is anything that you can consume: blog posts, tweets, podcasts, videos, infographics, memes — if it’s online and someone’s looking at it, chances are it’s content.
This is where things get tricky. The conventional wisdom among marketers is that “content marketing” is made up of long-form written material: blog posts, LinkedIn articles, white papers, eBooks, and so on. Heck, even my title, content strategist, is often swapped with copywriter or even just writer.
It should be noted that as I write this in 2023, content refers more and more to the whole umbrella of online media one can consume, not just blog posts. In fact, as an agency that provides B2B content marketing services, TopRank Marketing has produced plenty of infographics, podcasts, and even a comic book.
“If it’s online and someone’s looking at it, chances are it’s content.” — Art Allen @punsultant Click To Tweet
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is any written marketing material with the intent of convincing the reader to take an action. In fact, you’re reading content right now!
No, I didn’t write this blog post because I want you to hire us (unless you want to…). I have written it with the hope that you’ll read other posts on this blog. The idea here is twofold: one, that you have some helpful content that makes your job as a marketer easier, or at least makes you feel a little smarter; and two, that when it is time to hire a marketing agency, you may just remember how smart those folks at TopRank are.
Another way to look at it is this: content marketing is not a hard sell. Content marketing is distinct from advertising in that advertising is content that a brand has paid to be put in front of you, while content marketing is generally not a paid campaign — the reader comes to the content.
How does content marketing drive business?
While content marketing is certainly a slower approach to attracting customers, it can be highly effective. According to research conducted by MarketingProfs, nearly three quarters (71%) of content marketers said content marketing was more valuable in 2022 than it was in 2021. They attribute this to conversions (cited by 70%) and lead quality (cited by 60%).
With that enthusiasm in mind, we should take a look at how content marketing drives business at each stage of the marketing funnel.
Let’s say you work for a company that sells a SaaS solution that controls the speed and pitch for a machine that launches penguins long distances (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the penguins). Here is how your content might look for a content marketing strategy for each stage of the marketing funnel:
As a SaaS provider of control software, you are not the company actually selling the penguin launching machine. However, you have a strong interest in being seen as an expert in the field of penguin launching, so you may write a top funnel blog post answering common search terms about the machine, such as “why launch penguins” and “is the penguin launcher real?”
By writing a blog post that answers these questions and tailoring your content to be friendly to Google, you have a good chance of ranking for those search terms. This will not get you customers, but it will establish your credibility in the eyes of search engines, which will help elevate all the content across your site.
A common CTA for this type of content is to explore other posts on the blog.
When penguin launching machine companies are ready to bring their speed and pitch controls to the cloud, they will start the lengthy process of searching for a provider. This is where middle funnel content comes in.
Your content marketing approach for this type of content will be to answer more detailed and technical questions about SaaS speed and pitch controls for penguin launchers, such as “penguin launcher speed and pitch tool” and “penguin launch control SaaS.”
Writing blog posts like this helps you to be seen as a credible SaaS provider to your target audience. If your content is sufficiently helpful to the reader, they will eventually put your company on the short list for potential SaaS speed and pitch control vendors.
A common CTA for this sort of content is to download a whitepaper or read a case study.
When a penguin launching company is ready to select a SaaS speed and pitch control vendor, they will need a convincing reason to go with your company. Bottom funnel content can be an effective tool to help convert them into customers.
Content at this level should answer specific questions about your offering without coming off as a sales pitch. Validate these claims with customer stories and whatever other data you can. Content at this stage will target search terms such as “plm speed pitch SaaS solution” and branded search terms.
Common CTAs for this sort of content are to offers for a free trial or to book a demo.
If you like what you read here, you’ll love what my colleagues have to say. Read more blog posts about content marketing on the TopRank Blog.
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