What Is Content Marketing and Why You Need It
This post was last updated on December 21, 2022.
Whether you create a blog for your website, post helpful tutorials on YouTube, or write eBooks and guides, you too can use content marketing to grow your brand. Here’s a complete explanation of content marketing and how to do it right, as well as some examples and tips to guide your own content marketing journey.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a type of marketing strategy that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and engaging content in order to attract a targeted audience and encourage them to buy. It is also often referred to as a digital marketing strategy, as much of content marketing is now created and shared online.
This form of marketing doesn’t explicitly promote a brand but, instead, stimulates consumer interest in its product or service. The idea is that the more value you offer consumers in the form of expert knowledge, the more you’ll entice them to purchase your product.
The origins of content marketing are not set in stone but there are some claimed examples that are now labelled as some of the first examples of content marketing. Retroactively the earliest examples of content marketing include:
1732, none other than Benjamin Franklin printed his Issuance of Poor Richard's Almanack to promote his printing business.
1888, Johnson & Johnson published a guide for Doctors using bandages called 'Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment.
1904, Jell-O salespeople distributed a free cookbook in which their product was used in versatile ways - sales soared for the company as a result.
Benefits of content marketing
Showcases your company’s knowledge, expertise, and authority in the industry.
Establishes your credibility, helping you gain consumer trust.
Builds brand awareness and brand visibility by placing your brand across the web. Improves brand health.
Helps diversify your user base and readership.
Boosts your website’s SEO so you can get found by new customers.
Engages existing customers so that they buy again.
Promotes your website for free.
As the customer mindset has changed over the years, marketing strategies have also evolved. With the internet at our fingertips, people have become better informed about the quality and value of the things they spend their money on. They’ve also become more demanding; they want their issues resolved fast, and they want the right products to do it.
Many customers see straight through pushy sales pitches and disruptive online ads, but they can be persuaded with informative and genuinely helpful content. That’s where content marketing comes in. Good content - such as blog posts, informational videos, and more - are used to nurture buyers into making a purchase, gently guiding them toward the right solution for their needs.
How effective is content marketing?
So we laid out the benefits, but how effective is content marketing really? Well, here's a few examples to lay it out. According to a recent Semrush study,
78% of those who believe their content marketing was very successful in 2021 had a documented content marketing strategy
73% of companies that spend from 10% to 70% of their total marketing budget on content marketing were very successful
Other content marketing wins include:
67% of marketers report that content marketing generates demand or leads which is an increase on the previous year. With 72% of marketers saying that content marketing helps to educate the audience and 63% see that it helps build loyalty with existing clients.
81% of marketers believe content marketing is a crucial part of their overall marketing strategy.
Content marketing can generate up to three times more leads than outbound marketing and cost less.
Types of content marketing
There are many different types of content you can create as part of your marketing strategy, including:
Blog posts: Articles published on your website’s blog.
Offsite articles: Articles written for publications and blogs outside your own website.
Videos: Short filmed content posted on your business’s YouTube channel or embedded on your own website.
Podcasts: Auditory content offering useful information, guidance, or tips.
Infographics: Explanatory visuals that use a mix of images, statistics, and charts.
User-generated content: Content such as videos, images, and more created by users and then shared or endorsed by brands.
Case studies: Up-close examinations of your customers, often taking the form of blog posts, that tell success stories about them using your product.
eBooks: Online books, typically packaged as downloadable PDF documents, with in-depth information or guidance about your industry.
White papers: In-depth, high-level reports about a specific topic, similar to a research paper.
Webinars: Online video presentations, often live-streamed. Creating a webinar that allow viewers to participate will enhance engagement by allowing them to ask questions in real-time.
Slide decks: Slide presentations that offer information, guidance, or tips.
Templates: Fill-in-the-blank templates related to your product or service.
If that sounds like a lot, don’t feel overwhelmed. You don’t need to create all these different content types from the get-go. Start with just one to build your foundation, and then branch out into other formats that suit your particular audience and niche. By employing a strategic combination of these different content types, you’ll be able to reach and engage a great number of prospective customers.
Recent years have also seen the rise of digital content marketing. This essentially refers to any type or form of content marketing that can be distributed in digital form, or online. A blog, for example, is a form of digital content marketing.
Wix looks forward at content marketing trends for 2023
Content marketing examples
Now that you know why content marketing is such a powerful online marketing tool, let’s dive into some real-life content ideas to help inform your own effective strategy that will not be confused by anyone as clickbait:
01. River Pools and Spas
Our first content marketing example is River Pools and Spas. It’s an independent pool company, yet its content strategy is one of the most famous in digital marketing history. As a last ditch effort to save their business during the 2008 recession, owner Marc Sheridan and his team dived into blogging.
Their goal was to become the best teachers in the world about the industry by growing their blog with posts that answered every possible customer question. Eventually, they combined blogging with other forms of content, too, such as instructional YouTube videos. Ultimately, their content marketing strategy succeeded: it attracted a huge influx of customers, and saved the company as a result.
The content marketing lesson here is to focus on your customer, not yourself. Aim to be a teacher, providing both written and visual content that leaves your audience feeling like they’ve learned something new.
One of the leaders in the field of content marketing is digital marketing platform HubSpot. Like River Pools and Spas, the company offers a vast array of blog posts on nearly every possible question their target audience might have. Not only do these include topics specific to digital marketing, but they also include other business and sales tips relevant to their target audience. These blog posts are supplemented with longer eBooks, which hone in on specific topics to provide in-depth informational content to their audience.
In addition to its wide array of written content, the company offers a service called the HubSpot Academy, with free online courses about content marketing, SEO, inbound marketing, and more. These video courses take the form of mini-series, encouraging their audience to continually engage and come back for more. Together, these elements have proven to be a highly effective way for the company to build a base of dedicated fans and monetize their blog.
03. John Deere
First published in 1895, The Furrow, a print magazine created by agricultural manufacturing company John Deere, is sometimes referred to as the oldest example of content marketing. Even back then, the magazine operated on the same principles as contemporary content marketing: to help customers resolve their issues while highlighting their industry expertise.
Today, The Furrow continues to be at the core of John Deere’s content marketing strategy and is available online. The publication reads less like a series of marketing posts and more like a reputable magazine, with stories about farming and agriculture that take the form of engaging narratives.
Notably, the magazine uses stunning photography to draw users into the brand. Far from being overtly promotional, the articles instead serve to deepen the connection with their audience, transforming a large manufacturing company into a relatable, more human brand.
How much content can you really create about blenders? Generating a large amount of content can be tricky if your product is very specific, but Blendtec pulls it off with creativity.
The blender company’s eCommerce website is full of recipes, presented in the form of video tutorials. The videos aren’t limited to smoothie recipes, either; the company also shows more advanced recipes for soups, nut butters, and more.
In doing so, they’re able to engage their readers with unique and unexpected content, while sending the message that their product’s capabilities exceed those of a standard home blender.
Even more impressively, the Blendtec brand has become a successful YouTuber. In contrast to the serious recipe suggestions present on its website, the company’s “Will It Blend?” videos wow users with their goofiness and audacity.
Among its most popular clips are the blending of an iPad (boasting 12 million views) and the blending of glow sticks. These videos aren’t genuinely educational, but they serve a different kind of purpose; they succeed in establishing Blendtec as a funny, likable company with a memorable brand identity and an evidently effective product.
For its content marketing strategy, GoPro shows us another type of visual content. Rather than engaging its audience through humor, GoPro grabs our attention with high-quality, user-generated video content filmed with - you guessed it - the GoPro action camera. They post this content front and center as part of their website’s homepage design, so that it’s instantly visible to all site visitors. Similar videos also comprise the bulk of their social media marketing strategy, with GoPro content posted across YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
Far from traditional, GoPro’s content takes advantage of today’s video trends. We’re taken on a journey through the eyes of the customer as they surf the waves of the Pacific, float down the Mekong, and snowboard in the Alps. We’re all a little jealous of their adventures - and many viewers may find it tempting to replicate those experiences by getting a GoPro of their own.
Not only does the company’s content strategy entice new customers, but it also encourages existing customers to engage with the brand. They hold competitions for user-generated content, rewarding the winners with cash awards and increased online exposure. This deepens users’ relationship with the brand and helps the company build a loyal and dedicated customer base.
06. Trader Joe’s
Many grocery stores overlook their content marketing strategy, but that’s certainly not the case for American supermarket chain Trader Joe’s. The company effectively markets itself using a combination of different content formats. They provide recipes on their website, a monthly newsletter available both online and in print, and, of course, plenty of mouthwatering food photography.
In addition to attracting and retaining customers, the company’s content strategy is critical to their branding. The tone, language, and visual style present in both their online and print content forms the core of the supermarket’s brand image.
The content’s hand-drawn illustrations and vibrant brand colors, combined with cheeky, off-beat language (their newsletter, for instance, is called the “Fearless Flyer”) makes the brand feel casual, comical, and relatable.
07. Ben and Jerry’s
Speaking of food, Ben and Jerry’s serves up some pretty sweet content marketing examples. Their visual branding has a 1960s aesthetic, and their content bolsters this image with topical blog posts about fair trade products, gender equality, and more. Their website also gives an in-depth explanation of their process for sourcing and making their ice cream, highlighting their brand values of social responsibility and transparency.
The bulk of their content aims for maximum user engagement. One post encourages readers to create their own flavor, attributing popular creations like Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby to their fans.
The ice cream company also predominantly features quizzes to make their brand feel personal and fun, such as “Love or Ice Cream?” and “Which Dough Chunk Are You?” By inviting people to participate in their brand, the company’s content strategy helps them form a close-knit community of loyal fans.
This should come as no surprise - we’re quite proud of our own content marketing strategy. We use the Wix Blog as a way to connect with users and help them with all their professional needs, from website design to small business tips and more.
Our goal? To understand exactly what customers want to know, and to share strategies, ideas, and inspiration that will help them achieve success. It's all about tapping into the ethos, pathos and logos of writing.
How to optimize your content marketing strategy
While these content marketing examples are all very different from one another in terms of strategy and content type, they do have one thing in common: meticulous optimization.
Creating the most effective content strategy possible requires going beyond producing great content - i.e. a full funnel content strategy for your brand. You also need to keep your audience, competitors, and overall marketing plan in mind.
Here are some tips to ensure your content is at its best:
Create buyer personas
Before you even begin to produce content, you’ll need to conduct market research. Think about who your target audience is so that you can engage them by directly speaking to their wants and needs. This is a critical part of any copywriting strategy, whether you're creating marketing copy, email newsletters or long-form blog posts.
Start by creating buyer personas, or fictional representations of your ideal customers. Ask yourself questions such as “How old are they?” and “What are their interests and hobbies?” If you’re a B2B software company, that fictional customer might be a middle-aged, high-level company exec. If you’re a trendy handbag designer, on the other hand, your buyer persona might be a young fashionista.
Understand the buyer’s journey
Part of resonating with your audience is creating a content marketing plan that correlates with particular phases of the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the process customers go through when researching, considering, and eventually purchasing a product or service. This journey consists of three main stages:
The awareness stage, in which a customer becomes aware they have a problem.
The consideration stage, in which the customer identifies that problem and researches how to resolve it.
The decision stage, in which the buyer determines a solution.
When your content marketing efforts directly address your audiences’ questions at each particular stage, you can better guide customers through the marketing funnel. Your goal is that by the end of this journey, users will realize that your product is the solution they’ve been searching for.
Research your competitors
As part of laying the groundwork for effective content, you’ll also want to do a SWOT analysis of your competitors. By researching your industry competition, you can create content that not only covers a similar range of topics, but that also surpasses that of your competitors in terms of depth and customer value.
Begin by taking a look at your competitors’ websites, blogs, and social media platforms, and then build your inspiration from their existing content pieces. Think about what they did well - and what they didn’t - and use that knowledge to inform your own content marketing plan.
Improve your SEO
Content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are two sides of the same coin. SEO determines how your content is ranked in search engines - that is, whether it’s listed as the first, second, third, or 100th result in Google, Bing, and others. The higher your content ranks, the more potential customers will click on it and read it.
To ensure that your blog posts and other content rank high for SEO, write with specific keywords in mind. You’ll need to conduct keyword research in order to know which keywords are most likely to push you to the top of the search engine results page. Be sure to pay particular attention to long tail keywords.
Even after your content is published, you should continue to update your content regularly to keep it ranking high. These SEO tips for bloggers can help guide you.
Create a content marketing calendar
As you expand your body of content, you might find it’s hard to keep track of all your different work. To ensure your content strategy is organized and well-planned, create a monthly editorial calendar for your blog, as well as a social media calendar, that display the publishing date of each piece, its topic and title, and any additional details of your choice.
This will help ensure that you publish on a consistent basis and that your content stays varied, interesting, and fresh. It will also give you a bigger picture view of your content marketing plan as a whole.
As you seek to expand your brand, you can rely on content marketing as a powerful tool. By creating strategic, optimized content that ranks above your competitors’ and resonates deeply with your audience, you’ll be able to drive high-quality traffic to your website, and obtain happy customers as a result.
Diversify your distribution channels
There are many ways to distribute content, and the same piece of content can be shared and repurposed to fit different distribution channels and audiences. Social media platforms are an effective way to drive traffic and reach a larger audience. Content marketers should leverage social media to share content, engage with customers, and build relationships with potential leads.
Track and measure results
It's important for everyone involved in content marketing to measure the results of content marketing campaigns in order to understand which content strategies are working and which need improvement. This will help you continuously optimize your individual pieces of content, as well as your broader content strategies for maximum success.
Some popular content marketing analytics include:
Brand health metrics
Diversified user base
Conversions and sales
What is a content marketing manager?
A content marketing manager is responsible for developing and executing a content marketing strategy. They oversee the creation and distribution of content that's designed to connect with a defined audience.
Their main goal is to produce valuable and relevant content that supports the company's marketing goals and drives engagement.
In addition to planning and creating content, a content marketing manager will also usually manage a team of content creators, analyze content performance, and adjust their content strategy as needed to improve results. They'll work closely with other members of the marketing team, including designers, copywriters, and social media specialists, to ensure all content is on-brand and effective.
By Rebecca Tomasis
Organic Growth Expert