For as long as humanity has existed, people have been creating content. It’s what separates us from other species - the ability to share with the world our innermost thoughts and pass on our ideas to future generations. This paved the way for modern civilizations and shaped the world that we know today.
Indeed, words move mountains, but do they drive in revenue? More than you think. Most people have a tendency to underestimate the value of engaging content in favor of traditional marketing, but we’ll argue that’s an outdated way of looking at things, and here’s why.
As the world changes rapidly, it’s becoming evident that new generations want to have control over the information they consume, now more than ever. This highlights the intrusive nature of traditional marketing, and opens up new opportunities for content creation as a marketing technique that lets users make the first step. Through Google search and social media, users look for things that interest them. Once they find them, it’s the compelling content that will turn them into loyal customers. But, let’s start at the very beginning and slowly get to how content marketing converts opportunities to customers.
Content marketing has been around for a very long time. Before content marketing, came the opportunity to mass produce content, i.e. print written materials in the 1440s, when Johannes Guttenberg invented the movable-type printing press. However, it wasn’t until 300 years later that businesses started leveraging this opportunity for marketing purposes. One notable example from that time is Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he published to promote his printing business. But, was this an intentional marketing effort or just luck? We may never know.
The most clear example of content marketing in the early days came 100 years laters. In 1895, John Deere printed The Furrow, a quarterly magazine, which changed marketing forever. Most experts consider The Furrow as the birth of brand publishing and the oldest example of content marketing.
Today, The Furrow is somewhat of a legend, because of the influence it’s had on businesses. Ahead of its time, the magazine wasn’t selling products on every page, but instead, John Deere wanted to establish a connection with its customers, which is why he shared agricultural tips in the columns.
The results were astonishing: four million readers by 1912. After this, the message was clear: there’s more to selling products than just selling products. Creating engaging and educational content that customers value increases brand awareness, trust, authority, and motivates customers to take action.
Fun Fact: Two million people around the world still read The Furrow to this very day. In fact, art director Tom Sizemore has said, “We keep hearing these stories about papers dying, but in surveys of our readers, we’re told 80 percent still prefer paper to electronic—regardless of their demographic.”
The final message is the heart of content marketing. It’s defined as a type of marketing where creating and sharing content (articles, guides, podcasts, videos, social media posts) indirectly promotes the company or its products by stimulating readers’ interests. So, the goal of content creation is to resonate with readers on a deeper level.
We mentioned in the introduction that most people today would classify traditional marketing and advertising as intrusive, which is one of the main advantages of content marketing. The nature of content marketing is permissive (in most cases), which means that users seek it. This, in turn, gives them control and freedom of choice, which makes them look more favorably upon your brand. Moreover, users searched for that piece of content because they’re looking for answers or solutions. If you educate them or help them make a better choice, you’re establishing a reciprocal relationship with them.
Let’s take this article as an example. You probably found our article while Googling “what I need to know about content marketing?” or something similar. We share our knowledge with you because we want to show our appreciation for your time - you’re viewing our website, looking at our services, and may even decide to hire us to help you grow your business in the future. It’s a win-win situation: we promote relevant services and you learn new things. That’s the basic idea behind content marketing and why it works wonders when done right.
By “done right”, we refer to the marketing aspect that complements the content creation process. This includes SEO, keyword research, identifying trends, distributing content on the right channels, choosing the right type of content, etc.
The face of content marketing changes rapidly throughout the years. In the past, magazines, catalogs, and informational pamphlets were all the rage, but then came the digital age and pushed online articles and blogs to the top. In recent years, blogging was dethroned by video content, which is slowly taking over the world.
However, we don’t want to give you the wrong impression about content marketing. The different types of content are not in competition with each other. Everything has its time and place. Depending on the industry and the products or services you offer, our brief review of each type of content can help you determine what content form or combination of forms is the best choice for your business.
Blogs are the second most commonly used type of content in 2021, after videos. However, blogs have been dominating the internet for so long, that they’re still an epitome of content marketing. This is also due to the fact that articles are still a great way to build trust and generate leads.
With blogs, you can promote products or ideas relevant to a specific topic, encourage users to take action, generate leads through subscriptions, support an ongoing campaign, or retain customers by increasing loyalty.
Today, there are more than 600 million blogs on the internet, according to the Hosting Tribunal. This means that more than a third of all websites on the internet are blogs. And, this number is likely to go up in the upcoming years. When it comes to revenue generated from traffic, that's a function of traffic, experience, niche size, and other factors. Measuring the return from content marketing is a little bit tricky, so make sure to read our in-depth article titled “How to Measure the Return on Content Marketing.”
Small and mid-sized businesses with a global reach can reap the most benefits from blogging.
Another “old-school” type of content that it’s still very effective in generating sales is email newsletters. The purpose of newsletters is to inform your customers or leads (people in your emailing list) about news, promotions, discounts, new blog articles, upcoming events, or product releases.
However, a newsletter should not be a sales pitch! Their goal is not to sell products or services, but to serve the interests and needs of customers, which is something that’s overlooked or even exploited by businesses that don’t know better.
Pushing your products or services in people’s inboxes will only get you identified as a spammer and you’ll lose a valuable source of traffic.
Personalized newsletter inform customers on topics they’re interested in, and they’re a great way to gain loyal customers or clients. On top of that, a lot of businesses use newsletters to drive traffic to their blog, which is a great marketing tactic.
Video content is our current rockstar. Research shows that people love videos because they’re more engaging, natural, and feel more intimate. Seeing and hearing someone speak is different from reading a text. Cisco estimates that by 2022, online videos will constitute 82% of all consumer internet traffic. This is not surprising as 87% of marketers believe video content has directly increased sales.
However, compared to blog posts, videos are much, much more costly! If you can, you should definitely include video content in your marketing strategy, but think carefully how much you’re going to invest in each content format.
Podcasts are also known as audioblogs and have been around since the 1980s. It’s a unique way of communicating with customers as it is an auditory medium, unlike blogs and videos which are visual.
With the easy access to portable digital audio playback devices such as the iPod, podcasts became popular again around 2004. And, platforms such as Spotify, gave podcasts yet another boost.
According to Edison Research, as of 2021, 41% of people in the United States listen to podcasts monthly. These numbers indicate a 29.5% growth in podcast listeners in the last 3 years. The fastest growth is seen among the older population (55+), so consider your customer demographics before deciding on the best type of content for your business.
Content marketing on social media is a big deal, and the trends lead toward an integration of blog posts, video content, and podcasts in social media posts as this is where people spend most of their time. Just to put things in perspective, there are 420 billion people active on social media as of 2020. Millennials and Gen Z’s spend on average 2 hours and 45 minutes on social media every day.
These statistics don’t leave much choice to digital marketers - creating content on social media is a must! But, which social media channel is right for business is a valid question.
According to Hubspot’s Marketing Report for 2021, Instagram is the most frequently used platform by companies. However, when asked which social channels their company sees the most ROI from, users said Facebook. Another discrepancy is seen for LinkedIn, which is not used by many, but ranks third, after Facebook and Instagram, in ROI generation. The reason for this is that some social media channels are great for exposure and brand awareness, while others can generate sales more directly.
We’ve selected five content formats to explain in greater detail, but the truth is that content marketing is a much broader and more versatile concept.
We didn’t mention infographics, but they’re the third most common type of content used in marketing strategies 2021. It’s followed by:
Content marketing is not the only way to reach customers online, but it’s a big deal because it serves as a foundation for other aspects of digital marketing. For instance, social media marketers need content to share with their audience. Paid advertising works, but it’s not sustainable in the long run and users need something more than a few-second ad to decide whether they want to do business with you. Building a meaningful connection with customers is almost unimaginable without content marketing.
Content marketing is primarily used for establishing expertise and trust, increasing brand awareness, and as a powerful retention strategy.
However, the benefits of content marketing extend further than these primary goals. Therefore, including content marketing in your strategy will help you reach:
To learn more about how content marketing improves your visibility and helps you rank higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) check out Neil Patel’s article titled “Content is King…But Why?”
To back up our claims and give more merit to the statistics that we’ve shared in this article, let’s look at some real-life, inspiring, case studies that show the power of content marketing.
Not so long ago, the company Superdrug that offers health and beauty products launched a powerful campaign trying to figure out how perceptions of beauty vary across the globe. For this purpose, they send one image to 18 female graphic designers in different countries, all around the world. They told them to re-touch and photoshop the image so that it looks attractive in their culture. On their website, they shared the 18 images next to the original image with details about the study.
Chances are you already heard of this study as it was shared all over the world. In fact, around 600 publishers picked up the story including the New York Times, CNN, and Buzzfeed. The company received more than one million social shares and around 700,000 page views. In just six months, the company reported a 238% increase in organic traffic search.
Capgemini is a French consulting and technology company that offers services worldwide. According to Mindstorm, the company was already successful, but was always behind its competitors even though it invested a lot of money in paid advertising. To change that, the company decided to completely change its approach. They focused on building brand awareness and reputation through storytelling. Two major changes were transforming the whole website into a storytelling format and setting up a blog through which they educated people about the need for technology-driven solutions.
So, what happened? In just one year, Capgemini attracted one million new visitors, a hundred thousand new followers on LinkedIn, and made nearly $1 million in sales during that year, plus $5 million in the year that followed. Today, they make four times that amount ($20 million) from sales each year.
About four years ago, Rental History Reports, at the time a local company that provided consumer background checks to building owners and landlords, decided to offer its services directly to customers, nationally. But, breaking through on the national market is not easy. To achieve their goals, they crafted a content strategy that included setting up a blog where they can address customers’ concerns.
Their story is inspiring and shows the unlimited potential of content marketing. In just six months, Rental History Reports increased their organic traffic by 400% and their page views by 260%. The result? More than half of the company’s revenue now comes from organic traffic.
To create a powerful content marketing strategy that inspires results, like in the case studies we shared above, you need to consider everything we’ve covered so far, and a couple more things on top of that. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:
One common reason why some marketers show reluctance toward content marketing strategies is the unfounded belief that content marketing returns are almost impossible to measure.
We do admit, it’s not as easy or straightforward to measure the return on content marketing, but it is very much possible, and worth it, for that matter. In fact, the truth is that content marketing is a long game and you’ll need to give it some time to see the results, but hardly anything that’s worth having comes easy. To learn more about tracking content marketing results, click on the link above. After reading our article, we promise you’ll feel confident going forward with your content marketing strategy.
In the past, content marketing was considered an additional, side task or an extra chore for your overall marketing strategy. For this reason, companies that wanted to give content marketing a try, hired temporary writers, or freelancers. Having said that, we’ve seen with the numerous statistics referenced in this article, that this is not the case anymore - content marketing is an integral part of the overall marketing strategy within companies. So, should you still outsource your content marketing?
Outsourcing has its benefits, and the primary one is affordability. Small and medium size businesses sometimes can’t afford to hire a full-time writer or a video production team.
Additionally, outsourcing content marketing saves time, adds diversity (you can hire different experts for different topics or issues), improves content quality (when working with the right people), and helps you produce more content in less time.
On the other hand, the downsides of outsourcing content marketing includes confidentiality concerns, missed opportunity for in-house talent development, and lack of technical knowledge specific to your business.
Marketing trends come and go, but content marketing has prevailed though and though, remaining relevant and effective through the years. And, while digitalization is changing the face of content marketing, the field itself continues to grow. Research Dive reported that the industry is expected to generate $137.2 million in revenue by 2026, which translates to a 16.2% annual growth rate. Hopefully, our article and these numbers gave you a better understanding of content marketing and its value to business growth.
If you want to learn more about content marketing and other useful practices, follow our blog. We regularly update our content with insightful articles. And if you have any lingering questions or you need our help for a specific issue, don’t hesitate to contact our team back at Redwhale