can content marketing become an overall site content strategy

“Can content marketing become an overall site content strategy?”

A marketer at MSC Industrial asked, “Can content marketing become an overall site content strategy? Should we take a ‘content-first’ approach to help with natural/earned?”

It’s one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions on Content Marketing.

The short answer: yes, customer-first content is a winning strategy. Here’s why:

  • Putting customers first, understanding what they need, and building trust with empathetic, differentiated content is a roadmap to long-term marketing success.
  • Content – especially when you build a unique content base – provides more bang for the buck than most other marketing tactics.
  • Marketers’ commitment to content marketing continues to grow.

Create customer-first content to win

In all marketing, the more you know your customers, the better your marketing gets. Make sure your marketing team truly understands customers before creating content for them.

5 insights into buyer personas
Buyer persona research gives you deep insights into buyers’ information habits, so buyers find your content marketing.

To gain deep customer insights, perform buyer persona research. Find out your customers’ top questions. That’s how you learn your customers’ needs, questions, pain points, and expectations – which enable you to create on-target content.

A recent Edelman study shows that people expect brands to be a source of reliable information, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 84% of people want brands to be reliable news sources, keeping them informed about the virus and the progress being made in the fight against it.
  • 85% of people expect brands to be educators, offering them instructional information about the virus and how to protect themselves from it.
  • 84% of people want brands to use social media channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer social support to people.

All of which spells an opportunity to impress customers with useful, informative content.

Successful marketers rank customers’ information needs ahead of sales and promotional needs when creating content. The Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs’ 2020 research study shows 3 out of 5 consumer marketers put customers first:

Customer-first content matters
3 out of 5 marketers put customers first as they create content, the Content Marketing Institute study found.

What’s more, in the Edelman study, customers say they will punish brands that act selfishly. 71% of respondents said, “Brands and companies that I see placing their profits before people during this crisis will lose my trust forever.”

Content makes precious budget dollars go farther

Today, many marketers face budget cuts and reduced staffing. Certain industries are seeing lower customer demand and cutting back on marketing as a result.

Marketers can overcome these challenges by creating strategic content in-house. Adjust your content mix to emphasize owned and earned media over paid media, to get more bang for the buck.

Focus on owned media such as your website, blog, email, white papers, and newsletters; and earned media such as speeches, webinars, guest blogs, news, and interviews, before paid media such as advertising. For example, create thought leadership content.

Test content in earned and owned media, then add paid media to amplify your winners. That maximizes value for money.

Make content that dominates your industry landscape

Two trees towering over a landscape
Build a strong content base to tower over competitors.

Set aside smaller content projects to clear the way for the single most valuable, helpful, unique content asset you can create: your content base. When you build a content base, you invest in a content asset that others cannot easily replicate.

A content base is one type of content, delivered consistently in one medium over a long period of time. Your content base is so valuable, customers will even pay you for it!

Examples of successful content bases include:

As you see, a content base can be a book, a magazine, a movie, a content library, or an annual research study.

But branches alone make shrubs that don’t stand out, can’t build a competitive advantage, and don’t distinguish your content from others.

In some markets, so many companies create content shrubs that the whole content landscape becomes a scrubland. In other markets, content competition is as fierce as trees striving to grow in a rainforest. Each brand struggles to reach its moment in the sun.

For instance, food content such as recipes has to thrive in a highly competitive rainforest market.

If you’re the first in your market to build a content base, build up your content base to stand high above others. Once you’ve built a towering content tree, it’s incredibly hard for competitors to catch up with you.

Marketers’ use of content is growing

More and more marketers are succeeding with content. Content Marketing Institute research shows about 9 out of 10 marketers use content marketing.

In July 2020, ANA and The Content Council released a report, Growth, and Opportunities in Content Marketing, that shows how content continues to grow.

Twice as many marketers use content today, compared with 2 years ago. That level of growth is expected to continue, says a study from ANA and The Content Council..

Twice as many marketers report a “strong commitment” to content marketing, 52% compared with 26% 2 years ago. A further 26% increase is forecast for the 2 years ahead.

The study also shows that most marketers do not have a written content marketing strategy. Here’s how you can create a content marketing strategy on one page.

(Note: the survey for the ANA/Content Council study was performed before the COVID-19 outbreak.)

Content marketing is your winning playbook in tough times

Remember to:

  • Put customers first, understand what they need, and build trust with empathetic, differentiated content for a roadmap to long-term marketing success.
  • Build a customer-first content strategy and a differentiated content base to maximize bang for the buck.
  • Expect that content marketing will continue to flourish, even in tough times.

“Can content marketing become an overall site content strategy? Should we take a ‘content-first’ approach to help with natural/earned?” is one of the Top 100 Questions on content marketing. Here are the answers.