The role of content in modern marketing

The role of content in modern marketing

Neelam Goswami is a content writer and marketer who has written for several reputed brands in the digital and content marketing space, including Content Studio, Social Pilot, and Narrato.

The world of marketing is forever evolving. A decade or two ago, you would have probably put most of your money on TV commercials and newspaper ads to promote your brand. Today, the whole world is on the internet. The best place to reach your audience is probably social media. Modern marketing is very different from what we knew it to be a few years ago, and it continues to morph into different forms. But one thing that has remained invariably important throughout this journey is 'content'.

Whether you're producing a TV commercial or writing a short social media post for your brand, the content that goes into it decides its success or failure. Marketing is an immensely competitive arena, and modern marketing is more so. There is an ocean of content online and standing out from the crowd is not easy. Yet, 66% of marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2022, compared to last year. Why is that? Because content is important.

Why is content important in modern marketing?

Content is important because it is what people associate your brand with. The content that you put out on different channels speaks of your ideas, values, and authority as a business or brand. It helps build a reputation and gain your target customers' trust. You can build solid, lasting relationships with your audience through good content.

Customers today do not want to engage with cold outreach emails or sales reps anymore. They prefer to do their own research and learn more about a product/ service on their own. Good content empowers them with information and insights, providing answers to their burning questions and solutions to their problems.

A McKinsey report places content as one of the key capabilities in modern marketing alongside Strategy & Insights, Customer Experience, Product & Pricing, and others. This goes on to show how crucial a role content plays in the marketing model of businesses today.

McKinsey & Company graph of Capabilities and Enablers of modern marketing

To make the case for content in modern marketing stronger, here are a few things you should know about.

Content builds brand authority

With content marketing, you own the assets that you are putting out on different channels. Be it your blog, your website, or your social media pages, all the content you publish is yours. When someone finds your content through an organic search, they are directed to your site which helps in building brand awareness and establishing brand authority. If this content is valuable and useful, the audience will see your brand as an important and reliable source of information in the long run.

Content is 'pull' marketing

Content is the least intrusive tool to drive conversions for your business. Content marketing is what we call 'pull' marketing, unlike paid ads which are 'push' marketing. It is also referred to as inbound marketing, as opposed to outbound. This means that content draws prospects into your sales funnel without actively selling your product or service. It does not push the audience to buy your product every time.

The purpose of good content rather is to educate the audience, address their pain points and offer a solution. By doing so, you are gradually familiarizing them with your brand and subtly winning their trust by providing value. Once they are heavily invested in your content, you can start recommending products and services that they might find useful.

Content generates leads and helps nurture them

Content is a great way of prospecting and lead management for your business. If someone has landed on your blog or your website, it is most likely because they were searching for an answer that you are providing. This means that the individual could be interested in the products and solutions you offer as well. Thus, the way people engage with your content helps you identify valuable leads and allows you to nurture them, guiding them further down the sales funnel.

You can create content for different stages of a customer's journey - awareness, consideration, and decision. There are different types of content you can create for prospects at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. This ensures that the information they need to get closer to a purchase decision is presented to them at the right time.

What makes content in modern marketing worthwhile?

All said and done, it is important to remember that just creating content online is not enough to get you the returns you desire. Your content has to tick the right boxes, too. From ranking in search engines to driving engagement, there are several traits of good content marketing that you need to consider when creating and promoting your content.

Content that drives organic traffic

The primary goal of content marketing is to reach your target audience organically. And to achieve this, you need to ensure that your content is optimized for search engines. Only when your content can rank high up in search results, will people be able to find it. According to stats, 68% of consumers don't even go to the second page on Google if they don't find the answer they're looking for on the first page.

So, making your content rank at the top on SERPs is the only way to expect clicks and conversions. Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about understanding Google's search algorithm and optimizing your content to meet those requirements. Many businesses may outsource their content production to an experienced content writing agency for this reason, but you can manage SEO in-house as well.

All you need is a good content optimization tool that has features like SEO content briefs, keyword suggestions, readability checks, plagiarism checks, and the likes. These tools ensure that your content is original, easy to read, and optimized for the right keywords, to start with. If you are not too confident about handling SEO in-house, you can also try a good content marketplace that delivers content written by vetted freelance SEO writers specializing in this field.

Content that drives engagement on social media

SEO is for your blog or website content. But when it comes to social media, the foremost goal is to drive engagement. Social media content gives you a great opportunity to connect with your audience and engage in conversation. You need to try different content formats and make the content experience as interactive as possible.

With social media, it is important to stay on top of the latest content trends and resonate with your audience. It is also very important to be posting regularly to stay relevant and visible to your target audience.

Several project management tools help you schedule and manage social media content, for consistency and quality. These tools also help you automate tasks throughout the content marketing process, ultimately boosting your team's productivity.

Content that performs

To know whether your content marketing efforts are truly paying off, you have to monitor its performance. And this does not just mean the number of likes, shares, or comments that are visible. You need full-fledged analytics and decide on key metrics to measure content performance. Important metrics to measure could be the number of page views you get, the dwell time on your content, the click-through rate, the bounce rate, the number of inbound backlinks to your content, and so on.

Just as a business uses productivity tracking software to measure the performance of its workforce, it also needs good analytics software to study content performance. Analytics can help you identify what content is working best for you and what isn't. This helps improve your content marketing strategy, identify new opportunities and ditch the ideas that aren't paying off. Content marketing, like every key area in business, needs continuous monitoring and improvement to deliver results.

How to measure your content marketing ROI to determine content's worth?

If you are putting so much effort into creating and distributing content, you also need to determine whether it is paying off. Unless you are getting a decent return on this investment, it is only taking up valuable time and energy. So measuring your content marketing ROI is a key step in the process. It tells you where you are headed or what else you could do to improve the outcomes. In organizations where budget and resource allocation is in the hands of top management, proving your content's ROI is all the more crucial to get leadership buy-in.

Here's an example of what good content marketing could do:

In 2019, Shutterstock released their 2019 Creative Trends Report which identified design trends for the upcoming year based on their customer downloads and searches from the past year. They also created a very engaging infographic to summarise the report. On the day of the release of the report, the infographic was launched in 20 different languages? What was the ROI of all this effort they made?

According to CMI, they got over 170 mentions and articles dedicated to the report in just the first 2 weeks of release. They also monitored their page views and unique sessions after the release and found they had achieved nearly 160,000 page views and 146,000 unique sessions in the first 2 weeks. Their open rates for emails with the infographic reached around 22% which also had a direct impact on their revenue, positively of course.

That is the outcome of putting all your creative energy into building a piece of content.

But when measuring content performance, you also have to ensure that you are monitoring the right metrics associated with your overall business goals. Because unless content marketing is taking you closer to your bigger goals, it doesn't matter how many likes or mentions you're getting.

The key metrics to measure will vary for everyone depending on what your content goals and overall business goals are, or what stage your business is at right now. Some KPIs that are usually common to all businesses are -

  • Search rankings, especially on Google
  • Organic website traffic that the content generates
  • Qualified leads generated from your content
  • Number of backlinks to your content
  • Page views, scroll depths, and time on page - to indicate engagement
  • Likes, shares, and comments on social media
  • Number of downloads on gated content/ subscribers to newsletters

These are certainly not all the metrics there are to measure, but definitely some of the most important ones.

It is important to remember though, that driving results organically with content takes time. It is an ongoing process and you cannot expect to see results overnight. You will need persistence and patience. The numbers that you get when measuring ROI may not be an indicator of success or failure either. If your goal with content marketing is to drive sales, for instance, you would want to see solid figures. But if you aim to generate more brand awareness and loyalty, it is hard to put a number to it. It can only be measured in terms of sentiment around your brand, brand image, and so on.

Content marketing is always worth the effort, the ROI will only tell you if you've been doing it right.

Summing up

Content is a central and fundamental element of modern marketing strategies. It is a cost-effective way of promoting your brand to a highly relevant audience. But it demands consistency and continuous effort. It might take a while before you can see some tangible results with content marketing. However, once you have won your audience over, content is all you will need to keep the engine running.

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