You may have heard the question, ‘is content marketing dead?’ thrown around in the marketing sphere – but is there any reason to think it may be?
What is content marketing, and should you avoid it when promoting your business? (Spoiler Alert: No, content marketing is fantastic!)
We’ll look at how content creation and marketing have changed and how you need to adapt to leapfrog your competitors this year. So get ready; this is going to be a game-changer for you.
What Is Content Marketing
The term “Content marketing” is thrown around a lot but let’s ensure we’re on the same page by defining it.
Content marketing is creating and distributing content to attract an audience to turn them into customers. It is used to share relevant and valuable information through content that potential customers are more likely to digest. It should not aim to promote a brand but generate interest and create conversation about a particular service or product.
There are many examples of content marketing out there. Newsletters, articles, videos, podcasts, and blogs are all content marketing examples.
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How Content Marketing Worked In The Past
Content marketing works where other forms of marketing fall short because the content creator creates unique pieces of content designed to engage the audience at specific points in the buying journey. By creating valuable pieces of content for each stage in the process, the content creator was “meeting the customer where they’re at.”
The typical process factored in three primary buyer stages:
- the awareness stage,
- the consideration stage, and
- the closing stage.
We’re going to look at a much more effective model in a moment but for now, let’s consider this simple, legacy buyer journey.
Each content marketing stage had its objective. This principle is critical to turning your audience into regular customers by moving prospects through a funnel.
The awareness stage.
This part of the process focuses on the main concerns of your audience. You gain their attention by generating content that answers their questions and challenges opinions. The content you make at the awareness stage would be educational and helpful.
Content examples would be helpful guides, informational blog posts, articles, or videos showing different ways to solve a problem.
The consideration stage.
At this point, your content would offer a mixture between helpful information and some marketing. Educate the audience on what features or functions they should look for and need, and you’ve got them on the hook!
Examples of content at this stage include how-to articles and videos, case studies, and checklists.
The closing stage.
Content created for the closing stage of your funnel is where you would turn that audience into a customer. This is where you sell and recommend services or products to help fix their problems.
Examples of content at this stage include Buyer’s guides, product videos, or research reports.
The closing stage of the content marketing funnel engages your audience, tackles their problems, and offers them the solutions you sell.
This content marketing model has proven to work and has helped grow countless businesses. Those committed to content marketing have always had an advantage over their less committed competitors.
Is Content Marketing Dead?
No – content marketing is still a very effective marketing technique; it has just changed over recent years. First, consider these facts:
- 47% of B2B buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Source: Hubspot)
- 76% of B2C marketers say their company’s content marketing strategy is successful (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
- Google’s search algorithm evolves from text only to images, voice/podcasts, and videos. So why would the world’s largest, most influential search engine be making this effort if content wasn’t still king?
In the past, just about any content regularly created could be effective using the abovementioned model.
Content marketing isn’t dead; it’s just upgraded. Those who refuse to grow and adapt will see lower success in their attempts to use content marketing and then quickly declare that it does not work anymore. They’re dead wrong and walking away from a highly effective strategy.
Audiences Are More Discerning
An evolving buyer doesn’t mean that content marketing is dead – it just means that it has to grow and adapt to audiences and consumers. Many of the older content marketing tactics won’t work well with today’s audience because consumers have higher expectations.
The Future Of Content Marketing
So what can you do to improve the success rates of your content marketing?
The first thing to do is to stop using clickbait. Audiences have become a lot savvier over the past few years. Where hyperbolic clickbait may have worked a couple of decades ago, audiences are far warier of content that uses clickbait titles and tags. Clickbait titles tend to be from distrustful websites that contain malware or viruses, so audiences avoid them altogether.
Instead, use titles and tags that don’t intend to shock your audience or string them along. Be clear and precise, and you will eventually see more traffic to your content.
Quality Over Quantity
Speaking of content, you should also be aware that the expectation for quality content has changed over the past few years.
In the past, businesses would produce lots of low-quality content. As a result, brands often focused their marketing efforts on quantity. The thinking was that if they created more content, that was sufficient.
Perhaps that was true in the past, but not in 2023.
Audiences get lost in the large number of articles that offer very little value. Today, companies produce less content but provide more helpful information than many of the shallow pieces created in the past. They also tend to be more extended pieces of content.
High-quality, longer content pieces also make them more likely to be recommended by search engines. You’ll also find that users are more engaged and stay on your site longer.
Simply put, create longer, more engaging pieces of content rather than lots of little blog posts that can easily be swallowed up and lost. The critical part of content marketing is making valuable content, not lots of it.
The Modern Buyer Journey
We will look at a new, better content marketing model, as promised. This new model reflects three essential realities:
- Buyers have so many choices today; they don’t need you. You need them, and they know it.
- Gone are the days when a Buyer allows a brand to control the flow of information. Buyers want to do more research before speaking with a salesperson. They trust their research more than the pitch made to them by a marketing message or salesperson.
- You must meet the Buyer where she’s at if you want to win the customer. This means that you not only know your target audience but know how they’re thinking at each stage of the buyer journey.
The Initiation Stage
The potential Buyer’s goal is to get background information during the initiation stage. The potential Buyer may not consider themselves a potential Buyer at this stage; they’re only setting themselves up to be good at doing their research.
Therefore, the type of content you want to create and distribute shouldn’t focus on your products or services. Instead, your content should expertly define the online or market landscape. So again, think of ideas and education – not sales at this stage.
Embracing the initiation stage helps a potential Buyer become a better researcher and demonstrates your brand as a trustworthy authority.
The Research Stage
The potential Buyer begins to look for qualified recommendations and solutions during the research stage. She is very focused on solving a problem or answering a question.
Because you helped define the essential criteria of what a good solution might look like, you’re well-positioned to demonstrate your brand’s trustworthiness, expertise, and authority during the research stage. In addition, search engines love research-related content. So be sure to post research-related content on your site and do some SEO.
Social media is a great place to promote research content.
How-To videos, infographics, or buying guides that meet the Researcher’s essential criteria would be ideal forms of content.
The Comparison Stage
The comparison stage is where things start to get interesting.
At this stage, the potential Buyer thinks of themselves as a Buyer. She is making a deep comparison of a handful of solutions or companies that meet her criteria. If you’ve done an excellent job earlier in the content marketing process, you’ve shaped the narrative and have a great chance of winning the business.
Content that speaks to your product or service’s features and prices, as well as testimonials, case studies, ratings, and reviews, would be good content in the comparison stage.
The Transaction Stage
During the transaction stage, the potential Buyer is actively trying to take the plunge and make a purchase. She is looking for content that helps her find where to buy and see pricing, promotions, availability, hours, and locations. In addition, she may be trying to schedule meetings with a sales rep or speak with your company.
Be sure your content marketing plan includes content about helping a customer pull the trigger!
The Experience Stage
Too often, brands neglect the experience stage, which is a huge mistake.
The experience stage is content intended for existing customers or that new Buyer. You want to turn your customers into loyal, happy evangelists for your brand, and experience stage content does just that.
Your Buyer is looking to get customer service, ask questions, or make additional purchases. So how do you help them do that? First, do some content marketing specifically targeted to customers to deepen your relationship with them.
Make Use of Lessons Learned
While applying the strategies and tactics broken down throughout this article, remember to look back at what was successful in the past. For example, you may have seen a sudden spike in traffic or leads when talking about a particular product or topic. Maybe a specific type of content like a product review, podcast, or buying guide performed well.
Why not repeat your previous success by making a similar piece of content since you know what resonates with your audience?
Don’t forget to share your content. SEO, Facebook ads, email marketing, and engaging influencers in your space are great tactics.
Conclusion – Is Content Marketing Dead?
So next time you hear someone say that content marketing is dead, feel free to turn around and tell them that they don’t know how to do it properly.
Content marketing is still very much alive today and is continuing to grow. However, some businesses may give up on it because their click-baiting titles are not generating as many visitors as they used to.
Be smart and remember to adapt to your audience, and you can use content marketing to your advantage.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.