You’ve probably heard the overused phrase “content is king” before.
But if you are marketing or otherwise promoting anything on the web, then you should be well aware of the powers of content marketing and how to make your content work for you.
Content on the web is defined as literally anything you create and post online – from articles to blog posts to images to videos to social posts and more.
Ready to learn more about what the experts recommend for content marketing in 2021?
- Intro to Content Marketing in 2021
- What Is Content Marketing?
- Content Marketing 101
- How to Get Started with Content Marketing?
- Content Strategy
- How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
- How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar
- Content Development – How to Create a Content Library
- The Content Production Process
- Content Marketing Distribution and Promotion
- What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
- Sources of Content Marketing Ideas and Inspiration
- What is Evergreen Content?
- What is Cornerstone Content?
- Top Content Management Platforms
- Deciding on the Right Content Marketing Tools for Your Needs
- Content Marketing Tools
- SEO Content Marketing & Blogging
- Social Media Content Strategy
- Email and Content Marketing
- Video Content Marketing
- Content Marketing Podcast
- Infographics and Content Marketing
- B2B Content Marketing VS B2C Content Marketing
- How to Measure and Track Your Content Marketing Efforts
- A/B Testing and Content Marketing
- Content Marketing Tips
- Why is Content Marketing Important?
Intro to Content Marketing in 2021
The content marketing definition is simple – it is the method of creating and promoting content with the intention to create interest in your brand, company, and services – blogging, posting on social media, email marketing, podcasting, or building a video channel to represent your products or brand offerings all fall under the umbrella of content marketing.
And all of these activities or tactics are designed to drive profitable customer action, whether that is lead generation, email sign-ups or calls, participation in webinars, white paper downloads, build brand loyalty and brand awareness, talent recruitment, thought leadership and client education, general customer engagement, and more.
Content marketing helps to spread the word about your expertise as users read and share your work across the Internet.
You’ll often hear the term “thought leadership” when content marketing is discussed.
This is because that while content marketing often includes the option to click to purchase or sign up for services, or similar calls-to-action, it is often meant to build a community and stimulate discussion as opposed to direct selling, although the end goal of content marketing is generally to sell something, even if it is just an idea or concept or a way to develop a community.
So let’s begin by defining content marketing and the various approaches that you can take to creating a content marketing strategy and content marketing campaigns for your business or your brand, and then expand by reacting to the way that the content strategy works.
Read on to learn more about what the experts recommend for content marketing in 2021 and beyond…and keep in mind that 70% of a prospective customer’s journey is completed before they even speak to you or your sales team.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating content that will grab the attention of your audience (who can all be considered potential customers) as well as sharing it on the right platforms at the ideal time to gain maximum engagement.
Content marketing campaigns generally don’t explicitly promote a brand, but instead stimulate audience interest, generate goodwill, and inspire readers or viewers to learn more about the brand’s products, services, or other offerings.
This is what differentiates content marketing from more traditional ad campaigns that are directly pitching something and tend to have calls to action that lead to an immediate purchase.
Knowing that you only have one shot to capture readers/users with your content is one of the fundamentals of content marketing.
Read on to learn more about how content marketing works and how you can create a content marketing plan that will make a real difference for your business.
Content Marketing 101
The fundamental principle behind content marketing is simple – create content that people find interesting, useful, funny, or otherwise compelling, and distribute at various intervals across the platforms that are popular with your target audience.
However, content marketing gets much more complex when you consider all the various ways that there are to share and distribute content, the various formats that you can use, and all the types of content you already have or that you can create.
And how do you get started with content marketing?
By creating a content marketing plan that starts with establishing your assets or a plan to create assets (or both) and the platforms that you will use to distribute them.
Your content marketing strategy should encompass all of that and more.
Keep reading to learn about how to build a top-notch content marketing strategy based on expert advice for 2021 and the increasingly years to come.
How to Get Started with Content Marketing?
On the surface, getting started with marketing content seems easy – you can just start writing!
However, determining your strategy and creating a detailed content marketing plan will go a long way towards your eventual success.
So accordingly, the first thing you need to do when you are starting a content marketing campaign is to build out your content marketing plan, audit and collect your assets, figure out the budget and the amount of time that you have to build or work with content, and determine what strategy or combination of strategies are the best choice for you.
But perhaps the most essential element of this process is to establish your goals and key performance indicators or KPIs.
There are practically as many content marketing strategies and content marketing techniques as there are businesses or brands that could potentially use a content marketing plan.
Building a content marketing plan starts with assessing your current resources and assets, which social media channels you are currently using and where you can and should build a new platform, and any other components like an email list of customers or people who’ve opted in to hear news from your company.
Next, begin to align what you have in your asset files with your goals and KPIs for your content marketing campaign(s).
Ask yourself what do you want to accomplish?
Do you want to generate installs for an app?
Get warm leads for your sales team?
Build a community of people centered around your brand?
Become a thought leader in your industry?
Any or all of the above?
It’s absolutely essential to figure out your goals for your content marketing strategy before you get started – while the end destination may change as your brand, project, or business evolves, it is important to have an endgame in mind before you devote your time and resources (and in many cases, your blood, sweat and tears) to a content marketing strategy.
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Creating a content srategy might seem deceptively simple at first, but it can get complex as you determine what assets that you have, what you need to create, the platforms you’ll deploy them on, seasonal changes in your industry, and how other outside events might affect your content marketing process.
In the rest of this article, we’ll show you how to create a content marketing plan, what kind of content to create, how to distribute, promote, and track it, and more.
How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar
One of the most important aspects of building out your content marketing plan is creating a calendar with a schedule of when and where your content will be released.
Not only does it help to keep the entire content marketing execution on track, you can also use a content marketing calendar as a way to keep yourself and your team (if applicable) accountable for creating content by various deadlines.
Content marketing calendars also can serve as an editorial calendar and help keep you on track with the types of content that you want to create, along with sparking ideas for new content when you are just not feeling it since you’ve planned out what you are going to publish and when.
They are also good when you are managing a content marketing team since you can assign tasks and organize the work load based on what the calendar sets out.
If your first step towards content is social media, Hootsuite has some great tips on a social media calendar and getting organized.
Content Development – How to Create a Content Library
Creating a content library is one of the most valuable and important things you can do as a content marketer (or as a marketer in general).
Content libraries or asset libraries consist of all your assets organized in one place with some kind of system that allows you to easily find what you need.
A content library can include everything from standard brand assets like logos or banners as well as videos, images, and of course blog posts, articles, email content and email templates, and anything else that is part of your content marketing strategy.
Building a content library can be as simple as creating a specific folder in your cloud or on Google Drive and naming or tagging everything properly, or as complex as developing a regularly updated shared drive of resources using a content management system or CMS designed for content development.
The latter is particularly important if you work with a team that needs to access these assets on a regular basis.
Having an organized content library will help inform your content marketing team as well, since it will help to prevent time wasted chasing down various assets and materials.
Even if you are the only one using the content library, having all your content (text, blog posts, images, audio, video, etc.) collected in one place will make the creation and deployment of your content marketing strategies that much easier.
And don’t forget to include your logins for all the various platforms that you use as well!
If you’re looking for an all-in-one platform that goes above remote team sharing, Monday has built an excellent collaboration platform.
If you have under 15 users and are looking for a free alternative (upgrades for more features), Asana is another good team sharing platform.
The Content Production Process
Of course, the most important aspect of content is the actual content itself.
Producing content can be as simple as sitting down and writing a blog post or a social post, or taking a quick picture or video with your phone while you’re at work.
As you get more involved with online content marketing or simply if you’re too busy actually working on your business or brand, you may want to look into hiring writers, designers, videographers, photographers, and other types of content creators.
Which is why it is so important to have your content marketing plan, content library, and content marketing strategy mapped out before you bring more people or outside resources onto your content marketing team.
This can go a long way towards coming up with inspiration for your content marketing plan and execution – after all, knowing that you have to produce certain pieces of content by certain deadlines (or hire someone else or assign that piece of content to someone on your team) will help you keep things on track.
Even better if you can set out the specs and topics for the content in advance as well, in your content production calendar.
That way when you are at a loss for words (or images or video) you’ll have a built-in back-up source of ideas for your writing and content creation.
If you need a hire help, Upwork has a good platform for vetting talented freelancers and companies.
Content Marketing Distribution and Promotion
Email and social media and content planning are the primary ways to share your content and to reach your audience in general.
However, not every platform is the right one for your business – you need to go to where your audience already consumes or expects the type of content that you have to offer.
For instance, if white papers and webinars are popular in your field (which is most likely true in the case of many types of B2B verticals), then that is likely the type of content you should be creating.
On the other hand, for B2C brands you’ll likely be using video or social media, or similar broader and more casual platforms.
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
When you’re planning your digital content strategy and how to distribute and promote your content, you need to keep the content marketing funnel in mind.
The definition of a content marketing funnel is the step by step process that leads prospective customers through your content flow from the beginning to end.
Picture an actual funnel – it’s broad on top and that’s where your widest customer base is located.
Then as it narrows, the customers who continue down the funnel are more and more likely to become clients, purchase a product, or at least warm leads.
An example of a content marketing funnel would be something like social media posts, SEO or organic search tactics, and other content marketing methods that have a wide or nearly universal reach.
Further on down the funnel would be blog posts, white papers, podcasts, videos, infographics, and other types of content that require longer and more active engagement.
Next in the funnel is email marketing, online courses or webinars, or higher-touch or higher-engagement content.
Finally, there are active engagements like free trials, demos, consultations with you or your sales team, detailed proposals, and free samples, and more.
And of course, the bottom of the funnel is your content marketing conversions.
Crazy Egg has an effective guide on how to build a sales funnel.
Sources of Content Marketing Ideas and Inspiration
Coming up with ideas for content can be one of the most difficult parts of developing a content marketing process.
After all, it can be one thing to know what you want to accomplish, but it gets much more complicated when you have to figure out how to create, distribute, and promote the content.
Of course, if you are creating content for your own business or a brand that you’re passionate about, you likely already have a lot to say!
The key is organizing it all in a cohesive fashion and planning out how to integrate your ideas with the various platforms you’ll be using, capture industry or vertical trends, and promote and share the content so that you achieve the most effective results.
One key way to keep yourself informed is to set up Google Alerts for the relevant topics, follow Google Trends for emerging news, sign up for all the newsletter subscriptions in your field, follow the top accounts on social media (and set up alerts on Twitter, Reddit, Quora, etc.), join the relevant subreddits, and otherwise become an information sponge for news and ideas in your vertical.
And naturally, follow the competition or aligned brands along with brands that might not be in your industry but that you admire or respect – you might be able to adapt their strategies to your own content marketing campaigns.
Looking at the FAQs of your competition may also give you ideas for questions that people ask and that you can answer with your own content.
Looking at the autocompletes for Google search results and the Google snippets is a good idea for content marketing planning (as well as SEO and SEM of course), since those also often contain questions and answers that you can use to inspire your content.
Or you can – and perhaps should – take things into the real (or virtually real) world with conferences, webinars, online or real-life courses as it relates to your field, and even go old school with books and print magazines (remember those?) which of course you can get on your tablet or Kindle if you’re paperless.
As your content marketing campaign or campaigns grow and evolve, you’ll likely develop more organic ideas based on user feedback, changes or growth in your industry or business, and more.
That said, creating a content marketing plan (the broad strokes) and a more detailed content marketing calendar or editorial calendar can go a long way towards keeping you on track with your content marketing strategy.
Ready to get more advanced with finding worthy content?
Check out the Ahrefs blog, they have tons of useful content.
What is Evergreen Content?
Evergreen content is content that is almost always relevant.
For instance, a tutorial on how to roast the perfect chicken or sew on a button is perpetually useful, while breaking news or announcements of specific events generally is not.
Creating evergreen content starts with examining what people are searching for in your niche or industry and how it relates to what you have to offer.
When you are looking for ideas or sources for evergreen content, think absolute long term.
For instance, people who are responsible for ecommerce marketing are always likely going to want to know how to best optimize for various holidays and shopping events (e.g. Black Friday); people in B2B industries will always want to know the latest ways to solve the common problems in their fields.
You should be aware of the fact that you can most likely update and refresh your evergreen content as additional thoughts occur to you, trends in your industry evolve, or simply to keep it up near the top of the search results and at the top of your audience’s minds.
Buzzsumo has a great write-up on how to get started on evergreen content.
What Is Cornerstone Content?
Cornerstone content is similar to evergreen content in the sense that is almost always perpetually useful (although you may want to update your site’s cornerstone content from time to time depending on changes in your industry, your goals, and simply for SEO purposes).
However, cornerstone content is different from evergreen content in the sense that it tends to be more specific to your brand.
Cornerstone content should be the articles, posts, videos, or podcasts that you are the most proud of and the foundation of what you and your brand are all about.
So how do you create cornerstone content?
You start developing cornerstone content by really narrowing down and focusing on the most important aspects of your business.
These are the key differentiators for your brand or company and the things that you want your audience to understand first and foremost.
Yoast has built a good topic that goes more in-depth about cornerstone content and why it matters.
Top Content Management Platforms
A content marketing platform can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.
Depending on your needs, you can use WordPress or Wix to build a blog (but we tend to prefer WordPress for a variety of reasons).
There are also customer relationship management systems (CRMs) that allow for content marketing, some better than others.
Hubspot is often considered the gold standard in the content marketing software industry because it combines content management, email marketing, customer relationship management, social media marketing, and more, but of course you can use other options or combine platforms as well.
WordPress is a great way to integrate content marketing into your overall marketing plan, since you can use it to manage your website, blog, and other aspects of content marketing; that said, you will need to use additional plugins if you want to manage your social media, email marketing, and more via WordPress.
Marketo is another popular content marketing platform or marketing automation platform which is known for its SEO or search engine optimization integration, account-based marketing or customer relationship management (CRM) services, and other options.
Other common content marketing platforms include Sitefinity (which is popular amongst larger corporate brands), Mura (commonly used by developers and designers due to its ease of sharing assets and open-source scalability), and Joomla! (an open source CMS similar to WordPress with extensions that are similar to WordPress’s plugins).
That said, there are plenty of other content marketing platforms and content marketing tools that you can choose, combine, and build out to suit your content marketing needs, budget, and goals.
Deciding on the Right Content Marketing Tools for Your Needs
So how do you choose a content marketing platform or the right content marketing tools?
First start by determining your goals for the content marketing campaign – do you want to do lead generation with your content marketing campaign?
Are you focusing on building brand awareness?
Do you want to become the number one thought leader in your niche?
All of the above?
Determining your final goals – you may also want to look at the possibility of using podcasts, webinars or online conference calls or Zoom meetings, and other live tools including SEO tools, online courses, quizzes, or assessments as a way to connect with your audience.
Content Marketing Tools
While content marketing platforms like Hubspot offer full service solutions, you might not need that level of complexity, especially if you are a small business owner or only doing content marketing for a couple businesses.
If you are focusing primarily on your own business, you may be able to use WordPress or a similarly robust CMS in order to build out your content marketing plan as well as the rest of your website, email marketing, and even social media messaging and deployment in conjunction with various plugins and secondary tools.
SEO Content Marketing & Blogging
Having a blog on your website is a key aspect of content marketing; in addition, blogging is good with a combination of SEO techniques that help clear a path towards fresh or newly updated content, which search engines tend to reward with higher rankings.
And a blog is an ideal way to get plenty of keyword rich content situated on your website in an organic way.
Of course, blogging also allows you to have a place to post regularly updated content, a location for your (consistently refreshed) cornerstone content and evergreen content, and generally gives you a central content repository on the platform that you own.
This includes visual content marketing pieces like infographics and videos, audio content marketing pieces like podcasts or recorded webinars, and any other components of your content marketing plan – all paths lead to your website and blog that serves actionable search intent.
One thing to note is that while many people tend to conflate blogging and content marketing; however, while blogging is definitely creating content and can be a valuable aspect of your content marketing strategy, blogging is more about telling your story and is just one way of providing content for your audience, while content marketing is a complete cohesive content production and outreach plan with various elements, timing, and analysis.
Social Media Content Strategy
Social media is another key component of content marketing, and even more so if your audience is especially active on a particular platform.
For instance, anything highly visual does well on Instagram, while B2B businesses are generally better served on LinkedIn or Medium.com.
For brands that skew younger, trendier platforms that are video-intensive like YouTube and Snapchat may even work – but tread carefully to avoid becoming a “how do you do fellow kids” meme.
Also consider the possibility of creating a Facebook Group, LinkedIn Group, or even a subReddit centered around your niche – they are a great way to connect directly with your audience while allowing them to connect with each other, therefore building a community that’s moderated by or focused around your business.
Social media content marketing is generally considered to be at the top of the content marketing funnel because it has some of the broadest reach, and really high quality content can even go viral in your vertical or industry.
Social media also allows for the greatest opportunity for user generated content marketing, since you’ll most likely receive the greatest variety of comments and replies on social media.
Remember that while content marketing is generally considered to be a tactic that pushes content outward in order to start a conversation and facilitate engagement, social media is more of a two-way street.
What’s more, social media is also used for your customers and prospective customers to chat amongst each other, which is why even just “listening” to the conversation on social media is so important even if you don’t make social media a key part of your strategy.
Sprout Social has a written guide on how to get started on your social media strategy.
Email and Content Marketing
Your email list is perhaps the most valuable asset that you have as a business owner or content marketer.
If you have a list of customers or clients, or people who have opted in to receiving messages from your business in any way, shape, or form, then you have what is perhaps one of the most valuable assets in the content marketing realm.
If you don’t already have an email list, encourage users to sign up for your list via your other content, e.g. subscribe to our newsletter in order to download this whitepaper, ask permission to add current customers to your newsletter, or even offer a giveaway or free trial, demo, or consultation via social media if users sign up for your email list.
After all, those people already want to hear from you – all you need to do is reach them via email at the right time and with the right content mix.
Of course there is split testing and A/B testing (read further on in this article to learn more about that) so you can test different subject lines, messaging, calls-to-actions, sign offs, creatives, and more.
You’ll also want to keep track of which emails you send out remain unopened or get bounced back (your email marketing software or content marketing software can help you track this) in order to see what works even if you don’t have the bandwidth for split testing.
Email marketing can and should be easily integrated into your content marketing – after all, you already have content to use, it is just a matter of organizing and distilling it down into an email marketing strategy.
If you want to upgrade your email skills, I highly suggest you sign up for André Chaperon’s newsletter.
Video Content Marketing
Video is more important than ever, and you have more platforms than you think to share your video content.
Between YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Vimeo, and your own website, blog, or email campaigns, there are nearly as many ways to share your video content as there are types of video content.
Some great types or examples of video content marketing for B2B businesses are creating tutorials, giving your own version of a Ted Talk as it relates to your industry, interviewing your team, interviewing your current clients for testimonials, and other types of thought leadership and customer education tend to work well.
Doing Facebook Lives, going live on Linkedin or Instagram, or even webinars, lectures, or online courses using Zoom or similar technology can also be a good way to connect with your customers “live and in person”, at least virtually.
You can also record these for later use and put the transcripts on your website for those who weren’t able to attend in person.
Plus, interacting with your audience directly will likely give you ideas for more focused and nuanced content to create in the future!
Brian Dean has a great guide on how to get started with video content marketing.
Content Marketing Podcast
Podcasts have gone from being a niche interest to a mainstream form of entertainment and a common way to get information and consume content.
And they are fairly easy to create – arguably easier than video since you don’t need to worry about the visual aspects like the background, you or the presenter’s on-camera experience, and other intricacies of video marketing.
While you may not be up for creating your own podcast or have the bandwidth, consider the possibility of being a guest on someone else’s with an audience that is similar to the groups that you are trying to reach.
Many podcasters (and YouTubers also) enjoy having relevant guests to interview; in fact, for some of them that is the main source of their content.
If you’re lucky, you are already aware of the main names in your niche on social media at this point, so if you are interested in guest appearances, watch for the influencers who regularly invite guests and approach them with your expertise.
If not, time to do some research before reaching out and asking for a guest spot – but either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask – and be sure to have your elevator pitch and some examples of your content at the ready.
Ready to start your business podcast?
Check out Podcast Insights latest post on how to start a podcast.
Infographics and Content Marketing
While infographics definitely have had their moment in the spotlight in the past, there is a reason that they have remained a common option for content marketing.
They are easily shareable, visually compelling, and can be a great way to distill a large amount of information into an easily digestible format – making infographics an ideal piece of a content marketing plan for both B2B and B2C brands alike.
If you are interested in using infographics for content marketing, you’ll likely want to hire a graphic designer who specializes in infographics specifically, since there is a certain style and methodology to creating successful infographics that use data points to tell a compelling story.
Visme has a solid guide on tips for how to create infographics.
B2B Content Marketing VS B2C Content Marketing
Many of the elements of content marketing are the same or very similar if you are targeting a B2B or B2C audience.
For instance, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer brands use email and social media to reach their audience; that said, the two types of brands may use different platforms or benefit most from using the same platforms in different ways.
For example, content marketing for B2C brands often focus more on thought leadership and teaching their users about their product, their industry, and their vertical.
Education is the focus and the type of content used tends to be longer form (white papers, ebooks, webinars, and even print magazines or books and in-person conferences or online courses).
On the other hand, B2C brands may be more likely to focus on “fun” tactics like social media marketing, videos, and other more unorthodox ideas.
For instance, sponsoring influencers to develop compelling visual content using their own voices (and extending your reach to their audience), doing live videos on Facebook or Instagram, and other less-buttoned-up techniques.
That said, all of these B2C tactics could potentially work for B2B content marketing campaigns depending on your willingness to experiment and test out new strategies.
How to Measure and Track Your Content Marketing Efforts
Tracking and measuring the performance of your content marketing is one of the most complicated parts of developing and executing a content marketing plan, and perhaps one of the most crucial.
You should have determined your key performance indicators or KPIs and goals at the beginning of the process – and once you start releasing your content, you should be auditing and analyzing your progress on a regular basis.
While pretty much every social media marketing and email marketing platform provides analytics (and there is always Google Analytics for the pieces that live on your own website), keeping track of analytics across multiple platforms can be time-consuming at best and an entire full job at its worst.
Most content marketing platforms, systems, and content marketing tools offer some sort of built-in analytics, and there are generally options to add various extensions or plugins, or tie them into your existing Google Analytics to create an extremely robust tracking system.
Be aware that if split testing or A/B testing is important to you, ensure that you choose a platform that allows for easily executing this type of testing.
Check out SEMrush’s guide on how to track your content performance.
A/B Testing and Content Marketing
A/B testing or split testing can be a great way to determine which types, styles, or pieces of content resonate the most with your audience.
Many of the content marketing systems or content marketing tools offer built-in options for A/B or split testing so you can determine which titles, images, styles, and lengths of content (and more) resonate the most with your audience.
Split testing or A/B testing can be a great way to learn more about your audience wants and further refine your content marketing strategy – and a little goes a long, especially at the beginning of launching a content marketing campaign.
Read this A/B testing guide to learn more about getting started.
Content Marketing Tips
There are many content marketing experts writing about how to optimize your content marketing campaigns and strategies – there’s no lack of advice out there on the web, but of course, not all of it is right for your brand.
The best way to get content marketing advice (besides reading our blog of course) is to check out what a variety of content market experts are saying about their field and how it will change and evolve in 2021 and the upcoming years.
What’s more, if you lack the time and have the inclination and budget, you can hire a content marketing consultant or you can even outsource content marketing to an individual or agency with a track record of proven success, if you are comfortable with that and have the budget for it – just make sure to get samples and testimonials with stats to back them up.
All of that said, perhaps the very best thing you can do to improve your content marketing is to really look at your analytics data and the narrative it tells.
What types of content performed the best against your KPIs?
What platforms worked well, and what didn’t?
What emails were opened the most, what white papers were downloaded in the highest numbers, what posts received the most engagement, and so on.
One last thing to remember is that content marketing is all about the long game.
Not only do you have to produce the content itself, but distributing and promoting it takes time – and it can take even more time for your community to build up and your audience to truly engage.
Why is Content Marketing Important?
Content marketing is important – really, it’s essential – because while it’s become a common buzzword in the industry, it all comes down to the fact that content is what helps you connect with, inspire, and engage with your audience who will eventually become prospects and then clients.
No matter how content marketing is defined or what the latest content marketing experts in 2021 and in the future, content marketing is always going to be one of the main ways that we reach and influence current and prospective clients in some way, shape, or form.