The Long and Short of Content Marketing

GL Content Team Jan 29, 2021

You may have noticed that we talk about content marketing a lot. Really. A lot.

There’s a very good reason for this. Content marketing just works – something we discuss in Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy for B2B Lead Generation:

Content marketing is a vital part of any B2B marketing strategy. Not only is it effective for generating new leads – it is also useful for nurturing warm leads into sales-readiness. It also contributes to the entire sales and marketing pipeline. The stats back this up. The average B2B customer consumes between three and five pieces of content before they engage with a sales rep. 96% of those buyers choose to do business with organisations who have provided them with relevant content throughout the buyer’s journey. So it’s clear that an effective content marketing strategy can have a dramatic impact on both lead generation and lead quality. 

But What is Content Marketing, Really?

This is definitely a subject we’ve covered frequently, but there’s no harm in covering it again. So what is content marketing? Well, The Content Marketing Institute explains it like this:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Michelle Linn, also of the Content Marketing Institute, explains it even better with this awesome anecdote:

“When people ask what you do, does your response receive a quizzical look? “So, what is it exactly that you do,” they ask after you explain your job.

My husband was in this camp until he told me about a newsletter that covers trends affecting financial markets. He looks forward to receiving it each day. He explained that the newsletters didn’t have anything to do with the funds the broker was selling, but the information was solid and valuable – and it was useful research for the investments he makes.

“That’s content marketing,” I explained. It was an aha moment for my husband’s understanding of content marketing – content marketing is educational but is not about the products the company sells. The vendor offers such good information that you become loyal to the brand.”

Content marketing can generate three times more leads, with 62% less spend, than outbound marketing. 

All you have to do is search, “content marketing success stories”, and you’ll come across hundreds of examples. Probably my favourite of these is the story of John Deere. Because if I told you that the original content marketing came from a company who manufactures agricultural and forestry equipment, would you believe me? No? I’m not surprised.

But it’s true! 

John Deere – The Original Founder of Content Marketing 

While content marketing might have grown in popularity over the past decade, and the methods have definitely changed a bit, it seems that businesses have been using some form of content marketing since the 1800s. Nowadays, marketers use blogs, infographics and videos to educate and entertain their audiences, and drive traffic to their fancy landing pages. More than 100 years ago, marketers were also using content to drive business – they just did it in different ways.

1n 1985, John Deere started a magazine called The Furrow. We’ve spoken about it before. 

The Furrow was a magazine for farmers, in which the company published educational information. The content was aimed at teaching farmers to be better business owners. This is a quintessential example of content marketing.

Of course, there was no social media back in the 1800s. There were no blogs or websites. Most advertising venues just weren’t big enough to get their full message across. The only way to get this informational content to their users properly was through their magazine. 

John Deere has since adapted to the times though, and The Furrow is now also available online. Besides that, they also publish similar educational content on their Twitter and Facebook pages. The magazine is still available for print, and is published in a jaw-dropping 40 countries, in 12 languages. 

Is your mind blown? Mine sure is. 

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So, John Deere was the original content marketer. 

There’s only one possible example of content marketing from before John Deere, and it’s debatable at best. There is a cave painting from 4200 B.C., which apparently loosely translates to “six ways a spear can save you from a wild boar”. Call me a sceptic, but I just don’t see Grug the Caveman taking time out of his busy schedule to give educational tips to his neanderthals.  

The Basics of Content Marketing

In How to Create a B2B Content Marketing Strategy, we discussed some of the questions you need to ask when creating a content strategy:

  • Who are you creating content for? 
  • What are the problems you are trying to solve?
  • What makes your content unique?
  • Which keywords do you want to be found for? 
  • What content types are you going to use? 
  • Do you have a CMS to create and publish content?
  • What channels will you use for promotion?
  • What are your main KPIs?
  • Do you have content you can repurpose to start with?

We also discussed Why Your Content Marketing Isn’t Working in Generate B2B Sales Leads with Content Marketing

Right now, more B2B companies are using content marketing than ever before. It’s definitely one of the most effective forms of marketing available today. Unfortunately, most businesses dive in head first, creating content randomly without first devising a strategy. Often, they’re blithely assuming that their audience wants to read endless blogs about their products or services, or watch 20-minute product tutorials and testimonial videos. As a result, many content marketing campaigns fall flat at the first hurdle. They fail to generate the leads businesses think they will.

There’s a simple reason for this. 

“Content without strategy is just stuff.” – Arjun Basu

The internet is a massive place, and there’s a ton of content out there. Some of it’s good, some isn’t. A lot of it is entirely out of data. So the main challenge in generating leads with content marketing becomes offering relevant, useful and helpful content that your audience actually wants to read.

Most people don’t have the time to read content that doesn’t answer their pertinent questions – especially in the B2B sector. The bitter truth is, they don’t care about your product or service. They also don’t care about your new office, or the latest office birthday. They want answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems.

Besides these basic mistakes, there are a few other reasons you could be failing to generate B2B sales leads with your content marketing:

  • Lack of detailed strategy
  • Lack of buyer personas
  • No clear goals or KPIs
  • Lack of creativity or differentiation
  • No promotional activity

In this digital age, there are few things that audiences want, besides the answers and solutions we mentioned above. They want product comparisons and accurate reviews, as well as pricing documents.

If you’re not offering any of the above, there’s a good chance that your visitors will just click away.

In Content Marketing Lead Generation Tactics That Work In 2019, we discussed Content Marketing Lead Generation Tactics That Work

There are a number of lead-generation tactics that have been proven to be incredibly successful in 2019. Here are some of these.

Lead Magnets

A ‘lead magnet’ is something (either an eBook, a PDF download, etc.) that is so enticing to your target audience that they feel that they have no choice but to give you their contact details in exchange for this download.

There are a few companies who do this very successfully, including Hubspot, who provides inbound marketing, sales, and service software. They produce a lot of eBooks on the subjects that their software takes care of. These downloads are well-designed and are packed with rich information that is informed by their subject-matter experts. These books are seen as highly valuable to those who know that they need to engage in digital marketing activities; however, they are unable to afford the software services that Hubspot offers. However, when their business starts to take off, and they can take up the software offering, Hubspot is the first place that they will go because they trust the company and the solution.

Optimise Your Blog

Having a blog on your website was one of the first content marketing tactics that businesses used. While content marketing has progressed in leaps and bounds since then, blogging remains one of the most effective lead generation tactics as search engine bots are easily able to crawl rich content easily.

Long-form content, which is well-researched,  performs better than shorter copy does. Ensure that your blog copy has the right number of keywords in it and make sure that these words occur naturally in your writing. Don’t keyword stuff your copy because, if you do this, Google could penalise your website and will be less likely to display it when users enter relevant search terms.

Vary the keywords that you use in your blogs. If you always rely on a single phrase, you could end up with keyword cannibalisation. Joshua Hardwick, who is the head of content at Ahrefs defines keyword cannibalisation as:

“ … when a single website unintentionally targets the same keyword across multiple posts or pages. Many SEOs believe that this “confuses” Google. In other words, they believe that it becomes difficult for Google to decipher which page (if any) should rank for a particular keyword. As a result, sometimes neither page will rank for the target keyword.”

Although you want your blog to rank for a specific keyword, don’t overuse the same iteration of the word. Use variants – such as different parts of speech – as well as long-tail keywords. Always keep in mind that the best pages are designed with the reader in mind and Google’s bots are programmed to consider this. Thus, you need to ensure that you tread carefully between keyword cannibalisation and correct optimisation.

Final Thoughts

We talk about content marketing a lot, and there’s still so much more to say. Not only is an effective way of building awareness and trust with your audience, it’s also an excellent lead generation tool for B2B and B2C businesses.