Content Marketing : A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: Dec 20, 2021




I bet that when you hear “content marketing,” you think about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and viral YouTube videos.

But content marketing has been around far longer than the Internet.

Why?

Because content marketing is all about storytelling,and humans have told stories for as long as they could speak. Our attention will always go to those who tell great stories.

When Hasbro and Marvel cooperated to launch their comic book series G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero!in 1982, their marketing strategy was simple.

They wanted to create what Kenner Toy Company’s Star Wars action figures already had: A rich backstory for their action figures.

Within two months of releasing the first comic book, about 20% of their target audience, boys between the ages of five and twelve, had two or more G.I. Joe toys. And at that point, the comic book only had two stories.

Seven years later, the series was one of Marvel’s strongest titles, and two out of three boys in the same age category owned at least one G.I. Joe action figure.

How’s that for using content to market a product?

A lot has changed since then, and what worked back in the 80s won’t necessarily work today. However, with new marketing channels like social media popping up almost daily, opportunity is knocking.

So, let’s look at what content marketing means now in my content marketing guide. Feel free to skip ahead if one topic catches your eye:


· Definition

· Overview

· Strategy

· History

· Why content marketing?

· Content mapping based on the customer journey

· Awareness stage content

· Consideration stage content

· Decision stage content

· Additional forms of content marketing

· Social media

· Live video

· Paid advertising

· A few extra tips and tricks

· Offline

· Online

· Hybrids

Definition of Content Marketing

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.


Their definition is solid in my opinion. But it could use some clarity.

It means that content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.

Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. They will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ options.

In contrast to one-off advertising, content marketing shows that you care about your customers.

Today, more than ever before, people want to feel like you care about them. The world is louder and noisier than ever before, and attention is our most valuable resource.

Keep that in mind as we look at some of the different types of content marketing.

Content Marketing Overview

When Joe Pulizzi founded the Content Marketing Institute in 2010, I don’t think he knew exactly how spot-on he would be, let alone how successful CMI would become.

They are one of the top resources when it comes to content marketing statistics. And they’ve created a great video overview of the evolution of content marketing:


Since the foundation of content marketing is simply high-quality content and storytelling, you can already see that the activity has been around longer than the term itself.

There’s still plenty to learn from those first offline content marketing activities that pre-date the Internet, social media, and the like.

However, any successful content marketing campaign today can hardly ignore the online part.

Because storytelling has changed over the years, the attention of people stretches to more places than a few years ago, and marketers must make sure that they tell stories in the year we actually live in.

There are three major categories where you can put content marketing efforts these days: online, offline, and hybrids.

The best way to learn how to be a great content marketer is by example.


That’s why I’ll show you 15 great examples of content marketing in all categories. Then, you can model them, tweak them, and apply them to your own businesses.


First, though, I’m going to show you how you can create a content marketing strategy. Then, you can use the examples at the end for inspiration.

Strategy

Tons of different content marketing strategies exist today.

In the beginning of the content marketing world, that wasn’t the case. At one time, marketers had few options. They essentially only had bandit signs, magazines, and newspaper ads.

Even in those days, however, they had a variety of different custom choices.

They could play with the words in their advertisements, the picture they showed, the placement of it, and the CTA.

In other words, although there were few content marketing methods, the options were still remarkably vast.

Today, more content marketing mediums and methods exist than ever before in the history of the world. That means that the number of strategies is even greater.

One online publication suggests using the “3D Content” model, for instance.

Basically, it’s three individual steps.

1. Map the content to the pain point.

2. Then use the right type of content for that problem.

3. Finally, map the content to the buying cycle of the people who have that problem.


This strategy is a way to move the focus away from the marketer and to the person that the marketer is trying to reach.

That, after all, is an incredibly important step to take in your own content marketing strategy.

If your content doesn’t cater to the right people with the right problem that your product solves, then your content marketing efforts are all for not.

Of course, you’ll probably want to adapt this to fit your own audience and marketing theories.

Whatever the case, though, you should always start with your audience.

You must create content for that audience. Then, and only then, will the right people pay attention to you.

According to the source itself — Content Marketing Institute— here are the tips you should follow when creating a content marketing strategy.



Notice this tip: “Your strategy should outline your key business and customer needs, and how your content efforts will address them.”


What does that mean?

It means that you need to understand your customers, prospects, and audience. Once you do, you can then create content that solves their problems and grows your business.

The goal of content marketing, of course, is to grow your business.

But again, you can’t do that unless you first attract paying customers.

In a world with social media, endless Internet space, self-publishing companies, and free graphic design tools, the strategies you can use to attract paying customers are as varied as the fish in the sea.

Here’s one list, for example, that Hubspot put together. It shows you just a few of the content marketing formats you can use.


There are a ton of options, but don’t get overwhelmed.

You’re here to learn about the benefits of each option and when to use which one. While there’s only one goal of content marketing (to increase business revenue), there are many ways to do that.

But before we can jump in and see how you can create your own strategy; you should first understand a bit of content marketing’s history.

Where did it come from? Why has it lingered? And why is it so popular today?

We’ll turn to those questions next.

History of Content Marketing

How old would you guess that content marketing is?

When someone first asked me that question a few years ago, I thought it had been around for maybe 50, 70, or perhaps even 90 years.

But I was wrong. I was very wrong.

The year is 1732, and a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin just published the first version of his annual Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Why did he do it?

Did he do it for fun because he liked writing and expressing his ideas?

Nope, that wasn’t it at all.

He did it because he wanted to advertise the new printing business that he had created. He figured the best way to do this was to print his own Almanack and potentially encourage others to print there too.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s timeline, this is the very first occurrence of true content marketing.

That was almost 300 years ago.

I’m willing to bet you didn’t think that content marketing started with Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. It’s possible that you’re more insightful than I was a few years back and you guessed it from the gate.

Most of you, though, probably didn’t.

And that’s because content marketing feels like a modern development.

But, while the term is new, the practice isn’t.

For years, businesses and individuals alike have tried to attract attention by creating free or cheap content.

John Deere, the tractor company, did something similar to Franklin in 1895 when they produced a lifestyle magazine for farmers that they called “The Furrow.”


As you can see in the bottom left-hand corner, the magazine was complimentary.

Now, you might be able to argue that John Deere did this out of the kindness of their heart. Perhaps they simply wanted to help people and didn’t realize the effect that this publication would have on the business’s revenue.

More than likely, though, that wasn’t the case.


John Deere did this because they understood the heart of content marketing: what goes around comes around.

Or basically, if you produce free and helpful content for your target market, they will engage with you, spread your message, and probably even buy from you.

Jell-O was another company that recognized this early on in their marketing journey.


And here’s one from Safari Cards that ran for almost 10 years starting in 1978.


Content marketing efforts have been around here and there over the last few hundred years.

Even though the methods for content marketing have changed over the years, the formula for great content has stayed largely the same.

It’s the same formula for getting people to buy your products.

1. Push on the person’s paint point.

2. Agitate that pain.

3. Solve their problem.


Here’s a more modern content marketing ad that implements that same strategy.


Now, of course, this happens in videos and pictures and blog posts and infographics.

As you can see, content marketing has come a long way in the last few centuries.

One shining example of modern content marketing is Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series on YouTube.

Here’s a video where they blend an iPhone. You must see it to believe it.


Even the first Lego Movie is a content marketing stunt.


Why do businesses do this kind of content marketing, though?

After all, they aren’t outright selling their products. They are generating attention, sure. But does that really matter?

The short answer is yes. In today’s world, attention is as good as dollar bills.

However, that’s only true if it’s the right attention.

And content marketing often does a remarkable job of drawing the eyes of people who care about your product and are willing to buy it.

Why Content Marketing?

OK. Content marketing is popular. Lots of businesses use it, and they’ve used it for hundreds of years.

But is content marketing right for your business?

Just because content marketing worked for early adopters, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your modern-day business. And just because massive B2B and B2C businesses use it today also, that doesn’t mean that it’s right for you.

To find out, let’s look at some recent and relevant content marketing data.

In the end, we’ll try to answer the question two questions: Is content marketing right for you? And should you invest bandwidth and budget into it?

Let’s start with the fact that the top priority for B2C content creators is to create more engaging content. Next in line is a desire to understand what kind of content is effective and what isn’t.


We must now ask ourselves why those are the top priorities.

Why do people want to create more engaging content, and why do they want to understand what kind of content is effective?

Most likely, it’s because these companies aren’t totally satisfied with their current content marketing efforts.

They probably feel that they are doing OK, but they also feel that they could do better.

And our suspicions are confirmed when you find out that 70% of B2B content marketers struggle to keep up with content quality and quantity.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that content marketing is wrong for your business.

In fact, it probably just points to the fact that content marketing is incredibly competitive today.

People are trying to create more and more content every year because great, mediocre, and terrible blog posts, videos, and infographics are increasingly cluttering the online environment.

You could use that clutter as an excuse to not create content for your business.

Or you could take it as a sign that content marketing is well worth your time. You’ll just have to invest more energy into it to stand apart from the crowd.

So, the answer is still unclear.

But remember this: Even though a lot of businesses are struggling with their content creation, many also understand the current power of their strategies.

After all, just because those businesses are dissatisfied, it doesn’t mean that their content marketing efforts are falling dead.

It might just mean that those businesses have extraordinarily high standards for success.

In truth, paid advertising — sort of the antithesis of content marketing — is the most overrated tactic in the marketing world while blogging, SEO, and even social media are far less overrated.


And to further prove that content marketing is working for many businesses, consider that SEO and blog creation are the top two inbound marketing priorities for marketers.