In recent years, the popularity of content marketing has soared, as businesses across the globe look to capitalize on the strategy as part of their lead generation activities.
Put simply, it is about driving sales through the creation and distribution of high quality content that is both interesting and relevant for a specific target audience.
The beauty of content marketing is that it can work for businesses of all shapes and sizes, with the most effective teams, mixing up the traditional with the innovative and finding new ways to reach and engage with their audiences.
According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the vast majority of marketers (almost 90%) now use content marketing and there are three very good reasons – increased sales, cost savings and generating better customers who have more loyalty.
But not everyone is convinced it’s the best approach, or even a good B2B marketing strategy to consider.
One of the biggest issues that businesses see with content marketing is that it takes a lot of resources and time to get right – especially in the beginning – and is unlikely to generate instant results.
However, it works! And for organizations that stick it out, the potential to achieve a very positive return on investment is high.
3 key stats on content marketing impact
- Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (Aberdeen Group)
- Content marketing costs 62% less and generates around 3 times more leads than traditional marketing (Demand Metric)
- Content marketers have conversion rates that are nearly six times higher (Aberdeen Group)
So, which brands are doing it really well and what can be learnt from them?
Practicing what we preach
At Lead Forensics, we invest a lot of time and effort in our own content marketing, which for us is about building a library of valuable resources for our customers and new prospects. We focus our content on all those organizations who have an active sales strategy and who will find our software a natural fit.
Our content focuses on the topics that will be of interest and highly relevant for these groups. Thanks to this strategy and the regular posts we now share, our traffic from organic search on the blog has steadily increased and thus our stream of leads has greatly increased via this channel as well.
Nike – winning on social media
Sports brand Nike has long been held as a shining example of a company using social media in the best possible way. From quick responses, to helpful and friendly tweets, they offer a consistency that is unrivalled.
They always maintain the same tone of voice and effectively segment, filter and help direct interactions by offering different Twitter handles for different things, including @NikeSupport for customer service problems and @NikeStore for advice on performance and equipment.
Hubspot – blogging on a whole new level
Hubspot is an inbound marketing and sales platform that is breaking the mould when it comes to content marketing. They’ve taken it up to a whole new level, not only in terms of the content volumes they are delivering (which are massive) but how they’re doing it.
Hubspot has multiple blogs and it’s not unheard of for there to be multiple new blog posts on each one daily. Yet, they manage to maintain a high level of quality and continuously come up with interesting and relevant topics. They also expertly mix up the format and type of content they are offering and are masters of all things social. The result being a winning combination.
Red Bull – high energy publishing
Red Bull may sell an energy drink but what they have effectively morphed into is a publisher. Visit their website and you won’t see sales messages or anything that even links to the product. What you’ll see are tabs for music, adventure and games, to name but a few.
They cross over every type of media and offer professional-level production, which opens doors to TV as well as the usual online comms channels. A shining example of their content marketing strategy is a print magazine they produce called The Red Bulletin, packed with articles designed for hardcore adrenalin junkies. But they won’t hit you with sales messages, or even mention the product. The most you tend to see is the familiar red bull image, or wings symbol.
Virgin – calling for engagement
Virgin and its many businesses, cover everything from travel to telecoms, fitness and entertainment. It was one of the first wireless communications and VoIP providers to jump on social media and start using content marketing to drive customers.
The company’s success has been down to a clear focus on engagement. They know it’s not about follower figures, it’s about relationships. They’re also not afraid to have a personality or use humor, which can be incredibly powerful – particularly on social sites. You just have to look at the ‘BLAH airlines’ campaign to see how far they’re willing to go.
ALS Association – a viral sensation
Many charities turn to social media as a key driver for their campaigns, but few achieve the success that ALS has seen. ALS launched its ‘Ice bucket challenge’ in 2014. It saw thousands of people across the world – including celebrities and high profile figures – pouring water over their heads and filming it, then nominating someone else.
The campaign reached heights that no-one dreamt possible, proving the power of hitting a strong viral campaign. It is thought to have generated well over $100 million, which has led to a major medical breakthrough.
Disney – a master at storytelling
Like many of its products, Disney’s content marketing campaigns are often filled with stories and have a strong underlying message. They use such campaigns for everything from teasers in the run up to a new film launch, to ongoing engagement and promoting their theme parks and merchandise.
One of the stand out areas for Disney is Instagram and the company has a huge following. The platform
Coca-Cola – ditching the corporate
Content is now a core tool used by Coca-Cola to connect and engage with its consumers, with a clear focus being to generate dialogue and interaction. The process started with the launch of ‘Journey’ back in 2012, with the tag line ‘Refreshing the world, one story at a time’.
The digital magazine website is designed to tell the story of Coca-Cola, while promoting transparency and authenticity. It is filled with so called ‘real content’ and was one of the first company sites that ditched being traditionally corporate, for a more visitor-centric design.
Apple – customer’s ‘selling’ the products
Apple is another company that uses storytelling to produce highly effective content marketing campaigns. Specifically, it tells stories of the people who are using its products. From Apple World Gallery that shows photos taken by people across the world who are using their new iphones, to campaigns showing people using their ipads to do amazing things.
Music also remains at the heart of the company’s content strategy, with everything tying back to its Apple Music platform.
What we can learn from all of these companies and their content marketing, is that when it comes to the best of the best, it doesn’t feel like you’re being marketed to at all.
The secret to success is knowing your target audience really well, knowing who you are as a company and what that might look like when communicated through your content, having a strategy laid out, thinking about language and not being afraid to use humor or show some personality, and above all, being consistent.