There is much more to content marketing than just writing a few blogs and posting them on your website. The true value of content marketing, and the most challenging aspect of it for a content creator, lies in the level of engagement between your target audience and your company.

Traditional advertising shouts at potential customers and clients – it is intrusive by its very nature – whereas content marketing talks to them in a permissive way. Within this environment, lasting relationships are much more likely to develop. As well as building these relationships, effective content marketing can also increase brand awareness, establish a brand’s thrpught leadership credentials and boost sales leads.

According to 2019 research from US marketing advisory firm, Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates approximately three times as many leads per dollar spent.

There is also growing evidence that traditional advertising is losing its effectiveness while inbound marketing continues to grow. Consumers are tired of being bombarded with one-size-fits-all advertising and are beginning to fight back. Deloitte’s 2018 Media Consumer Survey found that 32% of Australians are now using ad-blocking software to avoid ads. The rise of streaming platforms like Netflix and Spotify means that consumers are now less available to advertisers as well. Standard Media Index (SMI) figures from October 2018 revealed that advertising spend in all major media was down year-on-year for the first time since SMI records began in January 2007.

SMI AU October 2018 Media Data

Many companies are wasting a lot of time and money when it comes to their content strategy because they have not given enough thought to the kind of information that their target audience actually wants. Placing the correct type of content in front of your intended audience as it moves through the sales funnel is absolutely essential for maximising engagement and, ultimately, return on investment (ROI). There is more to this than just creating audience personas. So how do you avoid wasting money on content marketing?

The Content Marketing Maturity Model

Having an understanding of where your organisation is with regard to its content marketing efforts is crucial for developing an effective content strategy that optimises ROI. Many content creators focus too much on activities such as creating buyer personas, which can shift the emphasis from content marketing to just marketing content.

The Content Marketing Maturity Model lays out the five stages of content marketing that organisations generally belong to. They range from the initial stage, ‘stasis’, where few resources are allocated to content creation, through to the monetisation stage where content becomes a revenue stream.

Having an understanding of these stages will help you determine where your organisation is at in relation to content marketing, plan for how to progress to the next stage and also ensure that all potential avenues for reaching audiences have been covered.

Stage 1: Stasis

Activities are typically limited to the occasional press release, blog and social media post at this stage of content marketing. Companies are generally only looking to maintain the status quo, at least until they notice their competitors operating at higher levels of the model.

Stage 2: Production

At the production level, organisations have made a conscious decision to actively participate in content marketing.

Content marketing efforts are often SEO-based at this stage and involve developing a keyword list and inserting those words into blogs. The aim should be to produce content that is so good that the message will be amplified through the target audience sharing it on their social networks. This is known as link building.

Some thought should be given in the production phase to mapping the journey of consumer segments through the sales funnel and alignment with the braoder marketing strategy. Since content at this stage is predominantly about educating consumers on the company’s products and services, it is a challenge to convert leads into sales. It’s time to move to the next level!

Stage 3: Utility

At the utility level, content marketing moves on from brand messaging to creating useful experiences for the audience. Examples of content at this level are how-to guides, ebooks, checklists and calculators. This type of content is particularly good for social media as its usefulness makes it very ‘shareable’. Offering useful content for free alows companies to more easily collect information from users that can be used as leads by sales teams. For example, an ebook might be provided for download if a user enters his or her name and email address. This exchange process is pivotal to success in the utility stage of content marketing.

Stage 4: Storytelling

At this level a company should have a good understanding of its target audience and attempt to engage with them on deeper intellectual and emotional levels.

Producing content around topics that your audience cares about and that the brand would like to be identified with are typical at the storytelling level of content marketing. There is generally a higher degree of online community engagement at this level as a result.

This is also where the growth of brand authority emerges as companies establish themselves as subject matter experts through the production of thought leadership material.

Stage 5: Monetisation

Monetisation of content – producing material that is of such high value that consumers will pay for it – is the holy grail of content strategy. Of course, generation of revenue directly through content is not part of the business strategy of most organisations.

The primary goal of any content creation strategy is to produce useful content that engages a target audience and encourages it to take action.

But it becomes much more difficult to capture that audience’s attention if there is no logical progression of the content strategy. For example, many young companies waste time and money trying to establish themselves as thought leaders, when really what their target audience wants is information that will educate them about the brand’s products and services.

The Content Marketing Maturity Model helps identify where companies are situated in their content marketing efforts, the types of content they should be producing and how to take the next logical step.

Contact FCR’s experienced communications consulting team to help you create a winning content marketing strategy.

By Michael Pollack, digital and content manager, FCR