Content marketing has its roots in custom publishing and loyalty-driven efforts, and for more than 100 years its primary goal has been customer retention, says Joe Pulizzi, founder and executive director of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). In recent years, however, content marketing’s objectives have broadened, and it is playing a much more important role in the overall marketing strategy at many companies, both B2B and B2C.
A new report by CMI and MarketingProfs on content marketing benchmarks, budgets, and trends in North America finds that B2B companies have earmarked an average of 33 percent of their marketing budgets for content marketing in 2013, up from 26 percent last year, and they intend to boost that expenditure to 54 percent in 2014. A similar report on the B2C segment finds that 28 percent of marketing budgets, on average, are allocated to content marketing, and 55 percent of consumer marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend. Currently, 91 percent of B2B companies and 86 percent of B2C firms use some form of content marketing.
Content marketing initially proved its worth as a customer retention tool by delivering consistently valuable content to current customers, a strategy that has proven effective in keeping customers longer and driving increased cross-sales and up-sales, Pulizzi reports. “Customer events and print customer magazines have scored high in effectiveness over the three years we’ve been measuring it,” he says. But its role is expanding dramatically in areas that include building brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, thought leadership, engagement, and more.
Customer acquisition is an increasingly important mandate for content marketing, singled out as an organizational goal by three-quarters of both B2C and B2B companies in surveys by CMI and MarketingProfs. Citing Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research, Pulizzi notes that the average buyer engages with more than 10 pieces of content before making a purchase decision. “If your content is not part of that mix, odds are you will be left out of that process,” he warns. All organizations need to position themselves as informational resources in their particular niche. “As far as top-of-the-funnel activity goes, content marketing may in fact be one of the best tools for customer acquisition.”
Content marketing’s effectiveness as a customer-acquisition strategy is maximized by including a call-to-action within the content that drives consumers to a landing page associated with the brand, suggests Marc Purtell, director, SEO at MediaWhiz, a performance marketing agency. “The more buzz-worthy the content, the more likely it is that customers will find your brand’s content,” he says. Content marketing also serves a more intrinsic long-term customer-acquisition value of increasing brand awareness and influence while supplementing search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, he adds.
Content marketing experts argue that the strategy offers a number of distinct advantages over other marketing and advertising techniques: