Marketing in the digital age can be so divisive. While some pray to the altar of paid media, others swear by a robust, content-driven inbound campaign. And while you might think that your friends here at Creative Cave fall on the latter side of the Great Debate -- it's not even a debate, but we have a flair for the dramatic -- we implore you to slow your roll.
The fact of the matter is, we absolutely see the benefits of both strategies and actively use both. Actually, we see each of them as pieces of a larger puzzle, working best when paired together and amplifying each other's strengths. So, the "debate" shouldn't be if one is better than the other, like trying to decide on the best team between the Mavs, Rockets, and Spurs. First of all, everyone knows the correct answer is the Mavs. Second, when it comes to marketing, it just depends on your goals. Both paid media and content-driven inbound have their time and place within a campaign. So, like most things in life, it's more about understanding what you want to accomplish than anything else.
Now, that said, we'd be remiss by failing to mention how a solid and consistent content strategy is inherently built to foster long-term, sustainable, even exponential growth. Just by its very nature, a well-organized content effort builds upon itself and only grows in strength over time. Alternatively, paid media usually shines brightest in the short-term for quick ROI. So on that note, while our intention isn't to give short shrift to paid media, let's take a few minutes to see why content marketing naturally lends itself to sustained, continued growth.
But We Already Digress
Before we dive into content's awesome pool, let's take a moment to define the concept. Unlike its bizarro world equivalent in outbound, a content-driven inbound strategy brings the audience to you by way of engaging, ever-expanding content. It creates an informative and compelling experience that speaks to your customer base -- both current and potential -- about a particular issue or problem they're trying to solve.
Although we've spoken at length on creating effective inbound B2B content, it's important to keep those basic tenets in mind when discussing the long-term benefits of a content strategy. Put another way, be sure to read our past diatribe on inbound B2B marketing if you need a refresher so these educational ramblings have a bit of context. Agreed? Sweet.
Conversions on the Horizon
Google's algorithms won't reward you for posting a sentence fragment on a particular topic. A single blog post is slightly better, but still nothing to write home about. A content strategy is more of a slow build, where the traffic, rankings, and clicks start appearing after a systematic approach to expanding your content, blogs in particular but not exclusively. One per week is better than one per month, and every day beats weekly. Although that last sentence might sound a bit Seussian, we think you get the idea -- the more often you post content, the better.
That's why we say a content strategy is a long play. It requires patience, consistency, and a long-term commitment to, for lack of a better term, getting it right. Unless you have the time, budget, and stamina to crank out one hundred blog posts in a short amount of time, it could take weeks, months, or even years for Google to recognize you and your content as thought leaders, depending on the frequency you publish. But with content leaders seeing 7.8x greater unique visitor counts over others and 75% of people never venturing past Google’s first page of search results, that effort is time well spent.
Of course, since there's always a caveat, we should also mention that merely publishing content as often as possible isn't enough to satisfy the Google gods. That content must provide value and insight to the reader, distinguishing it from the bajillions of SEO-dense, vapid blogs that are in it for the clicks and nothing more. Sure, you might see an uptick in traffic by hitting your keywords and churning out irrelevant content. However, that content won't progress anyone down the funnel if it's no more informative than that gallon of milk in your fridge.
If anything, empty content will repel your customers and send them straight to the competition. But because we know you're better than that, a beautiful conversion stream looms just over the horizon thanks to your commitment to content. And if you think we're full of it, au contraire mon frère. When our client committed to a long-term content strategy, we drove a 303% increase in organic traffic after nine months, and a 685% increase in website leads year-over-year. That's the very definition of exponential growth, and its glories await you.
That last statistic brings us to an important point. Yes, inbound marketing can sustain growth with, amongst other things, a deliberate content strategy. But what exactly do we mean by growth? An increase in website traffic? Yes. What about rankings? Absolutely. And ever-important leads? Of course. All of those things -- traffic, rankings, leads, and more -- will improve with an effective content strategy.
However, unless those leads transform into actual sales, huge jumps in traffic, rankings, and any other metric won't do you much good. So when we say growth, we really mean it in broad scope, encompassing all of those marketing metrics, but revenue growth as well. Granted, there's only so much that brilliant content can do, something akin to leading a horse to water. But your content doesn't suddenly lose its usefulness once it progresses your customer -- along with some well-timed jolts from paid media -- down to the conversion end of the funnel. That, our friends, is where sales enablement comes in.
In a nutshell, sales enablement is any activity that enhances your sales team's ability to sell, your inbound content being a perfect example. For instance, let's say someone on your sales team is on the phone with a potentially significant B2B customer. They're no longer in the research phase of the buying process and have whittled their vendor and product choices down to a choice few. Obviously, it's an important conversation between your salesperson and the potential customer, and any value you can add to the mix, the better your chances of landing their business.
Naturally, they're going to have questions about your product, its specific benefits, or even something broader that they didn't think about while researching. Since there's only so much information you can convey over the phone, your salesperson offers to send them a few blog posts, guides, white papers, or case studies that specifically address their questions.
That's sales enablement, using your content to add value and octane to the sales process by reinforcing your industry and thought leadership with pertinent, targeted content. Whether a salesperson on the phone or a website lead stemming from a gated content offer, being able to follow-up with additional information could very well be the difference between an actual conversion and yet another in a long line of almost-sales. As long as your content is accurate, informative, timely, and digestible, your sales team can leverage it as a powerful tool in the fight for conversions.
Keep Your Current Customers Happy and Engaged
Likewise, your content also plays a vital role in keeping your existing customer base happy and engaged. Maybe they subscribe to your blog, sign up for your email list, or you make it a habit of sending them content they might appreciate. No matter the mechanism, a continuing flow of informative, educational content goes a long way in keeping them on the satisfied side of the customer fence.
From a financial perspective, while growing your customer base is obviously critical to both success and survival, maintaining your existing customers provides you with a lovely combination of cost efficiency and stability. New customers are anywhere from 5 to 25x more expensive to acquire than retaining your existing ones, so we're pretty sure we know how your accounting team would vote. Churn is exhausting, pricey, and stressful, attacking your budget and ability to sleep at night. Let your content help keep your customers engaged, and life will be much, much more manageable.
The concept of cost efficiency doesn't just apply to your customer acquisition costs, but to getting the most bang for your buck in marketing spend as well. With our opening thesis still fully intact -- paid media is good, just different than content marketing -- a quick look at the two will reveal just how budget-friendly a content strategy is in comparison.
While it depends on several factors, including your industry, number of competitors, and the ad platform, your CPC (and consequently, your ad spend) can really add up fast. On average, small businesses alone spend between $9,000 and $10,000 per month on Google paid search, and that's just one of many platforms. When budgets are tight and companies look to maximize their marketing spend, paid media costs can be a tough pill to swallow.
Content marketing works much differently. First, the content is evergreen, maintaining its place in the digital world as long as you pay your hosting bill, never disappearing into the ether like paid media. Second, the cost to ramp-up a hearty content strategy can be as little or as much as you want.
While we recommend using a writer for many reasons, if you happen to have someone on staff that's perfectly capable of writing quality content, that makes the strategy even more cost-efficient. Throw in the benefit of sharing your content on social media, maybe catching a ride on a viral wave on occasion, and that's a low-cost way of catching the eye of the customer and establishing yourself as a thought leader. Kudos to you.
Closing Words From Your Marketing Spelunkers
Unlike paid media, a content strategy is more about an investment of time than anything else. Not only can it take a while to start ranking well on the organic search front as your content expands, but the process of writing an individual piece can be challenging as well. Between working with an SME (subject matter expert), researching keywords, writing the pieces, revising, and everything else involved, a well-planned B2B content strategy is neither easy nor fast. However, if exponential growth tickles your fancy -- albeit a bit down the road -- then content marketing is worth the time and effort.
Fast-forwarding to the point where you have a robust content library under your belt, we also advise you to track its effectiveness, just like you would a paid media strategy. Look at your traffic, leads, and conversions, identifying trends that would indicate your content strategy is working. If you're coming up short, then it's time to go back and figure out where you went astray. Revisit your personas, keywords, tone, delivery, or any other variables that might account for your missed performance goals. Of course, if it all seems a bit overwhelming, your friendly and talented group of marketing gurus here at Creative Cave are just a quick email away.