Find the right types of content marketing for your business
Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different marketing content formats
Marketing runs on content. Content is what prospects desperately want: they want information that helps them do it themselves, or compare sellers, or better understand a product or service. Every buyer wants to feel informed about their purchases. Information equals confidence, and if you can make prospects feel confident about their purchasing decision, you’ve won.
Content drives all of that process. Your prospects are introduced to your brand through content. Your email marketing runs on content. Digital advertising needs content to entice clicks. Social media is a second content hub for your business.
Since marketing runs on content, you’re going to need a lot of content to maintain consistent marketing efforts. And because there is so much demand for content, there are a lot of content types you can leverage.
That’s what we’ll be covering here; what are the best content marketing formats and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
Before we get started…
Finding the right content marketing formats for your business is an involved process if you want to do it right. Which you do, obviously.
Today, there are more content options than ever before. There are so many different platforms, so many different strategies, that it’s almost impossible to do them all. And, more often than not, it’s incorrect to try to do them all.
So what type of preliminary decision making can help you narrow down your options? Start by answering a few key questions.
- What are your goals now, in 5 years, and in 10 years?
- What resources are at your disposal today? How might that resource allocation change in the future?
- How much marketing have you done in the past? How successful was it?
Answering these questions helps set up a baseline that can make it much easier to identify the marketing efforts more suited for your business.
What are your goals?
Focusing on the content formats that augment your marketing experience and goals can make a world of difference.
- Maximize your ROI
- Promote sustainable growth
- Prioritize consistency
- Match your marketing to your business growth
The type of content you leverage in your marketing has a direct impact on your lead generation. In 2020, marketing teams said their largest challenge was creating content that generates quality leads.
The first step to creating any piece of content is to understand 3 things.
- What marketing avenue will this be used in
- Who is your target audience
- How content types fit into your funnel
- What your success metric is for this marketing activity
Platform and content
Where your marketing content will be used directly influences the format of the content.
The content you use on Instagram shouldn’t be the same you use on LinkedIn. And marketing emails going to brand new contacts shouldn’t be the same as more mature leads.
The largest influence on your content is how it will be used. We aren’t saying you can’t use one piece of content across multiple platforms. But each piece of content needs to be designed for a primary use. For instance, you can create a 1 minute Instagram Feed video and use that same video on LinkedIn, but you need to treat Instagram as your primary gauge of success for that video, not LinkedIn.
Platform also informs what type of content you create. 87% of shoppers start their search for a new product or service on digital channels. This means having content in the right place and serving the correct part of your marketing funnel can make a world of difference.
On social media, you want to focus on high-funnel topics that help to inform the audience about a service or product, as well as introduce them to your brand. Mid and low funnel content is generally served through digital advertising and emails, and the content tends to be more specific and focused on decision-making.
Optimizing your content for its use not only improves performance, it also helps to set expectations and understand results.
Understand your audience
Understanding who you are creating content for is the best way to improve the performance of your content.
Every business has a target audience. Age, sex, industry, title, interest, and on and on. But creating content for your target audience requires a little more understanding than those basic stats.
In order to create content that attracts your audience, you need to know what they are searching for and what they are asking. Applying this takes a few different shapes; picking the right keywords and titles, sharing on the right platforms, and creating the right types of content.
Take Instagram. 62.8% of their user base is 18 to 34. And as much as 72% of instagram users make purchase decisions based on something they saw on Instagram. So if your primary audience falls into the age demographics of Instagram users, it can be a powerful place to create content. That would make image and video-based content vital to your marketing.
What if you’re marketing B2B services to primarily older C-level execs? Your customer journey can be a lot more dislocated, with some research suggesting that 27% of buyers make their decision by independently researching online. This means appearing in search results, LinkedIn presence, and solid email marketing to follow up form submissions would guide you content creation. With options like these, you’ll be leveraging a lot more types of content including blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, videos, testimonials…basically, the full gamut.
Merging content into your marketing funnel
Once you know the primary platforms your content will be on, you need to identify what part of your marketing funnel the content will target.
High-funnel marketing content needs to be shorter, simpler, or more easily digestible. Leads at this part of your funnel aren’t engaged enough to read a 4,000 word document, but they may be willing to watch a 2 minute video or look over an infographic. Generally, most of your social media content should fall into your high-funnel marketing.
As you create content for further down your funnel, you begin introducing longer form and more specific content. You will be doing more direct marketing here, so emails and digital advertising become more prominent. eBooks, case studies, whitepapers, reports, webinars: all of these can be extremely effective.
Beyond the midpoint of your funnel, we begin driving prospects toward decision-making. This part of your funnel functions as much for marketing as it does sales augmentation.
At this point, you’ll want to provide competitive comparisons, testimonials, discounts/promo codes, demos, consultations and more. This is where content can switch back to being shorter, but extremely customized. You want to speak directly to any prospect at the lower points of your marketing funnel, addressing their interests, questions, and overcoming objections.
Your entire marketing funnel runs on content, so you need to have content to back up every part of your funnel. It’s all too easy to create a library of content that serves the top of your funnel while neglecting mid and bottom-funnel prospects. Take the time to plan content for your whole marketing funnel, and you’ll see better conversions and more ROI.
Define success before you create content
The last thing to do before you create your content is to define what success looks like. Whether it’s a LinkedIn post, an Instagram Story, or an email, you need to understand what the metric for success is.
Each type of content has different metrics to define success with, and what part of the funnel that content is targeting further determines what success can look like.
Aligning these metrics helps improve the success of your content. Using the graphic above, it’s easy to see that a lot of our social media content falls into the high-to-mid funnel area. From there, from mid to low funnel, digital advertising and email marketing become the go-to.
This helps to guide your content creation. A lot of our high funnel content is more general, acting as an introduction to a product or service and the most common questions surrounding them. Social media is an extremely wide net, which makes it a great place to create comparatively general content to drive interest and interaction in your brand. Shorter videos, blog posts, pictures and the like are great content to use here.
As we drive leads down the marketing funnel, digital advertising and email marketing gain strength. The way that we are able to target leads using these two platforms lets us create more specific content. This is where content like eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, testimonials, reports, studies, competitor comparisons and more drive leads further down the funnel.
Really diving into the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing and funnel can help set up the foundation for your content strategy.
The content menu
Alright, it’s officially time to get into the weeds.
There are a lot of content avenues available to every business. In a lot of ways, it’s a great opportunity for many businesses. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, though. So we’re going to take the time to dive into some of the most popular modem content styles that every business, regardless of size or industry, can use.
We’ll look at:
- Testimonials/Case studies
- Competitor comparisons
- Social media posts
Word count: 600 – 2000
Use: Website SEO, email marketing, social media, digital advertising
Strategy: Cover a relatively small topic, whether a high-level overview or a niche subtopic.
Blogs are a foundational piece of written content. Our search results are dominated by blog posts. Blogs are an unmatched tool for organic SEO growth, but they can also be leveraged to great effect in other channels.
They act as an indelible part of any customer journey, with as much as 80% of people on the internet interacting with social media sites and blogs.
You should aim to have a lot of blogs, as they are the easiest to produce written content. Due to the short length and the format being extremely freeform, blogs can essentially be whatever you want them to be. You can make a blog about anything: rankings or lists, market trends, interesting studies, news-related topics, and on and on.
If you’re focused on inbound marketing, writing blogs is going to be second nature as you’ll be pumping out two or more of these puppies a week. Organic SEO growth requires a healthy amount of blogs to target keywords and reach more potential customers.
Even if you’re strictly focused on email and paid advertising, blogs are great content to use as CTA to help prospects learn more about a topic while becoming acquainted with your brand.
Blog content directly impacts your lead generation as well, with companies that leverage blogs in their content marketing efforts generating 67% more leads per month than those that don’t.
You want to focus on a small enough topic that you can cover appropriately with 600 – 2000 words. Stay focused on one or two keywords, and sprinkle a few internal (links to other pages on your website) and external (link to other sites) links in there as well to help boost its SEO performance.
Brevity isn’t a bad thing, as shorter blog posts can have higher interaction due to the smaller time investment they require. And these things are great to share everywhere, including in emails and social media platforms.
Word count: 2000 – 4000
Use: Website SEO, email marketing, social media, digital advertising, gated downloadable asset
Strategy: Covers a broad topic. Especially popular to do an in-depth review of a product or service. Aims to answer most questions the reader may have.
Whitepapers are where you want to start putting in a bit more time working on your content.
Whitepapers are much deeper pieces. You don’t want a whitepaper to cover too broad a topic, but the topics whitepapers cover can certainly be broader than a blog. The main attribute of a whitepaper, though, is depth.
If you’re looking for an example, well…You’re reading it. This is a whitepaper, and it should give you a pretty good breadth of a topic with more than enough depth to answer most (but not all) of your pressing questions.
Whitepapers are ideal for a few topics.
- Software features
- New product or service explanation
- Industry-targeted explanations or use-cases
The content of your whitepapers needs an explicit goal in mind: what you want the reader to come away with. What information do you want the audience to have after interacting with your whitepaper? Whatever that is, write as much as you need to to get them there.
Whitepapers are also a great place to incorporate more design elements alongside your content. Think pull quotes, graphs, images, and the like. These things can be beefy, and your readers will benefit from other methods of presenting information. This can also allow you to cover more information with less space.
Whitepapers can be used in a variety of places. Where blogs are typically hosted on your website and free to access, whitepapers are great content that your audience is willing to do something to gain access to.
Fact is, when your audience is looking for whitepaper-level content, they will fill out a form to get access to it. 75% of consumers say they will share more information to get access to a whitepaper. This makes it the ideal type of content to use alongside digital advertising.
You can host your whitepapers on your website just like you would a blog. Or if some of your whitepapers are hot topics, you can put them as a downloadable asset behind a form. You can also attach whitepapers directly to emails, making them great for 1-to-1 follow-ups if a prospect is looking for more information on a specific topic.
Word count: 4000+
Use: Downloadable asset, email marketing, digital advertising
Strategy: This is a broad topic and that goes into depe detail. It should cover a large topic to the maximum depth. Leave no stone unturned when writing your eBooks.
This is the big kahuna.
eBooks are vital pieces of content to have in your library, but you aren’t going to be producing one of these every week. Hell, you’ll be doing well if you consistently pump one of these out every quarter.
These pieces of content should be large and in depth. They should look great and read better. They should cover a broad topic in as exhaustive a depth as possible. eBooks need to guide readers from introduction to a topic all the way to niche and minutiae.
eBooks should also incorporate great visuals that not only support the text, but present unique perspectives that help convey information in different ways. These should be fully-branded affairs, prominently featuring your logo and colors.
Layout also matters for eBooks as they should be readable in a booklet-like fashion. That means a title page, table of contents, page numbers, chapters (topics), and the whole shebang. Organization is critical for this amount of information, and your readers should be able to stop reading and quickly dive back into the topic they were researching with a glance at the table of contents.
Another unique thing about eBooks is how they are used. More often than not, you shouldn’t give out eBooks for “free.” That means if you host them on your website, make sure to put them behind a form fill. eBook are also great items to leverage in your low-funnel digital advertising, as they are the ideal piece of content for individuals who are preparing to make a buying decision.
Video content is becoming the new go-to for marketers. 64% of buyers purchase a product after they see a video from the brand. 80% of people will pay for an app or software after watching a video. Emails with video have a 16% higher open rate than those without.
These stats are just a few of many that paint the importance of video for modern marketers. Video content consumption is on the rise, and 54% of consumers want more.
On top of this, social media platforms have all integrated video in a very serious way, creating more avenues than ever to get eyes on your videos.
Videos are a fantastic content type that can be used almost anywhere. They are a natural fit for social media and digital advertising, especially on YouTube, where 87% of marketers say they are finding the most success.
Now, cost-wise, videos tend to be among the most expensive pieces of content you can create. On the low end, producing a basic video can cost $1,200. If you want a commercial-quality marketing video, you’re looking at spending around $50,000. But not every video you market with has to be an expertly-produced piece of art. In fact, videos shot on phones are an acceptable level of quality, especially on social media.
As a business, it doesn’t hurt to have a few well-produced videos to use on your website and for some digital advertising. Just don’t let the need for high production value stop you from making videos that can be effective with a what-you-have-in-the-office set up.
People respond well to thought-leaders, where information is king. Posting simple videos where a member of your staff is covering a FAQ or topic in a minute or two is a great way to get some video content on social media platforms that people want to watch.
This is the reason why having videos that cover several different spans of length and different production values help improve the crawlability and interaction for your audience. If you have videos that are 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes, you’ll have content that anyone who interacts with your brand will consume. Some of the most popular types of video content to market with are:
- News/current event recaps and synopsis: Having timely content on discussions that are happening right now is a great way to get active viewers who are ready to interact with content covering the topic.
- FAQ explainer: Videos can be a great format to knock out common questions that can be answered quickly and succinctly, especially if you need to show some hands-on work.
- How-tos and step-by-step guides: People who are trying something new or fixing something look for a video to guide them through the process.
- Testimonials: Have a customer get in front of the camera to talk about why your products or services are great.Customer testimonials are one of the best ways to improve the perception of your brand with prospects.
- “About Us”: About us style videos are a great way to give a viewer quick insight into your company, your culture, and what makes you different.
- Webinars: These act as deep dives into specific topics that focus on high interaction. Webinars are an excellent marketing tool: you can send out email campaigns to sign up, and each of those sign ups delivers a new lead into your pipeline. The live format of webinars also makes it a natural fit for interacting directly with prospects and learning more about what they are looking for.
Just like the written content types, video content can cover a wide variety of investment and quality, so don’t get stuck thinking you need to drop thousands of dollars to create a marketing-worthy video. Sometimes having a simple video covering the right topic can drive a ton of eyes to your brand.
Infographics are an outstanding content format to have in your library. These highly visual, often stat-driven content pieces engage your audience in a way that no other content type does.
Infographics require less time to consume than written content like blogs, and less attention than videos. And they are often easily shareable. The best designed infographics can take up one or two pages of space and easily be attached as a PDF to emails.
What better way to show how well infographics can present information than to present information with an infographic?
- Reading comprehension improves by 50% with infographics
- Attention span increases by 83% when color is used in visuals
- Charts, graphics, color design and images can increase readership by 80%
- Infographics can increase website traffic by up to 12%
- Infographics are 3000% more likely to be read in their entirety than blog posts
- Articles with infographics get 178% more links than standard text articles
Boy, that’s a helluva case for infographics.
It’s not all good news for infographics, though. First, they are more expensive to create than blog posts. Second, they don’t help your SEO like blogs do. Because infographics are often hosted in an image format like .PDF or .jpg, search engines can’t crawl them for the metrics they use that push your website further up organic search results. There are ways to mitigate this a bit, such as metatags, but at the end of the day plain text information helps your SEO rankings better than infographics.
That’s why it’s a good idea to present some supporting text alongside your infographic when on your website. This supporting text helps you target the right keywords and, hopefully, gets more people to view your infographics.
Now, on the email side, infographics are the bomb. You just attach that PDF and your prospects have simple and easy to consume information at their fingertips. Adding this content type in the mix can drive increased engagement that helps you convert.
Rubber, meet road
Hopefully this whitepaper has helped you understand how your business can leverage different content styles to drive increased engagement and drive more sales.
Start creating some content of your own. Write a blog, plan out a whitepaper, hire a videographer to produce a quick video. The best way to really understand each content style and how they’re used is to create some. Grow your content library and strategize how you can use each piece of content.
There is a lot of information that can help you discover new and creative ways to use your content to maximize the ROI you get, and we cover a lot of them in other pieces of content. But honestly, creating content is never wasted effort. Even if you don’t use it tomorrow, you can use it a little further down the road.
Like we said earlier, all of your marketing runs on content. The more, the better. So while you’re planning your marketing strategy and establishing goals, get cracking on some content. That way, when you’re ready to market you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips.
And if you want information about strategies for using your new content, subscribe to our newsletter. We regularly put out new helpful content at GlassHive, and we want you to have it when you need it.