Does content marketing really generate leads and revenue, or is it just a buzzword?

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Content marketing has maintained its place as one of the most popular digital marketing strategies for many years thanks to its accessibility, easy scalability, and high ROI potential. But is content marketing still as effective in 2023? Or is the written word on the way out in favor of video shorts and AI chatbots?

To answer this question, we got in touch with marketing experts across a range of industries to ask their opinions on the future of content marketing. Their answers give us some interesting perspectives on how to integrate content marketing with your wider digital marketing strategy, and ideas for approaches you can take to get the best results.

Andreea Cojocariu
Revenue Marketing Leader

While well meaning, marketers (myself included) overuse marketing catchphrases.

  • Content Marketing
  • Brand Awareness
  • Integrated Marketing Strategy
  • Demand Generation
  • Revenue Marketing

All of those phrases are just phrases unless properly executed. And really – all of those phrases are referring to the same thing.→ How organizations reach and concvert buyers to customers. The keyword to focus on is all.

Content marketing is just as much marketing as demand generation (because you need content to generate demand).

Content marketing is just as much marketing as brand awareness (because you need content to build your brand).

All marketing activities drive demand and revenue. But the problem we seem to have is that we get stuck in one thing versus the other. Content marketing vs. demand generation – or brand awareness vs. demand generation. Leaders want quantifiable data that shows an increase in demand (leads, opportunities) and revenue. Content marketing is known for being unknown. Those who work with content know it can generate leads and drive revenue but have a hard time proving content marketing is more than just a catchphrase. It’s because marketing is in a rutt about how it thinks about marketing, content, and revenue.

It’s time to rethink how we approach all of marketing, and here’s how.

Make your marketing organization a truly integrated marketing function.

A truly integrated marketing function breaks down communication and fosters communication between teams. Leaders come to the table at the very beginning and then encourage their teams to meet as a group. Demand gen, marketing operations, product marketing, and your content team especially need to come together and discuss the content marketing strategy as part of an overall marketing effort. Content should be part of campaigns, not just its own siloed action item.

Content marketing touches every function of marketing because when good content is created and disbursed across all your marketing efforts, you create a consistaent experience throughout the entire buyer’s journey.  Buyers need content to discover you (SEO), learn more about you (middle of the funnel), and make the decision to finally sign on the bottom line (bottom of the funnel). Sales also needs content to help along the way too.

Make sure to create content for every part of the buyer’s journey.

Be intentional with content pieces and ensure you have content for every part of the buyer’s journey. Then make sure you dice up the content into nuggets for each part of the integrated marketing campaign (social, emails, blogs, etc.).  Get even more specific and plan for content that not only touches not only the buyer’s journey, but also each persona you’re targeting.

There is value in SEO.

At the heart of SEO is understanding how your buyers find you. Break that down to knowing what phrases they use to describe what they’re looking for and you have the start of a list of possible phrases (SEO keywords). Do your due diligence and get data for those keywords (keyword research). Use those keywords in content on your website  (SEO) and then do what most marketers don’t do. Incorporate those keywords into all content pieces even if search engines don’t crawl those pieces. The reason you want to include keywords in emails, sales enablement pieces, etcand so on is psychological. Your buyer has these same keywords in mind at all times. Seeing those in any content piece will only reinforce your messaging. Think of it as brand awareness for content. The consistency (keywords and messaging) will help increase conversions.

Get operational and measure everything.

The biggest challenge for content is gathering data for reporting. The reason this is so hard for organizations who can’t afford a content tracking solution is becausethat the right people aren’t part of the discussion from the beginning. It goes back to ensuring you have a truly integrated marketing function. Operationalize your content and keep it simple. Be dedicated to data integrity even if it means manual tracking.

  • The best way to do that is to have an inventory of all content. Do this however works best for your organization (think Google Sheets).
  • For every piece of content, assign UTM parameters, and find a way to track those numbers. Use AI, your CRM, or a homegrown system. I recommend using your CRM (triggered by a click).
  • Create a custom field for content in Salesforce  (using the utm function) and make sure it flows through from lead to contact.
  • Report on performance. If you tie content UTMs in your Marketing CRM, you’ll be able track engagement. When reporting in Salesforce, you get to tie content back to leads, opportunities, and revenue.

The hurdle has been that this can be a manual process – tracking EVERY piece of content. And it is. But we live in the time of AI, so I’m sure we can automate this so it doesn’t have to be.

It’s all marketing.

Content marketing is a buzzword just as much as demand generation is a buzzword. Content marketing is marketing just as much as brand is marketing and along with demand generation. Buyers need content to convert and become a customer. A blog post, a search ad,  social media post, website – it’s all content. Stop thinking of marketing in siloes and start thinking about marketing holistically. Don’t treat copywriters like just writers. They are part of your team whether in- house or an agency. With a little structure, you can prove that content actually generates leads and revenue.

Tom Shivers
President of Capture Commerce

One client needed more content on their website to attract their ideal prospect and engage them at different points in their journey to buy. Although my client agreed with my content marketing plan, there were no copywriters who were qualified to provide authentic, in-depth content to answer the real questions of quality prospects.

I needed access to an internal expert. Although the CEO was not available for this project, he gave me the names of a few people. I communicated with them and one by one grew my list of experts to interview. As the CEO saw what I was doing and its potential, he sent me more names outside his organization. The project grew and took on a life of its own. I was interviewing the industry’s leaders each week, managing webinars and creating lead generating assets that brought in hundreds of leads each year.

Some of the lead generating assets included: a library of manuals for each piece of equipment they sold, tech support videos for field equipment operators, an equipment operators directory, video interviews with some of the leaders in the industry, webinars and other assets.

Eleanor B
Marketing specialist at Commercial Trashcans Warehouse

A thorough content marketing strategy is far more than just a buzzword. Having a great content marketing strategy is an effective way to generate leads for businesses and generate revenue for them as a result. The purpose of content marketing is to attract and engage a target audience by creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content.

As part of my work with a recent client, I was able to increase their leads by 100% year on year as a result of creating helpful tools such as mortgage calculators, long-form articles, as well as improving pre-existing articles on their website.

In the cybersecurity industry, another client was able to achieve number-one placements by creating a content calendar to support their ongoing marketing efforts that were effective in helping their company to rank for highly lucrative keywords. As a result of this, they have been able to onboard a large number of enterprise clients in the government and education sectors.

Bethany M. Simmons
Executive Director at Skyword

Content marketing? It’s not just some fancy buzzword. It’s the real deal. And let me tell you, when done right, it can catapult your business into the stratosphere of leads and revenue.

Picture this: You create killer content that’s valuable, relevant, and consistent. You’re not just slapping some random words on a screen; you’re providing genuine value to your audience. And what happens? Your brand awareness skyrockets. People start recognizing you, remembering you, and trusting you. That’s the power of content marketing, if you take time to understand what your audience actually cares about.

Once you have the strategy dialed in, your content becomes a lead-generating machine. You offer up those valuable resources like e-books, webinars, or white papers, and in return, people willingly hand over their contact info. You’ve got yourself a treasure trove of leads to nurture and convert into cold, hard revenue.

And let’s not forget about search engine visibility. When you use those keywords in your content, remember the ones your audience cares about, and suddenly you’re climbing the ranks. Your brand is popping up everywhere, attracting organic traffic like a magnet. More eyeballs mean more potential customers, which means more cha-ching in your pocket.

But here’s the real kicker. Content marketing establishes you as a thought leader, a trusted expert in your industry. You’re not just another faceless corporation; you’re the go-to authority. People seek you out for advice, guidance, and solutions. That’s when loyalty kicks in. Your audience becomes raving fans, loyal customers who keep coming back for more.

And guess what? Your content showcases the amazing features and benefits of your products or services. As a result, customers begin to crave more. You’re enticing them for that sweet, sweet upsell or cross-sell.

So, my friends, content marketing is no joke or buzzword. It’s a game-changer, a revenue-generating powerhouse. But remember, it’s not just about throwing content out there. Why on earth would you want to put out content for the sake of putting out content. That’s just the same old sameness and frankly, boring. It’s about crafting valuable, relevant, and consistent content that connects with your audience. Audience connection is key. And it does take time, strategy, and critical thinking. So, get out there, be a thought leader, and let the world know why your business is the real deal.

Only in some cases. When there is a strategy behind the creation of content, yes, content marketing becomes a means to increase sales and contacts.

Creating and sharing quality content is essential to respond to the specific needs of prospects and customers, the goal of content marketing is to create a personalized strategy that allows the target audience to find exactly what they are looking for, when they need it most. It is important to create content for all stages of the funnel, being present in the SERPs with both informational and commercial and transactional content.

As a SEO Specialist, I do careful keyword research for my clients, covering every angle of the product or service they offer, creating a “silo” web architecture to fortify the domain’s topical authority.

Dim Stoyanov
Principal Consultant at Know & Connect

Content marketing can be a great way for both B2C and B2B businesses to generate leads and boost revenue. But not all content marketing campaigns are created equal.

To make content marketing a success, marketers should approach it both strategically, by giving careful consideration to the channels, creatives, messaging, and customer journeys or conversion funnels for their campaigns, as well as tactically, by making sure that they have the operations and resources necessary to make that happen.

Trying to be on as many channels as possible and target as broad of an audience as one can is a recipe for failure. So is trying to measure the ROI of advertising and marketing spend with the wrong time frame. For example, content marketing campaigns that rely on paid traffic sources have a quick feedback loop, whereas those that rely on organic traffic sources require a multi-month or multi-year measurement window.

Bryony Pearce
Chief Marketing Officer at The Alliance

I 100% think content marketing generates leads, and we have many success stories here at The Alliance! You can’t just keep asking people to buy your product, and in my opinion, an effective marketing strategy has content at its core, all targeting different stages of the funnel.

Using our courses as an example, we have playbooks around our course topics. People who download this aren’t sales-ready, but we do know they’ve got an interest/need around that topic, so they’re really relevant people to share more content around that topic with → if they continue to engage with our top-of-funnel content, that’s a decent sign they’ve got a knowledge gap that needs filling, which is exactly what our products can do.

So then, once we’ve nurtured them, we’ll dial it up and send them more product-led content — like taster packs or freebie templates, and this is where we start generating qualified leads, but we literally could not have qualified these leads without all the amazing content we produced and distributed in the first place.

For context and to bring this to life, very recently, this 30-60-90 day template was the primary source for a $24,000 deal the sales team closed.

Content marketing might not generate immediate results, but it’s certainly not a buzzword and has (and will always have) an insanely important role in driving leads and revenue — when done right, and I think getting it right is where a lot of people understandably struggle. If you don’t play the long game and you don’t carefully consider the stage people are at and type of content you’re distributing where/when/to who, it won’t pay off. But if you hit that sweet spot, it’ll become a crucial part of your lead engine.

Brooklin Nash
co-founder of Beam Content

Content marketing 100% generates leads and revenue. Full stop. But here’s the important part: great content marketing is maybe 40% about the content and 60% about what you do with it. You can write some fantastic pieces of content for your site… but how are you distributing it? How are you connecting the dots between the sales team, demand generation, branding, customer marketing, and more?

I think one of the problems surrounding content marketing is folks typically here “content” and think of one specific thing: SEO blog posts, social media, gated assets. Content marketing isn’t any one of those things—it’s all of them, and more if you’re doing it right. Content can act as the connective tissue between your ToFu brand awareness, your MoFu demand capture, and your BoFu conversion. If you can (a) start with a true strategy that aligns with your audience, (b) create compelling content, (c) distribute it via social, SEO, paid campaigns, email, and sales enablement, and (d) put measurement in place so you know what your content-influenced pipeline looks like… you’re probably doing great, content-marketing-wise.

Content marketing is more than just a popular term; it’s a powerful tool for generating leads that works in three essential ways:

  • By offering valuable and informative content, it attracts potential customers to your business’s website or social media platforms. Here, you can gather leads and build connections.
  • High-quality, expert content helps your business become a trusted authority in your industry. This trust and credibility make your audience more likely to choose your product or service when they’re ready to buy.
  • Smart content marketing is crucial for effective SEO. By boosting your website’s visibility on search engines, you’ll enjoy a continuous flow of organic traffic – potential leads actively seeking the solutions your business provides.

Сontent marketing isn’t just a passing trend; it’s a vital strategy for businesses looking to grow their lead generation efforts.

Aug 05, 2023

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I’m an online marketing professional with over 10 years of experience. I have a background in web development and SEO, which I leverage to provide high-quality content strategy and content creation for businesses.

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