Content marketing and brand building are a great match because they’re both focused on compounding effects that yield great ROI in the long-term.
No matter if you’re trying to build a personal brand, turn your small business into a brand, or increase brand awareness of an existing brand, content marketing should be a tool in your digital marketing toolbox.
For example, video marketers see a 54% increase in brand awareness with their content among audience members.
A positive mobile experience with a brand will make 89% of people more likely to recommend that brand.
Let’s continue with the article and see how anyone can use content marketing to build brands and increase brand awareness.
What is Content Marketing?
When executed correctly, content marketing is the process of creating value-driven consumer-centric content that returns positive business results.
For a full content marketing ROI statistics, check out my article on the subject.
Solving problems without any expectations tends to breed positive consumer sentiments.
Content marketing is effective no matter what segment of audience or customer journey stage you’re targeting.
As long as your content is relevant and useful, content marketing will lend itself well to accomplishing any result you’re trying to get.
Content marketing works so well that you don’t even have to mention your product or service to get positive business results in the long run.
A great example of this is John Deere and their content marketing based magazine The Furrow.
In its 120 years of history, John Deere has mentioned their company only 15-20 times in their own magazine.
You would expect a company mentioning their products on every page of every issue of their magazine.
But people at John Deere had branding in mind, and not short-term sales results.
With The Furrow, John Deere has established themselves as thought leaders in agriculture.
That status alone is enough to drive business.
That’s how powerful content marketing can be.
Biggest personal and company brands in the world have realized this and are utilizing content marketing to increase their brand awareness and reach.
Why is branding important?
Branding is important because it differentiates you from the rest of the pack.
It homogenizes companies and even creates a team-like pride within the organization.
It also carries increased awareness and recognition.
On top of all that, branding is about to get even more important.
We are at the cusp of voice search and voice-first world.
Odds are, you already own a voice-first device like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Speaker-only devices and AI assistants are about to fundamentally change marketing, among other things.
Traditionally, you type your query into Google and the algorithm returns a bunch of results.
From there, you simply browse the results until you find what you’re looking for.
You can’t do that with the speaker-only devices.
There’s no display where you can access the search results.
You’re dependent on the AI assistants to choose the most relevant result for your query.
Imagine what kind of power we’re about to hand over to Amazon, Google, Apple, etc.
This is where branding will not only become very important but will make all the difference in the world.
For example, when you speak something like “Hey Alexa, order me some pizza” into your Amazon Echo device, the AI assistant will choose where that pizza is going to come from.
Unless your order is “Hey Alexa, order me some pizza from Joe’s pizzeria.”
For Joe’s sake, he better had been working on branding his pizzeria and establishing it as the best pizzeria in the area.
This is perhaps a trivial example, but voice search will impact everything and everyone trying to do business.
If you want to learn more about voice search, check out my article on the topic.
Branded Content vs Content Marketing
Branded content (or brand storytelling) and content marketing are two different things.
Branded content is content that’s supposed to convey what a brand is all about in a sophisticated and entertaining way.
It’s kind of a highbrow marketing technique.
Meanwhile, content marketing sends you into the trenches where it’s not nearly as glamorous.
Both branded content and content marketing have their place and are very useful when it comes to creating a brand and increasing brand awareness.
I just wanted to make this distinction because the two often get confused when people talk about content marketing for brands.
Branded content is a subject for a different article and I will not discuss it any further in this one.
Create a content marketing strategy
Naturally, you don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to your business so you’ll need a solid content marketing strategy.
Having said that, 63% of businesses don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. This goes to show that content marketing is still not taken as seriously as it should be by marketers.
By putting aside time and coming up with a content marketing strategy, you’ll already have a leg up over much of your competition.
Important note: execution is much more important than strategizing, however.
You can have the most elaborate content marketing strategy and not create quality content in sufficient quantity over a set period of time and have your content marketing efforts fall flat.
When coming up with your content marketing strategy, you’re going to:
1. Research your audience.
Construct a buyer persona to help you guide your content marketing strategy.
A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your target audience.
To get to know your buyer persona better, you need to ask a lot of questions about them and try to get the answers to those questions.
Get answers to questions like:
- Who is my target audience?
- How old are they?
- What do they do?
- How much do they make per year?
- Where do they hand out online?
- Where online do they look for answers to their problems?
- How much are they willing to spend on the solutions to their problems?
- What medium of content do they consume the most?
- What influences their buying decisions? Etc.
The more questions like this you can answer, the better you’ll know your audience.
The better you know your audience, the more accurately you’ll be able to pinpoint their friction points (or problems) in regards to your niche and product.
And the more accurately you can pinpoint their problems, the more relevant content you can produce to solve their problems.
2. Set your content marketing goals
Your content marketing strategy should include the expectations you have from your content marketing efforts.
Even if you’re not a hundred percent sure what to expect from your content marketing efforts, you should still set at least some general goals.
The goals are there to help you stay on track and not lose focus.
Your content marketing goals can be as broad or as narrow as you like.
They can be something like:
- Increase brand awareness
- Educate customers
- Recruit talented individuals
Or they can be more execution-oriented like:
- Publish 10 blog articles this month
- Get 5 backlinks for the blog this month
- Write 3 guest blog posts this month
No matter what goals you have, put them on paper and start creating content.
3. Set a content marketing budget
It’s impossible for a company to stop doing paid advertising and reroute an entire marketing budget into content marketing.
Especially keeping in mind that content marketing is a long-term strategy that doesn’t bring positive ROI overnight.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to set aside the amount of money that you can basically afford to waste.
In other words, if you don’t get any ROI, your company will be fine.
This way you’ll avoid the friction between the CFO and the content marketing team.
It’ll buy your content marketing team some time to dedicate to content creation and not have to justify their every move to the person responsible for finances.
Be as conservative with the initial content marketing budget as you need to be to ensure your business can afford it.
When you notice content marketing is starting to get results, you can always double down on it and increase the budget.
Statistics show that nearly 50% of businesses plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2020.
4. Decide on content marketing channels
Where you’re going to publish your content is going to be heavily influenced by the online habits of your consumer base.
In general, these are the platforms that can potentially produce the best results:
- Blogging – 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI from their inbound marketing.
- Youtube – 65% of them will visit a marketer’s website after viewing a brand-focused video.
- Podcasting – 80% of listeners can recall a brand advertised in a podcast.
- LinkedIn – 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content and say it’s the most effective social media platform.
- TikTok – TikTok is still an enigma for most marketers, but the platform is experiencing huge growth and organic reach so it’s worth exploring
Obviously, if you’re trying to develop a personal brand and are doing everything by yourself, you have to pick your “battles” carefully.
You can’t afford to pick everything and be stretched too thin.
But for a company that can afford a content marketing team, an omnichannel approach would be a great way to maximize brand building and brand awareness.
You want to get as much exposure and be present on as many platforms as you can.
5. Set a publishing schedule and be consistent
Consistently publishing high-quality content will do wonders for your brand building and brand awareness.
This is why you need a publishing schedule.
Keep in mind you can always adjust everything about your content marketing strategy, including the publishing schedule.
But not having one altogether would be a mistake.
Consistent publishing schedule demonstrates commitment and stability which positively impact how people perceive your brand.
Create content that solves problems
The second you have your content marketing strategy in place you have to start executing on it and start creating content.
Creating content for the sake of creating content will not get you far.
Your content has to be relevant and solve problems for your consumers.
Publish useful content for free without any monetary expectations from the consumer and you will maximize on the positive effects of content marketing.
It’s OK to sell but only when it makes sense.
Being too salesy only negates some of the trust that was established by the things you did right.
Your audience can tell when you’re being disingenuous.
On the flip side, 91% of consumers are prepared to reward brands for their authenticity.
Avoid making your brand the superhero of your content every time
Going back to the John Deere example from the beginning of this article, there’s no need for your brand or product to be the star of your content.
Remember, John Deere mentioned their products 15-20 times in their company-published agricultural magazine The Furrow over 120 YEARS.
Certainly, you can get through an entire article not shilling a product, right?
Kidding aside, for maximum impact, let your audience discover your offers on their own.
This approach creates trust and helps establish your expertise and thought leadership.
All three of these effects are invaluable when you’re building a brand.
These effects also carry a less glamorous but equally as important result in the fact that expert-level content attracts a lot of shares and backlinks.
This will help your content go up in the SERPs and bring in even more traffic.
You will notice that educational and informative content does better with your industry peers and content that’s sales-oriented does poorly in that department.
Which is only natural.
No one wants to link or share others’ sales offers.
Create written, video and audio content
I’ve touched upon the omnichannel content marketing strategy earlier.
Creating content on as many channels as possible at scale yields the best results, obviously.
There’s one more benefit of concentrating on all three content mediums.
And that’s being able to re-purpose your content on multiple channels.
For example, if you shoot an episode of your podcast and also film it, you can:
- Pull the audio and post it on podcasting platforms
- Post the video on Youtube
- Transcribe it and create a blog article
- Chop it up into medium-length pieces and post them on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Chop it up into short-length pieces and post them on Twitter and Instagram
- Pull interesting thoughts and ideas from the podcast and post them in written form on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
As you can see, you can get so much content out of a single podcast episode.
This kind of efficiency and speed enables you to maximize your content marketing efforts and get better results sooner.
Gary Vaynerchuk is the master of this technique.
Check out his deck on how to create 60+ pieces of content A DAY.
Most of your competition doesn’t create 60 pieces of content in a year.
Think about how much farther along would you be with this kind of content production.
Of course, we’re not all Gary Vaynerchuk.
But even managing to do a fifth of what he accomplishes would mean producing 10+ pieces of content a day.
That’s not too shabby either.
Engage your audience in the comments sections
Unless you’re getting hundreds or even thousands of comments every single day, there’s really no good reason not to reply to every one of them.
And even if you ARE getting hundreds or thousands of comments daily, you should still reply to at least some of them.
Replying to comments and engaging with your audience that way isn’t scalable, but it’s effective when it comes to brand building and increasing brand awareness.
Not only are you impacting the person you are directly replying to in a meaningful way, but other people see those interactions too.
Honestly, when I see s brand replying directly to their audience, I feel better about that brand.
To me, that’s a clear indication this person or company cares about their audience and isn’t afraid of putting themselves out there.
Plus, by conversing with your audience directly, you can extinguish so many flames before they burn down the house, so to speak.
Meaning, you can address issues before they escalate.
Stick with the 80:20 rule when it comes to SEO
Publishing quality content at scale is the most important aspect of content marketing, but SEO should not be neglected either.
80:20 rule is a great way to tackle SEO.
By employing best practices, you can accomplish 80% of the results by doing 20% of work.
Here are a few important areas of SEO you should keep in mind:
- Include the main keyword in title and meta description
- Use header tags in your articles to properly mark the content hierarchy
- Maintain a fast-loading website
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
- Maintain a clean user experience, avoid clutter
- Interlink your content
- Build up your domain backlink profile
- Use outbound links to high authority content
- Use relevant images and videos in your content
This might sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not.
Most of these are taken care of in the various stages of content production and they don’t require a lot of extra time and effort to do correctly.
Simply do the basics that yield the biggest results and ignore the ninja tactics that bring marginal results.
Pro tip: take note of how well your content is doing and when you notice you have a high-performing piece of content, double down on it.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s say one of your articles starts ranking high on Google and getting quite a bit of traffic.
When you have a winner like that, make sure to milk it for everything it’s got.
Open Google Search Console and see what keywords Google is ranking this piece of content highly for.
Then go back into that piece of content and expand on those keywords if you only mentioned them in passing.
In other words, add even more depth to this piece of content and make an absolute beast of an article no one can compete with.
This way, you will be improving a piece of content Google already likes.
When you do that, Google will send even more traffic your way.
It goes without saying, but never publish content you know is bad and maintain high levels of quality in general.
Throw a lot of content at the search engines and double down on what sticks.
Analyze your results and adjust your approach
Always keep analyzing the results and try to improve your approach to content marketing.
Don’t stay blindly loyal to what got you to a point if you notice you could get even better results by changing things up.
If you decide on an omnichannel approach, always try to add platform relevance to your content and pay attention to performance.
Do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t work.
This sounds simple enough, but people get sentimental and stick to what’s familiar even if the data tells them they need to change things.
Even if an entire platform stops working for you and you can’t figure out how to make it work again, it’s better to drop it and focus your attention on the platform that works.
Content marketing is a fantastic tool to build brands and increase brand awareness.
Just like branding, content marketing is a long-term game of taking small steps that compound into profound results over long periods of time.
Develop your content marketing strategy and be relentless when it comes to executing it.
Maintain a certain standard of quality, publish as much content as you can and double down on what works.
Content marketing and branding take time, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Stay true to your brand values and be authentic.
In the sea of ads and sales offers, consumers are looking for something more.
If you provide them value with no expectations attached, consumers will reward you.
Are you ready to start leveraging content marketing for your personal or company brand?