A healthy dose of skepticism is always a good idea when it comes to things that could impact the future of your business one way or the other.
The decision of whether to give content marketing a shot being one of those things.
In this article, I will attempt to answer the question “Is content marketing worth it” with empathy and respect towards you, the reader, and your desire to make an educated decision regarding this topic.
Let’s start, shall we?
How big is the content marketing industry?
First of all, let’s take a bird’s eye view of the content marketing industry.
This report suggests that the content marketing industry is going to grow by $269 billion in the next 4 years.
The year-over-year growth rate for 2020 is estimated at 12% and the market growth will accelerate at a CAGR (compounding annual growth rate) of 13%.
41% of the growth will happen in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, but the steady growth will happen in other regions too.
This survey shows that 62% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budgets in 2020.
Those same marketers, even though they obviously believe in it, have some pain points related to content marketing too.
I’ll go through some of them later on in this article.
The size of the content marketing industry can be indirectly observed through the sheer amount of content that’s being added to the internet on a daily basis.
Over 6 million blog posts are published daily.
Obviously, not all of them are marketing-related, but a good percentage of them certainly are.
Individuals and businesses are trying to make money online.
It’s as simple as that.
Now that I’ve painted the picture of how thriving the content marketing industry is, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why content marketing is worth it for you.
Is content marketing worth it for your business?
Let’s cut to the chase.
Businesses of all sizes and industries found a way to make content marketing work for them.
Content marketing is all about providing value, being consumer-centric, and connecting people with solutions to their problems.
In other words, putting the customer first.
That’s all content marketing is, in essence.
When you boil it down like that, it’s easy to realize how effective content marketing can potentially get.
Some of the biggest brands in the world, like John Deere, leverage content marketing to create positive business results.
In the 120-year-old history of The Furrow, John Deere mentioned their company 10-15 times in their own magazine.
They put the needs of the farmers before the needs of their own company.
John Deere, a global leader in the agricultural machinery industry, decided to also become the biggest media company in agriculture and build relationships and trust with farmers that way.
Therein lies the secret.
To make content marketing work for your business, you need to start thinking like a media company and not like a salesperson.
Providing value to your audience first and letting them come to you for business on their own accord is the purest form of content marketing.
If you have enough patience to wait for that to start happening organically, you will make content marketing work for your business no matter what size your company is or industry you’re in.
It even works for personal brands and authority figures.
What does it mean to think and act like a media company?
Thinking and acting like a media company in the context of content marketing means producing useful content for a targeted audience on a regular basis.
It also means not being sales-oriented all of the time.
Sales-oriented content has its place, of course.
You have to make sales to stay in business.
So when should you be sales-oriented and when should you be information-oriented?
To know when to focus on selling and when to focus on delivering valuable information without expectations, you have to consider the search intent behind the keyword or topic you’re covering.
Search intent is the reason behind the search query.
There are four main categories of search intent:
- Navigational search intent
- Informational search intent
- Commercial search intent
- Transactional search intent
In content that caters to commercial and transactional search intent, it’s perfectly OK to lean on the sales side of things.
In fact, you have to be sales-oriented in those cases because being sales-oriented at that point is how you provide the most value to your audience.
In other words, in commercial and transactional search queries, your audience is looking for and needs sales-oriented information.
On the other hand, in content that caters to informational search intent, being salesy has little to no place.
This is where you are 100% focused on providing value with zero expectations.
Informational content is where you build trust and relationships with your audience and let the “media company in you” take the lead.
Is content marketing cost effective?
Achieving a positive ROI with your marketing efforts no matter what they are is critically important to stay in business.
I have huge empathy for you as a business owner when it comes to this.
And that’s why I’ll be as blunt as possible in this section.
Content marketing is only ROI positive IF (and that’s a big ‘if’ right there):
- Your execution is on point – meaning, you create useful content that your audience needs and wants to consume
- You’re patient – it can take months and sometimes even years for content marketing to start bringing in a significant number of eyeballs to your offers
- You’re aware that creating content is either laborious if you do it in-house or costly if you’re outsourcing this activity
- You’re committed to publishing high-quality content – the competition is fierce and only the high-quality content stands a chance of rising to the top where all of the traffic is
- You’re committed to publishing content consistently – even consistency is something that search engines are paying attention to
- You’re willing to master the platforms you decide to publish your content on – platform nuances are very important and they can make all the difference in the world when it comes to achieving poor to mediocre or excellent results
Getting into content marketing thinking it’s a magic solution that will get you great business results easily and quickly is a recipe for failure.
However, if you’re serious about making the necessary sacrifices and building an online presence that will serve as a foundation for your long-term success, content marketing might be the right solution for you.
How do you measure effectiveness of content marketing?
Measuring the effectiveness and ROI of content marketing isn’t always as straightforward as measuring the ROI of an ad campaign.
Getting 1,000 page views on your blog article within a month doesn’t necessarily tell you how many of those page views converted into leads or sales.
Sure, every industry has some general conversion statistics you can apply, but you won’t really know unless you’re a bit more creative about tracking the results.
For example, setting up different links to the same Sign-Up Form and planting them within different pieces of content can tell you exactly which piece of content is driving the sign-ups and how many of them.
Another example would be if your CTA (call-to-action) is asking your audience to call your number and set up an appointment at the end of an article.
You could set up a different virtual number and track exactly which piece of content compelled your potential customer to call you.
At the end of the day, you know your business the best and odds are you will notice the influx of new customers that you can’t tie with your other traditional marketing efforts like paid ads.
Simply taking the number of customers you know for a fact come from traditional marketing efforts and subtracting it from the total number of customers can give you a ballpark number of customers that most likely come from your content marketing efforts.
Here are a few more hints that your content marketing is working:
- More audience engagement
- More backlinks
- More social shares
- More social mentions
- More traffic to your domain
How big of a budget do you need to start with content marketing?
To reach 1,000 people through Facebook Ads, you know you need an X amount of dollars.
Facebook won’t take anything else but your money to let you tap into their audiences.
Likewise, an ad spot in a magazine will run you a set amount of your marketing dollars.
However, you can start creating your own content on any budget.
Even if your budget is a big, fat $zero$.
In other words, content marketing lets you exchange your time and effort for results.
On the other hand, having a big budget lets you speed things up and produce content at scale.
A word of caution: because content marketing requires a versatile skill-set, taking things slowly and learning the ropes is preferable to spending a lot of money fast and realizing you made huge mistakes along the way that killed your results.
The beauty of content marketing is in its flexibility.
Once you know what you’re doing, you can always shift into a higher gear and scale things up.
How do you set the initial content marketing budget and not jeopardize your business?
You can’t allocate all of your marketing budget into content marketing overnight.
That might destroy your business.
Being mindful of that fact, a smart way of setting up your initial content marketing budget is to allocate an amount of money that you don’t need ANY ROI from and your business will not be affected.
In other words, if you allocate $5,000 into content marketing and don’t see any results from your content marketing efforts within a year, you still won’t go out of business.
That way, you’re not putting pressure on your content to perform and you’re free to create content that’s entirely consumer-centric and useful.
Once you start seeing some results, you can always expand your content marketing budget.
What are some of the objections marketers have with content marketing?
Even the marketers who swear by it sometimes struggle with some of the aspects of content marketing.
For example, the constant changes of search and social media algorithms can decimate your content marketing results.
Businesses who entirely relied on Facebook for their source of free organic traffic hit a wall with the changes to the Facebook algorithm that killed the organic reach on the platform.
The solution to this is to create your own website and email list and be in control.
Never rely 100% on somebody else’s property to drive business.
They can take it away from you in a heartbeat.
Another big objection marketers have is that high-quality content is difficult to create and it’s not nearly as scalable as running ads, for example.
For more content, you need more staff which means more investment which puts stress on your budget and makes it increasingly difficult to maintain positive ROI.
The solution to this is squeezing your content for everything it’s got.
That means being smart about repurposing content.
Check out my article “17 Content Marketing Types and How to Repurpose Them” to find out more about the concept of reusing content.
The difficulty of tracking the effectiveness of content marketing is another thing that scares marketers.
Marketers are used to being able to rely on solid numbers to back up their marketing spend.
Content marketing is a different kind of beast, though.
It is better utilized by the patient marketers who have goals that align better with building brand, increasing brand awareness, establishing trust and creating relationships with their customers.
What are the benefits of content marketing?
If you’ve read all this and are still determined to leverage content marketing to drive business results, you’re in for a wild ride.
You can expect a solid year of doubt and hardship.
But provided that your execution is at least somewhat on-point and slowly improving with time, you can expect significant benefits like:
- Brand building and increased brand awareness
- Establishing authority within your niche or industry
- Increasing sales and lead generation
- Cutting costs per sale or lead
- Improving SEO
- Attracting targeted and organic traffic
For more reasons why content marketing is important and how it can improve your business, feel free to check out my article on that very topic.
It’s impossible to answer the question from the title of this article with a simple Yes or No without a few major caveats.
Action and execution play a huge role in making content marketing work for your business.
What can be said is that you’ll find content marketing success stories everywhere you look for.
Businesses of all sizes, niches, and industries are finding ways to make content marketing work for them every day.
My belief is that content marketing works like a charm if you have a level-headed approach to it.
Meaning, educate yourself on the hardships, learn the best practices, and be ready to grind.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects of content marketing?
Let me know in the comments!