I actually hate the term, “Content Marketing”.
Yes, I know I run a company that specializes in content marketing. Yes, I know that teaching content marketing is the purpose of this entire blog. That doesn’t make me like the term, “Content Marketing” any better.
Because it’s too broad. I like specifics. I like to get right to the point and be clear about what we’re talking about.
So when you say that it’s about time your company started “doing content marketing”, what does that actually mean? What does it look like? What’s involved?
Well, there are many different answers to those questions. My goal for this article is to help you decide which channel or method of content marketing is right for you and your company.
Types of Content Marketing Channels
There are many different types of content marketing channels, far too many to list and cover here in this article. So I’m going to focus on the four most common ones that we all come across every day:
- Audio (podcasting)
- Speaking at conferences
I like to think of them as “channels”, since different audiences will tune into a different mix of content types. For example, some like to read and subscribe to blogs. Others prefer to tune into podcasts when they’re on the go. Some are more visual and prefer to watch videos. Many people tune into a mix of different channels.
Before I dive into the benefits and potential drawbacks of each one, let’s start with your decision making process.
Factors to Consider
There are three basic factors to weigh against each other when deciding which method of content marketing is right for you and your company. Remember that just because a method is perfect in one way, it doesn’t mean the other factors will align. You have to weigh them all together.
Here are the three criteria to base this decision on:
Your natural inclination
This might sound a bit obvious, but it’s more important than it may seem.
Your best bet is to go with the content channel that feels most natural to you. That is, start with the channel that is easiest for you to get your thoughts out and publish something quickly.
This will be different for everyone. Personally, I have always communicated best by writing, so blogging has been my go-to content marketing channel. Over the past few years I also expanded into video, audio (podcasting) and even speaking at events. But those methods never came as natural to me as developing my thoughts through writing.
Remember, you’re only deciding on your starting point. Whichever channel you’re naturally inclined to go with will also be the one you’re most likely to stick with long enough to gain traction. Think of it like starting with the low-hanging fruit.
You can expand into other channels later. You can combine different channels and repurpose content from one channel to another. But this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Start with one channel that’s best for you, then build out from there.
Easiest to streamline
While it’s important to consider which channel you are most inclined towards, it’s equally important to think about how it will eventually streamline and scale.
If your content marketing plan is to promote your company rather than just you, then you have to consider how it will continue to produce results even when you’re not personally involved in the production of content.
How easy will it be to delegate some or all of the content work in each channel? Do you have access to resources that would make one channel easier to streamline than another?
Take PodcastMotor, as an example. They’re a podcast editing and production company. So producing and streamlining their own podcast, Podcastonomics, is easier for them than most. Of course, they’ve expanded their reach by implementing a blogging strategy too, which compliments their audio channel nicely.
Ability to reach your target customers
The last criteria for picking the right content channel, and perhaps the most important, is figuring out which one has the highest likelihood of reaching your target customers.
For many businesses, especially those selling to an online audience, customers can be reached through several, or even all of the content channels I’m covering in this article. But some make more sense to pursue than others.
Blogging tends to fit all online businesses, since blog articles can reach customers in a variety of ways, including email, social media, organic search, or personal recommendations. But if your audience is more tech and web-savvy, there’s a high likelihood that they tune into podcasts, so an audio channel might make the most sense. Or your customer base might be very active conference-goers, so speaking might be the right venue for you.
For example, when I met Rachel Andrew at MicroConf last month, she told me that she does about 30 speaking engagements per year and that’s their primary marketing channel for the Perch CMS. Their target customers are design agencies who attend a large number of web industry conferences each year.
Content Marketing Channels, Compared
Now let’s dive into those 4 common channels, and see if we can identify benefits or drawbacks that are specific to each. Keep in mind, you and other founders will have different perspectives on this, so it’s important to weigh things out using the criteria below.
Blogging is kind of the “go to” channel when most people think about content marketing, and for good reason. It’s the most adaptable and can have a wide reach into many different sub-channels. Don’t miss our guide to starting your blogging strategy on the right foot.
For example, a blog post can drive targeted traffic to your site from networks like Quora, Hacker News, or LinkedIn. As your blog is built up over time, it can move up in search engine rankings, bringing an increasing number of new visitors each month.
Benefits of blogging:
- Highly adaptable, shareable, with a far reach
- Improves search ranking over time
- Ideal for integrating with email marketing
- Difficult to stay consistent (unless you’ve outsourced to a reliable and reputable done-for-you blogging service… ahem.)
- Writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit, which can make it difficult to start.
Video has proven to be very effective for building strong bonds with your audience, thanks to the visual medium.
There are lots of directions you can go with it. You can teach an educational lesson via video, the way Rand Fishkin does with his Whiteboard Friday videos at Moz. Or you can do video interviews like Andrew Warner does at Mixergy. You can even combine video posts with your blog posts, the way Steli Efti does on the Close.io blog.
The thing with video, though, is it can be more difficult to produce and ship. Of course, that depends on your experience and preference.
Benefits of video:
- Visual medium forms a strong bond with your audience
- Can be more effective at demonstrating ideas
- Can increase search traffic and shareability.
Potential drawbacks of video:
- Can be more time consuming to produce
- Can be difficult to streamline or delegate to someone else
I’ll admit, audio is a personal favorite of mine. Not necessarily as a marketing channel (though I think it can be great for that in certain cases), but as a consumer. I’m a podcast junkie!
Like video, audio podcasts form a strong bond with their audience. And the unique thing about podcasts is their audience tends to be extremely loyal (there are a few shows I’ve been tuning into week in, week out, for years).
However, not all audiences are tapped into the podcasting world. It hasn’t quite gone mainstream yet, but many say it’s getting there. Podcasting can also be a bit more time consuming to produce, especially if you’re doing the editing in-house.
Benefits of podcasting:
- Forms a strong bond with your audience
- Audience loyalty can be very high
- Casual, conversational tone can be fun to produce!
Potential drawbacks of podcasting:
- More time consuming to produce
- Not all audiences are the right fit
If a podcast sounds appealing, but also feels like a lot of work, Audience Ops can take production off your hands and leave the fun part to you.
You may not consider speaking (like, in-person in the real physical world) a form of content marketing, but it sure is. Afterall, you (or someone from your company) is in front of an audience, sharing your ideas, teaching, and building exposure. That’s content marketing.
It can be highly effective, for the right audiences. If your target customers are active conference-goers, then speaking could be an ideal channel to focus on.
However, it’s not the most scalable method. You, or someone from your company must travel to conferences, land speaking engagements, and somehow track the results.
Benefits of speaking:
- Excellent way to build authority as an expert
- Brings potential leads directly to you, in person, at the events you speak at.
Potential drawbacks of speaking:
- Difficult to “break in” as a new speaker
- Difficult to streamline and scale.
The Bottom Line
Don’t you wish that by now I would have told you which content marketing channel is the absolute best of the best—the one that you definitely should focus on?
Sorry to disappoint. You’ll have to determine that on your own. I hope this article will help you do that!