Content marketing is an online marketing technique that involves the creation, publishing, and distribution of content to a target online audience. The media formats used include how-to guides, blogs, news, case studies, video, e-books, white papers, infographics, quizzes, lists, webinar, surveys, interviews, editorials/ op-eds, email newsletters, podcasts, Q&A articles, and photos, among others. So, is content marketing an effective and efficient marketing technique? The best way to answer this question is to consider a few case studies.
#1. The Pioneers
The pioneers of content marketing, who include John Deere with the “The Furrow” magazine, Michelin with their “Michelin Guide”, and Jell-O with their cookbook, found great success in the beginning of the 20th century. As an example, Jell-O saw a rise of over $1 million between 1904 and 1906 when it distributed its cookbooks for free. The fact that The Furrow is still in distribution (from 1895) and it reaches over 1.5 million readers in over 40 countries in 12 languages is testament to the success of content marketing.
#2. American Express
American Express formed a partnership with Global Business Travel Association to research on the satisfaction level of its business travelers. The company created a content hub that included original research, blog posts, infographics, event presentations and listicles to educate suppliers and other stakeholders about expense management. This resulted in over 100 million publications, over 1,500 visits per page, and 100% higher engagement on LinkedIn.
Mint.com used MintLife, a personal finance blog, to build hype about a product they intended to launch. The company concentrated on creating an audience for MintLife that was independent of the product. The blog included such content as how-to guides on paying for college, getting out of debt, and saving for a house. The content also included Trainwreck Tuesday, a series on financial disasters, as well as interviews. The popularity of the site and the product grew so quickly that it was able to sell for $170 million to Intuit, just 3 years into the business. MintLife had 10 million users by 2013, thanks to this content marketing campaign.
Magnetic surveyed 100 retailers and 200 consumers in North America to get data for an eBook titled “Closing the Gap Between People’s Expectations and Retail Realities.” This led to media coverage in five major publications in the industry and the eBook made up 67% of all content downloads from the site.
#5. Red Bull
The popularity of content marketing is turning traditional businesses into publishers. YouTube is known for its high-energy beverage and its participation in Extreme sports and Formula 1 racing. The company’s Red Bull Media House produces full-length feature films for cinema as well as downstream channels (VOD, DVD, and TV). The company’s Red Bulletin is a popular international monthly magazine with a focus on men’s sports, lifestyle, and culture.
Comcast released a YouTube video highlighting the value of their solutions to NASCAR drivers. The video was promoted to social media channels and the brand community. The campaign also included content (video and articles) from thought leaders. The campaign led to 10,000 views of the content as well as 18,000 organic impressions.
Cisco has been very active on social media, which it uses alongside its ongoing engagement strategy. The company recently launched a new router exclusively on its social media channels. This saved the company around $100,000.
Another example of Cisco’s use of content marketing is its mock movie trailer called “Fast Innovation and the Slow Waiter” which featured tech leaders and CIOs from major companies discussing their use of technology to grow revenue. The humorous trailer led to 1,331 views, which is 5 times the average.
Makino used Facebook to drive traffic to its main website and to spark conversations. The campaign included content like product demos, awards webinars, blogs, infographics, customer success stories, and customer testimonial videos. It resulted in 515% increase in Facebook “likes”, 78% increase in referrals, and 526% increase in stories.
IBM came up with a social sales program for its inside sales team. The campaign involved identifying a target audience and monitoring its social media platforms for relevant conversations and topics. It trained its sales team to nurture online relationships and to drive prospects to the websites of team members. The campaign led to an impressive 400% increase in sales.
Qualtrics, a VoC solutions provider, developed a white paper to help validate and define VoC with research. The white paper included how-tos and tips on how to lower costs. The content marketing campaign led to the generation of over 2,500 leads, over $1,000,000 in net new pipeline generated in 1 month, and less than $1.30 cost per conversion.
Dell came up with a global developed nurture program that is supported by over 18,000 global module content elements and over 1,200 assets. These assets supported 10 global programs and 22 solution topics. This was in an effort to stand out in the industry, to align content to the customer journey stage, and to reduce the time the end-user had to invest. This campaign led to 35% higher average order contract value (nurtured versus non-nurtured) and 300% more contact engagement (nurture emails).
#12. Waste Management
Waste Management started a campaign to reach SMEs. It involved sending nurturing emails each month alongside microsite and landing pages where interactions with content determined placement, and which contained such resources as how-to guides and top 10 lists. The result was 2% to 4% content adoption within the first 3 months and more trial offers and onsite visits scheduled by customer service representatives.
Other major companies that have successfully used content marketing are:
- – Alcatel-Lucent’s series of sitcom-styled videos led to 25 converted leads and 600,000 views.
- – SAP/gyro/Forbes Insights information hub for CMOs led to 2,000 site visits, 435 leads, and 1,400 unique users.
- – Bottomline Technologies best practices guide and email promotions led to 1,476 opened emails, 708 total clicks, and 48% click-to-open rate.
- – NASDAQ interactive infographic showing a timeline of milestones and innovations led to 1,630 unique visitors, 2,300 page views, and 3 minutes average time on spent on the infographic.
- – Event Farm Q&A sessions with industry influencers via video interviews led to 1,084 total registrations, 9,143 additional contacts to the marketing automation database, and generation of 257 marketing-qualified leads.
The many success stories should convince even the most skeptic business owner to adopt content marketing, which is cheaper than other online marketing methods. Consider combining it with other online marketing methods such as social media marketing (SMM), pay-per-click (PPC), database support, and search engine optimization (SEO). You should remember that it is not always about the ROI – your focus should not be about transactions and lead generation only. You could use content marketing to build your brand, to stand out from your competitors, and to attract partnerships.