8 Top Content Marketing Questions Answered

What does a good content marketing strategy look like? Why is content marketing king? How do you get it right, measure it, improve it?

Whether you are new to the riveting world of content or are a self-ascribed expert (i.e. content addict), there is always more to learn. In fact, it is an inquisitive nature and a desire to know more and try out new things that has allowed content marketing to evolve into the dynamic, multi-dimensional, ever-shifting medium that it is today.

You may have noticed that we’re talking about more than a marketing tactic. What’s going on here is that marketers have become storytellers and concept creators. We’ve applied the age-old notion of communicating through narrative to traditional advertising concepts, enabling us to build a bridge with our audience. Never before has marketing been as rewarding, or as impactful, as it is today.

From the brilliant brand videos you’ll find on YouTube, the ones that can make you laugh or cry – and subconsciously bond with a brand – to the informative weekly blog posts that have become a part of all our lives, great content is everywhere.

They say ‘content is king’, but, if handled well, it is far more than this. Content, along with the digital innovations that have facilitated it, is transforming the way brands and businesses view one another. In effect, we’ve all become a little more human.

I’ve put together a list of some of the most important content marketing questions marketers have today. They may help you on your personal quest for content answers.

1. When Did Content Marketing Start?

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While we may think of content marketing as a modern concept, brands have been using stories to convey ideas to their audience for hundreds of years. And of course, narrative has been a medium of communication for as long as the human mind could comprehend a story.

Some early classic examples of content in action are Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, first published in 1732, and the American Bee Journal, launched by Samuel Wagner in 1861. The American Bee Journal is still published today!

2. What Is Content Marketing Not?

Bryan Del Monte, Managing Director of Clickafy Media Group, makes an excellent point about understanding what exactly content marketing is and isn’t. He explains it’s not really about the content – or even about storytelling – but rather about conveying value via the appropriate media.

“Content marketing is less about the sale of a product/service than that of an idea and the brand behind the idea. For this reason, it can ultimately be stronger than advertising in driving sales – and it explains why competitors cannot displace content-rich brands like Apple and Harley Davidson.”

While Del Monte is not comfortable with the term ‘story’, we can still see significant elements of storytelling in successful examples of modern marketing. It’s the ambiance created, the environment a prospect can step into when they click on your website, a feeling evoked. That is the story and conceit; It’s the thread that connects every piece of your content strategy.

Take Apple’s Carpool Karaoke as an example. Content for your viewing entertainment, and one more reason to accept the Apple brand as an essential part of modern life, bringing us the music and videos we want through the convenience of Apple technology. No traditional ad is required to convince and convert; just the concept of Apple’s value, and the demonstration of how it integrates into our lives.

Content marketing isn’t advertising. It’s not a billboard or poster. Nor is it a television, radio, or online commercial. It’s value conveyed through ideas, stories and concepts.

3. Why Does It Work?

Content marketing works because it uses the more subliminal power of attraction, rather than shouting from the rooftops about your existence and importance, as in the case with advertising.

By demonstrating value and worth, marketers are convincing consumers that a particular brand should be a part of their lives. Want to improve your small business with better accounting and informed financial decision-making? Read the QuickBooks blog. Need some inspiration for cooking healthy meals? Follow Whole Foods on Twitter for a constant stream of ideas and recipes.

These brands, through content marketing, have become valuable not just because of the products and services offered, but also by enhancing people’s lives with easy-to-access, helpful information. This is why content marketing works. Consumers seek out the brands they most engage with.

4. Why Does Content Marketing Fail?

This is one of the most important content marketing questions to answer. Content marketing doesn’t always work. The biggest reason? A lack of strategy. The best content marketing strategies are uniquely suited to the specific needs of each brand.

This means you have to take the time to think about what would work for your audience. What content forms would your buyer personas prefer? What style and personality would engage them the most? What content schedule would offer enough, without being overwhelming? A well-thought out strategy is necessary for success.

5. What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media?

A brand’s social media sites can serve as channels for marketing content, but there is a key distinction between content and social media marketing. Even though the two should be included in a cohesive overall marketing strategy, it is important to have a strategy for each.

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Content is what your audience consumes, which then motivates them to sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to a service, or make a purchase. With social media, the focus is on engaging consumers. This is where consumers can reach out to one another or directly to a brand.

6. How Does Content Marketing Generate Leads?

Content marketing generates leads because it helps to attract more potential customers to your business. With SEO and social media marketing, you can direct organic (and qualified) traffic to your brand’s website’s blogs or to other content. Then, you have your chance to demonstrate value.

Once you do that, some of those viewers will make their way to your lead generation pages and, click your glowing CTA buttons and fill out your data capture form. Hey presto, you’ve got another lead.

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The best way to generate leads with content? Blogs.

7. How Do You Measure It?

There are numerous ways to track the success of your strategies. What you use depends on the metrics that matter to you, how equipped your marketing software is to automate a lot of your data gathering for you, and how good you or someone on your team is at data analysis.

Whether you have a dozen metrics or you just focus on the essentials – like organic traffic, conversion rates, lead generation, and your ROI – simply charting your progress over time will let you know if your strategy is helping you reach your marketing goals.

8. Where Is Content Marketing Going?

Is it a shift to more video? Will Instagram take over all our lives? Will content replace television completely by 2025? When will next-generation technologies like virtual and augmented reality take hold? Will something that hasn’t been conceived today change the face of content marketing tomorrow?

Consumers have endless options when it comes to choosing which content to consume and even how to consume it. Where content marketing goes depends on what they want. This whole content world has come about as a response to more sophisticated consumer expectations.

The biggest question for content marketing is then, what will they expect next? When we content marketers have the answer to this question, you can bet that we’ll be there to meet them.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

3 thoughts on “8 Top Content Marketing Questions Answered

  1. Glad you liked that piece for Adweek… 🙂 I just saw your blog article this morning.

    I did that piece for Adweek what seems like a few years ago (honestly, all I remember was that I was in Mexico on vacation when it was published and people were texting me)…

    Here’s a funny thing about that piece… so basically I took a SHELLACKING from people like Joe Pulizzi over at Marketing Profs, etc. He and his cronies on his podcast also took me to the woodshed…

    I didn’t care… and Pulizzi walks the dog back every time I mention he shellacked me… but the reality is that the content marketing world believes in content for the sake of content… or so it seems…

    And that’s just stupid. And when I wrote that piece for AdWeek.. I had tried for years to make a content first strategy work…

    And I couldn’t do it… which is why I kind of said out of frustration – if content doesn’t generate revenue then why the hell do it…

    I’ve written some really amazing pieces of content over the years. And the best way to describe what they do for your business is like lightening hitting a field of lightning rods…

    You get a MASSIVE jolt of energy. When Ricky Gervais featured to his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram following a piece I wrote about him… yeah – I got zillions of people…

    … for like two seconds.

    And I’ve done that more than once… and yeah – each time… massive lightning bolts…

    Problem is this – you can’t run a city (and by way of analogy a business) waiting for lightning to strike now can you?

    I mean everyone in the city can’t just suddenly wait for a hundred kabillion volts and amps for a zillionth of a second…

    So trying to drive leads on content alone is really really rough… but that’s the core of what the content marketing world suggests…

    Write Epic Shit – money falls from the sky.

    It’s total BS. Truly. I should know – I’ve written “Epic Shit” on so many occasions… and made the lightning hit exactly where I want…

    But none of it lasts…

    So what does work as a strategy looks like this…

    You need great content. But you need it because your PAID media is going to generate awareness… but your EARNED media (aka content marketing) is going to make that audience more stick and give you a better chance to generate leads from them other than the one whack at the apple through a lead gen approach…

    So you run your ads… and those ads lead into funnels… but some of the people are going to leak out…

    When they do… what will they likely do? Well the obvious one is go away completely. You can’t do much about those. But the next obvious one is – they’re going to jump out of the funnel you want them to go through… but they are like “Hmmm this looks somewhat interesting, let me do my own thing….”

    And that’s where they’re going to look at your website, etc… and that’s where you need to have content that is relevant, engaging, useful, and deepening of a relationship…

    So you have a power plant (paid media) generating little bits of lightning for your city – lots of awareness… etc… but when the big bolt hits… you’ve got ways to store that energy a bit and feed it back into the city…

    That’s the approach I do now since I wrote that article. I think the most effective lead generation strategy has a strong paid media component… to generate awareness and make sales (generate leads)… but really good content is laid all over the place for the people who fall out of the funnel in the hopes that they’re lured passively back to you and the paid media isn’t just one and done…

    BTW – totally agree video is where it is all going. Especially in paid media… and right now… video has the best legs…

    Video is also the hardest to do… which is why I suspect for at least a little while longer – video will largely remain untouched except by people who know how to do film and TV well… but give it a few more years… and Video will be like blogging – everybody and their grandmother will be putting up videos and expecting to make a trillion dollars…

    Anyways… thanks for the mention… feel free to reach out if you need anything.



    1. Hey Bryan, thanks so much for your amazing comment. I’ve been meaning to respond for 2 days now and wanted to make sure I had the time. So I think you and I agree on the strategic point. 100%.

      However, I have argued for years that content marketing is the central point of an integrated paid, owned and earned strategy. And that, by definition, it is owned media.

      When I publish an article on my website, I own it. No one can take it from me. (Native ads are NOT content marketing, nor is social media, Because the brand doesn’t own it – major pet peeve!)

      Now content may not generate any traffic if I haven’t earned organic traffic to my site overall. Or if it doesn’t earn clicks on social. Those are earned. But my website, where I publish my content marketing, is owned.

      I don’t run ads. I mean I’ve done a few tests here and there. Both promotional ads and content ads. And what I’ve found is that for a small consultancy like mine, $1 spent on articles do more to get me leads than $1 spent on any type of paid ad. About 200X more to be exact.

      For example, if I spend an hour on an article vs. $350 for ads (about what I charge per hour) then I get 200 leads from the article and only 1 from ad. I’ve tested and proved this out for my site and about a dozen clients. (PS – there is a diminishing return on content, where ads start to make sense. But that’s a topic for another day)

      Now I’m a small company. If I were mush bigger, I would want to effectively scale and ads would help. But not all brands rely on paid ads to convert.

      For me there are two types of brands in the world: those who lead with customer value, or their purpose in the world, and they try to earn the right to talk products. They talk about holes, not hammers. And if the content is helpful and consistent, about getting a hole, and the products (the hammer) can help get the job done, they convert to sales of hammers (and nails) in a predictable way.

      And then there are those brands who don’t have the patience for all that. They spend money on ads, just like you described. And they convert and it’s a numbers game. As you said, content may help them “hedge” that investment for those who leak out. But it is not a focus. They are focused on the hammer, or the nail. Not the hole. And that’s fine. You gotta know who you are and own it.

      However, if you stop ads, your leads go to zero. but if you stop publishing content, traffic (and the leads from it) will continue for quite some time before petering out.

      This is the biggest reason for the point of understanding that content marketing is owned media. It is a retirement account. The value increases over time even after you stop contributing.

      I think the answer is in the middle for most brands. First you have to decide who you are: lead with customer or lead with product. Customer-led brands advertise their content to drive engagement to drive sales. Product-focused companies advertise products to get new customers who they hope they can retain. The math can work either way as ling as both continue to invest.

      But they are 2 different strategies. Both valid. But different. And with different ROI. (Again topic for another post and covered extensively here.) Make sense?

  2. I like the way you mentioned will instagram take over. But is there any way to promote articles in instagram? I guess no. If they add that feature they will surely take over. Thanks for this amazing article.

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