The Five to 25 Times Better Content Marketing Strategy

For a lot of businesses and individual thoughts leaders publishing content is an important part of their marketing strategy.

But what’s the best content marketing strategy for you?

The right strategy can lead to fast results, but the wrong strategy can lead to frustration from the wasted effort and the lack of results.

In this post, I’ll show you how a simple shift in your Content Marketing Strategy can earn you a five to 25 times better result for your business.

What is Content Marketing Strategy?

To define our Content Marketing Strategy, we first need to define our terms. Let’s start there…

Content? What is it?

Your content is the material you publish. It can be words, images, and sounds. For instance, it might be:

  • Written content in the form of blog or social media posts
  • Images such as photos, drawings or infographics
  • Audio files such as podcasts
  • Video files such as what you are watching right now.

For more about Content Creation check out our surprisingly simple guide.

Marketing: A common definition

Marketing Definition from Google

When you do a Google search for ‘definition of marketing?’ the first answer that comes up from Oxford Languages tells us marketing is: The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

What is Strategy?

Next is strategy – what is strategy? At its simplest level, your strategy is HOW you achieve your goals. It’s not the goal, it’s the process or tactics you use to achieve your goals.

And the definition of Content Marketing is…?

It follows that Content Marketing is publishing material to promote and sell your products or services. Your Content Marketing Strategy is therefore how you will achieve this.

The Rise of Content Marketing

But where did Content Marketing come from?

For the past few thousand years, all sales were done face to face in retail stores or through travelling salesmen. Then the telephone became a primary sales tool.

Face to Face selling
Photo by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

Plus, the rise of newspapers, radio and television became sales outlets either by paying to advertise or being featured as a special guest. But this meant you either needed the money to advertise or some way to fight through the gatekeepers to be showcased as a guest. Not everyone was willing or able to do this.

Now, with the internet, this has all changed. With the help of websites, blogging software and social media platforms we can all publish and share our own content.

This has made a big shift and given us the ability to generate our own content and use it as our marketing strategy. This is the rise of content marketing as a viable business strategy. 

Content Marketing and Digital Marketing

As an interesting aside, something I discovered in my research for this post…

Google Trends Search Results for Content Marketing
Results from Google Trends search for the term ‘Content Marketing’ – 16 January 2022

If we look at the results from a Google Trends search for Content Marketing [16 January 2022] (above), we can see from 2004 to the end of 2011 there was not a lot of interest in Content Marketing. Since then, the popularity of the term has grown significantly.

Surprisingly, it also appears searches peaked in late 2020 and may now be declining slightly.

This second graph (below) shows an interesting comparison between the term Content Marketing shown in the blue line and Digital Marketing shown in the red line. Digital Marketing is clearly a more popular term.

Google Trends Search Comparison Digital Marketing
Comparison results from Google Trends search for the term ‘Digital Marketing (red) and ‘Content Marketing’ (blue) – 16 January 2022

And this may be why Content Marketing as a term is declining because more people are using the term Digital Marketing.

What’s the difference between Content Marketing and Digital Marketing? For me, digital marketing is a more specific term that only refers to digitally generated marketing material plus things like SEO and online advertising. In contrast, Content Marketing can be print or digital. It can include printed flyers, books or other non-digital media.

The Usual Approach to Content Marketing Strategy

In the previous post, Create a Service Offering You’ll Fall in Love With, I shared a marketing or ascension curve as a way to map and model your products and services.

Ascension Marketing Curve - Basic Outline

This ascension curve is also a great way to map and model your content marketing and to see a visual representation of your strategy.

Three Basic Elements

Your Service Offering Map or ascension marketing curve has three basic elements:

  • On the vertical axis we have money
  • Next, on the horizontal axis we have relationship.
  • And then we map a curve onto the two axes.

The curve is based on the principle that as you increase the level of relationship with your clients the potential to earn money also increases by buying a more expensive product or service. That’s why it’s called an ascension curve – potential customers can step up from one offer to the next.

You might notice that the curve does not start in the corner of the corner. Instead, it starts a little along the relationship axes. This reflects the view that people don’t buy our products out of the blue or randomly. Rather, we first must build up some level of trust, respect and relationship before they will buy from us.

This is why Content Marketing has become so important.

The Five Tiers of an Ascension Marketing Model

As a general approach, I use the ascension curve to present five tiers of business offerings. This particularly suits service providers like consultants, thought leaders, business coaches and trainers.

  1. Free Content – The first level is the flat line where we are sharing free content via social media, our blog or on places like YouTube. We’re not making any money at this point, merely showcasing our expertise.
  2. Opt-in – Our second point is the first dot that typically represents where our first exchange of value occurs. It’s the point where someone gives us their email address and permission to send them emails in exchange for a lead magnet such as an eBook or a checklist. There is still no money changing hands, but the first exchange has occurred.
  3. Low Price Product – Next, we have our first purchase. Usually this is a low-price DIY product like a book or a video-based course.
  4. Mid-Range Product or Service – Further along the curve we have our mid-range product or service. This might be to attend a live group event such as a training event, mastermind session or group coaching event.
  5. Premium Offer – And at the top of the curve, we have our premium offering. This is the thing we most want to sell. And based on the philosophy of the ascension curve, all other products and services lead to this point. It’s likely to be a personalised offering where we turn up live to work directly with the client. For example, a coach in a one-to-one coaching session or a design for you service from a website designer.  

An Ascension Marketing Curve for Professional Services

The Big Flaw of Content Marketing Strategy

I’ve shared this ascension curve because it highlights the flaw in many Content Marketing Strategies.

As mentioned previously, many people define marketing as: The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

And this leads to marketers who only focus on the first section of the Ascension Curve. They translate Content Marketing into publishing free content to attract new clients. And that’s it. This is where they start and stop.

For these people, it’s all about the sale and worse, all about the first sale.

While this is a good start, there is a better way. And it only requires a simple change of focus.

The Five to 25 times better Content Marketing Strategy

HBR - The Value of Keeping the Right Customers

In a Harvard Business Review article from 2014, The Value of Keeping the Right Customers, Amy Gallo reported that it is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive to attract a new customer than service an existing one. In other words, it is five to 25 times cheaper to serve your existing clients.

She also quotes research by the founder of the net promoter score, Frederick Reichheld that shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profit by 25% to 95%.

The Right Content Marketing Focus

This reflects the big flaw most marketers make in their Content Marketing Strategy – they focus on the wrong part of the customer journey.

Instead of chasing and attracting new clients and customers, they should be putting their attention on serving and retaining their existing ones.

Douglas Atkin - The Culting of BrandsMy All-time Favourite Branding Book

My all-time favourite branding book is The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkins.  (I did a summary of this book over at Book Rapper as Brand Worship.)

The big idea in the book is that cult-like brands have become the new religion because they focus on two basic human needs: meaning and belonging.

From this book, I have developed my own version of the Customer Lifecycle.

The Five Parts of the Customer Lifecycle

My Customer Lifecycle has five parts that relate directly to your content marketing strategy:

  1. Consume – This is the first step in attracting new customers. You’re publishing one-sided, passive content for people to consume. This could be reading your blog post or watching your video. This is important to establish your expertise and let your audience get to know you.
  2. Engage – Then you want to move to a two-sided interaction or conversation. This could be adding a like or a comment on a video or social media post.
  3. Commit – Next, we want some commitment from our audience. It’s a case of ‘I’ll give you this if you give me that’. This is where our customers start to literally ‘buy into’ our content and ideas. The first step in this process is often an opt-in to gain a customer’s email address. To retain customers, you need to continue to build this commitment over time.
  4. Belong – From this we want our customers to feel like they are part of something. This is unlikely to be simply a content exchange. It is more likely to require a live experience with you and some connection or interaction with your other customers.
  5. Lead – The final level is one of leadership where our customers are actively generating ideas and sharing them. This might be in terms of advocacy and referral to new customers or simply leading conversations in the comment sections of our posts.

The Customer Lifecyle

These five stages are the keys to your Content Marketing Strategy. To retain our clients and customers we need to be working toward meaning and belonging. Unless we do that, we will be constantly chasing new customers at five to 25 times the cost of looking after our existing ones.

A New Content Marketing Strategy Example

To make this easier to understand, let’s look at an example of how to apply this new Content Marketing Strategy.

Buying a Camera
Photo by Math on Unsplash

Here’s a simple example of buying a camera or a piece of software.

  1. Consume – The first thing I would do if I was buying a camera would be to look for some reviews. This is the consumption phase where I’m trying to define what camera I’ll buy.
  2. Engage – Once I work out what camera I want I will start to look around at pricing and who to buy it from. This is more consumption, but it also may lead to an interaction where I ask someone for a good price or ask a question about the camera specifications.
  3. Commit – The first step here is when I buy the camera. That tends to be one big step – I buy or don’t buy. As an alternative if I was buying a piece of software, I would want to take it for a test-drive – I want to download it and play with it before I buy it.
  4. Belong – Now, that I have my new camera, the key thing that is going to shape my loyalty to the product is how well I can use it. If I can use my camera well and take great shots, then I’m more likely to keep using my camera. This is where video tutorials are handy. If I’m part of an online community that I can ask questions to, all the better.
  5. Lead – If I become fluent in using my camera, then I’m more likely to share my results. This is the ultimate referral. If I can take great photos with this camera, then you might be able to also. You’re not talking about your new expertise; you’re showcasing it to others through your actions. And we all know actions speak louder than words.

The Critical Retention Factor

The key here is to be able to identify the critical retention factor for your clients. What is the key thing that keeps them coming back again and again?

Based on this simple map of a person buying a camera, the critical retention factor is going to be how well they can use the camera. 

The better the results your clients achieve with your product or service the more likely they are to keep using and tell other people about it. This is the key to your Content Marketing Strategy.

Summary: The Five to 25 Times Better Content Marketing Strategy

Let’s wrap up the key points around our Content Marketing Strategy

  • Content Marketing mostly uses digital content to attract, serve and retain clients.
  • The usual approach that marketers take with their content is to pitch it all toward attracting new clients.
  • This is a flaw in their Content Marketing Strategy because it is five to 25 times cheaper to retain existing clients than attract new ones.
  • Instead, focus on meaning and belonging to retain your clients.
  • The key to an effective Content Marketing Strategy is to help your existing clients achieve better results.

More on Content Marketing Strategy

If you’d like more on Content Marketing here are some other pieces of content I’ve created and shared recently:

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