What is Content Marketing? Formulas of the Content Economy

What is Content Marketing? Formulas of the Content Economy

In the content economy, content has become a currency that brands exchange with audiences for time and attention while building communities.

In today’s authenticity-driven, UGC-obsessed age, every brand and every marketer is always talking about content. Whether it’s on TikTok, Instagram, or email, behind every successful brand is a comprehensive content marketing strategy that covers all stages of the digital marketing funnel. Let’s take a look at what content marketing really is, why it’s important, and how to make it work for your business.

Looking for something specific? Skip ahead with the links below

  1. What is content marketing
  2. Why is content marketing important
  3. What is a content marketing strategy
  4. How to build a content marketing strategy (+ examples)

What is content marketing?

In simple terms, content marketing is the practice of creating relevant content for a target audience to drive a particular action. 

In marketing terms, content marketing is known to be a strategic approach to creating value-driven and audience-relevant content to attract, retain, and convert target customers. 

The key words here are “value-driven” and “audience-relevant”. While there is no hard and fast rule for what “good” content is, the content that achieves its intended goals is always the content that delivers on its promise to the target customer. Being value-driven means creating content that answers to consumers’ unmet needs, pain points, or potential curiosities; being audience-relevant, on the other hand, means tailoring the content to meet your target audience where they are — whether that be in terms of tone of voice, channel, or format. 

Types of Content Marketing

The beauty of content marketing is that it can appear in many different formats, giving marketers the diversity and range to work with multiple formats for varied audiences. Here are some of the most common types of content marketing pieces:

  • Social Media posts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.)
  • Blog articles
  • Emails
  • Podcasts
  • Whitepapers
  • Checklists
  • Courses
  • Quizzes/Tools

Why is content marketing important?

When done correctly and successfully, content marketing can increase revenue or conversion rates, foster customer loyalty, generate leads, and improve overall brand reputation. Here’s a snapshot of just some of the many ways content marketing can help brands and businesses grow: 

  • Businesses with blogs get 67% more leads than other companies — aka just one of the many reasons why we write articles like this one!
  • 83% of Instagram users discover new products or services on the platform
  • 50% of people buy from marketing emails at least once per month
  • 47% of users report they bought something they saw on TikTok

In addition to these holistic benefits, content marketing also has different, more specific benefits at each stage of the consumer decision-making process. 

During the Need Recognition phase, content marketing can help educate potential customers on how their pain points can be addressed and generate awareness around the brand. 

During the Information Search phase, content marketing can provide specific information that a potential customer is looking for, therefore easing uncertainties and fostering trust.

In the Alternative Evaluation phase, content marketing can give side-by-side comparisons that not only make the (often lengthy) evaluation process easier but also gives further insight into how the potential customer can benefit from their possible purchase decision. 

At the Purchase Decision phase, content marketing can drive conversion rates by linking relevant and valuable content with compelling CTAs. 

During the Post-Purchase phase, content marketing can continue to provide engaging and shareable content that can lead to organic referrals and positive word of mouth. 

Furthermore, content marketing also plays an important role in search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines rank websites based on their expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, hence websites depend on content marketing in order to increase their page ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Creating high-quality, valuable content frames your brand as a trustworthy expert within an industry or a searched keyword and increases the opportunity for authoritative backlinks to be created. 

The benefits of content marketing are substantial — and so are the opportunities to leverage its unique, full-funnel capabilities. While it’s easy to get caught up in the granular goals of each individual piece of content, it’s important to also note that content marketing is holistically important because it tells an overall brand story. Every piece of content, whether it’s designed to educate or convert, contributes to building a bigger picture of who the brand is and what they stand for, which in turn retains a community of long-term, engaged, and loyal customers.

What is a content marketing strategy?

After understanding what content marketing is and how it can benefit your brand, it’s crucial to develop a strategically-aligned content marketing strategy that outlines the types, formats, and cadences of content that will best serve your business goals. 

There are 4 main components to comprehensive content marketing strategies:

  1. Purpose and goals

What are we trying to achieve with our content? Is it to drive awareness, education, or conversions?

  1. Target audience

Who is the target audience that we are aiming to reach? What channels are they primarily using and what kind of content do they want to see?

  1. Content types and cadence

What types of content are we creating and how often are we distributing it? What format and cadence is best suited to the goals that we have outlined?

  1. Measurement plan

How are we measuring the success of our content marketing efforts? What learnings are we gathering from our channel data in order to continue to refine and improve our content marketing strategy?

How to choose the right channel and measurement metric

Choosing the right channel to distribute your content (step 3) and how to measure the impact of your content (step 4) all depends on how you establish your goals (step 1) and your audience (step 2). When considering what channel to use, consider where your target audience spends their time; are they brand loyal customers that are subscribed to your email newsletter, or are they potential consumers that might organically discover your brand on TikTok? By understanding your audience, you’ll be able to meet them where they are with the content that they want to see. 

Similarly, with choosing which metrics and KPIs to use to measure the impact of your content marketing efforts, consider the goals that you have set for your content marketing strategy. Although it’s important to look at all available KPIs to see the whole picture of how your content is performing, here are the metrics to zoom in on depending on what your goals are:

  • Awareness → Look at impressions or likes
  • Consideration → Look at engagement, particularly comments and saves
  • Conversion → Look at click-through rate, profit, and revenue
  • Loyalty → Look at customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Advocacy → Look at shares 

How to build a content marketing strategy

The key to building a great content marketing strategy is to create valuable, consistent, and targeted consumer touchpoints at all stages of the marketing funnel. Consumers at the awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy stages all have different priorities and specific unmet needs that manifest in the platforms and the types of content that they engage with. A consumer in the initial awareness stage may be casually browsing a brand’s TikTok to learn more about the product or service in context, and a brand-loyal return customer at the advocacy stage may be regularly listening to brand-created playlists that they’d share with a friend. 

Let’s break it down — step-by-step, goal-by-goal, with best-in-class examples of how brands are utilizing content at every stage of the marketing funnel. 

Step 1: Build awareness

Awareness is often mistakenly seen as the easiest stage of the marketing funnel; yet what many don’t realize is that building awareness places a specific emphasis on the difficult balance between appropriately featuring the product or service without trying too hard. Although this is done at all stages of the marketing funnel, customers in the awareness stage are particularly sensitive to product pushes as they are still potentially considering many other brands in the market.

Brand example: Olipop

Content type: TikTok

Olipop’s TikTok video about “what your grocery store says about you” is one example of this balance. This humor-driven short form video aims to provide value to the Gen Z target consumer through entertainment and relatability. Although the video content itself clearly features the product being sold, the tone and messaging is more lifestyle-driven rather than sales-driven. Even the call to action, “let us know what grocery store to do next”, is pushing for engagement rather than conversion. By focusing on the primary goal of building awareness, Olipop avoids alienating potential customers that may not be ready to make the purchase just yet. 

It’s important to note that TikTok as a platform itself is also particularly well-suited for building awareness through content marketing, as brand videos can appear on a user’s For You page through the TikTok algorithm, even if the user isn’t following the brand. 

Step 2: Improve consideration

During the consideration stage, a potential customer is primarily looking for information — on the product or service, on potential alternatives, or on specific key value propositions. Therefore, content marketing at the consideration stage should aim to educate and inform, while also positioning your brand as a knowledgeable industry expert. Long-form content such as blog posts and articles have ample real estate to expand on brand and product information, thus serving as an appropriate medium for the consideration stage. 

Brand example: Maude

Content type: Blog Post

Take Maude for example. The modern sexual wellness brand has a blog content arm aptly named The Maudern, featuring articles covering everything from sex education to relationship science. Like Olipop’s TikToks, Maude’s blog articles are not directly linked to their product offerings; instead, The Maudern focuses on providing valuable information on modern intimacy, thus creating a reciprocal relationship with potential customers during their information search process. 

Step 3: Drive conversion

The conversion stage is the most straightforward of all the stages. Having established awareness and improved consideration, potential customers are finally ready to make their purchase decision — albeit not without a little push. 

Brand example: Magic Spoon

Content type: Email

Magic Spoon’s email content pairs audience-relevant, value-driven content with a compelling CTA to drive conversions. Given that the average person receives over 100 emails per day, it’s not enough to just pair a product image with a “Buy Now” button. This is where content marketing comes in. Magic Spoon’s email pairs value (product education, social proof) with action-driven messaging to build the foundation below an otherwise empty CTA. Where content marketing intersects with email marketing is through providing relevant information that a consumer will actually want to read — therefore creating an end-to-end experience that justifies their eventual purchase. 

Step 4: Foster loyalty

Customer brand loyalty is one of the hardest — but also one of the most valuable — aspects to master. In a broad sense, loyalty comes from continued engagement with the brand. It’s about creating that long-term relationship between a customer and a brand so that the awareness and consideration phase are automatically skipped for their next purchase. 

Brand example: Away

Content type: Instagram posts

Content formats with high engagement potential are generally best suited for fostering loyalty. For example, travel brand Away’s Instagram features a variety of quizzes, word searches, bingo boards, and memes that encourage easy user engagement. CTAs like “build your combo below” or “comment yours below” prompt consumers to interact with the brand on a consistent basis, even if that interaction is outside of the product and sales realm (for now). 

The more valuable, relevant, and engaging content the brand is able to provide, the more likely a customer will be to make a repeat purchase. Content consumed in between purchases keeps the brand at the customer’s top of mind. In other words, content marketing at the loyalty stage aims to position the brand as the one that just gets the consumer, and organically but strategically becomes a part of their life. 

Step 5: Stimulate advocacy

The last stage of the marketing funnel is advocacy: stimulating organic sharing and positive word-of-mouth so as to acquire new customers through existing ones. The key to content marketing at the advocacy stage is to create content that lends itself to being sharable, such as playlists, recipes, memes, etc. 

Brand example: Haus

Content type: Playlists & Recipes

Aperitif brand Haus targets the advocacy stage by creating content that compliments their product and fits into every part of the drinking experience. Intuitively, it might seem more ideal for customers to directly share and advocate for the product itself rather than seemingly irrelevant content pieces, but it’s worth noting that the recipient of such referrals may not necessarily be ready to make a purchase just yet. The goal of content at the advocacy stage is therefore twofold: first, to be relevant, valuable, and shareable to the loyal customer, and secondly, to be lifestyle-driven rather than sales-driven for the potential new customer. 

Tell your brand story with impactful and goal-driven content

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. That being said, the marathon of content marketing is not without checkpoints at each stage of the strategic process, and it’s important to understand the specific goals of each stage as well as what content formats and channels work best for each of these different goals. Content marketing, when leveraged correctly, can meet consumers exactly where they are, and give them exactly what they’re looking for, all the while providing value to address the exact pain points that they may have. 

If you’re ready to kickstart your content marketing strategy, here are some next steps you might want to check out:


Nicole Li
Nicole is a growth and content analyst with experience in branding, strategic copywriting, and social media planning for DTC brands and venture-funded startups.

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