Research tells you something, even if the results aren’t generalizable and especially when they aren’t what you expected.
It’s the lesson we’re taking away from Content Journey’s first original research study. We released the survey in September and, like much online research, didn’t quite get the response we hoped for (25 participants), but we’re still able to take some interesting tidbits away from the process. And much of what we learned supports what we already know and what our industry peers are saying.
We asked business owners to complete the survey, answering 10 questions about their experience with content marketing in the past fiscal year. For the purposes of the research, we defined content marketing as “creating and sharing content like blog posts, website pages, email campaigns, e-books, etc., that helps you connect with your target audience.”
We distributed the survey to our clients and via our team’s individual social media accounts. Interestingly, most respondents weren’t our clients (72%), which gives us a better understanding of what people with outside partnerships think about the effectiveness of content marketing.
Half of the respondents own small businesses with 50 employees or fewer. Another 16% considered their businesses midsize. There was a single respondent from a large business with 250 or more employees.
Views on Content Marketing
When it comes to content marketing, the business owners we surveyed said it was worth the cost and effort.
Most respondents (88%) said they thought content marketing was valuable to their business in the last fiscal year, with 96% attributing at least part of their business’s growth in the last year to their content marketing efforts.
We know that content marketing costs less than other types of marketing and typically produces better results. Our survey respondents seemed to agree with 88% of them saying content marketing was worth the monetary investment.
All of the business owners said they plan to continue using content marketing in the current fiscal year, a finding that didn’t surprise us since Hubspot found the same thing in a much larger survey.
Content Marketing Outcomes
So, what was it? What did content marketing do for these businesses that made the owners think it’s so worthwhile? For the majority (96%), content marketing helped create brand awareness and build trust and credibility for their brands. Again, these findings weren’t surprising.
Using content marketing to build brand awareness is a key function for businesses. It’s essential to business growth because people can’t patronize a business they don’t know exists. Content marketing creates positive exposure for your brand and helps build your expertise.
Trust and credibility also are essential for building your business. People won’t buy from you if they don’t think they can trust you to do the job and do it well. Trust and credibility are both vital to building your brand’s authority. If people trust your brand, they’ll buy it, even at a higher price than what may be industry standard, and they’ll advocate for it, but building trust is challenging. Clearly, content marketing can help.
Other benefits of content marketing included:
- Generating new leads (80%)
- Educating audiences (76%)
- Increasing sales (72%)
- Building loyalty with customers (56%)
One respondent commented that SEO helped their company improve in search rankings, which we tie to many beneficial outcomes, including increasing sales. Still, they said it was a benefit in itself for their company.
Content Mix is Critical
Although all of the business owners we surveyed see the value of content marketing and plan to use it in the future, it was clear that they won’t put their resources into one type of content. And we agree!
The most interesting finding from our study was that it’s not just one approach that businesses that use content marketing find beneficial. A mix of content is how respondents get the most benefits from content marketing.
We asked respondents to rank content marketing efforts in order of importance to their business growth. We instructed them to skip the ranking of any marketing effort their business doesn’t use.
Content rankings in order of importance to growth:
- Social media content promotion
- Website pages
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Case studies
- E-books and infographics (tie)
So, what does this ranking tell us?
Social media content promotion is doing its job. It’s getting strategic information in front of the right customers. Also, we assume it ranked high because these business owners and their teams are engaging with customers on their social media platforms. Also, social media allows people to share messages from your brand, expanding reach.
We’re proud that website pages and blog posts are next because we hope it (along with the initial ranking) means people know and understand the advice of building your brand on platforms you own and using social media as a supplement to share that information. Social media can change or disappear, and you’re always fighting the algorithms to make your messages shown. When building your brand on your website, you don’t have these challenges or concerns.
Email newsletters are the best way to stay in touch and build relationships with clients interested in your brand, and the respondents realized that. The great thing about an email newsletter is that people have to opt into receiving them. That means everyone getting the information asked for it and is more likely to take action. Relationship building and conversions are just some reasons your business needs an email newsletter.
Everyone loves a success story. Providing a case study about how your brand helped someone is the ultimate social proof. It gives the reader a story-like example of why they should do business with you. Clearly, our respondents saw the benefits of sharing these successes with potential customers.
The thing about lead magnets, like e-books and downloadable infographics, is that they provide your audience with a little something extra and help you gather emails to build your list. But it’s not necessarily surprising that respondents tied these two content approaches since they both have the same goals.
One thing that’s clear after reviewing this ranking, which is interesting in itself, is that we should have asked for more information to better understand the why behind the rankings. It’s a limitation because instead, we’re assuming that what we know about these tools and their purposes are the reasons behind the rankings.
Where do we stand after our first research study? Smack in the middle of curiosity. It certainly tells us something and supports what we already know. But we would have liked to receive more responses. We also will ask more about the why behind the ranking question in the future.
And, yes, we intend to continue. We’ll release a revised version of the survey again in late July to build upon what we learned from this year’s research. We’ll be especially interested in noting any changes year over year.
Partner with Content Journey
If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of content marketing for your business, Content Journey is here to help. We can help you explore all of the types of content marketing mentioned above and make a plan that’s best for your business. Book a call today, and let’s get started.