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What is "Content Marketing Strategy" in 2020?

Timeline illustration of relevant times in Content Marketing history.

Posted on 06/25/2020 at 05:00 PM

The Evolution of Content Marketing:

The first (known) piece of content marketing is attributed to Benjamin Franklin with his 1732 publication of “Poor Richards Almanack”. Franklin produced the printed material to advertise his new printing press and try to get others to hire him to print more, thus print advertising’s relationship to content marketing was born.

In 1895 John Deere published a magazine called “The Furrow”. The magazine was designed to connect farmers and builders to others who worked with their hands (and arguably more importantly connect them to the John Deere machines that could make their work easier).

The Furrow is still in circulation today with 1.5 million copies being sent to 40 countries in 12 languages.

"The Furrow" is an early example of successful content marketing. Throughout the years, the platforms of content marketing have evolved but the purpose and meaning behind the strategy has remained the same. Modern print media is still an effective content marketing tool (more on that in a minute), but today’s audience has mostly gone digital. Social media marketing strategy plays a large role in connecting with an audience and solidifying brand.

In This Article

This article presents quite a bit about an effective overall content marketing strategy. If you are ready to take it all in (and take some notes), we welcome you to read on. If you are interested in specific aspects, feel free to jump ahead with the links below:

What is Content Marketing and Why Does it Work?

Content marketing is the process of utilizing a long-term strategy focused on connecting with individuals within the target audience to build strong and lasting relationships using high-quality relevant content, delivered on a consistent basis. It works because it connects people with content that they value to establish brand dominance.

What does this mean, really?

With a proper content marketing strategy, a company can build brand recognition, loyalty, and ultimately earn potential customers repeat business. There’s just one catch: you must be willing to play the (selfless) long game.

Effective Content Marketing is Subtle Sales

The old-school aggressive, strong-arm sales tactics of yesteryear are no longer effective and can, in fact, repel potential customers. Marketing, in general, should never be about “me, me, me! (The Company)” but instead should be about “What’s In It For Me (The Customer)”.

As a species, we humans love a good story. We especially enjoy a story that connects with us personally. There are many common themes that connect us all, and the most successful storytellers are the ones who highlight that connection in an impactful and meaningful way. Content Marketing tells a story of who you are and how you help others.

G.I. Woah!

In 1982 Hasbro Toys wanted to introduce a new line of action figures after seeing the massive success and revenue generated by the sale of Star Wars Toys. They knew that in order to be truly effective, the new line would need to have characters that kids felt invested in. To start to tell the backstory of their new line of characters, Hasbro turned to a company that already had a built-in audience of kids that fit the target demographic, Marvel Comics. The two companies partnered to create G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero!

The content-rich marketing strategy was a huge success for both companies and in less than a decade, the series was one of the highest-selling for Marvel, while 2 out of every 3 boys owned a Hasbro Official G.I. Joe action figure. The brand would later spawn cartoons, breakfast cereals, and even multiple live-action blockbuster movies. Some would argue that the story of G.I. Joe continues to be told today.

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The Circle of Life: How Game Informer Games the System

GameStop, a leading video game retail chain, produces a magazine called Game Informer. The first issue (published in 1991) was only 6 pages long and, until 1994, was released every other month. Game Informer is now published monthly.

The magazine allows gamers a look at upcoming titles, industry insights, and reviews newly released games. It’s available in print or digital format, and those who subscribe not only enjoy the title of “Pro Member,” they also enjoy the added benefit of enjoying exclusive offers and discounts when they buy with GameStop.

Industry Support and Benefits

Game developers and publishers often give early access and insider information to the writers at Game Informer because they understand how vital a tool it is to drive sales. These exclusive sneak peeks keep the readers coming back for more and whet their appetite for future games. Even industry heavyweights like Nintendo, Sony PlayStation, and Xbox often send “leaks” to Game Informer about new systems and give their writers and GameStop Store Managers early access to games through their very own GameStop Manager’s Conference and Expo.

The expenses of the GameStop Expo are 100% covered by the industry (not GameStop) as the event provides Managers an opportunity to get exclusive hands-on experience months before the general public. They go back to their stores and tell exciting stories about what makes the experience awesome. They brag about having played that game that the customer has only seen hints of in traditional media. They drive hunger for the game. This builds excitement for upcoming titles which leads to even more pre-orders.

The Game Informer / Pro Membership has always been the perfect business loop for GameStop’s unique business model. The magazine gets people excited about games, they pre-order the games to get special in-game bonuses, then buy a new game on launch day. They then play the game and trade the game in once they have beaten it for in-store credit (with a small trade bonus for being Pro Members), and often get another bonus if the trade credit is used towards the pre-order of another game.

GameStop calls the model it’s “Circle of Life.”

Modern Content Marketing

Game Informer has evolved to include a digital magazine, an influential social media presence, and video reviews to take advantage of live event coverage and reviews that show games in action. Ultimately, all of these efforts combine to help GameStop tell stories of platforms that tell stories—which in turn drives up sales of Games, consoles, and industry tech.

The growing interest in Podcasts provides another great opportunity to provide valuable, easily consumable, content. Many marketers believe that podcasts are in a “Golden Age” and now is the time for companies to start planting their flag in Planet Podcast. By making a name for themselves now, companies can build their audience and become a regular part of listener routines before the market becomes too saturated. When it comes to Podcast Marketing, the barriers to entry have never been lower and yet the ROI has never been higher.

Needs Recognition may be the first step in the buying process, but the critical second step, Information Seeking, can often be entirely circumvented thanks to a well planned and orchestrated content marketing strategy. By providing high-quality content, brands build loyalty before a need is even recognized.

When it comes time to buy, only one brand comes to mind- the one who has been the source of the best information and content all along. Consumers then do their “info seeking” with the brand they trust because, at this point, what they’re really looking for is confirmation bias. They want to be reassured that the decision to buy (which they have already subconsciously made) is the right one so they turn to the organization that got them excited in the first place.

Choosing the Right Content Medium in 2020

The trick for marketers is choosing the right platform for their strategy. With so many ways to provide content, it’s important to have clearly defined goals (Key Performance Indicators) beyond vanity metrics such as “likes”.

First, content should be mapped to the problem that the content solves. By using your content marketing efforts to tell a story that relates to the consumer’s pain point, you connect to them directly. When you understand the actual problem, you can address it directly, then provide the right kind of content to speak to your solution. This buys trust and loyalty and allows you to map the content to people who have solved their similar problems and illustrate how your solution helped them solve it.

Your internal content marketing strategy should map out your business strengths, customer needs, and specific content efforts you will make to address those needs.

Building value falls into content strategy- a piece of content marketing strategy. For content strategy, your content (in whatever form it should take) needs to highlight a pain point, agitate it just the right amount, then show how your solution relieves that pain point.

Remember, you aren’t delivering a product or service. You are delivering a feeling. You are delivering the feeling that your solution provides. Your marketing solutions will never thrive until you can highlight that feeling.

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Bringing it All Together

As you can tell from the length of this article, an effective content marketing strategy is an extensive process that requires research, industry knowledge and insight, and a deep understanding of your consumers. It also requires that you understand the best ways to communicate with them. Because of its massive nature, many smaller and mid-sized businesses tend to shy away from a true content marketing strategy, missing the huge opportunities (and ultimately potential revenue growth) it represents.

If you wish to craft an effective strategy for your company, you have a few options:

  1. Go it alone. Do the research, plan your content, and give it a go.
  2. Hire an internal professional. The issue here is that one professional seldom has insights and expertise on all the forms of content needed to be effective or lack the experience required for success
  3. Consult with or hire an experienced team. This option makes the most sense because, for less than the cost of hiring a part-time person, you gain access to a whole team of Digital Marketing Experts who have knowledge across a vast array of fields.

Ready to Kick Your Strategy Up a Notch?

The team at Global Reach has decades of experience with everything from social media marketing, ads, and strategy to SEO and copywriting. They can help you formulate and execute a meaningful plan that will help you hit your goals, no matter what they may be. Just ask our clients or, better yet, contact us for a free initial consultation!

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