What is Content? An Overview + 11 Killer Examples

Posted by Jessica OʼBrien on May 2, 2019 at 10:20 AM     ContentStrategy
What is Content? An Overview + 11 Killer Examples

Here at Marketing Essentials, we often throw the word “content” around. (We also throw around words like Scrum and ‘Who put the stuffed rat in the fridge?’, but that’s beside the point.)

What we keep hearing from prospective and current clients alike is that they aren’t exactly sure what “content” means. In this blog post, I’ll break down what content is and how it fits into a smart digital marketing strategy. I’ll also share 11 awesome examples of content I found to inspire your own.

What Does Content Mean in Marketing?

HubSpot defines content as written or visual representations of information that matters to your personas.

Let’s unpack that definition a bit.

  • Written or visual: Content can be a blog post or web page, but it can also be an infographic, a video, a podcast, a chatbot, a social media post and more.
  • Representations of information: Content can be educational, informative, entertaining or all three. Regardless of its purpose, it should impart some kind of message to the reader.
  • Matters to your personas: Briefly speaking, a persona is a representation of your most likely customer (read more about personas here). Your content should be geared toward your persona’s pain points, questions and desires — not just what you want to tell them.

You likely consume content every day without even realizing it. The morning radio show you listen to on your way to work, the menu at your favorite restaurant and the breakdown after your baseball team’s game are all types of content.

Why Does Content Marketing Matter?

Content by itself isn’t a marketing strategy — it’s just bits of information. To make content really work for you, it needs to be part of a larger overall digital strategy.

Do you know all the benefits that well-written, informative and targeted content can have for your business (and that it works in any industry)? Consider this:

  • Content marketing can cost much less than traditional marketing and can generate double or triple the number of leads. (Source: Demand Metric)
  • Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  • Companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month got more than four times more leads than companies that published four or fewer monthly posts. (Source: HubSpot)

Related: Three reasons B2B companies need quality digital content >>

How Does It Work?

Content marketing works because, more than ever, consumers are empowered to seek out their own information. Instead of relying on a sales rep, today’s buyer will spend time researching online, visiting your website and reading reviews — all before talking to a real person.

Content also boosts your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. The more information out there about your company, the higher the chance that Google will rate it well and bump your listing up in the search results.

With content marketing, you can meet buyers where they are and provide helpful information to guide them along their sales journey. A word of caution, though — there are two big mistakes companies make when they try it.

For one, the majority of content should be top of funnel (TOF) or focused on the general subject matter instead of the brand itself. People don’t want to hear about how great your company is upfront; they want to learn more and judge it for themselves. That doesn’t mean other pieces of content can’t be more middle of funnel-focused, but be strategic about how they’re used.

On the other hand, the second mistake I see is not providing a clear direction and focus in the content. You could write a brilliant blog post with a heartwarming story, but what does this have to do with your business? And how will readers know what to do next?

It’s important to map out your content strategy and provide strong calls to action so readers can take the next step.

11 Examples of Great Content

Without further ado, I present 11 examples of killer content from all industries and markets, both B2B and B2C. See how content works in the real world and get inspired to create content for your own business with these examples.

1. Chief Metal Buildings - Whitepapers

Your content doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. Chief Metal Buildings has its roots more than 50 years ago in Grand Island, Nebraska. It sells its prefabricated products to other builders and construction companies, so its website is B2B-focused.

Its resources provide all the information an interested builder would need, including building specifications, a product manual and a planning kit. Chief clearly knows its buyers and has created content that gives them exactly what they need both at the top and bottom of the funnel.

2. Trader Joe’s - Online Catalog

I admit, I’m biased — but the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer has to be one of my favorite examples of content marketing. If you’ve never seen it, it’s basically a catalog showcasing their seasonal products with well-written, brand-focused content that both informs the reader about their sometimes exotic ingredients and encourages them to buy.

The old-timey drawings and cheesy puns all add up to create a piece of content that not only sells but memorably shows off the brand while doing it.

3. Norseman Drill and Tool - Video

Here’s another example of a manufacturing company creating great content. Sometimes, it’s easier to show than to tell — and that’s exactly what these videos from Norseman do.

If you’re buying cutting tools or drill bits, you care about quality, efficiency and uptime — all things that are showcased in these videos. If you’re selling something tangible, don’t be afraid to show off your products; it’s the next best thing to having someone see them in person.

4. MyLifeSite - Blogs and whitepapers

This example comes from the senior living world. Brad Breeding’s blog is known for being an independent, helpful resource for those working in — or researching options for — senior living. He not only provides his thoughtful take on issues, he offers tools to other senior living communities to help them attract qualified leads.

I like this example because it demonstrates how information should be helpful, first and foremost, for your audience. Although Breeding includes plugs for his own resources and services, it feels natural, not forced, and complements the content.

5. Copyblogger FM - Podcast

Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a hardened veteran, Copyblogger is a must-visit site. Their blog is full of personality and interesting tidbits, and their members-only resources are worth their weight in gold. But what I want to focus on here is their podcast.

Here’s an example of content that’s audio-only, relatively simple to produce and easy to promote. Copyblogger uses their podcast as another content channel to share their ideas while building brand awareness for their paid services. Even if you don’t start a formal podcast, some recorded audio with nice images on your site could do the trick.

6. River Pools and Spas - Blog and whitepapers

River Pools and Spas is often held up as the shining example of the difference content marketing can make. A company that struggled during the recession of the late 2000s turned to building their website to attract customers. Today, their traffic has increased exponentially thanks to their digital efforts.

When you click over to their website, it’s all about the user. Their blog covers every topic you’d want to know about pools, and their gated resources offer deeper information in exchange for an email address. Take a cue from this company and think about all of their questions you could address through content.

7. Neil Patel - Infographic

Neil Patel is one of the biggest names in marketing, and most of his site is focused on his blog, podcasts, videos and other resources — all great examples of content.

I chose this infographic to demonstrate the impact of highly-sharable content. The infographic is well-designed, presents interesting information and — most important — can be shared on social media or other sites. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to create one, either — tools like Canva and Easil are free and easy to use.

8. Jeni’s - Video

Sometimes, you might have trouble thinking of how to represent your product when someone can’t hold, touch or taste it. In that case, do the next best thing - show it off, just like in the drill bit example above.

In this video, Jeni’s walks the viewer through the entire process (quite literally from cow to cone) of one of their seasonal ice cream flavors. Not only does this video show off the luscious end product, it highlights the careful, sustainable approach they take to their ice cream — two things that are important to their personas.

9. Bank of America - Instagram

This example beautifully illustrates how a brand can show off its personality without having to focus on its products. And for something intangible, like banking services, that’s even more important.

Bank of America’s Instagram profile is full of colorful photos of its culture, the people it helps and what they aspire to do. Notice the branded icons it uses for its highlights (those are the little circles at the top, if you’re an Instagram novice like me) that entice a viewer to click.

10. Databox - Email

Sales emails are sometimes boring and come off as tone-deaf. But with Databox, a tool that helps present complex data in a simple and digestible format, that’s not the case. Check out this email I got from their marketing director, John, after signing up for an account.

I loved this email because it sounded genuine. Even though I know that John didn’t sit down and write this email specifically to me, it still sounds like he did. That is, it sounds like a human wrote it — and because of that, you can bet I clicked on it.

databox email


11. Marketing Essentials - Case studies

I had to sneak at least one example of our work in this list! Case studies not only provide information to readers about your expertise, even if a reader isn’t ready to contact you, they can learn more about your work and maybe even get some tips for their own business.

How Can I Start Creating Content?

Although creating quality content doesn’t have to be difficult, it helps to be organized. Sit down and plan a strategy first, then outline an editorial calendar so you know what’s being posted, when.

Need help creating content that attracts and converts leads? Let us know — we’re happy to help you build a smart digital strategy. And if you’re not quite ready to talk, download our free digital marketing checklist to see how you can improve your online content today.

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