Content marketing is becoming essential to supporting customers on their buying path. In “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth,” Google’s Jim Lecinski reveals that the average shopper consulted more than 10 sources of information before making a decision in 2011, almost twice the number of sources consulted just one year prior. Not only is online content a useful tool for consumers, but savvy marketers can also use it wisely.

Target

There is an enormous opportunity to become more efficient with every aspect of content marketing, from content creation, to production and management, to optimization for search and promotion. When content producers become more effective -- by doing their homework and truly centering content on customer needs -- the opportunity to reduce cost of acquisition and reallocate marketing dollars is enormous.

Content marketing is consuming a big slice of the pie -- more than a quarter of most marketers’ budgets, according to a Content Marketing Institute Report -- which also found that almost two-thirds (60%) of marketers plan to increase spending on content marketing. This is because content marketing is effective, resulting in as much as a 40% revenue lift and 25x growth in lead generation, a Curata study found.

Keywords and Beyond

The search terms, or keywords, used by consumers to find information can tell marketers a lot about their content marketing strategy and what consumers need in the moment. For example, they can figure out how serious a consumer is about making a purchase or how imminent the purchase is based on the search terms, or keywords, used by the consumer. Search terms may reveal, for example, whether a consumer is learning about a new category, understanding their buying options, or researching a specific option. When the consumer reveals her intent, the marketer can.

Marketers have made a science of staying on top of the timely and relevant topics that are leading visitors to online content. But knowing which keywords to write about is just the beginning, the latest Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research, presented in the May “Harvard Business Review” (HBR), suggests. They also need to make it easier for consumers to find the information they need in the moment to make an effective decision. Brands that simplify customer decision-making are 86% more likely to be purchased and 115% more likely to be recommended, CEB found.

While consumers want to interact with online content as part of their decision process, CEB researchers observed that consumers are often overwhelmed by the amount of content available – and that they’re often turned off by content that doesn’t deliver.

What’s causing this kryptonite effect? In its survey of more than 7,000 consumers and 200 chief marketing officers, CEB found a disconnect between content producers and consumers. Marketers believe consumers engage online to feel connected (64%) or to be part of a community (61%). Consumers, on the other hand, indicated they’re hoping to find discounts (61%) or make a purchase (55%) when they interact with brands online.

The combined effects of organizing content more effectively, establishing a trusted advisor status with consumers, and providing tools to aid in decision-making cracks the content marketing code by making customers “sticky,” CEB found. Not only do customers complete their purchases, they go on to recommend the product and make repeat purchases.

Ultimately effective content marketing will be about getting the right information to the right consumer at the right time. And a lot of times that means getting that content in front of consumers at the point of search. With over 18 billion searches conducted monthly in the US alone, according to comScore’s 2011 report, brands, and especially those in retail, would need to think creatively about how to showcase and describe their products not on their own websites, but for Google and Bing as well.  Having compelling product descriptions that aid the selection of products in search results will be the next digital battleground for marketers.