A Simplified Approach to Content Marketing – Part One: The 6 W’s of Content

Sometimes, there’s simply too much on the Internet about one particular topic. Too much information makes it extremely difficult to stay on top of current trends and figure out which advice to follow. Content marketing is one of these areas, which is why many companies and marketers find it challenging to manage.


In the case of content marketing, this information overload is really unnecessary. Content marketing isn’t complicated, but to take a simplified approach you have to cut through the clutter. Experts who have been operating in the content industry for years have the knowledge to do this. Companies who are just getting into content marketing don’t have the luxury of experience to guide them. So, if you’re in this latter category, where do you start?

Think back – way back to the last English class you took. Remember the 6 W’s? They are:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How, and
  • Why?

Simply put, these six questions should form the foundation of any investigation – and any piece of content that you write should ideally address all six. In fact, the basic writing principles that you learned in English class are still applicable to the content that you develop as part of your content marketing strategy —although in some cases you’ll need to add a 21st century spin to accommodate for the technological platforms that your content is published on (some of which are heavily visual like Instagram). More on this in Part Two.

For now, let’s start by putting what you learned in English class to the test. We’ll use the six W’s to help us simplify content marketing – focusing on the first three W’s here, and the last three W’s in Part Two.

Who is Using Content Marketing?

Businesses of all sizes, across all industries are using content marketing approaches. According to content marketing leader Neil Patel, “60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day.”

Content marketing is now mainstream, and even companies who don’t have a content marketing strategy formalized on paper are likely participating in content in some way. In fact, 74% of B2C marketers have a strategy, but 34% of these marketers haven’t documented their strategy.

Want some examples of who is doing what? Check out:

  • Content marketing innovations from the world’s best brands
  • 25 Brands that made it big with content marketing

What is the Value of Content Marketing?

The answer really depends on your goals, which is why any discussion of value, or a return on investment (ROI) from your content marketing strategy must begin with a clear understanding of what you want content marketing to do for your business.

That leads many people to ask, what can content marketing do for my business? Here are some reasonable goals to set for your content marketing strategy – but be selective and realistic here. Your strategy doesn’t have to meet all these goals, just the ones that make sense within your overall marketing strategy.

We think there are four main goals that your content strategy can help you achieve:

  1. Positioning your company as an expert and thought leader in your industry
  2. Driving sales
  3. Communicating your brand story, values and message
  4. Increasing customer satisfaction and retention rates

Setting goals is just the first step – to get value out of your content marketing you need to:

  • Formulate a strategy on paper
  • Execute that strategy
  • Monitor your progress and results
  • Make adjustments along the way.

When it comes to assessing the value of content marketing, it’s important to know what to look for. The Content Marketing Institute suggests that you track the following indicators:

  • An increase in lead quality and/or quantity (goal: sales)
  • Shorter sales cycles (goal: savings)
  • An increase in customer awareness (goals: customer satisfaction and increased brand awareness)
  • Market share indicators (goals: sales, customer satisfaction, increased brand awareness)
  • Increase in cross-selling opportunities (goal: sales)
  • Qualitative customer feedback on the content (goals: customer satisfaction).

Keep in mind that you’ll need to customize the indicators that you track depending on the goals you’ve chosen. Look for the following analytical data, which will help drive the above mentioned indicators:

  • Web traffic increases
  • Increase in page views
  • Decrease in bounce rates
  • Increase in Tweets or Facebook shares [or basic engagement rates for whatever social channel you’re on]
  • Increase in search engine rankings.

We would add a few data points to this list, including an increase in:

  • Time on page
  • Mobile visitors
  • Relevant referral traffic.

Using these data points to measure the indicators that show you’re reaching your content marketing goals is critical to get value out of your content.

Where Do You Focus Your Efforts?

Part of the overwhelming aspect of content marketing is that its reach is extremely wide – encompassing both digital and print marketing. Anything that is written, visual and creative could be considered part of your content marketing strategy. And that content doesn’t only have to be customer-facing. Internal communications with employees and stakeholders counts too. So, where do you focus your efforts?

There’s no one-size fits all approach here. Whether you should update your website, blog regularly, get on social media, write e-newsletters, invest in direct mail campaigns, develop videos, Tweet, or write articles for trade magazines will depend on your specific industry, your target consumer, your goals and your brand persona. But, perhaps one of the biggest constraints will be your budget.

When it comes to popular types of content, a recent study showed that marketers are developing:

  • Social media content
  • Blogs
  • Email newsletters
  • Video (pre-produced)
  • Infographics
  • Illustrations/photos.

The type of content that’s best for your business really depends on the goals mentioned above, but also knowing and understanding your target consumer – because you want to ensure your content reaches your target consumer and that once it reaches them, it is engaging and informative.

Although there is no magic formula, there are some guidelines we can offer for choosing some channels over others depending on whether you’re in an industry focused on B2B or B2C. B2B customers might focus their content marketing efforts on:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Google+

If you’re in a B2C industry, you may want to consider:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn (for recruiting)
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

Once you’ve determined the type of content and the channels you’re going to focus on, the next step is to figure out when and how frequently you should publish. We’ll touch on this in Part Two, where we look at:

  • When Do You Post (The Ins and Outs of a Content Calendar)?
  • How Do You Stay Current?
  • Why You Need to Use Technology (And Which Tools Are Best)
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