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What is Content Marketing? (And what it’s not)

Quentin Aisbett | Sep 16, 2015 457 views No Comments

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Depending on where you’re coming from, content marketing is either one of the oldest forms of marketing or one of the newest; it’s revered by some and shamed by others. And trying to identify a clear definition for it can be a nightmare.



With all the buzz surrounding content marketing, how can you be sure what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s important for your business?


 

What is Content Marketing?

inbound marketing activityAccording to Content Marketing definition, content marketing is:

‘“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Although this is a widely accepted definition, you’ll find a range of interpretations across the web, from less-formal to for practitioners. Personally, I like Robert Rose’s elevator pitch for content marketing:

“Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.”

Although it’s short,sweet and doesn’t tell the entire picture, Robert’s definition is a heck of a lot more palatable when trying to describe content marketing to newbies.
 

What Content Marketing Is Not

I’ve touched on a couple definitions of what I believe content marketing to be. Now let’s discuss what I believe it is not.

Content marketing is not advertorial or native advertising. The core idea behind content marketing–in my mind–is to provide value, demonstrate authority, communicate personality, and better engage an audience. In short, it focuses on the audience.

Native advertising, while appearing like real content, still focuses on the same premise of traditional advertising. It focuses on product/service features and company virtues–not the user.
 

An Important Role In Today’s Marketing

Content Marketing is deep-rooted in the inbound methodology. Just think about the inbound funnel for a second: Attract, Engage, Convert, Retain and Advocate. Content marketing can play an influential role in each step of that process.

Let’s use ONQ as an example.From a B2B perspective, let’s take a look at our own blog. Because we’re a digital marketing agency working with SMEs, we publish content for that very audience on the topics we know best (all related to the services we offer clients).

One post for example, “Marketing Tips for Travel Agencies,” has amassed over 25,000 views in the last couple years. If someone asked you to speak in front of 25,000 people, you’d jump at the chance, right? That same blog post converts subscribers and drives business leads on a daily basis. Some of those leads turn into regular work.

In the eyes of the consumer, your “his is who we are” sales pages will likely be very similar to those of your competitors. Content marketing can do many things, and setting you apart from your competitors is a huge opportunity.

If done right, content marketing demonstrates a level of care and interest in helping your audience, establishes knowledge and authority, gives your business a real voice, and indirectly encourages loyalty. More specifically, it attracts new users to your site through social sharing and search, engages and converts website visitors, and turns regular readers into business advocates.
 

How Old is Content Marketing?

The Content Marketing Examples website has a great post titled “3 Vintage Content Marketing Examples We Can Learn From Today.”

The first example is of “The Furrow”: a free educational magazine published by John Deere. The magazine was published for farmers–the same farmers who could benefit from John Deere machinery. It wasn’t a sales brochure, it was a publication to provide value to its audience. This was in 1895.

This brings us back to Robert Rose’s elevator pitch. Why tell your audience you’re a rockstar when you can show them?

John Deere could have advertised or sent sales brochures to their prospects, but instead they chose to provide value to their target audience–and it paid off. Today, The Furrow continues as the world’s largest farming magazine, reaching 1.2 million people each year, across 40 countries and in 12 languages.
 

How Content Marketing Can Work For You

I find it hard to discuss digital strategy without content playing some sort of role in attracting and engaging an audience, no matter how diverse and random that audience may be. But successful content marketing is not easy, nor it should be. The last thing we want is everyone producing average content and flooding the web…

Wait, that’s happened already!

In order to make content marketing work for you, you need to have a strategy to ensure the time spent on producing content is actually going to stand out from the garbage, engage your reader, and ultimately make the most out of the time and resources you’re committing.

Let me give you a brief snapshot of what that content marketing strategy should include:

  1. Understand your audience. Understand the questions they have about your industry, their pain points and the key selling points. If you analyse your audience well, you will identify a few different specific audiences or personas. Put a name to these personas. Make sure your team understands who they are and as much about them as possible. Your content strategy will now revolve around these personas.
  2. Examine how your audience prefers to consume content. They may take favor video or love downloading ebooks. Whatever the case may be, your strategy needs to take this into account.
  3. Determine how you will distribute your content. In most instances, you’ll share it for free. If you’re looking to use this content to engage the traffic you already have on your site, offer a subscribe option. For example: “Get our monthly newsletter and download our free ebook.” Whatever you decide on, make sure you’re providing real value.

 
Now you have your specific audiences defined, including who they are, what info they’re looking for, and where and how they want to consume it. Now that you have your objective defined, go and produce content for these personas and ensure it’s your site that fulfills their need for information.

But don’t hold back. Wow the reader and make an impact.

Write as if you’re preparing a speech to talk in front of 25,000 people or more, because that’s just how many views your post may get. Provide the most valuable resource on the topic and that blog post might turn into the #1 source of traffic for your site for a long time.

     

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