The term content marketing is, in itself, vague. Are you marketing content? Are you marketing services? What even falls under the definition of content? If you create an awesome blog, are you then doing effective content marketing?
Let's start from the beginning.
What is Content?
According to Dictionary.com, content is defined as "something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts."
In marketing terms, content is any type of asset or communication that is included on digital properties, at events, used as sales enablement, or for any activity that is directed towards an end-user audience. Digital properties could include websites, social media accounts, blogs, etc.
As you can tell, it is a comprehensive and often overwhelming list of options. So how does it all come together? Do we just create all these great materials and assume people will buy our products in droves? Unfortunately, it is not that simple but an understanding of content marketing can help. We've also created this one-page content cheat sheet to help you identify why and when to use each type of content.
Defining Content Marketing
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 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." That's a mouthful.
A little more simplistic definition, from the highly credible Wikipedia, content marketing is "a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online." Ok. So we give the people what they want....and then what?
Creating valuable, relevant content
It's hard to define content marketing because it requires an integrated, strategic approach to be effective. Anyone can "do" content marketing by creating and sharing content. However, to do it well and see results, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your targeted buyers and the journey they take when making a buying decision. You also need to understand where they consume content, what type of content they consume at various stages of the buying decision, and how this all ties into your digital and social media marketing strategies.
Tip: Understand what questions your audience has so you can create content that is valuable to them. Answering their questions will remove their roadblocks to progressing down the funnel towards a purchase.
Consumers want to buy from a trusted brand. They want to believe you are an expert in your space, can help them solve their problems, and can act with professionalism. They want to feel as if you are dialed into industry trends, understand the landscape, and offer competitive products or services.
One way to show this is to produce content consistently that showcases your thought leadership in this space. This could be in a variety of forms - videos, blogs, webinars, etc. Whichever it is, make sure your brand and messaging also stay consistent.
Tip: To engage new buyers, spend more time talking about them than about your products.
Content and social media marketing befuddle many people because they do not immediately see how these tactics will drive profits and ROI. Sharing information is great but if we're not talking about our products, how are we going to make a sale?
Please do not think like this. Think of content marketing as a hands-off relationship-building tool. Think of it like you would the stages of a relationship. You don't start a first date by asking if someone will marry you, right? You're strangers, there are still many questions to be asked, steps to be taken, negotiations to be made. What if he hates country music? Deal-breaker.
Early in your relationship, you just want to make a connection - find something you have in common that you can talk about. Topics that are probably as far away from babies and marriage as possible - even if that is the ultimate end game. If everything goes well, you will get to those questions but if you throw it at them out of the gate, you're done. She (or he) is swiping left.
Content Marketing is complex, but at its core, it is about having a deep understanding of your target audience and giving them the information they need to make an informed decision. Learn more about creating content for each stage of the relationship here.