What is content marketing/strategy?
It’s about more than this, but, ultimately, content marketing is using content to increase sales.
It’s not new.
Have you ever used a Betty Crocker recipe (and mix)? Looked up a Michelin star restaurant? Had a Jell-O mould with bits of fruit inside?
If so, you’ve been on the receiving end of content marketing.
The Michelin Guide began as a way to get people to drive more so they’d buy more tires. And the Betty Crocker and Jell-O cookbooks and websites are efforts to have you use their products.
There are hundreds of books and websites that describe content marketing, start with any of the ones at the bottom of the page and you can’t go wrong. Below is an overview of my views on content marketing. If you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read, get in touch and let’s see how I can support your marketing efforts.
So what’s the “content” in content marketing?
Before I describe content, here’s the more important bit — whatever you create MUST be useful for your audience.
At first, I thought this was the only definition of useful that mattered:
My background in content marketing has been for a professional member organization and then for companies selling a commodity. Providing information to those audiences that they can take and use to do their jobs better is a natural fit — how to do something, benefits, and ROI content is all valuable there.
I focused almost entirely on the practical aspects of content.
As I used to joke, “No one reads this magazine for fun.”
I was missing how useful “fun” can be. Useful doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, I’ve learned that humor can be useful in content marketing. It’s hard to put a value on a smile or a moment of reflection from sharing a joke or a philosophical note as part of your marketing. Over time, those small moments add up to a feeling of goodwill towards your business.
And that’s useful to you. But it’s only because you’ve delivered useful content to them.
Uh, weren’t you going to talk about content? OK, here we are: content is anything you consume visually (reading), audially (like a podcast), or both (video or webinar).
That’s broad. But that’s content. Think of the Marvel Universe movies. They’re the product, right? Yes. However, tilt your head and look at them from another angle, they’re content marketing for the comics that the movies are based on and the toys created to support the movie.
We’re (probably) not going to be making a movie together. Content is: a blog post, this Web page, a tweet or anything on social media, an image, a customer testimonial (video or written), an infographic, a tip sheet, a book or ebook, a whitepaper, a video . . . you get the idea.
The biggest difference in content marketing versus an advertising piece is that the content marketing piece is designed to help guide a person along the path (the buyer’s journey in official marketing lingo) to a sale whereas an ad is a direct push to action.
It’s a “here’s some useful information, I hope you like it and come back when you need to know more” versus “buy from me now.”
Why Use Content Marketing?
Companies that blog regularly over time increase traffic to their site faster (and for less money than pay-per-click) than companies that don’t.
Content attracts visitors. Keeps those visitors on your site. Helps you convert those visitors into leads and then further guides leads to becoming customers.
I’ve seen it work. I’ve helped grow a community website from zero to hundreds of thousands of monthly visits with blogs. I’ve seen clients in the copier dealership space increase their traffic from under 100 blog visits/month to over 5,000. Every visit is a potential customer that they would never have attracted without content marketing.
Think about how you like to be sold to. Do you like to be interrupted with intrusive online ads asking you to buy or emails pitching a product because you stopped by a website?
Effective content marketing is helpful. It offers content that makes your customers and intended customers feel something.
I mentioned above that the goal is to increase sales. It’s a slow build, not an immediate hustle.
It’s the “let’s take it slow” version of relationship building to create something deep and lasting, not a one-night stand.
The “why” is more sales. The “how” is be a guide.
Content Strategy and Content Marketing
You’ll read a lot of words online about content strategy and content marketing.
Here’s all you really need to know:
- Content strategy is the identifying what you need to do
- Content marketing is the doing what you need to do that you just identified
As a business, you are familiar with strategy (I hope). Like anything in work or life, you need to plan and then execute your plan.
Then you need to lather, rinse, repeat based on results and analytics.
A Word About Inbound Marketing
I generally use inbound marketing and content marketing the same way, though there are differences if you really want to get down in the weeds.
In short, inbound marketing’s automation aspects rely on good content to work. Content marketing without distribution via social and email channels, and the Internet, is doomed to fail. The two are inextricably linked in my mind and I’ve found trying to parse them into separate buckets a waste of time and energy.
However, beyond the academics of such a conversation, it really doesn’t matter what you call it. Content/inbound marketing is just another aspect of marketing. I’m sure there will be a new flavor of the year “revolution” in marketing soon. After all, consultants and analysts need to be seen as on the cutting edge and there’s good money to be made in confusing customers.
How Do You Get This Stuff to Work
You plan. You create. You evaluate. You tweak (or tear it up and start over).
It’s hard. It takes time and effort and heavy mental lifting. You can use a complete inbound tool such as Marketo or HubSpot (they combine email and email automation, landing pages, CTAs, blogs, website, lists, sales, and more into a single tool — for a price).
Or you can use your WordPress blog and an email tool like MailChimp to manage your lists.
And there’s a world of tools in between. Just remember — the software you use is only the tool and will simply be a waste of money without a strategy and well-defined goals.
One final thought, if you want to “try” content marketing you’ll fail. It requires long-term, ongoing commitment. That said, the foundation of any great content marketing strategy is a blog. And anyone can blog.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you, you are my peoples!
Let’s start creating a content strategy that works for your business.
301-275-7496 (feel free to text!).
Content Marketing Strategy and Resources
These two sites are stuffed with writing advice and the latest in using content to effectively market your business.
Read any one of these books and you’ll understand the essential concepts of content and inbound marketing. Read them all and you’ll have a rock solid foundation for all of your marketing efforts.
- Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.
- Permission Marketing
- Epic Content Marketing
- Inbound Marketing, Revised and Updated: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online
- Inbound Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing Content Marketing the Inbound Way.