The number one question I get asked everyday is: what is content marketing?
There is a ton of confusion as to what the term content marketing actually means.
Is it simply having a ton of blog posts?
Are we talking about social media?
Is it original or curated pieces of writing?
And where do the sales pitches go?
At the end of the day, I hear a lot of people circle around the term “content marketing” without actually knowing what its significance...
Part of the problem is that content marketing is a bit of an umbrella term.
It’s about sharing information, nurturing relationships, telling stories and generating cash--all rolled up into one.
Let’s take a look at all these different aspects of content marketing through the eyes of some of the world’s most renowned marketers:
“Content marketing can be defined as the creation and distribution of meaningful insights, perspectives, and best practices that are valuable to a specific audience.”- Bruce Rodgers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes
Content marketing adds tremendous value through sharing information with serious know-how and insight into the prospect’s problems or pain points.
Oh… and by the way, you can ‘share information’ in more ways than one!
“Content marketing is the process of indirectly and directly promoting a business or brand through value-added text, video, or audio content both online and offline. It can come in long-form (such as blogs, articles, eBooks, and so on), short-form (such as Twitter updates, Facebook updates, images, and so on), or conversational-form (for example, sharing great content via Twitter or participating in an active discussion via blog comments or through an online forum)” -- Susan Gunelius, KeySplash Creative, Inc., author of Content Marketing for Dummies.
Content marketing is about sharing information
Many people have the mistaken belief that content = blog posts. While a rich and active blog should be the cornerstone of most successful content strategies, content can (and should) be delivered in a variety of forms: blog posts, audios, videos, infographics, social media posts, presentations, book reviews and much more. The best approach is to ‘mix it up’ to ensure that your content always feels fresh.
Equally, content marketing does not have to be only original content. In fact, ideally you will intelligently blend curated with original content.
“Content marketing is engaging with your community around an idea instead of a product. What it is is to try to serve the community first and sharing information, ideas and experiences that benefit others without directly asking for anything in return. What it isn’t is just a veil in front of a sales pitch” -- Dan Blank, We Grow Media
“Content marketing is anything an individual or an organization creates and/or shares to tell their story. What it isn’t: A warmed-over press release served as a blog post.”-- Ann Handley, MarketingProfs, co-author with C.C. Chapman of Content Rules
You want your customers and potential prospects to walk away from your posts thinking: “Hey, that was awesome… I think I learnt something”. What you don’t want them saying is: “That was rubbish. Just a thinly disguised ‘puff’ piece.”
So while content marketing can drive interest to you and your business, it is essential that you don’t try to make the sale too fast. Your first step is to share a high value piece of information that is void of promotion and establishes rapport and trust. Once that has happened, your prospect will naturally want to seek you (or your site) to find out more.
Why sales does not come first in content marketing
When you think about the content you’re distributing, you’re going to want to think big. You’re not presenting your potential clients the trees. You want to show them the whole forest in which your products reside in.
Selling dog leashes? Talk about the importance of training your dog. Explain the negative consequences of leaving animals untrained and prone to being abandoned.
“Content is simply telling stories that attract and engage an audience and marketing is making that audience do something, together this is content marketing.”-- Steve Cartwright
The mistake many people make with content marketing is thinking that a dry blog post is going to attract hordes of clients. Nothing could be more wrong. The way you present your information is crucial. You want to be entertaining, enjoyable, and above all, you want to be memorable.
The best way to do that? Master the craft of storytelling. Nothing gets you hooked more than a brilliantly told story.
‘Content marketing is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.’ - Content Marketing World
“It’s about engaging consumers with the stuff they really want, in a way that serves your brand’s purposes and ideals, rather than just trying to jam your logo into their periphery. It’s reaching the exact consumers you want, instead of a vaguely defined demo. It’s helpfully providing an experience they want, instead of trying to distract them from the one they came for. In short, it is the very evolution of advertising itself into something more effective, more efficient, and much less odious.”-- Keith Blanchard, Story Worldwide
Content marketing ushers in a new era, a very far cry from the ‘old world’ of advertising. Instead of hitting people over the head with promotional hype, content marketing is about mastering the art of the ‘Non-Sell’.
Content marketing is a ‘Non-Sell’
You aren’t pitching your products or services, you are sharing valuable knowledge and helping your client move forward. By doing so you earn respect and trust that is ultimately rewarded through sales.
With content marketing the more you give away, the more you get.
So what is content marketing? It’s all about your consumer. Not you.
The less you talk about you and your business, the more it works.
Why content marketing is not about your business
And it DOES work. . People are much more likely to purchase from a business that has given them valuable and interesting information in the past than one they have had no relationship with.
As Seth Godin has so aptly quipped, “Content marketing is the only marketing left”.
That’s because it builds relationships.
And that particular triumvirate inevitably and inexorably leads to sales.