What even is content marketing, and why should I care?

Content marketing: buzzword or revolution? Debates have spiralled in the last couple of years with the rise of content marketing’s popularity, but there are still people that have been left behind in the whirlwind, and are confused or unsure about what content marketing really is, and how it could be beneficial to their business.

We believe that everyone should have a firm grasp of what content marketing is, as it can transform businesses. There are too many companies in the world stuck in their idealistic bubbles, pushing sales messages out to a mass market with a belief (or their fingers crossed) that it will lead to increased revenue. Unfortunately for them, that just won’t cut it any more.

What it definitely is and most certainly is not

The most credited and comprehensive definition comes from 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.”

This sums up content marketing perfectly: it’s strategic, it delivers value, and has a clear purpose — to drive business. The harsh reality that businesses need to understand is that people do not care about their company and products/services. They care about themselves; their wants, needs and ambitions. If you don’t believe us, then think about this…

When you scroll through your social media feeds, check your emails, or browse the internet, are you receptive to sales messages? Do you enjoy companies pushing their products and services to you when you’re trying to catch up with your social life, work, or find information that interests you?

If you’re like us, and the majority of modern society, then your answer is no.

Content marketing is not about interrupting or pushing — it’s about pulling people into your world by truly understanding them and delivering what they want or need. Remember, you are now not only competing against your competitors to garner attention and interest — you are battling against other companies, entertainment, and even a person’s family and friends! Delivering something worthwhile and meaningful to your target market, right when they need it, is of utmost importance in this crazy world we now live in, where people are bombarded with information every second.

There are four key words that we feel sum up content marketing: understanding, differentiation, relevance, and value. And the more you learn about content marketing, the more you’ll agree.

Why should it be of interest to me, and what are the deliverables?

As Jay Baer, NY Times best-selling author, says: “If you sell something, you make a customer today, but if you genuinely help someone, you create a customer for life.”

Content marketing has longevity at its core. Yes, a piece of sales-oriented marketing can drive new enquiries, but this can be a short-term tactic. You may have to repeat this over and over to garner the same low response rate, and in the process, drive potential customers away as they don’t want to be ‘sold’ to or don’t currently have a need.

Content marketing on the other hand is a long-term strategy that pulls instead of pushes, and puts customers at the forefront. Instead of being brand focused, it is audience focused, and this principle will eventually drive much higher enquiry and conversion rates. It can also have a lasting impact on a business if consistent, which will see businesses on an upward curve for years to come.

Why? It makes your buyer more intelligent, trusting, engaged and loyal. This is surely a better proposition than one-off, unengaged customers that don’t care about your company?

Although the overarching goal of content marketing is to drive profitable customer action, there are a vast amount of deliverables: brand awareness; changing customer behaviour or opinions; increased engagement; trust and credibility; increased website traffic; search engine optimisation; loyalty; and advocacy, to name a few.

Content marketing not only makes people aware of your brand and filters them into the top of the sales funnel, it can hold their hands the entire way through every stage of the buying process, from zero awareness through to loyalty and brand advocacy. This journey is authentic, it cuts through the clutter, and it truly helps or benefits each differentiated and targeted audience group.

But why are some people not believers? Are they right?

Content marketing is like working out. Many people think they’ll have a six pack or burn a noticeable amount of fat after a couple of workouts, but they’ll be disappointed. It takes consistency and time to burn the fat and achieve the toned physique they’ve been dreaming of, yet many give up because they don’t see immediate results.

The same is true of content marketing. Many businesses and marketers think they’ll achieve success after a few blog posts and social media shares. Yet when they don’t see huge spikes in website traffic, engagement and sales, they begin to believe that content marketing is simply a fad that doesn’t work for them.

But if you apply the same principles as above — consistency and persistency over a sustained period of time — you will begin to see the magic that lies beneath the realm of content marketing.

Listen to the experts

There are bundles of marketing experts, authors, and business professionals that are championing content marketing. Here are just a few:

Content Marketing Institute: “Content marketing is being used by some of the greatest marketing organisations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere. It’s also developed and executed by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.”

Jay Baer, Convince and Convert: “Content that is focused on selling, rather than helping, is doomed to fail. The quicker you figure out your strategic content marketing plan, the faster you can use content to drive meaningful business results.”

Ann Handley, MarketingProfs: “Does your content lead readers on a journey, or does it merely stuff them as leads into a pipeline? Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time. Worry less about sounding professional and worry more about creating remarkable content that other humans can relate to.”

Content Marketing Muse

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The Content Marketing Muse is building a hub of views, news, inspiration & advice to inspire you & help you become better at content marketing.