What is content marketing?
As with most good ideas, content marketing is not a new concept. In 1895, John Deere published a leaflet called “The Furrow” which helped farmers make more money by using John Deere products. In 1900, Michelin published the Michelin Guide, providing drivers with maintenance tips and travel guides – offering motorists information on hotels and restaurants that motorists may want to visit.
Over the last 20 years however, the way in which people find, receive, consume, and send information has changed exponentially. The internet and the evolution of technology has led to a growth in scrutiny, cynicism, and desire for genuine conversation.
A quick glance at Internet Live Stats (a staggeringly brilliant, and yet at the same time, petrifying website) shows that there are over a billion websites in the world. Every day, over 139 billion emails are sent by three billion internet users.
In this environment of excess, people can pick and choose what they want to read, and anyone has the ability to publish anything they want and make it available to the rest of the world.The job of content marketing is to rise above the noise and create an authentic, human voice Click To Tweet
Content marketing creates content that offers value and allows readers to connect with brands.
No, but seriously, what is content marketing?
The Content Marketing Association defines content marketing as:
…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…
In English? (note: don’t you just love marketers for their ability to say not very much using lots of words?)
It means that instead of simply trying to sell your product, you’re opening up a conversation. You’re sharing your knowledge on a topic to educate your buyers. You’re showing a human side to your business. This is done in the hope that by being a useful source of information, customers will reward your business with their loyalty and money.
In practice, this means blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, infographics, videos, toolkits, checklists, how-to guides. Businesses give away information in order to acquire leads, increase their visibility, feed their social media, and widen their reach.
According to the Content Marketing Association, content marketing is “second only to internet advertising… and now accounts for more the 20% of marketing budgets.” Effective content marketing allows a company to:
- Build relationships with existing and potential customers;
- Increase customer retention;
- Build brands and increase engagement; and (hopefully)
- Generate traffic and increase conversion and sales.
What should businesses know about content marketing?
Firstly, content marketing isn’t going anywhere. Unlike Tamagotchi and the soon-to-be-forgotten fidget spinner, content marketing is here to stay. In order to succeed at the content marketing game, there are a couple of things businesses should be aware of before starting.
1. There are experts out there – use them
It can be tempting to dive straight into content marketing (after all, how hard can it be?). However, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are people out there who make a living from this. And there’s a reason for that. Content marketing, done right, can pay dividends. Done wrong and there’s the potential for making a huge dent in your company’s reputation.
2. Add value
While there’s certainly room for short 500-word pieces (like this one), there is a growing focus on high-quality, long-form content. Not only does it have an impact on your Google ranking, but isn’t it better to have a potential client find all the information they need on your site, as opposed to on the site of a competitor?
3. Make it mobile
A recent Hubspot report found that 33% of people use their phone as their primary access to the internet. Is your website up to the task? Concentrate on compelling visuals, quick loading, single-page scroll content. Your phone friends will thank you for it.
4. Putting a face to the name
Words aren’t enough anymore. Whereas in the past, customers may have been content to put their trust in a brand, now, they’re demanding more. Society wants to see the person behind the brand. We want to know who’s growing our food or making our clothes. We want to know that there’s someone human behind that corporate exterior.
5. Get it out there
Content doesn’t just sit on a static website. Part of the reason behind creating content is so you can get more engaging. Share it, discuss it, ask questions about it. This is your chance to really get to know your customer and future customers.
Where can I find out more?
Not normally one to push traffic away from my site, there are a couple of really useful toolkits and long reads on content marketing:
- Getting started in content marketing – Content Marketing Institute
- The beginner’s guide to content marketing – MOZ
- Developing a content marketing strategy – Hubspot
- How to organise your content marketing process – CoSchedule
- What it takes to make a piece of content – Contently
(Do you notice how most of these companies have a product based around content marketing? Yes, that’s right, they’re using content marketing to teach their potential clients about… content marketing)