Content Marketing Defined
According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
“Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.”
The Content of Content Marketing
The content of content marketing takes many forms. It can include news releases, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, podcasts, posts, Tweets and more.
Do you notice “advertising” is not in the mix? Content marketing is not overtly concerned with selling. Customer acquisition is the ultimate goal, of course. But not through slick 30-second pitches. Rather, content marketing is about brand building. It’s about informing prospects, educating consumers, earning their trust, and influencing them to as to why they should be your customer.
Free, But Not Easy
The idea of content marketing is to provide consistent, ongoing valuable information. And much of it is provided free. That’s right, free.
Those who have been around since the start of the web will recognize the same ethos behind content marketing that drove early web innovators. That ethos says information belongs to the masses. Shared knowledge is good (proprietary secrets excluded). Insights should be distributed.
Also note that content marketing is about owning the media and messages that you distribute. This often means creating it yourself — as in, sometimes literally, you; or your staff; or your agency; or a team of trusted freelancers/contractors who know your company as well as you do.
It’s not easy. It’s not free. But it’s necessary.
Spicing Up Content
According to Wikipedia, the phrase “content marketing” was used as early as 1996, when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors conference.
These days, newspapering is a struggling industry. But pre-internet, print editors were the exact equivalent of today’s digital content strategists, wrestling with how to gain and retain loyal readers, as the following notes of the ASNE discussion, captured by Rick Doyle, editor of the Walla Walla (Wash.) Union-Bulletin at the time, show:
“To make smart content decisions and to effectively market the newspaper, editors (need to) think about readers and how the paper is marketed. Rather than readership, satisfaction needs to be measured – with the goal of moving those who are dissatisfied to satisfied and those who are satisfied to very satisfied. Keep in mind that consumers react and follow. They don’t lead. It wasn’t a consumer focus group that decided ‘Gee, maybe you should put flavors on chips.’ But when Doritos added nacho flavor, consumers flocked to the product.”
The question for today’s content marketers is: does your digital content have the kind of flavoring consumers flock to?