What is “content marketing” and why should I care?
We hear the phrase “content marketing” tossed around a lot these days. In fact, it feels like content marketing is being hailed as the next big thing for business, like social media marketing was in recent years. (Grey is the new black!) But that’s not quite right:
Content marketing has been around for years.
Pre-internet, the term was “corporate storytelling” — that is, the idea of providing free value to customers (by way of information and education) to build trust, establish thought-leadership, and develop a relationship.
“One of the earliest instances many experts cite is John Deere’s The Furrow magazine, first published in 1895 and still going strong. It is published not to sell John Deere equipment, but to educate farmers about new technology and methods for becoming more successful business owners” (cmo.com)
And today, the term “content marketing” combines that sentiment (providing information and education to build a relationship) with all of the various vehicles the internet has to offer (including social media marketing) in a strategic and targeted way.
Content Marketing Defined
Here’s a great definition from our friends over at Copyblogger.com:
“Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
The content you’re marketing as part of your content marketing strategy can include any of the following and more: “news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, [and] photos” (wikipedia.com).
It makes sense intuitively — doesn’t it? — that we have to give a little to get a lot as business owners today. Here are some stats that prove that theory is true as far as customers are concerned from marketingcopilot.com:
- 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council)
- Those consumers are therefore more likely to buy from that company (Custom Content Council)
- Interesting content is a “top 3” reason people follow brands on social media (Content+)
- 90% of consumers find custom content useful (TMG Custom Media), and
- 78% [of them] believe that organizations providing custom content [want to build a good relationship] (TMG Custom Media)
- Companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms (Social Media B2B)
So what held true for John Deere in 1895 still holds true today: potential and current clients appreciate and respect the free and valuable educational information they get from thought-leading businesses, and they’ll thank them with their loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.
Your competitors are already on the content marketing bandwagon:
“According to a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 2013 Survey, 86% of B2C (business to consumer) companies are planning to keep or increase their current content marketing spending this year. 54% of B2B (business to business) companies are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013” (seomoz.com).
So whatever your goals, if you want to compete, you’d better start creating content now.
Wait! What about Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing are very similar concepts when it comes to brand building online.
“Inbound Marketing is advertising a company using blogs, SEO, social media marketing, eBooks, eNewsletters, video, podcasts or other forms of content marketing… Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content” (wikipedia.com).
Conversely, “outbound marketing” includes direct marketing tactics like “cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements,sales flyers, spam, email marketing, telemarketing] and traditional advertising”.
So what is the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing experts at Square2 Marketing say this: “Inbound marketing is a broad, high level, descriptive term for marketing tactics that, instead of pushing interruptive messages out to clients, engage prospects and pull them in to your business. The goal of this approach is to help prospects get to know, like and trust your company—building comfort until the moment they’re ready to hire you. Content marketing is a part (an important part) of inbound marketing the same way your website, email marketing, lead nurturing, video marketing, search engine optimization and other tactics are part of an integrated Marketing Machine” (square2marketing.com).
Confused? Don’t be.
Despite however convoluted the definitions may be, there’s no denying how important it is, this idea of “giving in order to get”. The below Content Marketing Infographic from the inbound marketing experts at Hubspot shows the methodology in action:
The same theory and system applies to content marketing. Through strategic and targeted content marketing efforts, as per the Hubspot team, you can:
- attract visitors
- convert visitors into leads
- close the deal, turning leads into customers, and
- continue to satisfy current clients so they’ll provide your business with enthusiastic promotion (and free word-of-mouth advertising)
The below infographic from Web Presence Group shows both how content marketing works, and why it’s becoming such a powerful force when it comes to improving web presence and search rankings:
As with all online marketing tactics (whether you’re putting your online marketing dollars into a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Campaign, a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising Campaign, a Social Media Marketing (SMM) Campaign, or a comprehensive campaign (the most effective kind!) that combines all of these tactics for the greatest growth, having a carefully-crafted and detailed strategic plan in place is critical.
Clients just starting out in content marketing often share similar concerns. Below are three of the top questions put forward to, and answered by, internet marketing expert Ann Handley on Entrepreneur.com:
Question: Why should I be giving anything away for free?
Answer: “Some companies worry that by creating content and sharing it freely, they are giving away their thought leadership or trade secrets. They worry that competitors are trolling their blogs, gaining valuable insights or (worse!) poaching clients from the comment threads…The truth is that giving away free content will do a few things, but none of those will dissuade the purchase of any metaphorical milk. Rather, educating prospects about the products you sell and underscoring your own expertise actually increases your credibility and fosters trust. You show that you know what you’re talking about, and those who dig your stuff will become more educated and ready leads for sales” (entrepreneur.com).
Question: I only have time for one content piece. Where should I start?
Answer: “I don’t think a company can live without a blog (or a flexible content-management system that’s blog-like), in the sense that it allows you to publish and amplify content easily and quickly. If you have to call someone in IT every time you want to publish something new to your website, that’s adding an unnecessary level of complexity that dissuades creation” (entrepreneur.com).
Question: How can I make time for all this?
Answer: “Stop doing things that don’t work, and start creating content. Find one business problem or marketing challenge and launch a content program around that specific issue. Identify proper metrics so you’ll know whether it’s a success, and give yourself a long enough period to measure the results. Content is a long-term commitment, not a one-and-done campaign” (entrepreneur.com).
Two of the ways Stir’s clients get started on their content marketing journeys are thus: blogging and social media marketing. In fact, because most businesses today have at least some presence on both, it’s easy — with some strategic planning — to turn what you’re already doing on your corporate blog and Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages (and spending, in terms of time, budget, and resources), into a targeted content marketing campaign that has significant, measurable, and sustainable return-on-investment (ROI).
Managing your company’s social media presence and corporate blog properly doesn’t have to be onerous. Here are some checks and balances that you can put into place to make sure you’re working smart, not hard:
- follow a strategic plan
- use a corporate style guide
- create an editorial calendar
- review analytics and metrics
Combining the above with, first, a great system for brainstorming to ensure you’re coming up with great content ideas (things that are relevant, valuable, timely, informative, entertaining, engaging, and easy-to-digest) with a reporting system so you can modify your tactics if you’re not getting the response (sharing, liking, following, etc.) will almost always guarantee success for your business in content marketing. You’ll establish yourself as a thought-leader and your business as a trusted resource in the industry.
As a first step, review your current corporate blog against some Blogging Best Practices to see how it will fit into your content marketing strategy and boost the efficacy of your online marketing efforts as a whole.
Need more motivation? The folks over at Bluecorona.com speak in detail about the benefits of blogging for business. And if you still need evidence as to why your business and brand should be present and active on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc., click here: Social Media Marketing for Business.
Get stuck? We’re here to help.
Our team of internet marketing experts has over 10-years experience helping clients reach their online growth goals — building brand buzz, increasing web traffic, improving online following, and — ultimately — boosting bottom lines (with increased leads and sales).