The growth in interest (take a look at Google Trends) in the term “Content Marketing” in the past 10 years looks like a grueling treadmill workout. Thanks to the pioneering work of thought leaders like Brian Clark and the Copyblogger team, marketers began learning the critical importance of producing valuable content for marketing online.
Fast-forward to today and you can find universities teaching content marketing, a multitude of articles on how to improve your content marketing, and powerful tools to allow you to focus on content creation.
Content marketing has truly come of age.
Content has long been king. In fact, if you look through a history of advertising, you can find “content marketing” examples in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732) and The Furrow by John Deere (1895). They didn’t need a MacBook to pursue effective content marketing strategies. So, why is it such a big deal today?
That’s a great question, and our reason for creating this “Digital Marketing for Everyone Else” series. Marketing is both science and art; the goal of this short article is to make sure you understand the science, so you can combine it with the creativity and inspiration that are uniquely yours.
First, if you’re like me, when you hear a term all the time, it begins to lose meaning. So, let’s start with the basics.
What is Content Marketing?
One of the best definitions can be found over at Copyblogger: “Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers.”
There are several important concepts implied in this definition including:
- Create and share valuable free content: Before the Internet, advertisers reached consumers via today’s traditional channels and used creativity to help them “break through the clutter” to generate awareness. Today, there is so much content online that a great jingle or interesting character won’t cut through the noise. You need to share information that your prospect finds useful/interesting/entertaining in order for them to consider you to be a legitimate option for their business.
- Attract: This is probably both the biggest “duh” and most misunderstood part of content marketing. Like any good story, good content marketing establishes the authority and authenticity of the writer and builds a relationship with the consumer. Done well, the reader / listener / viewer wants to believe and interact with the writer. Duh? Right. OK, the confusing part … how does a writer get their content in front of the reader? Today, most content is found through either direct outreach (advertising, email marketing or social media networks) or via a search engine. We’ll talk more about these methods in upcoming articles in this series. For now, the key concept to understand is that the AUDIENCE is in control of determining whether YOUR content is attractive. Watch your data! Once you find content that attracts your audience, reproduce it until the audience fatigues.
- Convert prospects into customers: Though most creative professionals still bristle at this reality; it is CRITICAL to remember that you’re developing content that SELLS. Creative pride needs to be subordinated to achieving the business objective. If your content does not sell, it’s not marketing. Conversion must always be considered as part of your content marketing strategy.
Now that we know what content marketing is, why is it such a big deal today?
Psychology hasn’t changed and neither has sociology. The fundamental equation for successful communication (message + method = results) hasn’t changed. What has changed is CONTROL.
Technology has shifted control of the marketing message from the “shouting” at the audience that is traditional advertising and converted it to a “conversation” between equals — the audience and the brand.
On this level playing field, the brand has to listen as much as it talks. Content marketing allows a brand to share the brand story, express itself in “human terms” that the audience can understand, and motivate the audience to take action (not just buy products and services).
None of this is too surprising, even for the most traditional marketer. It could be argued that storytelling and building a relationship are critical for all marketing messages. So, why are we experiencing such an explosion in the value of content marketing? The secret power of content marketing comes from how people seek information today.
Between “just Google it” and the multitude of voice search tools like Siri and Alexa, search engine results have become our “over the back fence” word-of-mouth recommendations. That’s right, some Silicon Valley algorithm is defining what website or company is best for “building a garage apartment for my mother-in-law.”
In other words, if you ask Google and get a result, you click. Making sure your site is the result seen is accomplished through search engine optimization or SEO. We’ll go into the basics of SEO later in this series, but a KEY component to ranking well is providing the search engine relevant and regular content that users find useful.
Content marketing feeds search engines content that convinces the search engine to show your site over your competitors’ site. There is a lot of science that goes into SEO but it all comes back to a great story that engages the audience and motivates them to interact with the brand. It all comes back to content marketing.
Further Reading on Content Marketing
If you’d like to dive even deeper into this incredible topic, we’ve got more for you! Check out these great articles that can help you — or help you help others — gain a better understanding of Content Marketing:
- What’s the Future of Content Marketing?
- The Most Important Content Marketing Question: Who Are You Trying to Reach?
- “Who” Comes First: Why Finding Your Audience Matters
- Why Your Customers Don’t Care
- Sustain Success with Sticky Content
One last thing …
Content marketing is about storytelling — focus on telling your story. It doesn’t matter if you use a blog, a podcast, a social media channel, video, or a combination of them all, success always comes from the best story.
If the idea of executing on a content marketing strategy seems overwhelming, know that you don’t need to go it alone. We’re in this with you. If you need a little help, just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services
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