What is Content Marketing?

Content is king.

Traditional marketing techniques like radio, print, and television advertisements are still effective for large businesses. However, these techniques are traditionally cost prohibitive to small and mid-market organizations and the results don’t justify the expense. Enter content marketing:

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.

Instead of designing traditional ads to pitch products or services, you provide useful, relevant information to your target audience in order to attract them to your services, build trust in your brand, and eventually commit to purchasing from you.

Consider social media. The service is free and it draws in millions of users looking to connect in a digital space. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: millions of eyes following millions of individuals, organizations, and brands. We don’t follow, like, and subscribe to promotional offers or sales pitches. We’re engaging with people and brands that bring us joy and value through funny videos and memes, clever quips, and the opportunity to interact with digital business in a local way. Just like a mom n’ pop shop downtown, online stores must draw in a crowd, interact with the customers, and encourage sales through experience and service.

Content marketing is your opportunity to demonstrate credibility and relevance through useful content and customer interaction. It isn’t a disguised advertisement. Real talk folks; your target audience will see through that. They want actual value. When they receive value, they’re more likely to purchase from you when you do offer a (transparent!) sales pitch. Like the local hardware store owner describing the benefits of one hammer over another, so too must you offer that same insight in your digital space. If I’m in the market for hammers and appreciate your expertise and customer service, it’s more likely that I’ll purchase the hammer you recommended.

Content marketing is good for your bottom line — and your customers. You can do it for pennies on the traditional marketing dollar and it WORKS. Not only does it increase interest in your product, it builds loyalty in your brand because your customers come to trust your insight and expertise. They appreciate the value you provide through your content and they’re more likely to stick with you when they need a service or product that you offer. They’re more likely to offer a positive review and may even extend your digital presence by leaving favorable comments on their personal social media.

Content marketing is here to stay.

Content marketing gave power back to the consumer. Remove “relevant and valuable” from the above quote and you’ll see the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you “stuff.” We get promotional material all.the.time. We’re bombarded by it, and most of the time it isn’t very relevant or valuable. We ignore it or filter it into our spam box. That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day. Consumers don’t mind it- in fact, they crave it- if it brings them value. They decide who they want to hear from and how often. In fact, consumers determine their preferred brands based on effective content. Let’s say you have expertise in propagating succulents and my established plants are forming pups; I may need that expertise. If it’s engaging, relevant, and useful I may subscribe to your garden blog. And if you have an affiliate account with Amazon, I may use your links because it saves me time and I trust your recommendation. You get a kickback just by sharing your expertise in a genuine way with your target audience.

New to content marketing? Here’s a basic strategy to get you started:

  • What types of information should my content marketing strategy cover?

    • A business plan for content marketing: Once your organization has agreed to adopt content marketing, the next step is building the business plan for the content marketing program itself. Content categories, where it will be posted and made available, how it will designed, and determination of key performance indicators should be discussed.

    • Audience determination and content mapping: This part of the strategy helps your content team recognize your buyers as people with informational needs, and helps them create content to address their questions at each stage of the buying cycle.

    • Your brand story: As part of your strategy, you will need to determine what your “pillars of content” — in essence, the stories you want to tell — will be. This will be more of a framework than a fully realized to-do list or template, as its purpose is to help you to develop the best way to tell your story (or, perhaps, to help you discover what’s missing from your company’s existing story). This story will be repeatedly communicated in every piece of content you create. Kate Spitz Photography does this incredibly well. I’m blown away by her ability to consistently project her brand story through a narrative that is compelling and native to each platform. Doing this well is important (and I made sure to link to her so you have an example to reference!) It doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer, chef, CPA, or an independent beauty consultant. There are plenty of products to choose from, why should they choose a product from you? Your target audience wants to connect with the people behind the product. In today’s marketplace, consumers are empowered to personally connect… and they expect that personal service digitally in the same way they might inside a brick and mortar store. Meet that need and you’ll not only build brand, but a fiercely loyal customer base.

    • A channel plan: This component focuses on how you plan to “place” the content you create — i.e., which channels will be most beneficial for your content distribution efforts? 

If at any time you have questions about content marketing, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us.