What the heck is content marketing, anyway?

Content marketing is nothing new. Magazines and newspapers have offered a form of content marketing for generations. The umbrella term wasn’t necessary to describe the straight forward marketing-publishing relationship of the past: Publishers produced compelling content, businesses advertised. Content marketing is anything but straightforward now. Publishing has become internalized for most companies and new platforms, outlets, and tools are made available to marketers practically every day. So it’s no wonder that confusion arises when I ask a client, “What is your content marketing plan?” If you’re starting from huh?, you’re in great company.

The short answer.
Content marketing = engaging clients or customers strategically with website content, blogs, newsletters, podcasts, webinars, e-books, catalogues, infographics, white papers, social platforms, and other forms of media.

What it is not.
A direct pitch or sale … your typical marketing materials, although these are still 100% necessary and must be integrated. Without a direct pitch at some point, your business won’t profit from content marketing. For both, it’s important to understand timing.

Effective content marketing creates context for your direct pitch.
The best content marketing creates a context (emotional, primarily) for everything that your business sells or does. Think of it as the nutrient-rich soil in which you plant a seed (the sell). You can’t hand a person a seed and expect it to sprout without the soil.

Because here is the truth about selling: We don’t sell products or services. We sell experiences.

    Content marketing creates experiences.

  • a mouthwatering recipe that stimulates appetite (pleasure)
  • a personal blog about a pain-point that others share (empathy)
  • a series of photos and articles about a niche, exclusive hobby (feeling of being “in the know,” or part of a special group)
  • a photo of a person at a public event (feeling “part of the tribe,” or positive envy)
  • a video that shows how to solve a tricky problem (empowerment, relief!)

Content marketing creates meaningful interactions.
These meaningful interactions are the basis of your relationship. It is how your current and potential customers grow to love you. Content helps them buy into your brand. And people need to buy into before they will buy from you.

Content marketing establishes trust.
You hate door-to-door marketers, don’t you? I do. That’s because I have no idea who they are, why they’re there, or what I can expect to get out of the interaction. All I know is that they have interrupted me and I’m annoyed. But … if I had an introduction and knew that this was a friend coming to help me, then I’d gladly open the door.

Bottom line: Before you can grow sales, your consumers/clients need to trust that you have answers and solutions to the very real issues and problems that they are experiencing every day. More than other types of marketing, content establishes this trust.

Studies show that 80% of people prefer a series of articles over an advertisement when making purchasing decisions.

As consumers, our appetites have changed. We are all tired of having products shoved down our throats by large, impersonal corporations. We want to know that we’re purchasing from or working with an individual or an organization that shares our vision, our values, our passions, our lives.

No one can create a content marketing plan for you.
Be wary of online marketing businesses that promise to do it all for you. Only you as the business leader hold the vision, the inspiration, the stories that will resonate with your market and grow your business. No content marketing expert or service provider or SEO company can create those for you. Even if you eventually pass the implementation or execution off to internal or external personnel, you must seriously engage with this strategic process yourself in order to be successful.

Content marketing is not as expensive or as hard as you think.
It used to be that magazines and newspapers provided context for the sell. They still do. Many businesses still benefit from traditional print advertising. But the reality is that the principles upon which those publications were built — the interplay between editorial and advertising — can be applied directly to the marketing plan of a single business, at less cost to the business.

You don’t need to be an expert in every platform or tool out there. You don’t need 1,000 tricks up your sleeve. What you need is a strategic content marketing plan that connects the heart/vision of your business to your very real sales or fundraising goals.

You don’t need a marketing budget in the tens of thousands of dollars. But you do need to build a focused plan that invests your time and resources wisely, that includes the content marketing options that will be MOST effective for your business. You need to know how content will bolster a business plan, what it will cost, and how to execute efficiently. And you need to know your audience. All of this makes it possible for you to be 100% clear and consistent. And …

Above all
Clarity + Consistency = Content Marketing Success