Content Marketing – What it is and what it isn’t

There has been much talk about content marketing in recent years and as usual with things that are relatively new, it brings much excitement and the claim that things will never be the same again.  But how different is Content Marketing from other marketing and what should businesses do about it?

The definitions of content marketing focus on two main things: Providing valuable content (and there can be various ways of measuring ‘value’) and persuading the audience to take some action as determined in advance by the marketer.

Content marketing is not a strategy.

It is clear from the above that content marketing is not a strategy. It’s impossible to do effective content marketing unless you have a strategy already. You can only write about subjects in which you are an expert or in which you have consulted an expert. You should only write things that interest your audience. You should only write things that are relevant to your brand. How do you know what your brand is and who your audience is and what they want?

You will be using Content Marketing to further existing objectives within a company that is working to its known strengths. So content marketing is not a strategy.

How does it fit in?

Content Marketing is a very important component of any company’s marketing. It’s a key way of keeping in contact with the target audience and of generating the results you are seeking. It’s also a set of techniques that cuts across multiple channels of communication (blogs, email, social media, video and it is a key component of ‘digital’.

Its application will be different for different companies. My business since it is a B2B consultancy firm does not use Facebook to generate business. But clients of mine do so to good effect. There will always be some channels that are right and some that are not.

It depends on your objectives also. You may want to grow your audience or you may want to make better use of your existing audience. The methods of doing these things are both within the remit of Content Marketing but the actual practice will look different in these two cases.

It could be said that Content Marketing involves a certain way of thinking. Arguably it is best suited to the ‘inbound’ approach. But this does not have to be the case.

What is it for?

It can be for different things depending on what is best for your company. Maybe to attract new people to your audience. Maybe to build initial awareness. Maybe to augment your reputation in specific ways. Maybe to do specific things like build web traffic.
It differs from some other forms of communication in that it is longer term, multi-channel and two way communication. Readers might be encouraged to submit their contact details, sign up to something or in some way become regularly engaged.

What is it not for?

Sales messages. Never be tempted to put your ‘special offer’ on your blog. This destroys the trust that you are trying to build.

There is an interesting question of whether to have a ‘blog’ or a ‘news’ section or both. The answer is ‘It depends’. A news section can provide a wider remit. What you can do if you have a news section is occasionally reference company (rather than industry or special interest) news. But never in a blog.

It does not necessarily involve selling content

Some content will be free. Some will be free to subscribers only. Some will be paid for.

When to use each type and how to monetise it if you choose to do so depends upon your business model and the current situation in terms of awareness levels and engagement.

It’s not really about search terms

Of course there is value in having SEO friendly digital content. But don’t be tempted to push the boundaries here. Remember that the building of trust is a key part of the definition of Content Marketing.

You can’t write for robots and then expect humans to be excited enough to take action. And people know when an article or a web page is trying to game the system.

You are not seeking to convert every ‘lead’

It is debatable whether or not each sign up is a ‘lead’. It’s true that they have expressed an interest in your content. But that doesn’t mean they want your other services.

Don’t necessarily feel like you have to call them all. Be selective in your activity.

If you are trying to close each contact straight away then you have switched from an inbound to an outbound approach and this will come across badly.

If you are calling them, don’t begin by insisting that they have expressed an interest in your product. They may have downloaded your report for a single purpose and that need might have passed. This is probably a small number of cases but it demonstrates the need to not throw away other marketing principles when adopting new techniques.

In any case you don’t need to ‘close’ every ‘lead’. Some of your audience are likely to remain sharers of your content and advocates of your brand and that is fine. Who doesn’t want that?

Want to talk about a well-planned content marketing programme for your company? Contact STO to discuss.

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