Content Marketing has been making waves for a few years now, but many people are still not clear on what exactly content marketing is. Explanations range from the infuriatingly oversimplified to the head-splittingly complex. Some people can’t even agree what to call content marketing!
Let’s take a look at the most common questions surrounding content marketing and try to clear away some confusion.
What is Content Marketing?
There are already plenty of definitions of content marketing floating around the internet - all of which read like they were pulled from the ‘Key Terms’ section of your Marketing 101 textbook.
Rather than repeating or rewording one of these, we will define content marketing as a process with four major steps:
- Creating valuable content that is relevant to your target audience's needs
- Distributing that content across the appropriate channels
- Leveraging that content to build relationships
- Using those relationships to convert your audience into customers
These steps lay out the general blueprint for content marketing, but let’s unpack them so we can understand what each of them means in practice.
Creating valuable content that is relevant to your target audience's needs
While this may seem simple enough, it actually represents (conservatively) 75% of the work in content marketing. In order to be successful, you must first select your audience, discover their needs, and select the right medium or mediums (blog, video, ebooks, etc.).
Creating the content is another challenge. Unlike traditional marketing materials, this content is not about selling your product or service - it is about creating value for your audience. The goal of your content is to build trust with your audience and to increase the credibility of your brand.
Distributing that content across the appropriate channels
Distributing your content through the right channels helps maximum the impact of your content marketing efforts. Though often neglected, this is an essential part of the content marketing process. You can create the most compelling, interesting, and valuable content in the world and it won’t make any difference if no one knows about it.
To choose the right channels, you need to consider both what kind of content you are publishing and where your audience is on the web. There are countless forums, communities, and networks on the web that each cater to specific kinds of content and/or audiences. Taking advantage of these will help your content gain exposure so you can start to build a community of your own.
Leveraging that content to build relationships
The next step in the process is about transforming your audience from anonymous visitors into subscribers, followers, and leads. The way that this is most commonly achieved is through a call-to-action (sometimes abbreviated as CTA).
A call-to-action is a button or link that normally leads to a form where someone can enter some contact details like their name and email address. You often see these deployed in order for customers to obtain certain high-value content offers such as ebook and whitepapers.
Using those relationships to convert your audience into customers
Once your audience has provided you with their contact details, you can begin to develop that person as a lead. The line between marketing selling is very blurry when you reach this stage of the content marketing process.
It is important to continue providing real value - generic promotional emails will only alienate the trust you have built over the last three steps. Lead tracking and scoring each visitor will be helpful in not only gauging level of interest but also areas of interest. With this information, you can ensure that offer you make is tailor made to maximize your conversions and deepen relationships.
What is the Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing?
Due to many of their shared attributes, it is no surprise that they are frequently mistaken for synonyms. In reality, content marketing falls under the umbrella of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing involves any effort to draw customers to your products and services and a large part of this is content marketing.
The primary difference is that content marketing is much more specific - using content to achieve this goal. Inbound can also use various other methods of doing this, e.g. social media engagement, direct email promotions, etc.
Is Permission Marketing the Same as Content Marketing?
Permission marketing is another concept that is closely related and often confused with content marketing. The two strategies have a significant overlap, but there are some areas of divergence.
The most significant difference is that content marketing does not necessarily exclude all forms of paid advertising, where permission marketing is exclusive of such marketing activities.
However, it is also important to note that the concept of a call-to-action to earn a potential customer's contact information is a cornerstone of both concepts.
Is Content Marketing Right for my Company?
The reality is that any company can benefit from content marketing. It doesn't matter if you are in B2B or running a coffee shop - creating valuable content for potential and current customers will provide both tangible and intangible results.
It can help boost your SEO ratings, it can boost the credibility of your business, or it could drive new customers to your door - not to mention it will help protect your company from the growing threat of ad blockers. Check back next week to for another look at content marketing and how you can implement it at your business!