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What is content marketing?

03.05.17

by Thomas Emmerson

Content marketing is king

It's been a pretty hot topic for the best part of a decade already but exactly what, and how content marketing can be used, remains a question that goes unanswered.

Technically speaking, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

"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 trying to sell a product or service, content marketing looks to provide relevant content to your prospects and customers that will help them to solve their problems. The best types of content marketing will softly lead the audience to take a desired action such as filling in a form, or requesting a call.

In recent years the popularity of content marketing has grown with more and more marketers seeing value. A big reason for this is a shifted focus to online media – most people now have a smart phone which means your audience, and potential audience are accessing information in new and exciting ways. It's no longer enough to advertise to large numbers of people and hope that some of them take up the offer. People want to see what's relevant to them but they also want content that's informative, which is where content marketing comes in.

History of content marketing

Content marketing is not a new concept, it's actually been around for years. In the mid 80s, the first issue of the farming magazine The Furrow was published.  While John Deere didn't know it at the time, he was delving into content marketing. Not only did the magazine contain useful agriculture information for farmers, it also published print advertorials targeted at it's audience therefore providing readers with content that was not only useful, but very relevant. 

The Furrow Magazine - the first example of content marketing?The Furrow Magazine. Source: contently.com

Since The Furrow, many other brands and businesses have dived into content marketing, with the aim of increasing customer engagement and to provide relevant and useful information to their audiences. Nowadays marketers are more likely to utilise online platforms for their content marketing so they can easily measure results and nurture prospects through the funnel. 

Download our free content marketing guide >

Types of content marketing

While content marketing is seen as more of an online activity we can't forget about offline. Go shopping in Countdown for example and you'll notice recipe racks where anyone can take free flyers containing meal ideas. This is classic content marketing. The flyer isn't promoting products on sale but instead, inspires the shopper to look at buying products that they otherwise wouldn't in their regular shop.

Online content marketing has grown beyond 'how-to' videos to industry experts creating guides and downloads for businesses to use. Common types of online content marketing include:

  • Blogs/articles
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Guides
  • Whitepapers/studies
  • Videos

Content marketing exampleVanguard 86 guide download.

Why does content marketing matter?

In 2014 it wasn't uncommon that the average person saw around 5,000 ads a day – that's a lot! We live in an age where ad blockers now reign supreme which is why it's so important that we harness and take note of the importance of content marketing, and doing it right. 

Content marketing is important as it forces us to better understand our audience and the information they would want and need to receive. Customers appreciate getting content that is well thought and clearly targeted towards them. The use of buyer personas now make content marketing that much easier as they are designed to help you understand and focus on the customer you want to attract, so that you can tailor content to them.

Build a buyer persona for your content marketingFind out more about buyer personas in our free guide.

Content marketing is also regarded as a much more successful type of marketing. Stats show that content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing. That's pretty impressive!

How to approach content marketing

The most important thing to remember with content is that it needs to provide value to the audience. Value is perceived in different ways but this is a customer-centric approach to marketing. What does the customer see as valuable and does your content deliver that value?

Too many businesses look at the medium first, their message second and then wonder why it fell flat when published online. I've been in too many meetings where management's eyes have lit up as they say "we've had a great idea for content marketing. We want to do a cool video about our new factory, what do you think?".

The above isn't content marketing, if anything it's possibly a bit of PR. Instead, try following the below process:

  1. Which target audience are you trying to attract?
  2. What are their pain points?
  3. How can your expertise help them alleviate this pain point?
  4. What marketing can you create that will be valuable to the target audience?
  5. What's the best method of getting it to them?

The first three points are where we can help. We've got some content marketing of our own that you can 'borrow' to get you started!

For the first point you need to better understand your target audience. To do this try creating buyer personas - here's our guide on how to do this. Understanding their pain points can be done by understanding their buyer journey better. That can be mostly covered off by understanding the below diagram.

Content marketing explainedThe Buyer's Journey.

Point three is assisted by creating better templates for your content, and by mapping it. Again, here's a handy little guide with some templates from us.

If you get past these three bullet points, and use our guides to the full extent then you may still find the last two elements tricky and that's mostly because moving out of traditional marketing activities can be scary.

For extra help and to see how we can help with your content marketing get in touch.

Download the content marketing guide here

filed under inbound marketing, content marketing