Content marketing… what is it? Where did it come from? Who’s doing it and can it really help you increase sales and attract customers to your business?
Whether you’re asking these questions, or being asked these questions, quickly read this article and pretend you knew the answers all along.
What is content marketing?
Very simply, content-marketing is about marketing your business by publishing and promoting content that gets the attention of your ideal client.
It sounds a lot like regular advertising, but content-marketing is thought to be a little different, and more in favour of the consumer.
Well, an overriding feature of content marketing is that you produce something your ideal customer will find valuable or useful.
Let’s say you have a pet store. You produce a local monthly leaflet that includes your best offers. That’s very similar to what we are used to from business advertising.
This type of advertising is useful to a narrow segment of people – those actively looking to buy pets or accessories at that moment in time.
To develop it along the content marketing route, you might also include some how-to tutorials, such as an in-depth review of different pet foods, simple dog-training advice, or advice on what to do with your pet if you’re thinking of travelling abroad.
This piece of marketing is different. It’s valuable to a wider range of prospective customers (i.e. pet owners) even if they’re not ready to buy just yet.
So while content marketing is still about advertising your business, the main difference to regular advertising is that it has this independent value, i.e. it is useful to people even if they’re not looking to buy (yet).
Where did it come from?
Honestly, content-marketing has existed as smart advertising throughout the years. The term was coined around 2006 when more businesses were using blogs and online content for marketing reasons.
Businesses discovered that on the Internet, traditional “interruption marketing” (think annoying pop-ups and flash animation banners) didn’t work as well as they used to.
They found the best way to get the attention of prospective customers was to create something they LOVED to read. So organisations started to become helpful to their prospects and provide lots of valuable online content and freebies. This made the organisations very popular amongst their target market.
But smart content marketers do more than just make themselves popular online, they create a balance of content that is valuable to their customers while showcasing the business or professional as an expert.
What does it look like?
Content marketing can take on many forms. a lot of people think it just means written content, but that’s crazy. It’s only limited by your imagination and can include:
- Business blogging
- Pod casts
- Crazy videos
- White papers
- Free reports
- Newsletter autoresponder
It’s important to remember though, that your marketing message is more important than the method you use.
Not sure what some of those terms mean? Check them out in our glossary of content marketing and copywriting terms
Why do businesses use it?
Initially, it was a way for smaller businesses to compete with bigger companies without needing thousands in advertising budgets.
All you needed was time to start creating content for your business and you could soon see an increase in website traffic, social share, enquiries and customers. The early adopters began furiously writing content, and we saw lots of tales of successful content marketing.
Content marketing, done well, works.
More mainstream businesses are investing time and money to find out about blogging, creating online videos, and connecting with their ideal customer in a way that benefits the reader rather than just pushing out another marketing message.
There are thousands of articles delving into the reason content marketing works, but for this quick fire guide, what you need to know is:
- You can start content marketing with very little expense
- The more content you publish and promote, the more chances you have of being found by your ideal customer
- It improves your Search Engine Optimisation
- Well produced, valuable content establishes you as an expert or a thought leader
- Content marketing builds a relationship with prospective customers
- It encourages people to talk about your business (positively)
How does it work?
OKay, well this is a big question, but let me try to give you the quick version.
First of all you need to know who you want to reach
Then you think about the problems and questions they’re asking that you can help them with
You start planning and creating the relevant content
You publish it and promote it to the areas where your ideal customer is most likely to hang out
You review your efforts, then lather, rinse and repeat
Is it just for bloggers and like… online businesses?
Nope. Any business can use it…
There are plenty of case studies online of business in all industries that have used content marketing successfully. Bricks and mortar businesses, retail businesses, entertainment businesses, B2B businesses, authors, coaches, publishers… the list goes on.
It might sound crazy, but some people will still fight you on this. They might say:
This won’t work for my business
Or something else just as profound that deserves to be a block quote.
And you have a couple of choices on how to react.
If it’s just someone you’re having a conversation with you can:
- Argue with them
- Not argue with them. Use the time instead to use content marketing in your business and just enjoy the results
But if it’s a client you’re trying to sell on the idea of it you might want to:
- Provide case studies of companies in their industry who have had success
- Show case studies of your previous clients
- Find a better customer profile fit for someone more open-minded
I’m overwhelmed. If I ignore content marketing, will it just go away?
For as long as consumers have a choice about what products and services they pay for, they will actively demand and seek out content to help them make that purchasing decision.
Your job is to do your best to make sure they find (and love) your content.
Fine then you big meany… How can I start?
Okay, here’s a couple of things you can do:
Roughly outline a customer profile
As most businesses start their content marketing with a business blog, you might find this short business blogging tutorial useful.
If you get stuck, don’t forget you can always give me a call