Content Marketing Defined
The best definition of content marketing I’ve read comes from Joe Pulizzi in his must-have book Get Content, Get Customers (co-authored by Newt Barrett):
Content marketing is the art of understanding what your customers need to know and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way.
Oh. That’s it? Yep, that’s it. And it’s something smart marketers have already been doing for a long, long time.
That recipe on the back of the package of chocolate chips you just bought? That’s content marketing.
The health magazine your insurance provider sends you once a quarter? Content marketing.
That back-to-school checklist they hand out every August at your local office supply store? Uh-huh. Content marketing.
Why Now ?
So if content marketing has been around forever, why is it suddenly such a big deal?
The first reason is the decline in the effectiveness of traditional marketing methods. Advertising has been around for nearly 100 years, and these days, quite frankly, we’re just not that into it.
By now we’ve seen and heard every slick, glitzy, high-production-value trick in the book, and we’ve had it up to here with the manipulation. No, to attract, engage, and close the deal with today’s customer, you can’t rely on the old dog-and-pony show. Give them real content that’s useful, entertaining—or, ideally, both—and you just might have a customer for life.
The second reason is the rise of the Internet. We go to the Web for everything from job listings to in-depth medical information to videos of cats riding tricycles. Sometimes our mission involves a long, tedious, drawn-out search—but when we find what we’re looking for, we’re happy. Really, really happy. And the person or company who delivered this holy grail into our anxious little hands earns a special place in that corner of memory where we store VIIPs (Very Important Information Providers).
Where Does Content Come From ?
Here’s where things get dicey: the “content” in “content marketing” has to come from you. You can outsource the final product to a writer, but the meat of it has to come from you and the people you work with. Your expertise, your perspective, your way of doing things.
It’s not as complicated as you might think. Set aside some time to do some brainstorming about the kind of information people turn to you for:
- What are the most frequently asked questions you get from customers (and not just the ones on your website)?
- What subjects have you been asked to speak on … or could speak on if someone asked you?
- What topics come up at the professional networking events you attend?
If your imagination needs a little jogging, then jog on over to LinkedIn Answers or Quora, and do a search for keywords related to your industry. Find out what kinds of questions are being asked and see if you can build some content around your answers.
What Does Content Marketing Look Like ?
The ways and means you have of delivering quality content to your network is limited only by your imagination. Here’s a list to get you started:
- How-to blog posts
- Quick tips posted on Facebook or Twitter
- Articles on your website
- White papers
- YouTube Videos
- Downloadable tools like checklists and diagrams
And don’t forget to repurpose as you go. That blog post could be expanded into a white paper and then presented in a webinar that you promote via a teaser on YouTube and summarize in a podcast, and so on and so on.
Isn’t That Like Giving Away the Store ?
What holds a lot of people back from content marketing is the fear that once you share your expertise with customers, they won’t need you anymore. Actually, the opposite is true:
With traditional marketing, you tell customers you know your stuff. With content marketing, you show them.
Useful, usable content proves to current and prospective customers that you have the know-how to get the job done by putting your expertise out there in black and white. It creates a positive association in customers’ minds between your company and the product or service you provide … so when they need an expert, they’ll know just who to call.
And remember that just knowing how you do what you do doesn’t mean customers will be (1) able or (2) willing to bypass you and do it themselves.
Where Can I Learn More About Content Marketing ?
That’s the spirit! You can start by checking out a few of my favorite resources:
- Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett
- Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman
- The Content Marketing Revolution (blog by Joe Pulizzi)
- Content Marketing Made Simple (blog by Interact Media)
I can, because I know a lot about this stuff. My content says so