What is content marketing?

What is content marketing and how does it work?

In this post, the first in a series about the fundamentals of content marketing, we start at the beginning: what is content marketing and how does it work?

My aim is to help small businesses owners, entrepreneurs, and marketing managers alike find straight-forward answers to their content marketing questions. Because busy people don’t have time to translate marketing buzzwords.

Content marketing defined

Speak to anyone in digital and they’ll probably mention content marketing and expect you to know what they’re talking about. But, you’re not alone if you’re not quite clear what content marketing is, or what it involves.

So, let’s start with some definitions from those in the know. 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.”

Marketing guru, Neil Patel, gives this definition:

“…content marketing is a long-term strategy, based on building a strong relationship with your target audience, by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.”

Content marketing builds a relationship.
Content marketing helps you build a relationship with your audience.

Content marketing vs. traditional marketing

Traditional marketing is company-centric. It tends to focus on selling people the benefits of a company’s product.

In contrast, content marketing is customer-centric. It aims to offer content that will be useful to the customers or potential customers of a company.

How content marketing works

Put simply, content marketing is a relationship building exercise that involves providing useful content to your audience. But why is relationship building a good way to market your business?

Creating content that is audience-led means that the right people will find your content useful. This means these people will want to return to your site next time they need advice.

When you consistently provide value to people in this way, people start to form a preference for your brand. So, the next time they have a need for a product you sell, you will come to mind above other brands — and you’re likely to win their custom.

In content marketing, your relationship building tool is useful content. Useful content is content that meets someone’s informational needs, rather than being purely promotional.

Not just any informational needs, mind — content marketing should focus on topics that make sense for your brand. Choose topics relevant to your business, industry, and products, that your audience might be searching for.

Consumer searching for information
Your content marketing should focus on topics consumers are searching for.

Benefits of content marketing

So, now you know what content marketing is. But why does your business need it?

Content marketing is an up to date way to reach your customers. In the digital age, people don’t wait for marketing messages to be pushed to them.

According to Marketo, the average buyer guides themselves through up to 90 percent of the traditional sales funnel before ever contacting a brand or sales person. And over 80 percent of people research online before setting foot in a store.

The modern consumer proactively seeks out information, using whichever sources give them the information they need in the most convenient format. Content marketing allows your brand to be the source they use.

Content marketing has a number of benefits, including:

  • saving you money on ineffective traditional marketing
  • making you more visible in search engines
  • attracting new visitors to your site
  • increasing engagement on your site and social channels
  • increasing brand awareness
  • increasing brand preference
  • allowing you to reach more people at a lower cost
  • increasing conversions (from newsletter sign-ups to sales)
How consumers behave in the digital age
Content marketing aligns with how consumers behave in the digital age.

Content marketing and SEO

In the long term, content marketing is a great way to increase your visibility in search results.

A key principle of content marketing is to create content based on your potential customers’ needs. The best way to understand their needs online is to look at the sorts of things they’re searching for. What do they expect to find from these searches?

By creating content that is aligned with your audience’s search intentions and using keywords in the right way within your content, you’ll get noticed by Google. Google’s algorithms are designed to show people quality content that’s highly relevant to their searches.

By weaving SEO best practice into your content marketing, your content will start to gain traction in search results. Over time, this will improve the overall search visibility of your site.

Converting strangers into loyal brand advocates

To summarise, content marketing is about reaching and engaging people with useful content that’s relevant to them and your brand’s area of expertise. By meeting people’s needs, you’re able to build a relationship with them so — over time — they prefer your brand, become your customers, and tell their friends.

This post has explained the basics of content marketing. In the next post, I’ll be exploring how to use content to support each stage of the buying cycle.

In the meantime, if you have any questions please Tweet me @Lana_Burgess_. I’m all about knowledge sharing, so please don’t be shy.

If you think your business could benefit from my content marketing expertise, drop me a line.

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