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What is content marketing and why should your business be doing it?

by | Feb 23, 2015 | Blogging, Content Marketing, Small Business

As a business professional, you’ve probably heard the term “content marketing,” but since it’s a relatively recent addition to the business lexicon, you may not know exactly what it is or how to put it to work for your business.  Simply put, content marketing is a relationship strategy designed to build trust between your brand and your customers.  The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) offers this definition:

“Content marketing is 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.”

CMI goes on to explain that the purpose of content marketing “is to attract and retain customers . . . [It] is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing.”

Aim for the people who want to buy what you’re selling

In other words, you market to customers by providing information that targets people who want to buy what you’re selling, as distinguished from television commercials and direct mail, which aims to hit as many people as possible in the hopes that some of those people will be interested in your product or service. This type of advertising interrupts your television program, ends up as junk mail in your mailbox, or disrupts your attempts to find information by flashing a pop-up ad on a web page you’re trying to read.

Another thing that distinguishes content marketing from more traditional types of marketing is that you reach your potential customers by delivering information that they find valuable, information that solves a problem or fills a need they have. Instead of interrupting them with a pitch for your product, you instead focus on attracting them by providing answers to questions, and by doing that consistently, you are more likely to convert them into customers.

Valuable, relevant, consistent

Finally, content marketing is distinguished from other types of marketing by three key words: valuable, relevant, and consistent.

Most TV commercials, for example, are neither valuable nor relevant, which is one reason we record shows rather than watch them live, so we can zip through those Viagra ads and Pampers commercials. The “consistent” part doesn’t matter much if your content isn’t valuable and relevant.

“Valuable” is defined as something of worth. It doesn’t necessarily have to be worth money, of course. It can be something that entertains us, educates us, or changes our point of view. By that definition, TV commercials can sometimes be valuable, particularly as entertainment. An example would be Volkswagen’s 2011 Super Bowl commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube over 61 million times. Clearly, it is content that people consider valuable.

Content marketing can come in different forms:  infographics, newsletters, web pages, podcasts, videos, blogs, presentations, books, even video games, such as IBM’s CityOne, a business simulation game.  It can be original or curated content.  And it should be a part of every marketing strategy, whether your focus is on social media marketing, SEO, or inbound marketing.

Offer potential customers something they can use

The idea is to gain a prospective customer’s interest by offering them something of value:  information, entertainment, the solution to a problem.  By providing your customer with valuable and relevant information, you begin to build a relationship with them.  A survey by Roper Public Affairs showed that 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to get information on a company through a series of articles, rather than an ad. This creates a situation in which customers actually look forward to receiving your information, they are likely to spend some time reading it, and when the time comes to make a buying decision, they will be familiar with your brand and possibly feel more comfortable doing business with you rather than one of your competitors.

Content marketing is here to stay.  Like cell phones, Facebook, and DVRs, it’s not a passing fad. It’s something all businesses will need to do, and the time to start is now. Your competition isn’t waiting to find out if content marketing works.  They know it does and they’re already doing it.  Don’t let your behind get left behind.

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