In a nutshell: what is content marketing?

Image credit: Digital Ralph @ Flickr

Every day, millions of us engage with content.

We read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, subscribe to mailing lists and share social media posts – all examples of content that constitutes ‘content marketing’, without us necessarily being aware of an overreaching marketing campaign or content strategy which may exist.

Equally, individuals or organisations can create content without consciously having a comprehensive content marketing strategy.

In that sense, we are faced with somewhat of a ‘content paradox’: we all engage with content on a daily basis, and yet content marketing is a concept which can sound intimidating, be difficult to define and is not always widely understood.

Here, I shall try to explain the concept of content marketing ‘in a nutshell’.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the process of providing free content for a targeted audience.

This could include anything from infographics, news articles, videos and webinars to emails and e-newsletters, how-to-guides, white papers and podcasts.

Though often conceptualised digitally, it can also include offline material such as sales brochures or magazines.

Content marketing can be created ‘in-house’ (by an organisation’s own marketing and communications team), or by an agency (external to the organisation for whom the content marketing has been created for).

Content marketing doesn’t involve obvious or direct selling of an organisation’s product or service but speaks to the issues and interests that matter to its targeted audience.

There are different types of content marketing: B2B (businesses targeting other businesses), B2C (businesses targeting consumers and the public) and B2G (businesses targeting governments and government agencies).

However, what underpins all effective content marketing is that the content that is created, published and distributed will be informative, useful and/or interesting to the specific targeted audience in question.

Why bother with it?

Content marketing helps to build an audience of prospects (people who are not yet ‘customers’ but have the potential to be) and seeks to eventually turn these prospects into customers.

Effective content marketing gives an organisation authority and credibility by making them appear as the ‘go-to expert’ in a particular industry and field, and it that sense can also help with overall brand development.

The consistent delivery of valuable content allows trust and a relationship to be built with both prospects and customers.

Content marketing can also help to improve an organisation’s SEO (search engine optimisation) ranking, increasing the visibility of a website and its content in search engines.

It is worth noting here, however, that the extent to which content marketing can deliver SEO-related benefits is dependent upon the quality of the content being produced.

Good content that is thorough, keyword rich and engaging is more likely to be indexed and therefore visible in search engines, but more content does not necessarily equate to greater search engine visibility. This comes back to the earlier idea about effective content marketing involving creating content that is valuable to the specific targeted audience.

In summary, the aim of content marketing is largely two-fold:

  • Generating new leads by building trust and a relationship with prospects
  • Retaining existing customers and creating sustainable brand loyalty

Conclusion

Content marketing is about providing content that will be valuable to your targeted audience. The type of content that you produce, and the channels that you use to distribute that content, will ultimately depend upon your specific aims, objectives and targeted audience. Content marketing can be beneficial for all types of businesses, from ambitious start-ups and small-scale family businesses to large multi-national corporations. It doesn’t have to cost a great deal of time and money to be effective, rather involves the delivery of a consistent stream of valuable content.

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