Content Marketing 101: Content Marketing Defined

(This is the first post in a four part series.)

What exactly IS content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute, who coined the phrase but did not start the craze, defines content marketing this way:

Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

So, let’s take this post and break that all down into plain, easy to understand, simple terms, shall we?

Content Marketing is Strategic

ALL your marketing approaches and efforts should be strategic, purposeful, carefully planned out. Otherwise, how do you know if it’s working, or not? How do you know if it’s worth it, or not?

Content marketing is no different. My favorite advice to business owners is NEVER PUBLISH ANYTHING WITHOUT A PURPOSE. Before you hit update or publish, or post or tweet, or add that awesome video to your Insta, do you know why you are doing so? If not, don’t bother.

Content marketing can fulfill 6 purposes for your biz, which we’ll get into in Part II of this series. If your post or awesome vid doesn’t fit one of those 6 purposes, or if you’ve choses to focus on just one or two, and it’s outside that plan, then you should rethink your choice in making it public.

In my humble opinion, no one should engage in content marketing without a plan, a strategy drawn up and written down, to be followed by whoever is creating your content. That way, questions of whether that post or video are worth the time and effort get answered well before you have to make the choice.

Remember the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail. That’s why content strategy is a part of everything I offer here at Bloomers. I have to know your WHY before I can create content to meet its demands.

Content Marketing is Marketing

Sometimes, I see other people’s content and I instantly know they’ve forgotten the “marketing” in content marketing. They are too busy trying to be cool or controversial or “influential” to get down to the nitty gritty of content marketing.

While content isn’t copy, they serve the same purpose. All roads lead to your people taking an action that you desire them to take. Look at the last line of the definition above: with the objective of driving profitable consumer action.

I believe that all business, whether B2B or B2C, is nothing more than H2H – human to human.

Content helps you form the relationships with those humans that leads to the trust, the confidence, the faith, that your people need to have in you in order for them to take that action, make that decision, that you’re asking of them.

Once you have that trust, that faith, in you and your product or service, you have a loyal customer, a raving referral machine, a rabid fan. And that is marketing no money can buy.

Content Marketing is Valuable, Relevant, and Consistent

Let’s take each one of these one at a time, and then see how they work together to make your content the centerpiece of your marketing efforts.

Your content must be valuable.

This is where so many mess up, especially with social media and email content. They tend to go in one of two directions – either all “buy buy buy” and nothing else, or all “let’s be BFFs” and nothing else.

Your content has to supply information that your audience finds some worth in. No, that doesn’t mean every thing has to be educational, or even practical. Or professional and business-like. But it does mean you have to offer up content that moves your relationship with your audience forward in some way.

After all, that’s what content marketing is for, right?

Your content has to be relevant.

Relevancy is conditional in three ways:
*relevant to your audience
*relevant to your business, offers, products and services
*relevant to the current state of affairs

Offer up content that doesn’t speak to your audience, or that is published in a place where your audience isn’t, and you might as well not bother. Publish content that is off-the-wall “out there” in terms of who you have established yourself to be, or to what you do or sell, and you might just find yourself on the opposite end of where you thought you’d be. And ignore current social or political atmospheres in favor of doing your own thing at your own peril. You may find you and your business getting eaten alive.

Your content efforts have to be consistent.

For one thing, content marketing is a long game, a marathon, not a sprint. And to play the long game, you have to be consistent every time. For another, those relationships you are forming with your audience? They’ll become reliant on you giving them “good stuff” that they find useful, enjoyable, valuable.

Don’t let them down. Don’t be the “friend” who only calls once in a while, or who leaves them on “read” without an answer. Whatever schedule you choose for the channels and platforms you use, stick to it.

That’s why I say start small and grow from there. Once a week, once a day, whatever you decide on, be there. Every time. Or have a damn good excuse when you can’t be.

Content Marketing is Content

It should be pretty evident, but many don’t have a full picture of just what content is used in content marketing. Here’s a short list:

  • Blog posts like this one
  • Your website content
  • Magazine articles – online and offline publications
  • PR materials
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts – yep, ALL social media posts are content
  • Brochures, postcards, leaflets, and other printed materials
  • Lead magnets and other “downloadable” resources
  • ebooks and Kindle books and real, honest-to-goodness words on paper books, too

All right, so maybe not that short of a list. But I think you get the idea. Anything that is not an overt call-to-action sales copy is, indeed, content. It’s been around since the 1880s, with the first branded magazines for farmers and their wives. It’s nothing new, but it can be exciting.

Content Marketing Has a Specific Audience

Your content performs best – meets its goals best – when it is aimed at and created for your specific audience. That’s why customer avatars and ideal client profiles are so important to content marketing and content marketers.

We have to know who we’re creating all this good stuff for, or we’re wasting our time and your money. So, when your video guy or your blog gal wants to know everything about who you want to reach, you’ll know why.

Knowing the audience is, again in my humble opinion, more important to a content creator than it is to a copywriter. Why? Because you can sometimes make a few sales to the “wrong” people just by hitting the right emotional triggers.

When creating content that builds relationships, makes connections, however, you seldom strike gold with the wrong people. They just aren’t interested enough to join your circle. Your content falls on infertile ground.

Knowing your audience grows those relationships and those relationships lead to content marketing success.

Content Marketing Defined – What’s Next?

Now that we have a really well-defined, easy to understand picture of what content marketing is, next time we’ll discuss just what it can do for you and your biz. We’ll look at those 6 purposes we mentioned earlier, and give some practical examples of each.

Thanks for reading! Any comments or questions? Leave them below. See ya after!

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