For the previous seven years I had worked with brands from around the world helping them publish and distribute their own stories to attract and retain customers. By 2001, it was easy to see that effective marketing was starting to look more and more like publishing. Large brands were seeing amazing results by creating their own content, similar to what media companies had been doing since the dawn of time, rather than paying to advertise around other people’s content.
It was that year that I started to slip the phrase “content marketing” into my discussions with marketing executives. What if more businesses of all sizes did this type of activity, focusing not on their products in marketing, but on the informational needs of their target customer first? Then I asked myself, “What if I could launch a business using this model as the basis for starting and growing a business?”
That’s exactly what we did when we launched our company, Content Marketing Institute
(CMI), with very little money and an idea back in 2007. This year, we will exceed over $4
million in revenues. Next year, we’ll be at $6 million. To achieve this type of growth with little to no traditional advertising, we had to develop a new business model around content creation and distribution.
Even while this idea of content marketing is now a recognized industry term, most business owners have no playbook to do this properly. I talk to people every day from businesses that waste an incredible amount of time on social media tactics without first having the content marketing strategy to make it work for the business.
CONTENT MARKETING: A COLLECTION OF DEFINITIONS
The marketing strategy goes by many names: custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, member media, private media, content strategy, branded content, corporate media, brand journalism, native advertising, inbound marketing, contract publishing, branded storytelling, corporate publishing, corporate journalism, and branded media. Perhaps nothing says it better than content marketing. But what exactly is content marketing?
CONTENT MARKETING: THE FORMAL DEFINITION
Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing
valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and
understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
A content marketing strategy can leverage all story channels (print, online, in-person, mobile, social, and so on); be employed at any and all stages of the buying process, from attention-oriented strategies to retention and loyalty strategies; and include multiple buying groups.
FROM MANAGING CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is a strategy focused on the creation of a valuable experience. It is humans being helpful to each other, sharing valuable pieces of content that enrich the community and position the business as a leader in the field. It is content that is engaging, eminently shareable, and, most of all, focused on helping customers discover (on their own) that your product or service is the one that will scratch their itch.
CONTENT MARKETING: LESS FORMAL DEFINITION
Content marketing is owning media as opposed to renting it. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.
CONTENT MARKETING: ELEVATOR PITCH
Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.
CONTENT MARKETING: FOR PRACTITIONERS
Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated, and syndicated content.†
Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to a target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.
CONTENT MARKETING: FOR NONBELIEVERS
Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about
themselves, their wants, and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting
information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.
This last definition is my favorite, and the hardest for marketers and business owners to deal with. So often we marketers believe that our products and services are so special—so amazing—and we think that if more people knew about them, all of our sales problems would be solved.
MARKETING BY SELLING LESS
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection. The essence of this strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for sales collateral, feature and benefit marketing, and customer testimonials about why you are so awesome. If you are like most companies, you have plenty of that content. The problem with that type of content is that it is only critical when your prospect is ready to buy. What about the other 99 percent of the time when your customers aren’t ready to buy? Ah, that is where content marketing pays its dues.
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