Everyone seems to be talking about content marketing these days, yet a surprising number of creative professionals don’t actually know what it is. Is it a real marketing technique that drives new business or just the latest industry buzzword? Here’s a quick rundown of the basics.
What is content marketing, anyway?
Simply put, content marketing is the practice of providing something of value that reflects your expertise (that’s the “content” part) and making it available for free. The content can range from useful information (“Tom’s timely tips for more effective marketing”) to content that entertains, such as viral videos. It can take the form of e-mail newsletters, a postcard series, white papers, blogs, website content, conference and webinar presentations, social media interaction, or—most effectively—some combination of marketing channels.
What makes Content Marketing different from regular marketing?
Unlike advertising and other common forms of promotion, content marketing isn’t a sales pitch. It’s not even meant to close a sale. It’s a “soft” marketing technique that targets a specific audience you’d like to build a relationship with, attracting their interest by satisfying some need they have.
How will I know what to write about?
Listen to your target audience. Get to know them intimately enough that you understand their interests, challenges, needs, wants, fears, and aspirations. Read what they read, attend the events they attend, and do anything else you can to learn how they think. Look for overlaps between what they need and what you can provide, and topics for content marketing will begin to appear.
Will Content Marketing get me quick business?
Nope. Content Marketing is S-L-O-W. It works a lot like erosion—a slow, steady drip that wears away the rock of prospect resistance. Be prepared to do it for six months, a year, or even longer before you see any results that you can trace directly to your content marketing plan. That may sound like a waste of time, but it isn’t. Think of it as making an investment in the workflow that you’ll need 6–12 months from now.
Content Marketing sounds like a lot of work. Why should I bother with it?
When done right, content marketing creates a kind of “client magnet” that attracts ideal business to you with a lot less effort. Over time it helps you to stand out from competitors, builds your credibility with the prospects you want most, creates new opportunities with people your readers forward your content to, and actually reduces the amount of work you have to do to promote your business. It’s also the single best form of insurance against the dreaded “feast-or-famine” cycle. For a real-world example of why I’m a true believer, check out my earlier blog post: “I feel like I already know you.”