23 Feb 2016

The Answer To: What is Content Marketing?

We live in a world where consumers are tuning out interruptive advertising, where information is consumed faster and easier than ever before, and where search has never been more important. Consumers prefer getting to know a brand through articles rather than ads, and a majority of purchasing decisions are made before they ever speak with a sales representative.

In this climate, it’s really no wonder that “content marketing” has become a huge buzzword in the digital community and its adoption is increasing. Yet only 30% of marketers in the B2B space and 38% of B2C marketers feel like their organization is successful in their content efforts. So it comes down to one question and one simple answer.

How can your business succeed where others have failed?

By first having a clear understanding of exactly what content marketing truly is.

Defining Content Marketing:

Industry leaders have offered up different definitions for content marketing:

“Simply defined, it’s just honest advice about a purchasing decision.”–Steve Sheinkopf, CEO, Yale Appliance found on thesaleslion.com

“It’s being able to answer a potential customer’s questions before they ever interact with you.”–Rob Misheloff, CEO, Smarter Finance found on thesaleslion.com

“Content marketing is a marketing technique 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.” –Content Marketing Institute


The definition of content marketingIn our years of work at Vertical Measures helping our clients reach their content goals and practicing what we preach, we’ve learned the nature of this booming industry. We define what content marketing is in three parts:

  1. Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling or interrupting them.
  2. Instead of pitching products or services, you are delivering information that makes your customers more informed before they buy.
  3. If you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information, they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.

The above definitions all speak to the idea of what you should do to be successful content marketers, and they’re all very true! But, to answer the question of “What is Content Marketing?” there are a few key elements that aren’t defined in these statements, but are essential to grasping and implementing content marketing successfully.

#Contentmarketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling or interrupting Click To Tweet

Content Marketing is a philosophy

Content marketing isn’t a tactic, or a one off project.  It’s a philosophy, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live.” This means that your efforts don’t end when you’ve created x amount of blog posts, infographics, or white papers. Content marketing is a way of thought, and content marketers live by their philosophy.

Content Marketing Philosophy

Content marketing relies on a well defined strategy

Content marketing requires a written strategy. According to annual research conducted by Content Marketing Institute only 37% of B2C marketers, and 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy for 2016. This compares to 44% of B2C and 48% of B2B marketers who say that they do have a strategy but it isn’t documented.

The problem here is that if a strategy is not on paper then your entire team may be working towards an abstract goal rather than a defined plan of action. It can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions about your content marketing strategy that will ensure your whole organization is aligned with what your efforts should accomplish.

Put your #contentmarketing strategy on paper so you're not working towards an abstract goal. Click To Tweet

Content marketing is a culture

Content marketing doesn’t just live with your creative team or your marketing department.  Your whole team should be involved with your content marketing efforts. Everyone can contribute to your success–from managers, salespeople, and data analysts, to designers, content creators and writers. It’s a team sport. Some of the best content ideas come from people who interact with your clients or customers on a daily basis. Your salespeople or account managers probably have a wealth of content ideas and opportunities already living in their sent messages folder!

Content marketing is about understanding a searcher’s intent

Finding content opportunities isn’t always about coming up with a clever idea. Go back to the basics in your ideation. It’s really simple to use Google Suggest to find frequently searched queries and fill gaps in the content that’s out there.

For example, let’s say that I own a company that sells riding boots. I might perform a search like the one below to come up with topic ideas. The suggestions tell me a bit more about what my customers are already searching for and provide me instant topic ideas.

Example of Search Intent

To take this one step further, I’ll try to find information on the “Best riding boots for small calves” below. As you can see the top three results are branded, which is a major opportunity for my fictional boot store! If I develop a piece of content on the best boots for small calves then I have the possibility of ranking for this search term.

Example of Search Intent

Content marketing is helpful

As mentioned above, content marketing isn’t always about creating cute, clever, or exciting content. The stuff you may consider “boring” could be the stuff that your customers consider helpful. Some of the best, most relevant, and highest performing pieces of content may include:

  • Reviews of your products or service offerings
  • Comparisons of your products or offerings against your competitors’
  • Common problems or concerns with your products or services
  • Pricing and cost information for your offerings
  • “Best of” lists about your industry

If creating content like the above makes you feel a little uncomfortable, remember that you aren’t giving away your trade secrets. You’re educating consumers about essential questions they have along their purchasing path. Plus, it’s better for them to find this information on your site than a competitor’s.

5 #content types you should try: reviews, comparisons, problems, pricing, and best of lists. Click To Tweet

Content marketing is not interruptive

The power is now in the consumer’s hands to decide what types of content they will consume. People can block ads, fast forward through commercials, and unsubscribe from emails.  Traditional advertising is interruptive, aimed at selling, and generally brand focused. Content marketing is non-interruptive, aimed at educating, and focused on the consumer’s need for information. It’s about offering something of value without disrupting to sell.

Content marketing goes beyond “Publish”

“If you build it they shall come” does not always apply to your content. It still takes some help from content promotion and distribution. Content marketing is after all still a form of marketing! A hub and spoke model can help your larger pieces of content, like free guides or case studies, reach a maximum amount of your target audience. Support your content “hubs” with “spokes” such as:

  • Press releases
  • PPC campaigns
  • Social posts
  • Supporting blog articles or creative pieces

Also, there should be a plan in place to measure the performance of your hub and spoke pieces of content. This way you can get a good picture of which channels worked for your content, and which didn’t.  Content promotion and distribution are a huge part of a great content marketing process.

Hub and spoke content marketing

So, the answer to “what is content marketing?”

noun | con·tent mar·ket·ing 

1: Content marketing is a philosophy that involves a team of individuals committed to a culture of content. The team works to not only strategize, plan, ideate and create content but also to implement, distribute, and measure that content’s performance.

2: Content marketing is informed by a searcher’s intent. It is aimed at providing your prospects information without interrupting or selling to them.

3: Content marketing is a strategy to help you reach your business goals; whether that be generating more leads, boosting your thought leadership, or increasing your brand awareness.

4: Content marketing is a way to transform your business.

What is Content Marketing?

What Is Content Marketing?

Learn how to define content marketing from the mouths of experts. Download the free guide, “What is Content Marketing?” to dive deeper into your understanding of this strategy.

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