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Content Marketing, Demystified

Everyone is chattering about content marketing but to the newbie it can sound like they’re talking about a thousand different things. One expert explains the essence of the idea for startup founders. 

By Kathy Alice Brown (SEO consultant, Stone Temple Consulting)

You have to have been living under a rock to have not heard of content marketing. It’s one of those marketing buzzwords that seems to be everywhere, touted as the newest, best way to market your business, especially online. But truth be told, there is nothing new about it. That folksy newsletter that your local insurance agent has been putting out for decade – with its home renovation tips and updates on that move to the new office – is content marketing at its purest. Those humble newsletters achieve the core goals of content marketing, which is to build a deeper relationship with clients and encourage them to recommend their business to their friends.

What Is Content Marketing?

If you ask five marketers to describe how they are using content marketing you’ll get five seemingly different scenarios. You hear B2B marketers talk about using case studies to drive lead generation. Another will rave about how infographics are increasing brand awareness for their company. Still another will proudly describe how their COO is creating engagement by writing guest posts for the top blogs in their industry. Despite the differences, these are all examples of content marketing.

Another example is the “Will It Blend” YouTube videos from Blendtec. A great vehicle for building brand awareness, the videos show all sorts of objects (iPhones, lightbulbs, golf balls) reduced to pulverized bits by the blender. The “Will it Blend” campaign has been a viral marketing success, increasing retail sales by 700%. And this too falls under the broad scope of content marketing.

So what is content marketing? Content marketing is the publishing and sharing of a variety of media that is designed to engage and build an audience for your brand and your products. Content marketing builds authority for your brand and a deeper relationship with your existing customer base. You can think of content marketing, which is all about ideas rather than products, as the antithesis of advertising. While your advertising and sales pages are laser focused on your sales pitch, content marketing does anything but pitch. In the videos, Tom Dickson, the COO of Blendtec doesn’t pitch his blenders at all, but just asks the question “Will It Blend?” letting the blenders speak for themselves.

The rise of content marketing was inevitable given how ad blind we’ve all become. The direct hard hitting “buy now” messages are losing their effectiveness, banner ads on websites ignored, so content marketing is being embraced as a new approach into potential customers’ hearts and minds.

What Makes Good Content Marketing?

Great content, whether it is a video, a blog post or a tweet, is content that makes you stop and think.  You share it, you comment on it. We’ve all seen those Facebook posts and tweets that relentlessly flog a product – those rarely work.  Especially in social media, nothing turns a potential audience off faster than a hard sell. Better to lead with your passion and enthusiasm for what you are creating.

If I see original content with a message that resonates deeply with me or content that has a fresh take on subject then I am more likely to remember it.  And keep in mind that personal case studies that provide interesting insights can also be very effective.

Think Outside of the Box

Many people equate content marketing to blogging. And there is no question that guest blog posts in particular are a very effective way to build relationships and awareness. But content marketing can take a lot of forms, here are just a few: videos, illustrations, infographics, case studies and how-to guides.  Currently, using infographics for brand awareness is very popular, but I would invite entrepreneurs to step out of the box and think differently. For example you could create a Kindle book as a lead generation mechanism.

Tell a Story

One of the benefits of content marketing is that by stepping away from the “pitch” you have an opportunity to humanize your company and your vision by telling your story. Storytelling dates back to the dawn of human civilization when tribes huddled around a fire to hear the tales of their elders or the day’s hunt. Good marketers know that a great story captures interest. In a survey 81% of technology marketers said that engaging and compelling storytelling was an important ingredient of effective content.

Make It Part of Your Overall Marketing Strategy

Successful companies not only offer great solutions that solve pressing problems, but can articulate their mission in a compelling way. Who you are and what makes you special should be woven into every touch point you have with your customers and potential customers. With content marketing you have an opportunity to socialize the ideas that make your company great and win over raving fans.

Women 2.0 readers: Are you using content marketing to connect with your startup’s customers?

About the guest blogger: Kathy Alice Brown is a technology veteran who has held a variety of roles in both large companies and startups.  She recently authored a digital book on healthy weight loss and is working on a WordPress SEO video tutorial.  Kathy is a SEO consultant and blogs on WordPress, SEO and Online Marketing at webenso.com and can be found on Twitter @kathyalice

Photo credit: methodshop.com via Flickr