You may have heard the term “content marketing” but not been quite sure what it means. Maybe you’ve ignored it, because, as a small business owner, you can’t imagine adding one more thing to your already too long to do list. The good news is, you’ve probably been doing some form or another of content marketing as long as you’ve been promoting your business.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach, focused on the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
So what does that mean? In the simplest terms, it means creating your own content (i.e., information, data, photos, videos, etc.) and pushing it out to your customers and potential customers through various channels in order to build or enhance your relationships. Chances are, you’ve been doing this for years in the form of printed brochures, white papers, videos, flyers and more. The difference with the shift to a content marketing paradigm is equivalent to a shift from selling to providing value.
Again, from the Content Marketing Institute: “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 buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content 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.”
Quality content has always been part of marketing campaigns, including social media, public relations, SEO and any inbound marketing programs. Content marketing is two-way versus one-way. It is relational. Even though it is not selling, it can shorten the sales cycle. Numerous studies show that people today are extremely cynical about advertising. Content marketing is the opposite of advertising – it gives valuable information to the consumer and empowers them to make their own decisions.
Most major companies today make a deliberate effort to produce and distribute their own content. Many have even hired professional journalists to head their efforts. You don’t need to go that far – you just need to collect the information and knowledge you have and share it in a meaningful way with your various audiences.
The goals and outcomes of content marketing vary and can include:
- Brand awareness / reinforcement
- Lead conversion / nurturing
- Customer service
- Creating passionate subscribers / brand evangelists
- Providing solution to problems or need – some of which customers may not even know they have (companies like Apple are great at this)
The types of materials you can incorporate into your content marketing efforts can vary from the simple to the complex and can be delivered by a variety of media, including electronic, print and digital. A few examples:
- Slide Shows
- White Papers
Use existing and new social media channels as a means to distribute and promote your content. Some platforms such as Instagram and YouTube are obvious choices for photos and videos, but don’t ignore your own website as a great channel for your content. Consider producing a podcast that establishes you as a subject matter expert in your field. New social media applications are being developed all the time that make it even easier for the average person or company to reach people in unique ways. A new app called MeerKat allows anyone to push a live video stream out via Twitter at any time. Suddenly, you have the power of a television station in the palm of your hand.
Content marketing isn’t complicated and anyone can do it. You just need to make sure to provide value, whether that is to inform, entertain or engage and then do it consistently.
Keep it Disciplined!