While content marketing certainly isn’t new, there continues to be a lot of confusion over what it is and what it isn’t.
To help you understand how content marketing should fit into your business’ other marketing efforts, the Content Marketing Institute team took a fresh look at the discipline — and examined how it relates to other common techniques.
Though CMI’s definition of content marketing has subtly evolved over the years, the following is the clearest description we can offer for this space as it exists today:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
A few things to take away from this definition:
- Content marketing is strategic — it requires a plan: As our research shows, having a documented content marketing strategy is one of the key things that distinguishes effective content marketers from their less-effective peers.
- Content marketing involves both the creation and the distribution of content: Your job is not done when your content has been created. You need marketing for your content marketing.
- At the very minimum, the content you create must be relevant and valuable: Not “just any” content will do (and there’s absolutely no room for spammy, farm-generated content). Think of genuinely useful content that does not pitch but, rather, informs.
- Content marketing is consistently delivered: One-off pieces of content don’t count; nor do campaigns that have a finite duration. Content marketing needs to be executed on an ongoing basis. Honestly, this isn’t always easy to accomplish, and success won’t necessarily come overnight. But the results you are able to achieve can be staggering in terms of audience engagement and value.
- Your content needs to attract and retain an audience, with the ultimate goal of driving profitable customer action: Said another way, don’t create content just for the sake of having content. It needs to do something that will help you reach your key business goal(s).
- You must have a clearly defined audience in mind for everything you create. Even if you think anyone and everyone can benefit from your product or service, it’s always better to focus your content on reaching a particular audience target or niche.
Content marketing is marketing
Now that we’re on the same page on what content marketing is, it’s important to understand how it fits into your business’ marketing strategy. Content marketing is not a standalone marketing technique that can thrive in a vacuum. Rather, it’s something that needs to be integrated into your overarching marketing plan, as its principles will strengthen all your other marketing efforts.
How? Here is a look at the various functions content marketing can serve within your organization — and how it fits in with other standard marketing techniques.
1. Use content marketing as a first-line technique to drive other types of marketing:
- SEO: There is no downside to optimizing your content for SEO, but it should not be your primary focus. In light of what your customers want (and Google’s ever-changing algorithms), focus on this even more basic rule: Write compelling content that your target audience wants.
- Social media marketing: While social media is all about sharing things from others (consider Andrew Davis’s 4-1-1 approach), it also needs to support business goals. Successful organizations develop a content hub (e.g., a blog or website) that they can direct their social media followers to, in order to forge a deeper relationship. And, as we have recently discussed, you want to avoid building your content on rented land.
- Demand generation: You need a consistent and logical stream of content to feed all marketing automation and demand generation programs.
2. Use content marketing in conjunction with complementary and/or overlapping disciplines to amplify your success:
- Content strategy: While content marketing is focused on changing or enhancing a consumer behavior through content, content strategy involves managing content (marketing, or otherwise) as a strategic asset across an organization. You need both.
- PR: Ideally, PR and content marketing should work hand-in-hand, as they are based on the same principles: figuring out what your ideal audience members want and telling a story in a way that is relevant to them.
3. Content marketing can be used interchangeably with several other content creation techniques (though in essence, they are all really subsets of content marketing):
- Brand storytelling: Brand storytelling is using great stories to compel people to create an emotional connection with an organization. Understanding these principles benefits content marketers as stories lead to more — and more-loyal — customers.
- Brand journalism: Brand journalism involves reporting on news, trends, research, organizations, and people in a way that frames the story in a brand’s perspective or point of view. This approach, based on traditional journalism, is a great way to spark interest in an organization, product, or service without directly promoting it.
- Branded content: Branded content aligns with the voice and essence of a brand (and usually includes an explicit disclosure of its relationship to the brand), but doesn’t directly discuss the brand’s offerings.
- Inbound marketing: Inbound and content marketing overlap in that they both convert prospects to buyers. But, content marketing takes this a step further, as it can be used for customer retention and up-selling. It’s also great for converting customers to evangelists.
4. Use the key principles of content marketing to get the best results from paid approaches:
- Promoted content: Promoted content is when a brand pays a publisher to have its name or message associated with a piece of content within the user experience of a website or social network. This includes sponsored content, native advertising and content discovery.
- Paid search units: Google and Bing serve ads that are related to users’ search queries. To get the most from your investment in a technique like this, it’s essential that the content that you present to consumers who click through your ads be specific and relevant to the term they were searching for.
Want to learn more? The infographic below provides a visual breakdown of all these terms, and their distinctions. Special thanks to Seth Price (@sethstuff) from Placester for his help with this.
What is your take? Where do you think content fits in a marketing strategy? What else would you add?
Ready to make content marketing an integral part of your business operations? Download our workbook to learn how to Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program