By Michele Linn published July 30, 2017

How to Explain Content Marketing to Anyone

how-explain-content-marketing-anyoneThe concept of content marketing has been around for hundreds of years (see this example from 1672), and the discipline has gained incredible popularity since 2007, according to Google Trends.

Google-Trends-Content-Marketing

But, when we recently launched a new e-book that answers common content marketing questions, we learned that many of our readers are just getting started. As such, we want to make sure we continually cover the basics. Whether you are new to the practice, need a new way to look at what you’ve been doing, or need help explaining this to your relatives, this post is for you.

Content marketing as your family would understand

When people ask what you do, does your response receive a quizzical look? “So, what is it exactly that you do,” they ask after you explain your job.

My husband was in this camp until he told me about a newsletter that covers trends affecting financial markets. He looks forward to receiving it each day. He explained that the newsletters didn’t have anything to do with the funds the broker was selling, but the information was solid and valuable – and it was useful research for the investments he makes.

“That’s content marketing,” I explained. It was an aha moment for my husband’s understanding of content marketing – content marketing is educational but is not about the products the company sells. The vendor offers such good information that you become loyal to the brand.

#Contentmarketing is educational, not promotional, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

I can share another example that is close to my daughter’s heart. American Girl uses content to transform something that is a commodity – a doll.

American Girl has so much content – and so many content experiences – for its audience, that it’s truly staggering. For instance, it offers:

While all the ways American Girl connects to its audience are too numerous to cover in this one post, I’m particularly amazed by its print publications. For instance, The Care and Keeping of You is a book all about growing up for girls. It ranks second in its category (and 76th most popular among all books on Amazon.) It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.

product-details-american-girl-book

American Girl Magazine is a top seller in several categories.

product-details-american-girl-magazine

In short, American Girl’s content marketing focuses on how a child can interact with the doll or things that are important to this demographic.

For parents, think about BabyCenter. When I was pregnant and then raising my older daughter, I considered BabyCenter to be required reading. It’s a perfect example of content marketing. According to its website, it is the No. 1 pregnancy and parenting digital destination, and eight in 10 new and expectant moms online use BabyCenter each month. The site is owned by Johnson & Johnson, which sells products for babies.

Content marketing explained to marketers

Hopefully, those examples make it clear that content marketing isn’t about the brand, your products, or your services. It’s about your audience. What do they care about?

And, more importantly, how can you be the one to provide something no one else is, which in turn elevates your brand from a commodity to something people embrace?

Content marketing is different than traditional product marketing efforts like sales collateral and other product-specific info. Content marketing includes things like educational articles, e-books, videos, entertainment, and webinars that answer specific questions people have and provide them with something they can’t get somewhere else. It’s the best way to turn your product, no matter how common, into something that is not like everyone else’s.

By becoming a credible, authoritative resource on topics that matter to potential customers, your business is more likely to get discovered by the right audience and earn their loyalty and trust – which, in turn, enables your brand to strengthen its customer relationships, grow an active and engaged subscriber base, and even increase its profits.

Be a valuable content resource to prospects & your business is more likely to get discovered. @MicheleLinn Click To Tweet

How marketers find success with content marketing

While you may be shaking your head at this point and thinking, “Yeah, this is something I want to do,” content marketing isn’t for everyone – and you certainly shouldn’t adopt it because it’s the “in” thing to do.

Content marketing takes a lot of work, persistence, and patience – it’s not for everyone.

#Contentmarketing takes a lot of work, persistence, and patience – it’s not for everyone, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

But, it can be an ideal approach if you truly want to provide a better experience for your customers while making a positive impact on the business in terms of its perception and its bottom line.

Here are the main reasons why marketers choose to put in the effort for content marketing.

To be found by the right people (potential customers)

People are asking questions and looking for information via search engines like Google, and you want your business to be at the top of the search results. Answering people’s questions via blog posts, e-books, videos, and other content assets is a key way to make this happen. Of course, showing up is only the first step, but it’s essential if you want to reap the benefits of content marketing.

EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:

To build an interested and engaged audience

Your content is only as valuable as its ability to attract audience members and compel them to engage with your business on an ongoing basis — as subscribers, customers, evangelists, or, ideally, all three. Once you have an addressable audience, your content efforts will help increase sales, gather valuable customer insights, and activate your most ardent followers as brand advocates.

Your #content is only as valuable as its ability to attract & engage audience members, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

EXAMPLE: Sony’s Alpha Universe is a content platform dedicated to photography professionals. While its purpose is to drive product sales for Sony’s Alpha line of cameras, the content focuses not on Sony products but on providing information the audience will find educational and helpful. After starting as a blog, the brand diversified its content into a podcast and a training program.

sony-alpha-universe

To acquire new customers

Of course, generating revenue is a key goal for many marketers, and content marketing can be a powerful driver. When you build an audience that trusts you and wants to hear from you, they are more likely to purchase your products. For instance, we found CMI subscribers are more likely to take advantage of our paid opportunities such as attending Content Marketing World.

EXAMPLE: TD Ameritrade produces its print and digital magazine thinkMoney for active customers – those who can make trades as often as hundreds of times in a day. In its early days, TDA put the program under review to determine whether it was worth continuing to spend money on the magazine. The leaders persevered and, after approximately two years, received confirmation of its value: Subscribers and readers of the magazine traded five times more than non-subscribers. Simply put, those who subscribed to this magazine became better customers for TD Ameritrade.

tdameritrade-thinkmoney-magazine

To build increased revenue with existing customers

Another reason organizations use content marketing is to create more loyal customers, which has the potential to increase sales through cross-selling or up-selling. In some cases, the brand can monetize content itself.

In some cases, brands can monetize #content as @SainsburysMag has done, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

EXAMPLE: Sainsbury magazine, is the top cooking magazine in the United Kingdom, with 3 million paid subscribers —a content marketing effort that pays for itself. But, what’s even more remarkable is that, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the company, eight of 10 readers have bought a product from Sainsbury’s after reading about it in the magazine.

pretty-fab-magazine

To reallocate or reduce marketing costs

Organizations also use content marketing because they can see similar — or better — results when compared to a “traditional” marketing program.

EXAMPLE: Jyske Bank is a large Danish bank that now also functions as a media company. The company started using content marketing to get better results than its high-cost sponsorship marketing. It created Jyskebank.tv, which produces amazing financial programming, as well as compelling stories the bank believes are relevant to its core audience of younger consumers and small enterprises.

Today, Jyske works with businesses interested in leveraging its media expertise: Instead of laying out cash to support outside opportunities, Jyske receives media partnership proposals from other organizations — an attractive option made possible by the credibility and reach the bank’s content program has helped it to build.

Do you have more questions about content marketing or do you need help explaining some concepts to your co-workers or clients? Download our e-book, 10 Most Common Content Marketing Questions.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Mike Myers

    Yesssss!

    • Michele Linn

      Always appreciate your support, Mike!

  • https://www.imbloggingtips.com Vishwajeet Kumar

    Hello Michele,

    Content marketing have evolved so much in recent years and also gain popularity. Today it is one of the best marketing strategy among the webmasters and marketers. Thanks for this detailed and informative post.

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks, Vishwajeet!

  • http://www.artillerymarketing.com Douglas Burdett

    Thanks for this Michele! Until now, when family members asked what I do I’ve been resigned to saying “indoor work with no heavy lifting.”

    • Michele Linn

      Ha! That’s just part of it …
      🙂

  • http://www.contentmarketing.dk/ Joakim Ditlev

    Thanks for putting this together.
    Even though I’m speaking about content marketing 50 times per year, I still struggle getting my mum to understand what I’m doing. I’ll give it another shot after reading this article 🙂

    • Michele Linn

      Good luck — and let me know how it goes 🙂

  • http://www.sproutcontent.com/ Debbie Williams

    This is great Michele! My parents in particular have no idea what I do.. “marketing” or “writing” is all they can say. I definitely related to the American Girl examples (hot topic in my house too) and agree they are doing an amazing job at it. Awesome post!

    • Michele Linn

      It’s a constant conversation with the extended family, no? And, yes, American Girl is a fantastic example. It’s impressive to see how they launch their Girl of the Year each January as well. They not only share the doll but also the “content” (books, apps, games — even a cause associated with that character’s passion). Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://digitalmarketingprofs.in/ Digital Marketing Profs

    Thanks Michele, for sharing important points about content marketing..

  • https://www.upwork.com/fl/navinmirania Navin Mirania

    Great put up Michele! A very simple and informative article for any amateur to relate with content marketing.

  • http://www.spryideas.com Jim

    Thanks, Michele! I’m a big fan.

    In the same way that you and @contentmarketinginstitute are building an audience, so must each company who ventures into this #blueocean of #contentmarketing. Ask any publisher their reason for being… they build an audience, understand and get feedback from that audience, and monetize that relationship over and over.

    As (Bishop) Desmond Tutu and (His Holiness) the Dali Lama wrote in [The Book of Joy] “Education is universal”. Everyone needs more of it, and those doing it well, honorably and with purpose have a special place in this world. But it takes practice, strategy and much much patience.

    Oh yea, throw in a dose of courage as well.

    Best to you, with much appreciation for the good work you all do.
    Jim Edwards

  • NenadSenic

    Absolutely fabulous! 🙂

  • e bikepk

    Excellent Article Michele!

  • Sisa Beshy

    Very understandable article. Continue doing some great article Michele!