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Is It Time to Add a New Definition for Content Marketing?

Is it time to expand the definition of content marketing?

I admit this is a bold question for someone writing his first guest post for the organization that owns the definition.

Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing, in part, as a strategic marketing approach, and I agree this definition is still solid. However, in the years since that explanation debuted, content marketing has spawned new job titles, careers, departments, and even new types of businesses.

Content marketing is more than a marketing strategy that uses content to attract an audience. Content marketing also is a full-on skill set. It’s no longer enough to market with content. You must understand how to market the content itself.

#ContentMarketing is a strategy. Marketing your content is a skill,” says @aleejudge via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The skill of content marketing

Many marketers fall short of their content marketing glory because they think getting their message into a form of content and distributing that content is the end of the process. Blog posted? Check. Video posted? Check. I never thought I would paraphrase a song title from the ’70s soft-pop duo The Carpenters, but you’ve “Only Just Begun.”

The content is a vessel, but to reach the next level you must market the vessel.

Here is my proposal. Think of your content as your product. For that product to be effective and drive profitable customer action you must market it. How? You start with the basics of marketing as you would with any other product.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings.” Now let’s apply this to our content product.

Market your content as a product

To market your content, ask these questions, while keeping in mind the four Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) of marketing:

What is the MVP (minimum viable product)?

Do you really need a 2,000-word blog post or a 10-page e-book? Speed and frequency are considerably large factors in marketing your content. Content that shows up often usually gains the most mind share. While working on that super-high-quality piece of content, push out smaller pieces of your content product into the market.

How do we get people interested?

The if-you-build-it-they-will-come model does not work for content. The strategy for each piece of content must go beyond distribution. There must be a plan to keep that content viable long after the content is given to the world.

The if-you-build-it-they-will-come model does not work for #content, says @aleejudge via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Even brands with large audiences must put thought into how they will drive interest in their latest piece of content. The key word here is “interest.” The content must be designed to drive attention and attract an audience. After getting interested in a headline, title, or image, why will the audience stay engaged in the content long enough to drive the desired action.

Do we advertise or depend on word of mouth?

Organically found content is great. Paid content is precise. You may need both. Your content product can grow and spread on its own but don’t be deceived. Even content products need paid promotion or placement to get found by wider audiences. Consider the right balance for each of your content products just as you do with your other product marketing budgets.

Will we charge for our product?

To gate or not to gate, that is the question. With content products the price usually isn’t a dollar amount, it’s the recipient’s contact information. Your audiences think twice before “spending” it. Be conscious of the value exchange.

Have you ever enjoyed a free sample from a food-court restaurant? It piqued your interest and exposed you to the brand and its offerings, but you knew the full plate of food held true value and were happy to pay for it. The same goes for your content product. Giving away content is the highest price for you, the content marketer. More complete and in-depth content is the most valuable product to the consumers and they’re willing to pay with their contact information. Both gated and non-gated content products are necessary.

How many product versions will we produce?

Just as with many products, one size or type does not fit all. For a content product, versioning may mean not only personalizing it but delivering it in the format, size, length, location, and media suited to your consumer. Each content idea should be repurposed and remixed into multiple right-sized versions. Podcasts become blogs, blogs become posts, and posts become tweets.

One #content product size or type does not fit all, says @aleejudge via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Where will we distribute our product?

Getting your content product to market is the key to success; and by “market,” I don’t just mean “out there.” I mean directly into the hands and in front of the eyes of those who will consume your content. This requires understanding which distribution channels are important to your consumers and making sure your content product is in those places when your consumers are.

How do we keep manufacturing this product with the highest efficiency while maintaining high quality?

If your content marketing team spends weeks perfecting that one video or one white paper, they may fail to successfully market your content products because time passes by and your content competitors fill the gap. Systems must be in place to ensure that you are able to maintain a constant production level of your content even while the “big launch” is being prepared.

Applying the roots of marketing to content

By viewing marketing as an activity and content as the product, you can clearly apply the skill of marketing your content to the strategy of content marketing. From this thinking comes my proposal for a second entry in the definition of content marketing as shown in the verb definition below.

con·​tent mar·​ket·​ing | \ ˈkän-ˌtent  \\ ˈmär-kə-tiŋ  \

  1. noun. 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.
  2. verb. Applying marketing skills and techniques to written, video, audio, or social content in order to provide the greatest possible reach, longevity, and effectiveness of that content.

Maybe I’m asking too much or maybe I’m contributing to defining this wonderful segment of the marketing industry we know and love as content marketing.

What do you think? Please share in the comments. 

Are you joining us for Content Marketing World this October? Don’t miss A. Lee Judge’s session measuring and maximizing the ROI of marketing content. Not yet registered? Sign up today!

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute