For four days last week, 3500 marketers from 53 countries travelled to Cleveland, Ohio for Content Marketing World. (CMW). The event was designed to promote the process of content marketing, illustrate how it is working for larger brands, and present tips and practices to get results.
The sponsors of CMW, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), promise that attendees, “will leave with all the materials you need to take a content marketing strategy back to your team – and – to implement a content marketing plan that will grow your business and inspire your audience.”
CMI founder Joe Pulizzi defines content marketing in his book Epic Content Marketing this way:
Content Marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Content Marketing Defined
Content Marketing involves any new and original content created and distributed by a business that can be used for marketing purposes and that influences customer behavior. This is not about regurgitating a sales brochure. Instead, Content Marketing involves sharing helpful information that potential customers can use via a blog, video, podcast, website or other form of media.
The emphasis is on helpful content, not sales-like-advertising-speak. Businesses need to be comfortable with the idea of taking themselves, their products and their services out of the stories they tell. Instead, they should make the customer the hero.
Think of it this way: If you are on a first date and all you do is talk about yourself, chances are you will not get a second date. That is the philosophy behind Content Marketing.
But this process is not just a philosophical one. There are real business advantages to this practice:
- Search Engine Rankings – Google rewards websites that continually add fresh content to their website with better search rankings. Content Marketing is a way to do that.
- Wider Search Availability – Blogging about topics that surround your niche and that compliment your products or services opens your website up to being found in searches for products or services that are not directly related to what you do, but have an indirect relationship.
- Builds Awareness – Promote your content marketing with a social media campaign that reaches out to your followers and you will begin to build awareness for your brand.
- Enhances Your Online Reputation – Over time, the content that you generate, whether it be your blog, podcast or video, will demonstrate your knowledge about your business and industry. As the content grows, so too will your reputation.
- Cumulative Effect of Content Marketing – Your generated content will remain on your site for visitors to find see for as long as you keep it there. That has a cumulative effect over time, with each post adding to your reputation and company story.
- Owning Your Own Media – The platform where you present it, your website, is yours. This is an important distinction to the idea of using social media only to get your message out. Doing that is like building your house on rented land; You don’t know when it might be sold out from under you.
Write It Down
Like other business practices, though, your Content Marketing efforts need to be tied to a business goal and strategy. Marketers that jump into it are inviting failure.
Consider that those brands that are most effective at Content Marketing have some type of documented goal and strategy written down. They can pull it out and refer to it. Thinking about why you are embarking into Content Marketing will force you to tie it to a business goal.
Perhaps that goal is to build awareness, capture visitor contact information, increase conversions or drive sales. Whatever it is, write it down, and then work backwards from your goal to create a strategy to achieve it.
Well over 50% of the businesses that practice Content Marketing do not have any kind of written strategy for their content. That means they don’t know why they are doing it, or what type of content they should create. They are just doing it blindly and are getting frustrated with the lack of results.
Yet those businesses that did document their strategy, editorial mission, metrics for success and had dedicated a budget to the endeavor experienced greater effectiveness rates, by 30 percentage points or more, than those who did not.
The key take away from Content Marketing World is this: Content Marketing works when it is practiced correctly. It is a cheaper alternative to traditional media and delivers greater results. When you treat it like a true marketing endeavor – with a goal and strategy – and dedicate human and financial resources to it, it has much better chance for success.
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Bob Turner is a certified Social Marketing Consultant and experienced Digital Marketing professional with Social Flair.