You have a business to run, and that means making that sale. Traditional marketing tactics like ads and brochures sell your product, but content marketing, on the other hand, often doesn’t even mention what you’re selling. So does that mean content marketing is a waste of money?
What Is Content Marketing?
When I tell people I provide content marketing services to businesses, I always get a different version of the same question: what is content marketing? Also known as inbound marketing, content marketing has been around for hundreds of years, but it became super popular around 2007, according to Michelle Linn, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research.
Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as “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.”
Erm, OK. I think Linn offers an example that spells it out a lot better. She said her husband once told her about this newsletter he loves to read because it covers trends that affect financial markets. But the interesting thing about this newsletter is that it didn’t have any information about the funds the broker was selling. Her husband turned to that newsletter because it helped him research the investments he made — not because it gave him info what how he could buy from that broker.
That’s content marketing. “Content marketing is educational but is not about the products the company sells,” Linn wrote in a blog post for Content Marketing Insitute. “The vendor offers such good information that you become loyal to the brand.”
Does that result in a direct sale right away? No; content marketing is a slow burn. But when done well, content marketing results in loyal customers (like Linn’s husband) who buy from you because they like and trust your brand. And that’s what content marketing is all about.
Content Marketing Means Blog Posts, Right?
When most businesses put together their content marketing strategies, they think all they need to do is create a blog and, boom, content marketing success. But there are so many other types of content you can use besides blog posts to reach your target audience. And all of that content can work together to achieve all kinds of business goals for you, like drive traffic to your website, create interest in your business, and nurture that interest into paying customers.
“The combination of a good content strategy and content marketing will work in tandem to help you achieve your [business] goals,” Matt Bowman, president of Thrive Marketing Agency, wrote for Forbes. “Your content marketing efforts will drive targeted traffic to your site and once they arrive, your on-site content strategy will work to convert that traffic into leads, followers and customers.”
Blog posts are just one example of how you can reach customers through content. Other examples of content marketing include:
- Bylined articles and editorials in trade publications or major news publications
- White papers that provide well-researched educational information on a topic your audience finds highly relevant
- E-books, which are more informal than white papers, but should still provide valuable, highly relevant information
- Case studies highlighting interviews with customers and hard data on customer success stories
- Newsletters that offer your audience a chance to opt in to receiving information from you
- How-to videos
- Engaging social media posts
The list truly goes on, but it’s not a list you should pick from randomly. Like any marketing tactic, the key is to know your audience and to choose the type of content that resonates best with that specific audience.
So Is Content Marketing A Waste of Money?
If you’re still not sure whether it’s worth investing your marketing dollars in content, just turn to some of the biggest companies across the country. According to an annual survey by CMI and MarketingProfs, it’s not a question about whether content marketing is worth it; it’s about how much will marketers spend on content marketing in 2019? Because the top-performing marketers are investing in content, and they’re investing more and more in content each year.
In fact, some of the biggest names in business also have some of the best content marketing campaigns out there. AARP The Magazine has won awards for the quality of its content, design, and photography, according to OptinMonster. But, remember, AARP ultimately wants readers to pay to join.
And who could forget all of the American Girl Doll books and the brand’s magazine. At less than $10 each, these pieces of content help kids build stronger relationships with their favorite American Girl characters, making it much more likely that they’ll want to purchase more American Girl products — at a much greater cost.
None of these content marketing strategies may result in sales conversions as quickly as say, a targeted Facebook ad, but they build a love and for a brand that can keep a customer coming back for so much longer once they do convert. And that’s worth every penny.