What is Content Marketing?
In 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay titled “Content is King”. He wrote, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
Ever since then, marketers have taken up the gauntlet and have been paying homage to that king ever since. As a result, the field of content marketing has grown exponentially. Just as the airwaves became an intensely competitive battlefield for marketers and advertisers to get their messages to target audiences, the internet has become just as much as a battlefield – maybe even more fierce.
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Explosion of Content
An astronomical amount of content is created every day – and it doesn’t seem to be abating. While in 1994, there were 3,000 sites on the web, today that number is around 1.88 billion! In fact, as of 2017, it has been reported that 90% of all data/content was generated in the 2 years prior. Moreover, covid exacerbated this with everyone shifting to the world wide web to conduct every aspect of their lives.
The growing proliferation of content now makes content marketing an essential element in the marketing mix. The explosion of content in the last 10 years has revolutionized marketing. The sheer volume means that we need to be very precise about how to best utilize this powerful tool in terms of our business and marketing.
Businesses adapted by blasting their messages to every corner of the digital realm. At this point, many companies are familiar with content marketing. In fact, 70% invest in it to some degree. However, there is a disconnect as to why it really is important and, more significant, whether it really is paying off for them. Many of the companies who actually practice content marketing are not at all clear about what exactly content does for them or how to chart that course. Yet, they continue to throw money at it because they instinctively know they have to.
What is Content?
Content is a very broad term. It includes pretty much everything a business puts out these days. It is the totality of what a company publishes to further its business and marketing goals. The most frequently used formats are:
Repurposed and updated content
Case studies and interviews
White papers and e-books
However, content needs and applications are as varied as the individual business employing them. The goals of each business and the purpose of each format are so individual that no two content portfolios look alike.
Content changes if you market B2B or B2C or a mixture of both. It also is completely different when you have a high-ticket item versus something less expensive. Consider what is at stake for the customer, especially if your service is in a high-stake area such as healthcare rather than in something less vital and personal. That will help dictate your tone and the information you are furnishing.
As such, there are common elements to look for to consider something good content. In fact, this handy list of questions should help you when you are both writing and evaluating content that comes across your desk.
Who are you writing to? Who is your target audience?
Is the information helpful? Is it solving a problem for the reader? Is it adding value to the consumer’s world?
Is it easy to consume in terms of the variety of formats in the transmission of the information such as through images and graphics? Are the words and paragraphs formatted in such a way that the information is easy to assimilate?
Does the content have a mix of attributes in terms of it being evergreen (always relevant), disposable (need to know right now only), and strategic (touting your product/service either softly or overtly)?
What unique attribute of your organization are you highlighting? What market niche are you trying to fill? What unique selling point (USP) are you offering?
Types of Content
As we stated, the type of content you choose to include in your business must take into account the purpose of the content. You need to think about what you want to accomplish. In short, you need to write to the reader. In a very broad sense, you need to account for deeply engaged readers as well as the skimmers.
Some content is aimed at educating the reader about an industry or a particular issue or controversy attached to it, the process of buying or researching your product, the evolution of the business, and so on. The list is endless. In any case, these pieces are usually longer than average. However, they have the advantage of keeping the reader engaged for longer and demonstrating your mastery of the subject area. Conveniently, search engines like to see long page visits, so this will positively impact your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
2. Quick Reference
This is content that is short and helpful. It often is in the form of an image such as a meme, an infographic, or outlines and lists. This is a quick hit that provides insightful and useful information to the very busy and information bombarded public. Luckily, well-crafted content in this form is often shared. The quick reference aspect to it as well as the sharing both check off boxes for the search engines, thereby enabling you to rank higher on the search engine page results (SERPs). And, they also love to see sharing!
3. Authority Building
Some content is meant to demonstrate your authority in the arena in which you are competing. If you can show that you are fully acquainted with all the factors surrounding your business or the crucial issues of the day, you have your foot in the door to becoming an influencer to your target audience. The more authoritative content you produce, the more your target market will turn to you for your insights. This will exponentially benefit your branding efforts and professional business image. Authoritative content is trusted content and people like to do business with people they trust.
4. Service/New Product Introduction
Like everything else in life, businesses evolve and adapt. New products, services, or processes are always being incorporated into businesses. They need to get with the times. Watering stations for horses are out, gas stations are in, and a proliferation of electric charging stations are on the horizon. Savvy businesses leverage these opportunities to connect and remain in front of their customers. All new product offerings need to have the accompanying marketing and content plan to maximize their time on stage and interaction with their customers.
At this point in this consumerist age, it is no longer enough to run your business by adage “the customer is always right.” The competition out there is so fierce that we need to bump that up a notch. As we entered the 21st century, we knew that we had to EXCEED customer expectations.
Customers expect transparency and to be heard. Furthermore, the constant connection to and posting on social media has made that expectation even more acute. To that end, surveying and polling customers as well as using these tools to inform them of the opinions of their fellow market targets is a great way to accomplish all of the above. You need it to continually build that better mousetrap (where people beat a path to your door). Ask them, hear them, and act on what they say.
Part of the information age is constant sharing. Among the sharing is customer reviews and testimonials. They want to be asked and other customers want to hear what they have to say. This is especially true with our reliance on everything that is online. Make sure to solicit and get permission to USE the testimonials of your customers.
It is extremely important to get ahead of all this. Do not disregard any negative reviews. On the contrary, their feedback is essential to you. Even if done so in a public forum, addressing negative comments shows your audience that you care and that you are willing to go the extra distance to make a customer happy. Reputation management is to be embraced rather than approached shame and trepidation.
When used properly, content can help you build your business niche. You might be the place that provides great tips, or the company that offers contextual information, or the professionals that put out great problem-solving worksheets, or the guys that make you smile with a great social media post. Whatever the medium, whatever the format, your content should make you shine and step out from the crowded field. The key is to get noticed by those most important to you – your customers.
Let us help you do that. We have loads of experience and are just the expert content specialists to assist you in reaching your goals. We got this for you – so you don’t have to!
Write Content Solutions was started by Phyllis Lehman who has a passion for writing and helping small businesses succeed so they can compete with bigger players. The internet is the great leveler. You can swim with the big fish! Contact us at 516.855.8551 for all your content marketing needs. We will make sure you feel heard and provide you with the highest quality content for your business.