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What is Content Marketing? & Why Your Business Needs It

By: Joyce Chou — May 17, 2019

Maybe you’ve heard the words “content marketing” recently—what appears to be the latest term being tossed around in the digital marketing space.

  • “Do Most B2B Marketers Measure Their Content Marketing?”
  • “6 Ways to Build a Loyal Audience with Content Marketing”
  • “New to Content Marketing? 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do”

Make no mistake, though: “content marketing” is no passing buzzword. There’s a reason why this phrase has gained traction in recent years, and why your business should consider adopting a content marketing strategy.

But first, what is it exactly?

Content marketing is a type of marketing strategy focused on creating valuable, audience-specific content in order to attract customers.

And it’s nothing new—businesses have been doing content marketing for years through magazines and newsletters.

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Content Marketing: An Overview

Though many often interpret content marketing to be synonymous with blogging, there’s far more to it.

Brands have done content marketing for centuries, even before the internet. In fact, Benjamin Franklin himself launched the Poor Richard’s Almanack to market his printing business in 1732.

Of course, in modern times, the typical content repertoire has expanded to include much more than print publications, including:

  • ebooks
  • infographics
  • podcasts
  • webinars
  • white papers
  • video

You’ll certainly find that blogs are a content marketing staple, but other content formats function in the same way. That is, they provide relevant and targeted information to a brand’s target audience.

That said, it’s worth clarifying what content marketing isn’t.

Content marketing is not about pitching a brand or company to readers.

Instead, content marketing focuses on establishing a brand’s authority and expertise by providing helpful information. Done well, your target users will be inclined to come back for more, and eventually make a purchase.

This style of acquiring leads is a form of inbound marketing, in which marketing efforts are designed to draw in leads rather than push a brand onto potential customers. In this way, you can think of content marketing as playing the “long game.” The key is creating content that readers find valuable, not thinly veiled ads and sales pitches.

Big Tip
Curious how long it’ll take before you see results from your content marketing strategy? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as it will depend partly on how you define content marketing success and which engagement metrics you use.

Why develop a content marketing strategy?

Though it may sound like a roundabout way of reaching customers, content marketing is a valuable addition to any marketing plan.

Here’s how it can benefit your brand.

Attract new leads and customers

When you publish quality content on a regular basis, you provide more opportunities for readers to stumble onto your brand and website—especially when your content is created with SEO in mind.

Take a weekly blog for example. With a consistent publishing schedule, your posts might cultivate a loyal following of subscribers that share your content with their own networks. And, if well-optimized, new readers will find your blog on their own by way of Google, Bing, or another search engine.

For instance, you’ve probably heard of the magazine Travel + Leisure and the American television channel known simply as the Travel Channel.

The two brands are known, respectively, for their print magazines and television programming—but they also invest heavily in web articles to round out their content strategies.

See for yourself by searching “vacation ideas” in Google.

You’ll find both companies’ websites on the first page of search results, each with relevant content about vacation ideas.

Google search results for "vacation ideas"

Why would Travel + Leisure and the Travel Channel bother writing these articles?

Creating another kind of content helps both brands reach audiences outside of their standard print and television format.

Increase your brand visibility

On top of boosting traffic and acquiring new leads, publishing content strengthens your brand’s presence. Whether it’s a blog, newsletter, podcast, or something else, content can be easily shared and in doing so, enhances your brand awareness.

For instance, under the right circumstances, a video or infographic that you create might go viral. And even though your logo isn’t the focal point, its presence alone is enough to make your brand more familiar to users.

Just check out Dove for an idea of how this might look.

Outside of its personal care and hygiene products, the brand produces award-winning video content about self-esteem and body positivity.

And the result?

These video campaigns have not only earned Dove critical acclaim but have also made its name and branding more recognizable to the average consumer.

Enhance relationships with current customers

It’s not enough to just convert a lead; you also need to figure out how to retain them as a customer. Content marketing helps to accomplish just that by giving your current users content that’s relevant to their specific needs.

Fitbit is a perfect example for how content marketing can nurture relationships with preexisting customers. The company is best known for its activity-tracking devices, but its website encompasses far more than simply descriptions of its technology. A quick look at Fitbit’s blog shows healthy recipes, workout plans, success stories, and even the latest in fitness research.

Fitbit blog screenshot

As a result, people who already own a Fitbit product can still find value in Fitbit’s blog—the site is for more than simply trying to cultivate prospective buyers. Preexisting customers who frequent Fitbit’s blog may even feel more loyal to the brand, relying on it for lifestyle tips and motivation.

Big Tip
Are you struggling to execute a content marketing strategy for your growing business? Not to worry—we’ve got a guide on how to scale your content marketing strategy.

Real-Life Examples

Content marketing is more ubiquitous than ever; in fact, 91% of B2B organizations report actively using a content marketing strategy.

Think that sounds like a stretch?

It isn’t—and as a consumer, you likely come across several forms of content marketing on a day-to-day basis. Take a look at some real-life examples below and find out why they succeed in content marketing.

AARP

AARP was founded as an interest group for retired Americans, although it’s since expanded to include anyone aged 50 and above. Membership includes access to a variety of exclusive offers and discounts, including travel and insurance.

What makes AARP a prime example of content marketing is its breadth of content. On its website, you’ll find:

  • Video content about subjects like caregiving, politics, and retirement
  • Cover stories and articles from the AARP Magazine
  • Trivia quizzes on pop culture, health, finance, and other subjects
  • AARP-produced podcast series

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg for AARP. But you get the point—the organization’s content is comprehensive and far-reaching to say the least, extending well beyond simply advertising their membership.

What makes this effective content marketing?

AARP magazine cover

(Image credit: AARP)

AARP’s rich variety of content makes it a major resource hub for all sorts of information—and it’s easy to access, regardless of your membership status. And though created to help educate older populations, AARP doesn’t stop there; it also makes its name in entertainment with its interactive quizzes and storytelling podcasts.

thredUP

thredUP is a secondhand fashion website that essentially functions as an online thrift store. But apart from selling used clothing, it also takes an active stance in promoting collaborative consumption and sustainability by way of content marketing.

Specifically, thredUP:

  • Publishes blog posts on outfit ideas, and interviews with style icons
  • Releases an annual resale report and studies detailing U.S. fashion trends
  • Partners with designers and activists to promote its #secondhandfirst and #choosedused campaigns on social media

thredUP blog screenshot

An ordinary thrift store might skip out on producing this kind of content, opting instead to focus on traditional ads to showcase their selection of brands.

However, by engaging consumers through a variety of channels, thredUP cements its reputation as a uniquely trendy and eco-conscious brand.

Final Words

The value of content isn’t going away anytime soon.

But while it was once enough for a buyer to see an ad once and then immediately act upon it, today’s consumers require more cultivation before making a purchasing decision.

That’s because today’s world is far more content-saturated, with ads and information coming at consumers from every corner. Consequently, more brands are competing for a single buyer’s attention—and with so many options at one’s disposal, how’s a person to choose?

This makes adopting a content marketing strategy more imperative than ever. It’s a way for your company to show your value and expertise so that when a user is ready to convert, they’ll come to you.


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