Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about growing your business with blogs, articles, reports and other content.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a way of promoting your business or your services by producing and distributing content.

That content can be anything you create that tries to entertain, inform or otherwise engage your audience. This can include:

  • Blogs
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • eBooks
  • Market or annual reports
  • Feature articles
  • Podcasts
  • Quizzes
  • and, well, pretty much anything you like.

Content can sit on your website, on your blog or social media, be downloaded in exchange for an email address, be emailed to your database, or printed and handed out. That’s the marketing part of it.

But there’s a bit more to content marketing than that…

Content marketing does not sell

Unlike traditional marketing that’s in your face and pushing a sales message (“buy me, buy me, buy me”), content marketing doesn’t try to sell at all.

“Not selling?” we hear you ask. “What kind of marketing is that?”

OK, so let’s re-phrase that. While the ultimate goal of content marketing is to sell, content market does it in a more subtle, more nuanced and less in your face kind of way than other advertising.

The idea is that you produce content that your audience finds helpful, useful and/or entertaining so that they start trusting you and seeing you as someone who really “gets” what they’re about. That way, when it does come time to use your services or buy your product, they’re already pre-sold on you.

In other words, content marketing lets you get in there and position your business BEFORE someone’s actually thinking of buying.

Content marketing is rewriting the rules of selling

No doubt you’ve heard of the “sales funnel”. It’s the idea that when people buy from you they go through a process that looks a bit like going into a funnel: they start at the wide top end of the funnel having no real idea who you are, or at least no intention of ever buying from you, and go through a series of steps like evaluation and decision-making, to come out the pointy end as your client or customer (preferably a repeat one).

Traditionally, pushing someone through your funnel has been a desperate, unpleasant and often expensive task. It has meant forking out for print, radio or TV advertising, sponsoring events, cold calling, letterbox dropping, networking at conferences or barbecues you never wanted to go to, and dropping your business card into the hands of everyone you’ve ever met. It has meant perfecting an elevator pitch and then repeating it so many times you’ve lost the will to live.

The good news is that content marketing could well put an end to all of that.

How content marketing works

Good content marketing can take someone through much of your sales funnel passively – without having to spend too much money or time persuading to keep moving through their journey.

All you need to do (and we know, this is going to sound way easier than it is) is to produce and place the right kind of content for the right stage of your buyer’s journey so they can go through each step of the way WITHOUT you needing to be there to hold their hand. So, that when they do speak to you, they’re already pre-sold.

Why content marketing works

Maybe you’re thinking why on earth would I switch my marketing dollars from what I’m doing now to content marketing?

Well, you may not have much choice. As former Yahoo! Vice President and all-round marketing legend Seth Godin put it: “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left”.

Yep, traditional advertising simply doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. People have switched off. Don’t believe us? When was the last time you paid attention to a TV ad? When was the last time you bought a newspaper, let alone read and acted on a print one? Do you even listen to the radio any more?

If you’re like most people the answer to these three questions is: I can’t remember, I don’t know, and no. You’re too busy listening to Spotify, watching Netflix and getting your news online to worry about any of those things.

But, again, there’s something more to it…

You see, traditional advertising worked by interrupting you. The commercial break took you away from the show you really wanted to watch, the newspaper ad got in the way of the articles you were reading. And the flyer filled the letterbox with junk mail.

Content marketing is different

Instead of the “spray and pray” approach traditional advertising used (spend lots of money, hit lots of people with your message and hope that a few buy), content marketing can be targeted. Done properly, it can put information in front of people who’ll actually want it and find it useful. Instead of interrupting them, it can enhance their day by giving them the answer to questions they wanted to ask, teaching them something new, or otherwise bringing them a little bit of happiness.

In other words, instead of popping up in front of someone and saying, “look at me and now I have your attention, buy from me” it says “here’s something I know you’re interested in that should help you out”.  

Content marketing is not new

Content marketing isn’t new. And, by not new, we mean that it’s been around for centuries.

Perhaps the best known early example of content marketing came along in France in 1900, when the Michelin brothers had the idea to start producing a travel guide as a way of drumming up interest in their exciting new product, pneumatic tyres – and so the Michelin Guide was born. You can read more about that here.

There’s plenty of companies doing the same thing today. In fact, for every Michelin guide there are now thousands – no make that tens of thousands – of brands all trying to woo potential buyers with content.

This includes some of the world’s absolute marketing powerhouses like Nike, IKEA, and Coca-Cola. In fact, in 2012 Coke announced that by 2020 it would be shifting its entire marketing focus from one of creative excellence to one of content excellence. It also includes corporate behemoths like PWC, Goldman Sachs, and GE, right down to smaller businesses like lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and real estate agents.

Is content marketing for you?

Content marketing is here to stay, and as you read this article there’s no doubt your competitors are probably already doing a fantastic job of using it to attract customers or clients who otherwise might have chosen you.

We know because we’re helping some of them do just that.

So the question is, how do you join them?

Get in touch if you’d like to know how to make your content more effective.


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