Tag Archives: Content Marketing Explained

What is content marketing: 15 definitions from industry experts

what-is-content-marketing-define-content-marketing

On the Internet, the concept and application of content marketing has been around for more than 15 years now. Still, only those who provide content marketing services seem to know exactly what this form of marketing means.

What is content marketing? What does it mean? How do you define content marketing? How does it benefit your business? Why is it better than conventional advertising and marketing? How much time, effort and money does it take for content marketing to show any results? Should it entirely replace conventional advertising and marketing?

Different industry experts have different definitions, but the gist remains the same: you publish and distribute helpful content and people begin to recognize you or your brand due to that content. You become a valuable presence in their lives. This way, when they need products and services that you provide, they know whom to approach.

This is not a complete definition, but it is the gist of content marketing. I have explained my own views on what is content marketing.

Why is it important to know what is content marketing?

knowing-content-marketing

If you want to use something for your benefit, you need to know it. You need to know it beyond tweaking.

Do you know Michelangelo used to dig up corpses, cut them and explore various parts to understand the dynamics of the human body from the inside so that he could carve out immortal sculptures? Gross, but you understand the need to understand something.

It is one thing to know what works for others may also work for you, and it’s a totally different thing if you actually understand what you are doing and what it is going to lead to.

Marketing methodologies that have existed for years don’t need explanation. For example, you know what is advertising. You may not know its intricacies and the stuff known to the MBAs, but you have a fair idea.

You know that advertising targets certain individuals and uses certain channels. You know that when people come across your advertisements they come to know of your product or service and if they need it, they approach you. You have a total understanding of why you want to advertise on a billboard on a busy highway.

It’s very straightforward (actually, it is not).

With content marketing things are not as straightforward. Yes, it is simple, yet, difficult.

Difficult, because, for an average businessperson or entrepreneur, results are not direct.

If I tell you to publish 50 blog posts covering all your topics so that your target audience is educated and then some among this audience may turn into your customers and clients, it may seem very vague to you.

If I tell you that through content marketing you can have your own broadcasting channel you may ask why the heck does my small business need a broadcasting channel?

If I tell you that through content marketing you can establish your authority and create an influential presence for yourself on the Internet you may ask, why do I need to put in so much effort if I can simply advertise?

These are all valid questions. But the answers to these questions exist contextually. Here is the context:

  • Advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be a few years ago.
  • Most of the Internet users skip ads or have developed a blind eye towards them.
  • Most of the TV viewers have the ability to skip ads these days. They do.
  • Advertising is getting prohibitively expensive, especially when you are paying for every single website visitor.
  • People trust opinions more than they trust advertisements.
  • Word of mouth is more powerful than advertisements.
  • 88% B2B marketers use content marketing because they know it works.
  • People have a limited attention span and you need to remain in front of them using various creative ways.
  • Apropos to the above point, people skip or ignore ads and the only way to remain in front of them is by providing interesting, useful and high-quality content.
  • You need content marketing for SEO.

SEO-writing-can-improve-your-search-engine-rankings

Interestingly, the last point is immediately understandable to people. Yes! SEO is something that can be measured.

You explain to them how many web pages and blog posts it’s going to need to improve SEO for a particular keyword and they immediately understand. But tell them to have the same number of web pages and blog posts to improve conversion, and they give you a blank look. That’s because they don’t understand what is content marketing.

Why is it difficult to define content marketing as a single definition

It is difficult to define content marketing as a single definition because every individual, every business, has its own way of implementing a content marketing strategy. There is no set definition because content marketing is contextual.

Do marketing and advertising have a definitive definition? I don’t think so. Whatever works best, is used by content marketers.

Content marketing explained by 15 industry experts or influencers

On this blog post I’m listing definitions of content marketing from 15 industry experts or influencers. They aren’t necessarily people. Some are even companies.

Why do I call them “industry influencers” or “industry experts”? Some are working on million-dollar content marketing projects. Some have written books on content marketing. Some run popular blogs on the topic. Some are very popular on social media for thought leadership. Some have completely replaced conventional advertising with content marketing throughout their global operations.

They speak at conferences. They travel the world trying to convince businesses to adopt content marketing. Basically, these people know their stuff. They are the flag bearers. They are the pioneers. They are the trendsetters.

I must state in the beginning that I haven’t directly sought these definitions from experts and influencers themselves. I have picked them from various sources on the Internet.

While doing my research the biggest problem I encountered was that some of the attributions have been made randomly. I needed to check multiple times whether someone who has said something about content marketing was actually said by the person or the company, or not.

To my best knowledge, these definitions of content marketing come from right persons and companies. Do let me know if there is a discrepancy and I will quickly mend it.

So, here it goes…

content-marketing-explained

1. “Content marketing is the process and practice of creating, curating and cultivating text, video, images, graphics, e-books, white papers and other content assets that are distributed through paid, owned and earned media. These assets are used to tell stories that help brands build and nurture relationships with customers, prospects and other audiences to drive awareness, generate demand, influence preference and build loyalty.”

Gartner

2. “Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique that aligns business and consumer information needs with relevant content. Content can act as a means to attract, engage and convert a specific targeted audience. From blogging and social media to white papers and eBooks, marketers use a variety of content marketing tactics to consistently inform and persuade their customers–without trying to sell them something outright.”

Top Rank Marketing Blog

3. “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience–with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Content Marketing Institute

4. “Content marketing is the process of developing, executing, and delivering the content and related assets needed to create, nurture, and grow a company’s customer base. Stages of the content marketing process include: strategy; content development; asset development; and channel leverage across outbound marketing, inbound marketing, and sales enablement.”

Curata

5. “Content marketing means attracting and transforming prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. The purpose of content marketing is to help the company to create sustainable brand loyalty and provide valuable information to consumers, as well as create willingness to purchase products from the company in the future. This relatively new form of marketing usually does not involve direct sales. Instead, it builds trust and rapport with the audience.”

Wikipedia

6. “Great content marketing offers something valuable to an audience with no obligation to repay that offering: entertaining, insightful, relevant, useful, well-produced and well-written writing, graphics, video and audio.

It seeks to first find the right audience, and then establish a relationship with them in order to build trust, so that when it gets to business time, they choose you over a competitor.”

Pawan Deshpande from Curata

7. “Content marketing is the process of developing, publishing, and distributing useful information that engages prospective customers and propels them toward purchase.”

Anne Murphy

8. “Content marketing is all about marketing that’s left.”

Seth Godin

9. “Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”

“Official” definition from Copyblogger Media

10. “Content Marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.”

Heidi Cohen

11. “Content marketing is a strategic marketing and business process 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.”

Hubspot

12. “Content marketing is all about the creation and distribution of high-quality content that attracts and engages audiences online. Like other traditional forms of marketing, content marketing is typically used to drive customer acquisition, deeper engagement with current customers, and for brand awareness.”

Outbrain

13. “Content marketing is an umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfill business and customer goals by using content across the customer life cycle and the business functions in a consistent, integrated and continuous way.”

i-scoop

14. “Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated and syndicated content.”

Michael Brenner

15. “Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.”

Rand Fishkin

Why definitions from so many people?

If you have read various opinions or definitions on content marketing above, you must have noticed that more or less the gist of the definition is the same. Everybody is pretty much on the same wavelength regarding what is content marketing.

Why it is necessary to get point of views of multiple people is because they are in the thick of things. They are the pullers and pushers of content marketing. They are constantly defining and redefining content marketing. This is why, the more views you get from the experts, the clearer you get (or more confused).

Is content marketing merely a PR exercise?

content-marketing-means-educating-like-a-friendNo, I’m not asking this question. Avinash Kaushik has raised this question in his recent newsletter. Actually, he has taken an example from a Think with Google web page and has dissected various sections of the page to illustrate that the writer has merely thrown around his verbosity without communicating anything concrete. Here is the web link to Avinash’s latest newsletter update.

The title of his newsletter is very apt: “Stop telling me Jesus was great”.

What it means to say is, through your content, stop telling something people already know. Stop telling that has been told thousands of times already. Tell something that I don’t know. If you are simply regurgitating everybody else’s message, through your content marketing you are just indulging in sophisticated PR exercise to get traffic to your website.

There is a reason why I’m talking about Avinash’s newsletter. The example that he has given is not of content marketing but of landing page copywriting.

From the landing page copywriting example, he has tried to deliver a larger message – your content marketing should be about communicating something which is highly useful, and hasn’t yet been communicated.

The Think with Google link actually makes no sense. It tries to deliver a very weighty message but in the end, ends up conveying nothing. The writer seems to be too impressed with himself or herself.

He first mentions three pointers published on the Google link: 1: Accumulate and integrate. 2: Unearth insights that matter. 3: Turn data into action.

Is there something new what is being said above? Doesn’t everyone these days tell you to use data to get insight? Aren’t organizations and even political parties using big data to decide what is the next step they need to take?

Anyway, I’m not writing this post to talk about what Avinash has to say about this particular link and it would be better that for that you read his update on the link above. I’m interested in the last para of his newsletter:

There is one major flaw in my analysis above. Perhaps the point of Content Marketing is to selfishly engage in Public Relations exercises. Hence, there is absolutely no attempt at understanding what the audience wants/needs and no attempt at creating anything that solve for anyone except the pimping company. The only goal is to cheat the audience of their precious attention. This strategy would be odd, but if that is your explicit strategy then nothing I’ve said above applies.

I can understand his general comment on the state of content marketing, that it is often used to create a senseless presence on the Internet to draw traffic from all over the web and when people actually arrive at the website, no purpose is solved. In that sense, you may like to read 3 Most Important Objectives of Content Marketing.

But pertaining to the Google link, it is a copywriting failure rather than a content marketing failure.

Content marketing is definitely not merely a PR exercise. It is an educational exercise. You educate people so that they can make a better decision.

I will give you an example from my client without revealing his identity:

My client is offering a service that is being offered by thousands of other service providers. But there are some features that only he is providing.

His problem is, his target audience doesn’t even know what problems it is facing. For his content marketing, he needs to

  • Make people aware of the problems they are having.
  • Explain to them what they are losing due to the problems they have.
  • Tell them that an efficient solution is available.
  • Tell them that that efficient solution is available with my client.
  • Convince people into going for that solution.

So, it is a complete educational process. Through ongoing education, I need to tell the prospective clients of my client what they are missing if they’re not working with my client.

Efficient content marketing empowers your customers and clients. It gives them solutions they’re looking for. It also gives them solutions they’re not looking for presently, but they need those solutions.

This should be achieved in very plain language unlike the Google link above. Live examples should be given rather than simply making claims.

Show, don’t tell, is the fundamental principle of content marketing.

Is content marketing an asset or a cost?

is-content-marketing-and-assetThese days I’m reading Joe Pullizi’s Epic Content Marketing: How to tell a different story, break through the clutter, and win more customers by marketing less. In one of the chapters he mentions that many marketers consider content marketing as cost and not an asset.

This comes to me as a surprise because I believe everything you have that promotes your business, gets you more leads, gives you more exposure, is an asset.

What’s that signboard in front of your shop or business establishment? What are the employees that help your customers buy from your retail shop? What are the advertisements that you carry out? Are these assets or costs?

The thing is, everything you spend money on is the cost. This is the reality of life. You have to pay for things. If you want to have a very good website for your business, you have to pay the web designer. If you want to improve your SEO, you have to pay an SEO expert. Similarly, if you want compelling content on your website, you have to pay a content writer or a content marketing agency. A premium service is going to cost you.

Having said all this, I always tell my clients that all the webpages and blog posts they are getting our assets, because they are generating business for them, they have no reason to exist. Your FAQs page is an asset. Your about us page is an asset. Your homepage is obviously an asset. All the blog posts that you are publishing to improve your search engine rankings and engage your customers are assets because they are helping you get more business. All the updates that you are publishing on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to engage your prospective and current customers and clients are assets because they give you brand visibility.

People who consider content marketing a cost don’t understand what’s content marketing and the do content marketing simply because the others are doing. They have heard that other businesses are doing great with content marketing and they would also want the same results, but without putting in the extra effort of understanding how to do it and what to expect of it. Read Why content marketing is important for your business.

It’s the same like SEO: most of the people who want better search engine rankings don’t put much effort into understanding what is SEO. They just want higher rankings and for that they are ready to indulge even in those activities that are counter-productive. By the time they realize that they have harmed their rankings rather than improving them, it’s too late and the worst part is, they blame SEO in general rather than blaming their particular activities. Read 5 ways to beat your competitors at SEO with content writing.

Why is content marketing an asset?

In order to understand why content marketing is an asset you first of all need to have a clear idea of why you want to use content marketing for your business. Is it just because you have heard about content marketing and you have heard many people raving about it, or do you really believe it can make a big difference? Read What is content marketing? Explained in detail.

If you simply want to follow people because they seem to be doing cool activities, you are in for a big disappointment if your soul is not into it. In order to make full use of content marketing, you have to realize its importance. Why content matters to your business? Read Why is content marketing so important?

Content marketing is an asset because you use it to build a platform and then due to this platform, you are able to increase your business.

Sometimes a blog post that you publish and then promote may get you direct business or the email campaign that you send may get you direct business but more often than not, content marketing helps you build a platform and that platform eventually helps you convert. Blog post by blog post, web page by web page, you build this platform.

Take the example of a celebrity. Once you are famous, innumerable doors open for you if you have got talent. Suppose you are totally unknown but you are an exceptional writer. Paris Hilton is known for whatever reasons. If both of you approach a publisher who has got a better chance of his or her book being published? I’m not talking about an idealistic publisher.

The same happens with content marketing. It turns you into a celebrity in your own universe. You create your own circle of influence and whoever is inside that circle likes you, trusts you, values your opinion and consequently, when it comes to doing business, prefers to do business with you.

For example, if I’m constantly writing about content marketing and giving you useful insights that you can use to promote your own business, one day when you need someone to do content marketing for your business, are you going to look for a content marketer somewhere else or you would approach me (provided you haven’t heard bad things about me)? Or someone you know needs a content marketing service. Obviously, you are going to approach me.

This is the sort of presence your content marketing creates. This is the circle of influence you create when you do content marketing for your business. In that sense, content marketing is an investment and when you invest, you create assets.

How do you explain content marketing to a child?

Einstein explaining content marketing to a childIf you find it difficult to explain the concept of content marketing to a business executive, perhaps you should try explaining what is content marketing to a child.

Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

When I came across this quote, in another tab I was reading a blog post quoting various content marketing and digital marketing experts explaining what content marketing is.

As a concept content marketing is very old. All those corporate journals and newsletters were nothing but content marketing. The soap operas were content marketing.

But this concept is very difficult to explain to a business executive to whom everything is blurry either because the idea is too good to be true or he isn’t ready to accept that conventional advertising isn’t as good as it used to be (it was never good, it’s just that, now it has an alternative).

So how do you explain content marketing to a child?

explaining content marketing to a child

Content marketing means…

  • Help people with your content
  • Make them feel good
  • Become a source of useful information
  • They begin to like you
  • They begin to appreciate your knowledge
  • They begin to trust you
  • They do business with you

It’s as simple as that.

Of course, it is not as simple as that, but this is the beginning. These are the fundamentals of content marketing. You don’t use content marketing to directly promote your business. You create a platform where your prospective customers and clients find something highly useful or entertaining, on an ongoing basis. Publish your content in such a manner that you don’t hard sell, you are always useful, and people know what business you offer.

Since they know you and trust you, they would rather do business with you than someone they are unfamiliar with.

Take my business for example. I provide content writing and content marketing services. I continuously share useful information about content writing and content marketing on my blog as well as on social networking platforms.

My blog is my base. All my quality content exists here. Since I’m continuously writing on various topics related to content writing and content marketing, people easily find the information they’re looking for on my blog. They also come across my links and search engines for relevant keywords.

Then I’m constantly sharing my links on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m constantly appearing on people’s timelines. I make sure I share the information they can use to grow their businesses.

This, is content marketing. I publish and disseminate helpful content. People find that content useful. They appreciate it. They may not hire my content writing and content marketing services immediately, but whenever they do, they remember that I provide the services.

This is how you can explain content marketing to a child.

3 Most Important Objectives of Content Marketing

3 most important objectives of content marketingIt is often difficult to explain to a layperson why use content marketing to promote one’s business. What is the main objective of content marketing? Why is it better than conventional advertising and marketing? Most importantly, why spend money on it?

The problem with content marketing is that it is relatively new field as far as the common level of awareness goes. Otherwise, one of the oldest instances of content marketing can be found in this post that talks about two brothers who invented a usable hose pipe to douse fires. One of the brothers used an educational booklet to explain people how this invention could be used. He also used to give presentations. He used visuals. He also provided consulting services (on how to use the hose pipe). All these methods are nothing but content marketing.

Another good example of content marketing is a village fair. Why do most of the people go to a village fair? 70% of the people have no intention of purchasing stuff. They mostly go because of the entertainment available at the fair. There are shows. There are mythology storytelling sessions where folk singers use colloquial language to tell awe-inspiring stories. There are giant wheels and merry-go-rounds for kids and adults. The basic draw is the entertainment. This is content. This content draws people to the village fair site and this in turn benefits all those merchants and shopkeepers who want to sell at the fair.

Hence, the most important objective of content marketing is to create a platform for you where people regularly come to consume your valuable content and then become familiar with your product or service.

Most of the established content marketers insist that content marketing is basically educating your prospective customers and clients. It’s providing them solutions. It’s solving their problems. It’s being there when they need you.

The marketing part comes where you make it easier for people to find you. No matter how great and valuable and useful your content is, unless people know about it, it is of no use. This is why, once you have published content, you have to market it, you have to promote it in such a manner that people are able to find it and then they can benefit from it.

Aside from this, the 3 most important objectives of content marketing are:

  1. Lead generation
  2. Brand awareness
  3. Thought leadership

This may sound like a business jargon, but these 3 objectives make it very easy to explain it to someone how content marketing can help a business.

Content marketing for lead generation

Every business needs to generate leads because these leads eventually turn into sales. So, if your content marketing efforts are generating leads, then it is a successful campaign.

The statistics in this Slideshare presentation say that businesses that blog regularly generate 88% more leads compared to those who don’t publish a blog post regularly.

more lead generation with blogging

It’s obvious. The more content you have all over the Internet, the better are the chances of your links being found by your prospects, provided you are focusing on the right kind of content.

If I want to attract an audience who would like to hire my content writing and content marketing services‘s, then obviously I should be writing content around these topics, whether I publish it on my own website or somewhere else (on Medium, for example).

Content marketing for brand awareness

Brand awareness, as the term speaks for itself, means, more people know about your brand and are aware of what it stands for. This sort of content marketing may not get you business directly (but indirectly, it certainly does) it makes your brand visible. People repeatedly come across interesting content by you and they become familiar to your presence.

The best way of creating brand awareness through content marketing that comes to my mind is guest blogging and publishing informative articles on other websites.

By publishing guest blog post on other blogs and websites you immediately put your brand in front of a completely new audience. If I want to put Credible Content in front of my prospects, I can submit blog posts to various websites like LinkedIn, Entrepreneur, web design blogs (to encourage them to hire my content writing services) and other business niche websites where people would be looking for a content writer.

You can also publish lots of educational material and simply let it be known that it’s your brand that’s publishing the material.

Content marketing for thought leadership

This is to establish your authority as an expert, or as a niche product or service provider. For thought leadership you need to publish lots of insightful content that helps people in real-world situations. You are considered a thought leader when your wisdom solves actual problems rather than dabbling with vague topics

Anyway, the objective of this blog post is not to talk about how to develop a strong thought leadership. It is to talk about the most important objectives of content marketing: lead generation, brand awareness and thought leadership. These are the basic, fundamental objectives and then it spreads into various branches and sub-branches.