Tag Archives: What Is Content Marketing

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.

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.

Is content marketing a misleading term?

is content marketing a misleading termI was just reading this interesting take on content marketing and content marketers. The author says that when the “content marketers” are charging $50 per blog post (what he means is they are just providing cheap writing labor) they are simply misleading the clients because the truth is that they have no idea what they are doing.

What should they be doing?

The author says that they should be helping their clients build their mailing lists because the money is in the mailing lists.

I agree with him that in most of the cases the “marketing” in “content marketing” is missing. Marketing, whether it is content marketing or traditional advertising, needs to make money, it needs to attract money, it needs to generate money.

I’m not sure if the author has some interest in mailing lists but I cannot disagree with him that one of the biggest purposes of content marketing should be building a robust mailing list. Other than that, it seems like a rant against the concept of using content for generating traffic. He is missing the point. Not about the so-called content marketers merely writing content, but about the entire concept of using content marketing for generating traffic.

You see, I agree that there is already lots of content on the Internet and many websites provide a ton of information to help you decide what you want to purchase and what you don’t want to purchase. But this information is on other websites not on your website so all the traffic is going to go to other websites and not your website.

There is lots of confusion when it comes to employing content marketing, but people don’t realize that confusion is also there when people use conventional advertising. In fact, conventional advertising is just like throwing darts in the darkness, hoping that some of the darts may hit the target. Yes, analytics have advanced a lot and every click and every entry into the website can be traced, but for a small business, it can turn out to be very expensive.

Why businesses that understand content marketing, use it?

  • To increase search engine rankings
  • To avoid PPC expense
  • To increase the authority of their brand
  • To inform and educate their customers and clients
  • To create presence on social media and social networking websites and apps
  • To build their own broadcasting platforms

I know some of these words may sound very big, but on the Internet, they are not. Remember there was a time when email used to be very geeky. Only engineers and scientists used to have email ids. These days even your dog may have an email id. What I’m saying is, even as a small business you can establish your authority or your brand’s authority and build your own broadcasting platform to increase your visibility.

Content marketing, of course, doesn’t just mean relentlessly publishing content. The “marketing” part is a big part. Marketing here doesn’t just mean you are marketing your content. It means you are using content for marketing. You are using content to increase your visibility. You are using content to improve your search engine rankings. You are using content to create a buzz around your brand, product or service. At the center of your marketing activities, lies your content. This is why it is called content marketing.

It is not, contrary to what the author of the above post has tried to establish, a snake oil remedy for the starry-eyed business owners. Billion-dollar businesses have been created around the business of content marketing.

Having said that, just like any other business branch, there are big players, there are smaller players and then there are players who are just goofing around hoping that they will make some money with little effort. This is not something specific to content marketing; these sorts of entrepreneurs are in every business.

So, if you are simply writing content for your clients, do you call yourself a content marketer? It depends. If you are

  • writing content
  • disseminating that content
  • coming up with new topic ideas
  • trying to make sure that the content that you create increases traffic for your client

then yes, you can call yourself a content marketer, because basically even when you are writing content, knowingly or unknowingly, you are helping your client market his business.

What is Content Marketing? Explained in detail

what is content marketing – featured imageAlthough, by the beginning of 2016, 88% marketers admitted that content marketing is an integral part of their overall marketing strategy (source), very few understand what is content marketing in its true sense and why it is more effective than traditional marketing.

If you don’t feel like reading the entire blog post, in the video given below I have explained in detail what content marketing is and how it can help you grow your business:

In terms of process and strategy, content marketing can be represented through the following tangle:

Content Marketing Triangle

The three main steps involved in content marketing are

  1. Developing useful content
  2. Publishing that useful content
  3. Distributing that useful content

These are the fundamental activities but these activities can be further expanded into more points:

  1. Studying your market to know what sort of content is needed.
  2. Developing useful content according to the conclusion of the study mentioned in step 1 in such a manner that it also allows you to talk about your business.
  3. Publishing your content using the platform preferred by your audience (you find this through step 1) – your own blog or website, guest blogging on other blogs and websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, email newsletters, Medium, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.
  4. Distributing your content through the channels preferred by your audience – your own blog, guest blogging on other blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, email newsletters, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.
  5. Using web analytics to study what sort of impact your content marketing strategy is making (now step 1 becomes a combination of step 1 and step 5, so now this is the new step 1).
  6. Continue with step 2 onwards.

By developing, publishing, and distributing highly useful and valuable content over a long period of time (the steps mentioned above) you develop a platform for yourself.

People begin to relate your presence with great value.

What is valuable content in Content Marketing?

It depends on your business. You can develop, publish and distribute useful content by

  • Keeping people informed
  • Educating people
  • Making them laugh or making them feel sentimental
  • Reviewing products and services for them
  • Providing them privileged information

Basically, providing them something they value, something that they don’t mind getting access to or being delivered on an ongoing basis.

This, is what valuable content is.

What is content marketing according to renowned marketers?

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly-defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

~ Content Marketing Institute

what is content marketing – content marketing Institute

Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.

~ Amanda Maksymiw

what is content marketing – Amanda Maksymiw

Content marketing is a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy.

~ Jay Baer

what is content marketing – Jay Baer

Content Marketing is anything a company creates and shares to tell their story. It is conversational, human and doesn’t try to constantly sell to you.

~ Ann Handley

what is content marketing – Ann Handley

Content marketing is, creating a following of dedicated audience through providing valuable, timely and relevant content to people over a long period of time, so that they begin to trust you and want to do business with you on their own.

~ Amrit Hallan

what is content marketing – Amrit Hallan

Why content marketing works better than traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing, as you already know, is one-way. You’re constantly telling people to do business with you whether at that time, they want to do business with you or not. The traditional marketing doesn’t care whether people want to hear from you or not.

traditional marketing doesn't care

Traditional marketing uses channels that have already been built. The entire process is unscientific. People come across your marketing message when they are least expecting it or even when they are feeling hostile towards it.

Content marketing on the other hand, allows you to build your own broadcasting channel. When you develop and publish useful content, people seek you out to access that content on their own. You don’t have to advertise. People come to your website or the platform you use to publish your content, on their own.

when you develop and publish useful content

By developing, publishing and distributing useful content on a prolonged basis, you develop a loyal audience of people who look forward to hearing from you.

You, your business name, or your brand, becomes familiar to them and they begin to trust you because of the non-stop value you deliver.

After you have successfully implemented your content marketing strategy, there are two ways people will do business with you:

  1. Scenario 1: They need what you provide and they know you provide it and since they already know you and trust you, they approach you rather than someone they don’t know.
  2. Scenario 2: You tell them what you provide and if and when they need it, they are going to get it from you rather than someone they don’t know.

So, the basic purpose of Content Marketing is, to be present in people’s lives in such a manner that you provide value to them on an ongoing basis while making sure they always remember what business you are in.

Once you have created such presence its positive impact is long-lasting.

10 facts about content marketing people are constantly getting wrong

Wrong facts about content marketing

The good thing is that more and more businesses are understanding and recognising the power of content marketing. The bad news is, most of them don’t really understand what content marketing is and they are constantly running behind quick fixes. The presumed facts about content marketing, if not totally wrong, are not what they should be, and consequently, when business owners and entrepreneurs don’t see any positive results, they get disenchanted and worse, also start discouraging others from pursuing content marketing.

The thing is, if you are barking up the wrong tree is it the fault of the tree or your judgement? Obviously your judgement.

Listed below are 10 facts about content marketing people are constantly getting wrong.

1. Content marketing means improving your SEO

Most of the businesses want to publish lots of content because they want to improve their SEO. Trying to improve your SEO is not a bad thing but if you are using content marketing for this purpose, it’s an overkill. Content marketing is a complete mechanism, a complete process, of getting people to your website and then turning them into your customers and clients. By simply focusing on your SEO you may improve your search engine rankings and hence also increase organic traffic, but if you don’t focus on your branding, if you don’t get recognised for your quality of content and if you don’t target your audience, all your traffic will go waste.

2. Content marketing shouldn’t cost much

By this I don’t mean it should cost more but many business owners presume that since it is just writing, it shouldn’t cost the way other services (web designing, accounting, programming, etc.) cost. Like any other service, writing, producing, publishing and disseminating content is a real activity and people require expertise to carry it out. It takes years of training to consistently create quality content that remains true to your brand identity. Besides, content marketing isn’t always about writing and publishing content, a major part involves promoting your content and responding to user behaviour.

Just in the morning I come across a website selling “well-written” articles for $ 1.25 per article. At the surface it might seem quite enticing. Just imagine the amount of content you can get for $ 1.25 per article. But have you ever considered why such writers are never hired by businesses that actually make money? Even eHow, a company known to have made millions of dollars through AdSense-supported content, was paying or is paying $ 15 per article. And that’s not even “well-written” content as you may come across on many professional websites.

The point is, when you are looking for a serious, committed and professional content marketing service, extremely low cost (for example, $ 1.25 per article) shouldn’t be the only criteria. Dependability, expertise, writing quality and marketing experience should come as a complete package.

3. Content marketing is for big businesses

People are more comfortable with conventional advertising and they are also familiar with the way it works. You advertise and people respond to your advertisements. When it comes to content marketing many small businesses think it’s a fuzzy concept that requires lots of money and involvement. You daily come across questions like “what exactly is content marketing?” But how often do you come across something like “what exactly is advertising?”

Due to lack of awareness many people think that content marketing is for big businesses that can invest lots of money and hire multiple employees to create high-quality content around their brands, publish that content, broadcast it and then generates lots of buzz as well as inbound traffic.

I’m going to contradict myself yes, $ 1.25 per article can work for many businesses looking for lots of product and service descriptions and if these product and service descriptions are well-written and if you can post these product and service descriptions on your social networking websites or even broadcast them to your newsletter subscribers, this is an example of good content marketing.

Just as you can have an ad during the Super Bowl, you can publish pamphlets on your printer and distribute them in your locality; these are both examples of advertising.

Similarly, whether you storm the Internet with a celebrity endorsement or 5 hundred articles and press releases in a week or you consistently publish a single blog post every day and then promote it on Facebook and Twitter these are all different levels and forms of content marketing and hence, whether you want to pursue content marketing or not doesn’t depend on your business size, but on your strategy and your understanding of content marketing.

4. Provided your content is well-written, there is no need to target search engines

Although your rankings primarily depend on the level of competition you face, the quality of your content, the way you have used the language and the phrases, directly impact your SEO. Google’s SEO guidelines clearly state that write content in such a manner that it is good to read, easy to access and stick to the point and if you stick to these guidelines, you automatically improve your search engine rankings. But many content marketers believe that you should totally disregard search engines.

Whether you want to target search engines or not is your own prerogative, but you can get lots of targeted traffic from search engines because millions of people use them to find relevant information. But creating high-quality content for your target audience doesn’t mean you should ignore SEO. You can follow SEO practices while creating high-quality content. I do that on my website and blog and I also do that for my clients I can maintain the balance even while creating keyword-century content.

The problem is not with overly focusing on SEO or totally ignoring it, the problem is with getting carried away. The problem is either focusing on your audience completely or focusing on your SEO, completely. Maintain a balance. Write content for humans but use keywords and key phrases that these humans use on search engines in order to find the information you have published.

5. You cannot predict the success of your content marketing campaign or strategy

Well, using the same logic you cannot even predict the success of conventional advertising. Nobody has been able to create the perfect formula for ensuring the success of conventional advertising. Nonetheless, since it’s being done since time immemorial, people are more trusting towards conventional advertising and a bit cynical towards content marketing.

So, can you predict the success of your content marketing campaign or strategy? This Oracle report (it is a PDF) precisely calculates the ROI of content marketing and how you can definitely make out how much improvement you’re going to experience with your content marketing strategy provided you do all the right things. For example, in the very beginning of the report they write that “per dollar, content marketing produces three times more leads”.

Saying that you cannot predict the success of your content marketing campaign or strategy is akin to saying you cannot predict whether you are going to get more business or not by installing a telephone or by opening a new branch in another locality.

Content marketing is a platform. It’s a communication channel. It’s an engagement mechanism. What sort of business you get is a byproduct of the platform, the communication channel and the engagement mechanism you can establish.

6. Content marketing only means creating lots of fun content for the B2C market

When people approach content marketing from this angle they immediately feel discouraged when they realise that they are either serving the B2B market or their product or service is not “interesting” enough to warrant content marketing success.

Yes, fun stuff does well but only in terms of creating buzz and to an extent also brand awareness but even if there is no fun factor (and who says there cannot be fun factor in serious business?) content marketing can be one of the greatest tools to put your point across and make a presence for yourself.

If you think content marketing is only for a B2C audience, you will be surprised to know how Intel is using content marketing to strengthen its presence. You very well know that Intel is as B2B as it gets. It cannot directly sell its microchips and other hardware products to consumers. But it can certainly encourage consumers to purchase electronics and gadgets that use Intel products. Remember “Intel Inside”? It was a very clever marketing tactic. In fact to promote its content Intel is publishing a complete magazine called iQ.

Although as a small business or even as a medium-sized business there is no use trying to emulate Intel, but the point is, content marketing can be used for every business. The problem is not with content marketing, the problem is that sometimes people don’t understand how to use it and turn it into a formidable inbound marketing tool.

7. Content marketing should deliver fast results like conventional advertising

Frankly, it can, and it cannot. It depends on your market, your content marketing approach and the reaction of your audience. Having said that, remember that content marketing is not a machine or a formula. It’s a platform. It’s a channel. Take the example of a television channel. For a few months every channel has to work without getting advertisements. Then, as its audience builds up it begins to get ad revenue. The same happens with your content marketing. First you need to make a presence. People need to relate you to your content quality. This takes time unless you have got lots of money, like Intel. Even creating and writing quality content takes time.

The problem on the Internet is there is lots of noise and “voice” is rarely heard and when it is heard, since there is already so much noise vying for your attention, you either end up ignoring the voice or soon forget about it. In order to remember the voice, you need to be exposed to it repeatedly, on an ongoing basis. This “voice” is quality content. You need to constantly publish and distribute quality content in order to maintain your place in people’s memory. Again, this takes time but once you have embedded your voice inside people’s minds, you have got them as your customers and clients for life.

8. Promoting content is secondary to publishing content

Going back to the Intel example, its Global Paid Media & Content Strategist Luke Kintigh rightly says that

We have the mantra that for every dollar and hour spent on content production, it has to be matched with a subsequent dollar and hour devoted to amplification. Being agile and quickly acting on early distribution insights is also critical to optimizing recently published content as well as iterating and creating more content that will stick with your audience based on what youre seeing resonate.

A big part of content marketing is, what the phrase so eloquently says, “marketing”. You have got content, and you have got to market it. Marketing your content means making sure that your content reaches the right audience. No matter how great your content is, unless people know about it, unless the content is at a place where it can be found without much fuss, unless people can be brought to your content, unless there is a mechanism that attracts your target audience to your content, you aren’t going to achieve much success in content marketing.

9. Once you have gotten a certain number of blog posts and webpages, your content marketing is done

Content marketing isn’t publishing twenty blog posts or publishing ten webpages or submitting twenty-five articles to article submission directories. Yes, they help you, but in order to show some tangible results, content marketing needs to be an ongoing process. In fact, let us call it a process rather than a “campaign”. Let us call content marketing a part of the business. For example, you need to make phone calls regularly to your prospects. Do you call this exercise “making calls campaign”? No, you do it every day as a business development exercise. The same is the case with content marketing. Quality content writing, production and distribution is an ongoing process.

You may think, “Heck, does it mean ongoing expense?” but this is not the case. Don’t take it as an extra cost, take it as an operational cost, just as you need to pay the office rent, the electricity bill, the telephone bill, the Internet access, remuneration to your employees, etc.

Content marketing is one of the best things to have happened to small business owners because it empowers you to compete with the big guys by being innovative, persistent and quality conscious. The trick is, yes, being persistent for a long time and publishing and distributing content your target audience is looking for.

10 Quantity try and is over quality

Precisely this is the reason why many entrepreneurs and business owners find the idea of hiding content writers charging $ 1.25 per article enticing. You can get tons of content at an extremely cheap rate. Well, the problem is, you also get cheap content, most of it plagiarised and full of grammar and spelling mistakes. Of course there are exceptions. Exceptions are everywhere. And if you want to base your content marketing on exceptions, well, go ahead.

But if you really take your business seriously, don’t compromise on quality.