What is Content Marketing?

You’ve heard the squawking before…

  • “Content is king.”
  • “Content is everything.”
  • “If you’re not making good content, you’re losing out.”

A plethora of platitudes thrown around that emphasize the importance of content marketing – but few entrepreneurs have a genuine understanding of what it actually means. 

In this article, we will clear the air, once and for all!

Let’s start with – What Content Marketing Isn’t:

  • An article that stays on your site collecting digital dust
  • An email list that doesn’t open your emails
  • A buzzword that magically turns prospective customers into paying customers
  • Using a social media tool to automate re-posting of articles (aka curating) that are “niche relevant” to make it look like you’re active

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is: a strategic multimedia marketing approach that aims to get relevant and valuable content in front of a clearly defined audience with the intent of driving profitable customer action.

It’s this kind of communication from your brand to your audience that gets people:

  • Interested
  • Engaged
  • Purchasing

Content marketing makes use of everything from podcasts, videos, blogs, and social media sites as a means to gather, convert, and retain interested users.

In real person speak: Content marketing is the #1 thing you can do to build your brand & grow your sales. Period.

The Importance of Content Marketing

Today’s businesses are dealing with the greatest attention shortage in our history. 

Billions of people are not only making daily use of the Internet, they’re also getting bombarded from every direction with messages and notifications from their friends on multiple social media platforms, as well as by advertisements virtually everywhere as well. 

Content is king – that point is valid. But we live in a world where there are many kings

What used to be a keen and insightful strategy is now simply your ticket into the arena. 

Every one of your competitors with a digital presence is likely leveraging some form of content to advance their business needs.

Content marketing is all about telling a story. 

We’ve been drawn to a good story ever since our ancestors huddled around a fire and started telling tales. 

Stories capture our imagination and help to give us some sort of purpose. 

In much the same way, content helps lure the reader into a subject matter and position the brand as a guide to their knowledge journey. 

This is largely why the content on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Tim Ferriss’s blog, and Joe Rogan’s podcast perform so well. 

These brands, or the hosts in this case, have established themselves as authorities by providing their audience with: 

  1. Interesting topics to explore
  2. An understanding of the subject to make digesting the information easier

The above items combined with excellent storytelling is a powerful combination for brands to make an impression in their niche and establish themselves as an authority. 

Content Marketing Basics

The best content marketing strategies are built on a strong foundation of:

  1. Understanding your audience (pains, desires, needs, problems, etc.)
  2. Understanding how your solutions solve their issues

Content Strategy

Content strategy is the whole kit and caboodle when it comes to content. 

Content strategy refers to everything that goes into content, from the keyword research (overlaps into SEO), content calendar creation, the production of the content, the posting and optimizing of the content, and the many different types of distribution (content marketing). 

Simply put, your content strategy is a map, or blueprint, of the magical castle you plan to build. 

There are many overlapping and interconnected parts that require excellent planning & execution.  

We recommend building out a full content strategy before you start writing your articles, like so:

Want help creating a content strategy for your business?

The Difference Between Content Strategy and Content Marketing

It’s worth noting that content strategy isn’t necessarily synonymous with content marketing. 

Content strategy refers to the end-to-end planning of content, and content marketing is included in this umbrella. 

Content strategy is a brand’s blueprint that covers every piece of content used to accomplish its business goals. 

A robust content strategy helps you answer questions like: 

  • Who is this content for?
  • What do we do with the content once its published? 
  • When should we publish this content?
  • Where will the content be published?
  • Why should we publish this content?
  • How should our audience react?
    • ie: be entertained, subscribe for more, make a purchase, etc.

Once you’ve settled some of the broader questions, it’s good to get a little more granular: 

  • What types of content will your different audiences want to see? 
    • Some may prefer written, whereas others will prefer to look at an infographic. 
  • How should your content be organized? 
    • A good content architecture plan is paramount to a healthy site. 
  • Who is responsible for maintaining your content? 
    • The vast majority of content becomes outdated with time. Statistics and references must be updated regularly, and content can always be improved.
  • Who is responsible for posting your content? 
    • Is there a particular author that should be posting your content? In a reader’s eyes, whoever is writing the content must have some authoritative expertise. 
    • For example, simply pushing health-oriented content from a non-medical or non-nutrition background writer is not only likely to dissuade some readers, it could also get your article deranked in search engines. 
  • How does your audience discover and engage with your content? 
    • Your article isn’t going to distribute itself! 

Now that we’ve covered content strategy, let’s gloss over content marketing. 

Content marketing is best viewed as a soft sales approach that is the vehicle to deliver the content you’ve made to your audience. It’s usually a unique combination of organic marketing (SEO) and direct sales (email). 

What makes content stand out in this capacity is that it doesn’t come off as overly salesy. 

Each piece of content aims to deliver some sort of value to the reader while simultaneously warming them up to your brand and a call to action in the future. 

Content marketing means designated particular audiences that you want to get your content to, and then finding a way to get it in front of them. 

That’s where the “marketing” component comes in – where do these audiences spend time and how can you get your content there? 

For example, let’s say you’re an online plant Shopify store. You’ve narrowed down your demographic to the booming market of Millennials who want plants (yes, it’s a real thing.) 

After doing some customer research, you find that many Millennials might have green wallets (open to spending money on plants), but not green thumbs (their plants keep dying). 

So, you come up with a few article ideas:

  • 12 Plants That Are Nearly Impossible to Kill
  • How to Keep Your Plants From Dying 101
  • Owning Plants for the Busy Entrepreneur

You write, or commission, the articles with a conversational, friendly, and informative tone filled with practical examples (such as the one above.) The article goes live – it’s beautiful and reads effortlessly. 

Now, the next step is getting that article in front of your audience. 

A skilled marketer may choose to use Facebook to target a lookalike audience of people that have purchased from your site before, but instead of sending them to a product page, the ads send them to one of the three articles. 

People will not only be likely to click on one of those articles if the topic is relevant to them, which this hypothesis assumes they will be, but they’ll also view your company as one that knows what it’s doing. 

Readers may also be inclined to subscribe to your email list for more plant tips, purchase something from your site (plant, plant feeding kits, etc.), or simply share the article with someone else. 

Types of Content 

There are dozens of different content formats, as seen by this list created by Hubspot.  

Content comes in many shapes and sizes, and the key is to find which type of content a particular audience responds to the best. 

For example, infographics and images appeal to our visual senses and tend to get shared more often on platforms such as Pinterest, whereas long-form articles generally tend to do deeper educational dives with more specific calls to action. 

Final Thoughts

Content marketing is one of the most important parts of your overall content strategy. 

The content you create is essentially a fixed cost that turns into a sunken investment if you don’t do anything with it. 

An excellent content marketing strategy can help you get much more out of your content for months, and potentially years to come. 

Devin Schumacher

Devin Schumacher

Devin Schumacher is a digital marketing consultant, search engine optimization (SEO) expert and Founder of SERP Co. Devin also serves as an advisor to numerous e-commerce companies helping businesses grow by constructing, implementing and overseeing tailor-made online marketing strategies.