What is it, and why would you care?
This is the first in a series of posts that will discuss Content Marketing best practices especially for start-up and small technology businesses. Topics to be addressed in the series will include inbound and outbound marketing, and will analyze best practices for all types of marketing tools such as web sites, white papers, product literature, blog posts, social media profiles, newsletters and more.
There’s a lot of noise and activity around Content Marketing on the web. If you’re a start-up tech firm or in an early growth phase, you might not be paying much attention to it. But today’s technology business must use a diverse range of methods to find, engage and keep customers, and Content Marketing is the emerging discipline that’s addressing how to do that it our Social Media world. So while you might not be ready to go full-throttle with Content Marketing, it might be a good idea to become familiar with the discipline, so you can evaluate it and incorporate it into your growth strategy and plans when the time is right.
What is Content Marketing
According to Joe Pulizzi, a pioneer in Content Marketing, “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience— with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Content Marketing is the use of marketing collateral in a methodical, consistent and planned way to quality prospects, keep them engaged until they’re ready to buy, and move them towards a purchase.”
Bob Scheier, Scheier Associates
The Content Marketing Institute says “Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
But what is content? Content is information: it could be product information (benefits, features etc.), technology trends, how-to’s, opinion statements, quarterly results, research information, and so on. It can be formatted into brochures, product sheets, white papers, case studies, press releases, your web site, email marketing campaigns; or created more informally in blog posts, posts on social media sites, or even video’s posted to Youtube. Content is released through planned programs, or posted by your employees.
Why should you care about Content Marketing?
If you’ve got a marketing department generating information used in marketing and selling your solution, then you should probably care. Content Marketing is about creating information your prospective customers want to read, in places that they hang out. That could be your web site and the literature your sales reps hand out in a sales call. But it could also be “how to’s”, thought leadership articles, opinion pieces, case studies and more, in places like LinkedIn, Spiceworks Community, Google Plus and more.
The key is to know where your customers go to find information on problems they’re experiencing, or solutions they’re interested in, and ensure that your information is there. Your Content Marketing Strategy may define where those places are, what information should be there, and when you’re going to post information there. It might define how you’re going to repurpose information you create to be used in those “channels” of information. Or how often you’re going to post. It will definitely define who your customers are and what kind of information they care about.
Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.
Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners
The discipline of Content Marketing can help you leverage your information flow as a strategic tool, by ensuring that you understand how content fits into your marketing strategy. It helps you to effectively manage information as it’s created, distributed, refreshed, and re-purposed. It helps you understand what you need to say to prospective customers, and how to deal with what’s being said about you.
There’s no better time to start building your Content Marketing Strategy and execution plan than now. Smaller organizations can start small, focusing on one or two key information channels and limited content to keep the resource requirements in check. Larger organizations can do the same thing, perfecting their strategy and management abilities, before rolling it out across the board.
Content Marketing is all about starting a conversation with existing and prospective customers, and keeping the conversation going. It’s that simple, and that important.
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Pulizzi, Joe (2013-09-07). Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less (p. 3). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.
Content Marketing: Interest Over Time graphic: Source: Google Trends, April 21, 2014