How Does Content Marketing Work?

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the “new” focus on “Content Marketing” — but what does it mean and how does Content Marketing work?  A random Google search turns up a whole lot of tactics, and I’ll touch on a few here, but when you search for “principles of Content Marketing” — the why of what you are doing — you come up with mostly tactics.  Tactics are the how of Content Marketing, but we need to look also at why it works.

Is Content Marketing Traditional Advertising’s New Rival?

Content Marketing verus Traditional Advertising

Have a review of popular Content Marketing tactics and how much budget is being spent on it in this infographic from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.

The attached infographic poses the question of whether content marketing is replacing traditional advertising and makes a strong case that it in fact may be doing so — primarily by focusing on tactics and spending on same.  Let’s look at an overview from the infographic (click to expand it and read more details), then I’ll present some principles that are behind those tactics and give you my own answer to the question.

  • Content Marketing, accounts for at least 21% of the marketing budgets in all companies surveyed for the infographic report, and companies with 10-99 employees are allocating around 25% of their marketing budget to it.
  • Top six Content Marketing tactics in this study are:  Social Media, Article Posting, In Person Events, eNewsletters, Case Studies, and Blogs

I was surprised that SEO did not appear at the top of the list, but this specialty could arguably be classified under the discipline of “Inbound Marketing” especially for those SEO tactics you perform off site.

Content Marketing isn’t new — mostly it is the application of proven techniques that come from Publishing.  But are “in person events” a content marketing tactic?  Perhaps.  Things are evolving.  There’s some overlap in the concepts of Marketing Communications, Content Marketing, Online Marketing, Inbound Marketing and others.  But, old school advertising, is a more direct, “push” of your services and products into the marketplace without much in the way of dialog.  While you still see banner and display ads online and they can still work, they often are not tied to online content you’ve created, and usually don’t include a direct social experience.

Let’s look at the definition of Content Marketing and some of its principles (see also our slide showing how we factor Content Marketing tactics into custom WordPress site development).

Content Marketing Definition:  “Content marketing is a marketing technique of 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

Four Principles:  Why Content Marketing Works

Now let’s consider the “why” of content marketing.

In Content Marketing no advertisements may be necessary to attract and engage prospects — your content itself should do a lot of the “heavy lifting”.  The relevance of your content “pulls” people to it, instead of being “pushed” there by ads.  How does this work?  Here are four important Content Marketing principles in play during a good campaign:

  1. Relevant Content Attracts Targeted Prospects.  Relevant to what?  What your prospects need to learn so they can solve their problems.  When you get your story out there, the right prospects with the right need for your solutions will come to you.
  2. Telling your story makes people feel like they know you and people buy from those they know.  Posts about success stories come to mind, as a tactic, but many people online miss the simple opportunity to show their team’s smiling faces and tell alittle about their personal stories.  Do that well, and people will form an “emotional handshake” with you.  But you must write well, like a journalist, and the “power of your story” will compel prospects and clients alike to engage in ways that boost sales.
  3. ROI Comes After Engagement.  While this was also true in the old-school days of advertising, there were no “commenting” features in newspaper and magazine ads, tied directly to your messages, so no direct engagement was possible.  Now you can engage on blogs, in social media, and via smart use of social savvy CRM — Content Relationship Management — software like SalesForce.com.
  4. Serve Your Customers After They Buy.  You have a huge opportunity to continue serving customers in ways that help them learn more about using your products and services after their first purchase from you.  Case studies, videos, webinars, and eNewsletters are some tactics that address this key principle of Content Marketing.

Will Content Marketing Replace Traditional Advertising? No.  But I think it will turn priorities for both on their head, with Content Marketing taking a lead position and traditional advertising in a collateral role.  Using Content Marketing, your opportunity is to engage more prospects directly with your own business story.  While advertising may back this effort up via smart placement of Pay Per Click ads, and display ads in the right places at the right time.

I could go on (and will in a forthcoming book), but let’s wrap it here for now, with ongoing  dialog in any comments you care to leave.

 

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for offering this useful tips! I think many people have not fully appreciated the impact of content marketing on their business just yet since it’s a relatively new concept! It’s just a matter of time before content marketing becomes the standard rather than the alternative.

    • Hi Paul — Yes, me too. I see you are a professional writer, and Content Marketing is a great opportunity for journalists and writers because at the heart of it is the “power of story”.