What is Content Marketing and Why Should You Care?

Does it seem like you’ve been hearing everyone talk about about content marketing, but the idea of starting it with your organization seems daunting? Or maybe you’ve been doing content marketing for a while, but can’t seem to gain any traction? If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Plenty of marketers have been in your shoes and have faced the same challenges.

Let’s start with identifying what content is. Content is everything. It’s your blog posts, YouTube videos, an interactive quiz, downloadable whitepaper, social media post, infographic, email newsletter, etc. Anything that your customer interacts with is content. Content marketing is simply using those assets to engage with your customers. More formally defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach 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.”

So what? Why should you care?

Your customers have evolved. They’re more fickle than ever and expect a personalized, streamlined experience that caters to their specific needs. They have learned to tune out more traditional forms of advertising, rendering the old “tried and true” methods less and less effective. As a result, marketers like you and I are responding with a less disruptive and more customer centric approach. We are now positioning our brands as a resource for our customers, offering them valuable, relevant, and consistent information that they find useful.

And guess what? When executed well, content marketing works! That’s why 88% of B2B organizations and 76% of B2C organizations currently use content marketing, according to a survey from The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. About half of those organizations report that they plan to spend more on content creation over the next year.

Unfortunately, most of those organizations aren’t employing content marketing as well as they could or should. Too often, brands continue to bombard their prospects and leads with self-involved content that their customers don’t care about or engage with. So how do you cut through all of that clutter in the marketplace to gain your audience’s attention?

1. Create Useful Content

Your content should NOT be primarily about your product or service or even your brand. It shouldn’t be about what you want your prospect or lead to do or buy. Instead, it should be about the problems and pain points your audience is trying to address and solve. You should be communicating with your customers without selling to them so that you can build a long-term relationship with them. Think of it this way; if you seek out a friend to discuss a problem you’re dealing with and all they talk about is themself, are you going to walk away from that interaction feeling good? Probably not. You’re probably going to walk away thinking about what a self-centered jerk your friend is and maybe second guess your relationship altogether. The same is true for your relationship with your customer. Don’t be a self-centered brand. Instead, listen to your customer and address their needs and problems.

2. Be Consistent

When you’re first starting out, constantly creating new content can feel overwhelming. Often times, marketers start churning out substandard content or push out their content randomly and without regularity. Have you ever followed a blogger who posted a new entry three days in a row, then went silent for two months?

Chances are if you did, you probably don’t anymore. Your audience likes to know what to expect and when to expect it, but that doesn’t mean that you need to create a fresh piece of content every single day. Maybe your resources only allow you to generate something new once a week – or once a month. That’s ok! The quality of your content is much more important than how much of it you create. Just make sure that whatever you decide to do, you do it regularly.

Consistency also extends to your overall message and tone. What you say and how you say it should align with who your brand is and what it stands for. It creates authenticity, which builds trust with your customers.

3. Understand your goal

Before you create any content, you should know what business goal you’re trying to accomplish. What are you hoping to gain with your content marketing? Is it increased leads in your sales pipeline, more membership signups, or increased engagement? How will you measure success?

Be realistic when you’re answering these questions. Content marketing takes time, so don’t expect instant gratification. No matter how great your blog post is, your customer isn’t going to beat down your door begging for your product or service after they read it.

4. Continue to optimize

No one gets everything right all the time. You’re going to have pieces of content that don’t work well. Pay attention to what you’re audience is telling you. If something didn’t work well, figure out why. Maybe the topic wasn’t quite right, or perhaps the channel didn’t fit your strategy. It’s ok to fail as long as you are becoming a smarter marketer with each misstep.

Still not sure where to begin? Developing a persona and buyer journey is a good place to start. You can’t create an effective content strategy until you know who that content is for. Ask yourself: who is my customer? What are they looking for? Why are they looking for it? How can I help them solve their problem or make a decision? Then map out what content addresses each question. Remember, you’re trying to create a deeper value in your brand and build trust with your customer. Keeping your audience’s needs and wants as your top priority is key to developing a solid content marketing strategy.

Liz Lotz

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