Man eating a chicken

Content Marketing Explained

Define content marketing – a request capable of making even the savviest marketers anxious. The following list of FAQs and plain-English answers is intended to give you a no-nonsense overview of what content marketing actually is

Words: Malcolm Triggs Illustration: Shaun Mills

So what exactly is content marketing? It’s the sharing of creative, editorially led content that nurtures positive interaction between a brand and its audience.

Satisfied? Probably not. Even content marketers have to revert to and review definitions from time to time. Bear with us, though, for the following questions and answers will fully colour our definition, explaining the what, why and how of content marketing.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

WHAT IS ‘CONTENT’?

Content is simply information – the things brands tell their customers, their employees or their stakeholders. Content marketing is concerned with presenting that information to these audiences in timely, meaningful, compelling and measurable ways.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTENT?

Content marketing isn’t just a case of publishing blog posts – infographics, magazines, podcasts, email newsletters and video all come into play. Here are another 105 different types of content for starters.

HOW DOES CONTENT MARKETING DIFFER FROM TRADITIONAL MARKETING?

Whereas traditional marketing is about ‘selling’ to potential customers, content marketing is about helping them, and thus nurturing a positive interaction (see the first question).

The best way to demonstrate this is with an example:

Illustration of dirty oven

DISCOVERY

Bob is seeking the services of a professional oven cleaner. Where before he might have turned to the Yellow Pages, now he does a quick web search: ‘professional oven cleaner in my area’. The search returns several businesses, so he clicks on the one at the top of the list.

Bob is taken to a well-designed, responsive homepage. Curious for more information, he browses the website’s blog where he finds several posts of interest. One is a list detailing a dozen of the worst foodstuffs for soiling ovens. Bob is reminded about the goose he cooked last Christmas. Another is a video tutorial on how to replace an oven light bulb. Bob is reminded that he needs to do this and now knows exactly how. Another explores the environmental impact of off-the-shelf oven-cleaning chemicals – and explains how this particular professional’s chemicals are environmentally friendly. This appeals to Bob.

Inspired – and now signed up to the oven cleaner’s monthly e-newsletter after a prompt – Bob finds himself on the ‘about’ section of the website. Here, he is encouraged by a selection of recent testimonials. He decides to click through to the contact page and get in touch with the oven cleaner. The two agree a price and a time there and then.

Even when an activity risked doing the oven cleaner out of a job, it was actually building up a positive interaction between him and his customer – the sort of interaction that results in satisfaction and loyalty

IN PERSON

The next morning, the oven cleaner arrives at Bob’s house and carries out the work. Before leaving, he hands Bob a short brochure on basic oven maintenance. It’s got the same look and feel as the website. Thoroughly impressed, Bob decides to leave a review on the oven cleaner’s Facebook page. While here, he discovers from client posts that the oven cleaner also services microwaves, hobs and extractor fans. He bears this in mind.

Next year, Bob receives an e-voucher from the oven cleaner notifying him it’s been a year since he had his oven professionally cleaned. Although Bob has stayed on top of things, what with all the advice he’s taken from the oven cleaner’s monthly e-newsletter, brochure and regular blog posts, it simply wouldn’t have been Christmas without a goose – and so the voucher has come at a good time.

A SHAREABLE EXPERIENCE

On the following day, Bob’s oven looks as good as new. He decides to post a before-and-after photograph on his Facebook page, tagging in the oven cleaner. Within minutes a friend of Bob’s has seen the photograph and is browsing the oven cleaner’s website …

The secret to the oven cleaner’s marketing success lies in his helpfulness – a searchable and responsive website, useful blog content and print materials, regular e-mail campaigns, engaging social media activity and a loyalty programme. Even when an activity risked doing the oven cleaner out of a job (distributing advice on oven maintenance), it was actually building up a positive interaction between him and his customer – the sort of interaction that results in satisfaction and loyalty.

Content marketing might take more work and time than traditional marketing efforts, but the results are long term and can be considerably more meaningful. Today’s consumers are tuning out of invasive sales messages and sales pitches; what they’re really looking for is your help.

BUT I’M ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET…

Whereas traditional marketing could be focused on quantity, content marketing is a matter of quality and timeliness. The very best content is meticulously researched and planned in accordance with a schedule, and should be reusable across multiple platforms to maximise efficiency.

CAN CONTENT MARKETING BOOST SEO?

Absolutely – SEO is a major aspect of content marketing. Savvy content marketers know what constitutes good SEO practice so that content can be both created and distributed in such a way as to maximise the chances of it being found and engaged with online.

DOES CONTENT MARKETING DRIVE SALES?

Yes, but not in the same way as traditional marketing. Content marketers rely on different types of content to target people at different stages along the customer funnel. For example, a company might attract potential customers with keywords and social media activity; get them to start considering becoming paying customers through a website and blog posts; fully convert them with case studies and calls-to-action; and retain them with regular email campaigns and customised promotions.

CAN CONTENT MARKETING BE MEASURED?

Content marketing is a results game. The most agile content marketers rely on data analytics to inform content creation and development, in order to prove return on investment.

Social media success for 'boring businesses'

Helpful content is never boring for those who need it

WHEN WILL I START SEEING RESULTS?

Content marketing isn’t an off-the-shelf solution. It’s a long-term commitment made by a business to a) understand their customers’ content needs and b) meet those needs. The best campaigns take time to implement, are measured constantly and are always changing.

ISN’T MY INDUSTRY TOO BORING FOR THIS?

If you’ve got customers then your industry can’t be boring. Remember what we said about content marketing being all about helping customers? Helpful content is never boring for those who need it. If someone is looking for information on how to clean an oven and you can provide it, then you’re onto a winner.

HOW DO I START CONTENT MARKETING?

This really depends on your business and, more importantly, your business’s aims. Again, content marketing isn’t an off-the-shelf solution; those in the know will take time to audit current marketing efforts, decide what formats will work best and develop full strategies.

DOES CONTENT MARKETING WORK WITH B2B?

Certainly – in fact, some of the best content marketing campaigns out there are for B2B. Content for this type of strategy tends to be highly specialised and often niche, but that doesn’t make it any less pertinent to its audience when done well.

WHAT IS A CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY?

A considerable number of companies attempt to do content marketing without getting a content strategy in place. Content marketing is part of a company’s broader marketing strategy, and as such it needs a strategy of its own in order to work. This strategy should analyse the ways in which content can be utilised across customer journeys and different functions within a business.

If you’d like a taster of our thinking, we’d be very happy to provide you with a free content audit. The audit would look at your current content marketing strategy and how it’s being delivered, offering ideas for making it more effective. If you’re interested simply contact Elizabeth Steele.

Can we help you?

If you have a project you think would benefit from the White Light approach, please get in touch and tell us all about it. We’re keen to help tackle the issues your business might face.

+44 (0)131 555 6494
info@whitelightmedia.co.uk