What Is Content Marketing (And What’s the Point)?

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So, what is content marketing anyway?

Content marketing is all about helping people (and helping yourself along the way).

One of my favorite professors of all time really pushed this idea into my thick little skull:

Don’t just do well: Do well by doing good.What is content marketing? Hand holding a gift of paper and pen.

The idea was this: If you spend your time in your business trying to do the right thing, to do good for your customers and your employees, to be honest and forthright in your business dealings, to try to actively do good in your community, to help others, you can’t help but do well in the long run.

Content marketing is the physical manifestation of this idea in the marketing space.

Most Marketing Is Self Centered, but Content Marketing Is all About Helping Others

The idea behind content marketing is simple: Instead of creating a beautiful advertisement to persuade customers to check out your business, product, or service, create a useful piece of content, something your customers actually want.

Something they’re searching for.

Something that will draw them in.

Make them interested.

Move them to action.

And, hopefully, inspire them to look at the other things you have to offer.

(Now, this is not to say that advertising is worthless, but it has its time and place, and increasingly, there is less time and fewer places for advertising — people are sick of it).

Content Marketing Is a Free Gift in Exchange for Website Traffic or an Email Address

Content marketing is a term that can be scary, but it’s just a piece of content (written, video, or otherwise) that people want, that answers a question, that teaches them a skill, that contains valuable information that they want, that helps them learn more about something your business specializes in.

[quoteability]You’re giving that valuable information away for free, and in exchange, the person comes to your website.[/quoteability]

It’s like giving away free samples of your product to anyone who comes into your store, advertising the giveaway far and wide, and then watching as potential customers stream through the door.

You’re doing something nice for potential customers to get them to notice you, and in return, some of them become actual customers. Some of those customers become lifelong customers, justifying the cost of the promotion and advertising.

So, What Is Content Marketing (and What’s the Point)?

Content marketing is how you get people to your website and on your email list. The point of content marketing is to boost traffic to your website and build that list up.

Pieces of content marketing are simply that: traffic boosters. Small pieces of content marketing (like a blog post, a short video, or a 1-2 page downloadable worksheet) can be posted directly to your website without any sort of gateway — you post it, and they will come (if your SEO is on point).

For the more complex, more valuable pieces (like whitepapers or ebooks), you’ll want to ask for something a little more valuable than traffic from your prospects — their email address.

Getting their email address lets you more actively market to them, to keep them in the loop. The smaller pieces may draw folks in temporarily, but you might never see them again.

However, if you add them to your email list, you know that you’ve got at least one more shot of reaching them.

And possibly quite a few shots. You might even start a relationship with this prospect of yours — heck, they might even buy something!

If You Start a Relationship by Giving a Gift, You’re Helping Your Potential Customer and Demonstrating Your Value in the Process

And I think this is the most critical part about content marketing that many folks miss.

It’s not just about giving away something valuable for free, about showing your potential customers that you’re a good company and do nice things for nice people.

It’s more subtle than that.

Content marketing is an audition.

[quoteability]You’re not just helping your customers with a problem — you’re showing them what you can do.[/quoteability]

You’re demonstrating your knowledge.

Your expertise.

Your value.

And, if you do that well enough, you might just get some business.

But you’re still doing good because most of the people who grab that content will not become your customer.

They’ll take that free information, benefit from it, and wish you good day. And I hope that doesn’t rub you wrong, because that’s almost the definition of altruism right there — doing something good for someone else at your own expense.

But, in actuality, it’s more like reciprocal altruism — you’re doing good for that person, but they’re helping you too. By bring you their traffic, by putting eyes on your site, by adding to your email list, they’re making it more likely that others will follow suit.

It’s a win/win kind of thing.

Customers Today Are More Blind to Advertising Than Ever — You Have to Work Harder to Get Their Attention

And you have to work even harder to keep it.

The best content marketing isn’t a single piece of marketing — it’s a link in a chain of pieces. You start with the smaller, less valuable pieces and lead your prospect to larger, costlier (relatively speaking), more valuable ones.

Some folks use this very powerfully to lead someone down the road from free to paid content. They’re making money off of a webinar they created years ago, or an eBook they wrote in 2010, by creating blog posts today.

For others, these ever-more-valuable content chains lead to a product or a service, something that the prospect finally realizes they want, that they have to pay for.

Something the prospect realizes holds value because of the content marketing pieces that preceded it.

It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot more effort that traditional advertising.

But, if done correctly, it can pay off enormously.

Want to Improve Your Content Marketing?

The Analyze Your Marketing ebook can help you do just that. Along with teaching you the basics of marketing strategy and analysis, it’ll walk you through the process of creating language that connects with your customers, language you can use in all your content marketing efforts.

Get it now.

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Adam Fout

Adam might be a little crazy, but we love him anyway.   Weaving beautiful paragraph-baskets into blog posts ain’t easy, but we couldn’t think of a better job for a recovering tech writer.   Follow him on Twitter @adamfout2, LinkedIn, Facebook, or our blog if you like valuable information accompanied by snarky simplifications of complex subjects. If you're feeling adventurous, check out Adam's fiction and poetry on his author website at adamfout.com

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