Content marketing was huge in 2012. Whether you ask Curata or MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, about 9 in 10 B2B marketers utilized the tactic to drive sales and leads, engage customers and prospects, establish thought leadership, and boost Web traffic, among other things.
A report from Econsultancy and Outbrain found that 90 percent of digital marketing professionals expect content marketing to become even more important in 2013. However, only 38 percent of in-house marketers and 13 percent of agencies have a content marketing strategy in place, an indication that many marketers and brands have just been dipping their toes in the water up until now.
Marketers and companies that want to get a better grip of content marketing, especially as a key strategy in 2013, would be wise to start by understanding exactly what it is. To that end, we spoke with a handful of experts who offer their explanations of what content marketing is.
Rebecca Steurer, associate director of content strategy at Manifest Digital:
“Content marketing is beyond building awareness. It is a method that provides an opportunity for businesses to inform, engage and build relationships with consumers by providing information that consumers want, and giving consumers the opportunity to provide their thoughts and feedback. Today’s consumer is more informed than ever. They are constantly looking for useful information to help them make educated decisions regarding which services and products to buy. A content marketing strategy can be created to provide the information for which they are searching.”
Jennifer Wong, marketing manager at Optify:
“Content marketing is a marketing strategy of creating and syndicating relevant and valuable information with the main objective of attracting and engaging a specific target audience. It’s a way of communicating with your prospects and customers in a non-intrusive way because you aren’t directly pitching your product or services; rather you’re delivering value so that buyers can make a more informed purchase decision.”
Andi Vance, director at Mulberry Marketing Communications:
“Content marketing, at the most fundamental level, involves pushing out content to sell indirectly and establish your spokespeople as thought leaders in your respective industry. Your goal is to educate target audiences about the industry and important differentiators so that they can make informed purchasing decisions — ultimately buying your product. The thought is that by providing them with helpful, informative content on an ongoing basis, they will not only see you as an expert but reward you with their loyalty.”
Maya Hari, a digital and social marketer who has worked with leading digital companies such as Google, Microsoft and Condé Nast Digital:
“Content marketing is a great way of establishing a connection with a consumer or potential client without doing a sales pitch right away. It shows the reader how much you know on the topic, positions your company as an expert in the field and sets you up in their minds as a trusted source to come to for their needs in that area. It also is a great way to practically drive more traffic via Google search to your site by getting the relevant SEO strategy right. Finally, you also then have interesting content to promote via social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc.”
Jason Brewer, CEO of Brolik Productions Inc.:
“A content strategy is utilizing basic information about your customers or clients to create engaging material for their best interests, and using that to market your company in an natural way. It’s much more of a give-and-receive-type scenario, whereas traditional selling can be forced and abrasive.”
David Nour, CEO of The Nour Group Inc.:
“It simply is getting your thought or practice leadership out to as wide of a target audience online as possible. Think of it as sharing tips, techniques, ideas, processes or best practices, ideally that you’ve created and found great results with, which is transferrable. You’re not trying to sell anything; rather you’re promoting some intellectual capital as a credible source of the best practice.”
Brandon Ives, managing partner and marketing strategist at Brasco Design + Marketing:
“Content marketing is viewed in various ways, but essentially it is a marketing strategy used to target specific audiences with relevant and often specific content that educates, informs and hopefully inspires an audience. The goal is to attract an audience by being helpful, interesting or simply an expert leader on a particular topic. This is a great way to reach an audience by helping them in an approachable manner, being conversational and providing input or solutions to problems that they are having. Content marketing is an excellent way to sell yourself without being a salesperson. You are lending knowledge, being interesting or simply being helpful.”
Brendan Cournoyer, content marketing manager at Brainshark Inc.:
“You can look online and find dozens of different definitions, but for me it comes down to this: using content to educate people in a way that makes them easier to sell to. That’s it. Content marketing can be product-focused or more broadly informative. It can come in the form of blog posts, videos, e-books or infographics. It can be used for inbound marketing or more direct marketing campaigns. Ultimately, any content that helps drive more business for your company falls under the umbrella of content marketing.”
Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing, executive briefings and education, Ricoh Production Print Solutions (RPPS):
“Content marketing is about bonding, not branding. It is a way to engage with your community, establish credibility and expand the conversation. Content marketing needs to employ relevant content so that your topics and your audience are aligned to what is most interesting. Social media has greatly proliferated the practice of content marketing as the formats (videos, blogs and tweets, for example) and ways to connect and share have grown exponentially.”
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute:
“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. 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.”
Pulizzi wrote a blog post that offers six unique definitions of content marketing, each catered to different professionals and needs.
For example, to “non-believers,” content marketing can be explained as: “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”
What do you think of these definitions? How would you define content marketing?
By Jason Hahn