When we work on content marketing ideas for our clients, we get so enthused about the potential for awesome videos, articles and graphics; as do our clients. And then sometimes, as the project unfolds, it turns into something it was never supposed to be.
So what is content marketing supposed to be? There’s a million different definitions out there, but for the purposes of this yarn, let’s agree on these nine points as the tenets of content marketing.
- It’s aimed at a specific audience
- It gives your customer what they want or need, the kinds of things they’re already looking for
- It can be informational, educational, inspiring or entertaining, or a combination thereof
- It serves your brand’s purposes or ideals and helps tell your brand story
- It is ongoing, published according to a schedule
- Stories are told in various media – using the written word, video, audio and more
- It can be viewed on various devices
- Ultimately it builds relationships, brand loyalty and gets customers on-side
- It’s not a sales pitch, or product placement – you’re not asking for anything in return
That’s the ideal. But what gets in the way of the content utopia, is money. While most content marketing is cheap compared to a glossy TV commercial shot in Antigua, it will still take budget.
So say you’re a client in the throes of a content marketing exercise, or contemplating a big spend – even contemplating taking budget out of your traditional media and devoting it to content (lawks a lordy!) the temptation might be to say: “Well this is costing me a bit. So I want to put a link to where you can buy our product in that article you’re writing about ‘The Cassowary’, and a few reasons in the article why they should buy from us instead of the other lot. Get the sales funnel in there please.”
But then, that would make it an ad. Or publicity. Or advertorial. And content marketing isn’t any of those things.
- Content marketing is not advertising
In a way, content marketing is the opposite of advertising. When you advertise, you’re paying to place your message within a content stream your audience is reading, watching or listening to voluntarily. You’re interrupting their chosen experience. With content marketing, you’re trying to BE their chosen experience, and provide information or entertainment that is every bit as appealing as the other stuff they read, watch or listen to.
- Content marketing is not PR
PR is earned media. You pay a PR expert to spin a story about your brand, or your event or service, and pitch it to your chosen media; and hopefully you are rewarded with a story that involves your business, or gets you quotes in articles, bylined pieces or guest blogs.
Content marketing on the other hand is owned media – your business controls it. Your articles and videos might not even mention your brand. They might not mention your products – but may explore topics that support what you sell. Examples of owned media include blogs, websites and YouTube channels, and they aim to create a community around a brand.
As Keith Ecker from the blog Sparksheet puts it: “…your audiences come because of the earned media, but they stay because of the owned media. PR raises the awareness, but marketing builds the loyalty and sense of community, converting visitors into prospects and finally into customers.”
- Content marketing (and native advertising) is not advertorial
Advertorial is advertising written or produced in the tone of an objective piece of content, masquerading as a regular piece of content. Usually it is clearly branded, and usually it has a call to action. It’s “softly, softly” advertising – mostly it tells a story. But it does have a specific purpose and does try to elicit a specific action from the audience, right there.
Native advertising, though a much more modern iteration of advertorial, shares many of the same principles. The idea being that a brand produces something along the lines of what people would expect to see in a media channel they like to read or watch or listen to. Sometimes the content is actually created by the same people who produce content for the mag or blog or channel.
That’s what makes it unlike content marketing, which is owned by you; you’re the publisher, the video channel – you have to set the tone, you’re not emulating someone else’s.
Remember why you’re investing in content marketing
A lot of the time, the traditional ad or PR model isn’t working. You’re putting money into content marketing because your audience appreciates useful information and is turned off by a blatant sell. In providing that useful information, over time, you will become the brand they go to for useful information, and in more time, you’ll be the brand they stick with. You’ll have more social media success, increased time spent on your site, improved lead generation, higher conversion rates, more inbound links, more sales.
Be patient, don’t get led astray, don’t think your money’s going down the gurgler – have confidence in content marketing’s power over time.