The marketing world has finally discovered that honest and valuable content makes a difference in interacting with consumers. Not surprisingly, marketers had to name and define this activity. We called it “Content Marketing”. Definitions abound but it is meant to encompass all marketing formats involving the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumers.
It begs the question…is there such a thing as non-content marketing?
Beyond my jadedness, content marketing’s intent is to provide high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers to drive brand awareness, consideration, and purchase. Content Marketing can take many forms such as custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts and webinars, podcasts, roadshows, roundtables, interactive online, e-mail, and events.
The big difference between Content Marketing and historic or traditional marketing is that it is intended to share proprietary information with specific audiences. If the content is not valuable, relevant, and tailored – it is the equivalent of a mass-market sales brochure.
I have practiced what we now call Content Marketing for over two decades. I recognized early on that marketing had to be focused and specific, that it had to provide something that captured attention, that gave people information they could use to change their behavior and make informed decisions. Content Marketing is premised on the belief that educating the customer and engaging them in dialogue results in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader, expert, and provider of value.
For the organizations I have worked for and consulted to, the benefits include: brand awareness, thought leadership, lead generation, increased sales, and improving customer retention. It can also help attract and retain talent and improve public relations by gaining media attention.
There are two prerequisites to successful Content Marketing and those are authenticity and credibility. Established brands should already have permission to engage consumers, however, the actual content has to be completely factual, transparent, and the language and aims of the communication entirely honest. Consumers are incredibly sophisticated and can identify a thinly veiled sales pitch.
I get incredibly turned off if I read a company’s white paper and find it is nothing more than a brochure versus the educational piece it was promised to be. The same goes for attending a conference. I attend to learn and to network. I do not go to hear a speaker deliver a sixty-minute sales pitch.
Social media has given rise to increased activity and interest in Content Marketing. Tweets are 140-character point-of-views, Facebook enables quick and influential brand critiques in trusted circles, YouTube enables videos of consumer experiences, and blogs have given rise to over 200 million critics and quasi-journalists.
Increasingly authenticity and credibility are critical to Content Marketing. I pay no credence when I read comments submitted online to news stories if the commenter does not provide their real name. It is analogous to protestors who wear masks and goggles – if you are not willing to identify yourself – you have zero credibility.
Back in the world of marketing, social media has produced incredible means to share information. We now share more, more often, to more people, and at faster speeds than ever before. We share our lives, interests, biases, beliefs, attitudes and … our opinion of brands – good, bad, and sometimes, inaccurate.
New technologies have given voice to many but this does not mean there is value or truth in everything being said. In the next decade there will be an increasing focus on the quality of content and the credibility of its source. We will listen and be influenced by like-minded peers but we will train ourselves to screen, edit, and aggregate information as never before. So much so, that the most important metric in the coming years will be how many messages consumers choose NOT to engage with on a daily basis.
I believe in Content Marketing but only if it shares proprietary thinking, comes from a credible source, and is open and authentic. In the short term, we will all be inundated with more communications but it will be quantity over quality. With time, we will come to know the credible sources – whether they are individuals or brands, and we will ultimately engage with them for their ideas, creativity, and value.