What is Content Marketing?

When consumers are making a purchase decision, they no longer want to be bogged down with advertising nor presented with promotional material they can’t trust. They want valuable information, interesting stories, and creative solutions.  They want content marketing.

Put simply, content marketing is a marketing strategy that uses a variety of tactics (social media posts, blogs, podcasts, e-books, etc) to create and share valuable information (aka, content) with a specific customer base and target audience.

The main focus of content marketing is building a relationship with potential customers; you are not selling, you are engaging.  The end goal is that meaningful engagement with your customers will reward you with their business and loyalty. 

How Content Marketing Works

To fully understand how content marketing works, we must first understand the consumer’s Buying Cycle: 

  1. Awareness: A customer is aware of her need, but not aware that there is a solution.
  2. Research: A customer becomes aware that there is a solution, and so she begins performing research to educate herself.  For example, an interested car buyer will read about what different types of cars exist and which one will best fit her needs in her budget.
  3. Consideration: At this point in the buying cycle, the customer starts comparing products from different vendors to make sure she'll be getting a high quality product at a fair price.
  4. Buy: Finally, the customer makes her decision and moves forward with the transaction.

Traditional advertising typically concentrates on the last two steps of the buying cycle; content marketing taps into the first two (awareness and research) by  proactively educating consumers about products and services.  By using educational, entertaining, or informative content (i.e.: giving them interesting stuff to look at, learn from, and read) you create positive interest in your product without advertising for it directly. 

How to Implement a Content Marketing Strategy

First, you must determine what kind of information would be useful or interesting to your audience.  (For example, a hotel will want content themes about travel, fun things to do in their region, airport advice, and lodging tips).   Once you establish your main themes, you can explore the many different avenues to share your creative content.  

  1. Social Media: Social media outlets are one of the best ways to develop relationships with potential customers.  With a plethora of platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) and you can reach exponential amounts of people locally, nationally, and globally.  The nature of social media dictates that once your post is published, the higher chance it has to be shared, liked, and viewed again and again.
  2. Create a Blog: Hosting a blog on your website is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase site traffic. Each time you add a new blog post, search engines will scan your site,  which increases your SEO ranking and makes your site easier to find. A tip: When building a blog, you should create and post your own original and interesting content, but sharing material from other sources (news articles, other blogs) can also help to generate interest. 
  3. Webinars, White Pages, and e-Books: All of these items are a great way to communicate complex information in an understandable and easily-digestible manner. They can be used to educate prospective buyers about topics important to them as well as your company and its services. 

Conclusion

Remember that the marketplace is changing.  Online strategies and social networks evolve and change over time, so be prepared to change with them.  

Content Marketing is an easy-to-implement, inexpensive, and highly effective tool businesses of all sizes can use to reach out and develop long-term relationships with their customers.  

After all, Content Marketing not only generates interest in your brand and keeps you relevant--it inspires loyalty.