Content Marketing: Definitions and Examples from the Experts
You’ve tried blogging, paid advertising, and getting busy on social media. But still, you don’t see the new prospects you want coming into your business. What can you do?
You may have heard of content marketing – a way to get clients by sharing helpful information and building a loyal following. How is that different from blogging, using social media, and other things you’ve tried already?The main difference between content marketing, and all the other kinds of online publishing is that content marketing hard-wires your helpfulness to your business goals. Content marketing is your choice of publishing and promotion activities, structured to do two things: give your target clients what they’re looking for, and promote interactions that lead them to become clients.
Still not sure what content marketing is and whether it is worth your time and money?
Let’s unpack content marketing with some definitions and working examples.
Content Marketing Defined by Experts
Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.
Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers.
You’re doing content marketing “if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it.”
Content Marketing Examples from Industry Leaders
The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie, by Warner Brothers was a family-friendly box-office hit released in Feburary 2014. Forbes calls it “one of the greatest examples of content marketing to date.” It met a healthy global appetite for crowd-pleasing, good clean fun, and generated worldwide gross ticket sales approaching half a billion dollars. Not bad for what Forbes calls a “100-minute toy commercial”.
Perhaps most impressive was the payoff for the toymaker: By the end of 2014, retail sales of the hard plastic blocks pushed the Lego company ahead of Mattel as the largest toy company in the world.
The Marketing Library at Hubspot
Hubspot, builder of content marketing systems, also maintains an immense Marketing Library of free downloadable ebooks full of tips to help organizations grow. These guides are highly valued for their clear, data-rich insights on what works in inbound marketing. They serve Hubspot’s business goal of enlarging their subscriber base very well. Access to each guide requires your email address and a few other bits of information in a signup form.
Hubspot makes the software that traces exactly how their investment in free guides (and follow-up emails) pays off in getting new buyers. Their software does the math. Each update to this vast library is a testament to the cost-benefit of this strategy.
The DIY Projects and Ideas Library at Home Depot
The power of your resources to solve your market’s problems is the driving force behind your success. More content is not enough, says Content Marketing Institute’s Carlton Holt in Stop Thinking Content, Start Thinking Resources.
Holt urges businesses to go beyond just posting information, and instead, create resources that give meaningful help. In comparing the website-libraries of two home and garden super-stores, he shows why Home Depot’s carefully curated categories have massive value, while Lowe’s bloated article groups destroy it:
“The Home Depot intentionally limited the amount of content to ensure that it is findable, easy to navigate, and of a higher quality. Lowe’s did not. That is why Home Depot offers a resource, while Lowe’s has just content.”
What Content Marketing Success Looks Like: 76% More Traffic in 90 Days
A Local Business Overflows with Demand Following a 3-Month Project
The owner of a psychology practice had tried blogging, posting on Facebook, and Adwords campaigns to get more clients. Results were disappointing.
She decided to try content marketing. We devised a strategy with three business goals: Offer helpful compassion and insight on relationship issues; increase local visibility of the counseling practice; and get more phone calls and appointments.
To make content prospects would “seek out,” we brainstormed a top-10 list of stressors that lead people toward therapy. Our team wrote 10 in-depth articles and 60 social media posts, based on interviews with the business founder. Each article was structured for easy reading, and to increase calls, social sharing and subscriber numbers. “Hard wiring” to serve business goals involved:
- Writing 600-1200 word articles, optimized with keyword phrases used by people seeking help (to increase value to readers and search traffic volume)
- Linking to free offers get more helpful articles by e-mail (to build a list of prospects and nurture interest)
- Calling attention to workshops and counseling opportunities (to get clients)
- Providing buttons and prompts to share the information on social media (to build local reach)
- Scheduling social media updates offering (in turn) insights and empathy, and links to articles and the subscription offer.
The articles and social media updates were written and published using an editorial calendar, over 3 months.
What were the results?
Appointment capacity filled to 100% (and over)
By the end of the 3-month period, the counseling practice had a fully booked appointment calendar and had to make referrals to others due to excess demand.
Hundreds More Local Interactions
Local traffic grew 76% (from 286 to 505 sessions in the service area)
Long-Acting Assets Are Born
The website’s most popular post continues to bring in about 15% of all traffic – without ads – all by organic search.
Social Referrals Up Dramatically
Website visits referred by social media grew by almost 40%
How to Make Content Marketing Work for You
Here’s a quick checklist to see if your efforts follow a basic content marketing model.
The keys to getting content marketing to work are:
- Knowing what your target market is already actively seeking
- Creating quality content that answers real needs
- Positioning and promoting the content so desired prospects find it
- Channeling visitor interest into actions that serve your business goals
- Managing activities so the return repays your investment over time
Content Marketing Can Feel Good Too
One more benefit deserves mention: Helping people is fun, rewarding and fulfilling to your business purpose. Content marketing gets you doing more of what satisfies your market and your mission. Even if you recoil from promoting yourself, writing, or ‘getting creative’, content marketing can be deeply rewarding in its own right. Helping more people is one of its most selfless and personally gratifying outcomes.