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December 6th, 2016

What is Content Marketing?

We’re likely all familiar with traditional forms of marketing. Companies would spend to put ads on TV, radio, or in print like newspapers and magazines, or even up on billboards, and that was how you reached your audience. But that was then, and content marketing is now.

Bill Gates saw back in 1996 that “content is king” — meaning that it isn’t enough to just exist in today’s digital age, you have to produce something for customers can read/watch/gain information from. Sounds a lot like marketing, right — content marketing. Content marketing, as it lives and breathes twenty years later, involves things like blogs, social media, and videos.

Content Marketing’s Popularity Grows

So even if Gates really saw the potential for digital content back in 1996, in just that short amount of time, hardly any of us could imagine a world without company websites, blogs, social streams, interactive products and more. And on the same vein, many millennials and others joining the workforce behind them, can’t imagine the world pre-digital where a newspaper carried the day’s events or a once-monthly magazine was the source of an entire campaign’s scope.

Now, content marketing is in everything we encounter during the day, from that first Facebook post in the morning, to that last check of your FitBit score at night. And the numbers show that, too: a 2015 study shows that 88% of B2B marketers employ content marketing as a strategy, and 76% of B2C marketers report using content marketing.

In fact, content marketers are putting their money where their mouth is, with studies showing that the most effective B2B content marketers spend 42% of their total budget on content marketing, compared to 28% for less-effective marketers.

Quality Content is Key

So what does content marketing do besides creating a bunch of posts and things, right? It’s a whole lot more than that. Relevant and valuable content can create leads which turn to sales, for B2B or B2C companies alike. But it has to be both relevant and valuable, that’s the key. Content like that builds trust between companies and potential customers, who nowadays don’t like to be constantly “sold to.” The more value a company can generate for its brand, the bigger the payoff for the company.

So How Do You Create Great Content?

There’s no secret formula (no matter who’s trying to sell you one), but all good content has a few things in common:

  1. It’s authentic. Our advertising lie detectors are finely tuned these days, so we can tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Your content should be “real” for customers to believe in it. It also shouldn’t just be borrowed from another source. Put your own voice to it!
  1. It’s timely. Content doesn’t just show up once or twice a year, like an advertising campaign might have forty years ago. When content gets updated regularly — whether its daily, weekly, or monthly — we see it as higher quality than some blog or website that sits abandoned. If you can, keep a regular schedule for updating. Don’t let it fall to the wayside of “not enough time” and keep your audience engaged.
  1. It’s unique. Don’t be the same voice on the street. Think about what your brand can offer your audience. What unique perspective can you offer on current news, events, products, or even competitors in your field.
  1. It’s valuable. Value can come from lots of sources. It can be in the form of a new app you find helpful for making life easier. It can be from an interaction that makes you think about life in a new way, like an article that makes you give money to a new charity or change your mind on a popular issue at hand.