Content marketing is being used to expand the reach of companies that are targeting specific, clearly defined audiences. Utilizing powerful analytic tools, this new marketing strategy achieves profitable consumer action by creating and distributing consistently relevant content.

You may have heard the phrase “content marketing” tossed around the office. It’s certainly a popular phrase these days, and that’s because it’s become a key marketing tool for emerging and established businesses. Many people might even say that content marketing is no longer just an option or a strategy, but rather the standard for successful online business models.

But despite its rising popularity, you may still be unsure of what exactly content marketing is, and how you can use its methods to help your own business grow.

So what is content marketing? Joshua Steimle, CEO of the digital marketing agency MWI, offers a useful explanation and analysis of content marketing and the methods behind it in a 2014 Forbes blog post. Like any sales strategy, he argues, content marketing seeks to match a consumer’s needs with the services of a company.

What makes content marketing different, though, is that it seeks to promote consumer action by providing relevant content aimed at the specific needs of the consumer.

Steimle notes that the content marketing process consists of creating and distributing content that is consistently useful for a targeted audience, which leads to “profitable customer action.” Perhaps the most important aspect of a successful strategy is the creation of content that people actively look for, or in Steimle’s words, content that “[tweetable alt=”The priority for #ContentMarketing, says @donloper and @Forbes, is that people should actually want to consume it.” hashtag=””]people want to consume,[/tweetable] rather than avoiding [it].”

Content Marketing Versus Traditional Advertisements

In general, ads offer information about products or services in the hope that increased consumer exposure to this content will generate a profitable response. But this assumes that the consumer wants to participate in the advertising experience. Unlike this traditional approach, content marketing relies on the creation of useful content — content that in and of itself has a clear value to consumers.

And the possibilities are almost limitless. Steimle writes that “There are as many types of content marketing as there are types of content,” and lists a wide range of marketing options: infographics, webpages, podcasts, videos, books, white papers, ebooks, apps, public speaking, presentations, and blogs.

For a company looking to create content that’s relevant to a consumer, the problem is not a lack of possible formats — rather, it’s the challenge of making your content useful and consistently engaging.

In Forbes, Steimle outlines what he calls the “four steps of the buying cycle.” First, a customer must become aware of a solution to a pre-existing need, and once they’re aware, they can educate themselves by researching potential solutions. Once they’ve explored some options, they can consider the various costs and benefits of different goods or services, and finally, they can make the decision to buy.

Steimle notes that, while traditional advertising and marketing strategies are well equipped to assist in the consideration and buying stages, content marketing is actually crucial in targeting consumers during these first stages. It’s here that a company’s marketing strategy can step in and, by providing relevant, useful content, significantly influence the buying cycle.

And unlike expensive and time-consuming advertising or sales practices, content marketing can give you an incredible return on investment. While it may take an hour to research and write a useful article for a blog post about a new car model, for instance, a well-placed piece of content can attract thousands of views.

The goal here is not to pepper people with hyperbolic assurances of quality or to target public assumptions about taste. Instead, the key is to provide actual, hard facts and relevant content that will attract active and engaged consumers seeking more information about a product or service.

Getting Started

These days, companies are more in tune with social media networks than ever before, and rely on well-connected consumers to engage with their services, both online and via mobile devices. In fact, content marketing is naturally linked to social media marketing — building a good reserve of content on a blog or webpage increases the possibility of exposure on social applications or through search engines.

What’s more, creating your own content is easy, especially if you have knowledge about a product or service. If what you’re creating is relevant and informed, you can be assured that it will take on a life of its own via social media.

This kind of exposure is crucial when considering the dual aims of content marketing: providing useful content and increasing profitability from consumer action. For content marketing, sharing on social networks is a key piece of the puzzle — it can leverage a consumer’s own social networks and activity to a company’s advantage.

In fact, interaction with customers is key on a number of levels. Who can better direct the creation of consistent, useful content than the people who want to access that content themselves?

“@Thundrfoot believes that #brands should be sharing and creating new #content every day.” To engage with consumers successfully, you should be sharing and creating new content every day and engaging with consumers to find out what exactly they need. Combining marketing and technology makes a powerful tool, and content marketing can provide unique benefits to companies looking to grow and expand their reach.

 

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer content marketing services and strategies to transform your company blog into an authoritative trade publication. Click to learn more about how to produce great content and prove ROI on your marketing efforts.