Although the idea has existed for many years, content marketing has experienced a fairly recent popularity surge. For the beginning business, however, the concept of content marketing can prove to be a mystery.
In this guide, you will find the basics of content marketing as well as some examples of how major companies have made it an important part of their campaigns.
Defining Content Marketing
The Oxford English Dictionary defines content marketing as “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
Let’s take a look at a popular example of content marketing. AARP is a group that sells health and life insurance to individuals over the age of 50. However, their magazine, AARP The Magazine, focuses on the pastimes of its members. There are articles about travel, beauty, and entertainment—subjects that aren't about insurance but that could be of interest to the reader. Costco, a membership-based wholesale store, offers a similar benefit in the form of Costco Connection.
In other words, content marketing is how you connect with consumers on a personal basis. You as a business are bringing in an audience with useful educational content that they cannot get from any other business.
Examples of Content Marketing
Here are some methods of content marketing to help your business get started:
HubSpot reports that 11% of marketers planned on adding podcasts to their marketing campaigns in 2018. Indeed, the podcast format has gained a lot of traction over the past few years.
News companies like The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have added different podcasts to their content to attract new consumers. Web-based education business “How Stuff Works” has a podcast of its own called Stuff You Should Know, which mixes pop culture and comedy to attract new listeners (and new website users).
Some online users may find a wall of informational text daunting. To counteract this, many businesses condense content into an infographic. These consist of both eye-catching graphics and important information from its creators. Infographics are easier to share and spread around social media, thus getting more publicity for your business. Just make sure to cite your sources!
Having an active blog for your business allows for new and returning consumers to connect with you on a recurring basis. Your posts can update on certain products, educate on topics relating to your business, and otherwise let people know about your business’s climate.
Companies like LinkedIn offer blogs that give insight into the world of entrepreneurship from technology to world culture. In addition to updates on their growth, LinkedIn also gives a voice to the public with interviews and collaborative lists.
Businesses that use platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook can connect with their target audiences on a wide scale. Instead of being detached from the virtual stage, your business can interact with consumers personally to find out what their interests are in real time.
Some companies, like the restaurant Denny’s, try to keep up with current Internet trends in order to appeal to a young crowd. Others, like General Electric, post visually stunning photos of their factories to generate interest in their projects.
The first examples we used in this article were examples of published content marketing. AARP and Costco are not alone in their magazine incentives, however; United Airlines publishes its own magazine, Hemispheres, for customers to read during their flights.
Again, these magazines do not overtly promote their businesses, but rather try to reach out to their audience with subjects they might be interested in. In the case of Hemispheres, there is a robust travel and culture section that a frequent flyer would probably find appealing.
Technology megagroup Cisco forecasts that video traffic will account for roughly 80% of all internet traffic by 2021. This isn’t surprising; videos are typically more memorable and engaging than their textual counterparts. As such, businesses turn to video as a way to connect with their audience in an exciting, vivid way.
A popular theme on social media and YouTube is beauty tutorials, and makeup brands like Glossier and Urban Decay use these in their marketing strategies to promote their products while still giving their audience the video content they desire.
Why Content Marketing?
Using content marketing as a part of your overall business strategy adds value to your products. By placing your business and its services in a unique, relatable light, you increase the chance of consumers coming to you.
It helps to think of the purchase process as a series of steps. While there are multiple variations of the “buying cycle,” we look at it as five key steps:
- Awareness: Your audience learns about you and your product
- Research: Your audience educates themselves about your business, typically finding more content to consume
- Consideration: The critical point in which your audience decides whether or not your products are worth it
- Purchase: A sale or contract occurs
- Loyalty: Satisfied customers will return to your business and potentially refer you to others, thus repeating the cycle
Content marketing happens most prominently in steps one and two of this cycle. While conventional marketing and advertising are important parts of the buying cycle, content marketing sparks an effortless conversation without coming off as “trying too hard.”