Content Marketing: A Deep Dive Into the Definition

Podcasting and other forms of content marketingContent marketing is, as the words suggest, using content to market yourself, your company, your products or your services. The key distinction between “content” and “content marketing” is the purpose behind the content. Content marketing is done with the ultimate goal of generating a positive marketing impact for an individual or organization.

It’s important to note, though, that while marketing is at the basis of these activities, effective content marketing does not take a heavy sales approach. On the contrary, content marketing is more subtle than a sales appeal—and far more valuable to its recipients. That was true when John Deere launched “The Furrow,” and it is still true today, 120 years later.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, is widely credited with popularizing the term “content marketing.” In his most recent book Epic Content Marketing, he defines the term: “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

There are some key elements of this definition that deserve focus:

  • “Creating and distributing.” That’s a big deal these days. Obviously content marketers must generate (or create) content, and, of course, they must also distribute that content. While this may seem like a simple concept, in reality it is deceptively simple. Why? Because in the digital world we now live in, there is a wide range of options for content distribution. Each of these options, along with traditional ones, need to be considered and selected in some logical way so that each channel is effectively leveraged independently and in concert. We’ll take a look at those channels shortly.
  • “Valuable and compelling.” One of the most notable evolutionary aspects of content marketing over the past decade has been the rapid move away from very generic content produced by such firms as Demand Media, which has seen its profits and position drop significantly since Google unleashed Panda, a major algorithm change, in 2011. With so much content now widely available, consumers in both B2B and B2C environments can be choosy—and, increasingly, they are. In this environment, companies that can provide “valuable and compelling” content will win the eyes, ears—and disposable income—of their target audiences.
  • “Attract, acquire and engage.” This is the marketing part of the content marketing definition. The creation and distribution of all of this content is done precisely to “attract, acquire and engage” customers. That’s what it’s all about. That last word is critically important. Companies that want to succeed over the long haul can’t be satisfied with single sales; they must actively “engage” customers over time both to ensure those customers’ loyalties (and continued purchases) and to generate the positive word-of-mouth that can lead to new customers.
  • “Clearly defined and understood market.” To be successful in content marketing, you must thoroughly understand your target audience. You should not be attempting to sell to the masses—the days of mass media advertising and marketing communications are rapidly coming to an end. Niche marketing is where it’s at. If you’re attempting to market to “women aged 25-55” (as many organizations are), you would be better served by segmenting that mass audience down into “clearly defined” segments that you can engage with through messages designed to specifically address their needs and interests.
  • “Driving profitable customer action.” This is where the rubber meets the road. This is what content marketing is all about. If you aren’t “driving profitable customer action,” then all you have is content.

At this point, it should be clear. Content is not enough. Anyone can generate content. Not everyone can create effective content marketing. Interested in learning more about how you can leverage content to achieve your marketing results? We’re passionate about the topic and glad to help. We take a very strategic approach to planning, disseminating, managing, analyzing and improving the use of content across multiple channels–traditional and digital.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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