When I used to tell people I did content marketing, nobody really understood what that meant. Even when talking with agencies and successful companies, most people think of content as writing, and people think of marketing as advertising.
“So you must write ads then?”
Content marketing is still so new to people that it shouldn’t surprise me how undefined it is. I’ve seen a few good definitions that relate to story telling and creation, but it you have to break it down into describing each part.
Content: A designed consumable/experience for an audience.
This is to say you intended it to exist (not other people’s content or gossip) and your audience can experience it. It is still quite broad, but it allows you to tailor marketing channels based on your audience, the type of content you produce and the desired goal you have. This means it’s more than just website writing, a blog post or photography; content can even be an event or a personal dialogue.
Marketing: Building connections for business interest.
The next important element is the marketing component, which is to say it should still support business interests. Content marketing should still have measurable goals and metrics that can produce indications of profitability to ensure ROI. So in essence, content marketing is experience design for profitability, and there are many reasons to do it, and I would suggest taking the time to learn them . For myself, I’ll offer an example that I feel illustrates the point I’m trying to get across.
I needed to fix a headlight on my car. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to pay and have this done. It’s a few bucks for a light and a quick process, but of course I don’t want to screw it up. A YouTube search brings up dozens of videos of different quality, showing me step by step how to get this done.
You know what I didn’t find? Car manufacturers with how to videos on basic maintenance. They did have videos on how set cruise control, and one company even had tutorials on how to use their website, but nothing on maintenance.
Sure you can argue they don’t want consumers doing maintenance, and they’d rather push you through approved mechanics. But it’s a headlight. There are hundreds of thousands of views of people figuring out how to maintain a car from some no-name guy with a phone camera. Why? Because there is demand. So why ignore this?
Go to the YouTube page of many car companies and you see corporate videos with barely any views. The opening video when I went there was them explain recalls from months ago. There is a captive audience that wants information on how to better use their purchased product, and there isn’t the official support.
This is a perfect place for content marketing.
People are more likely to trust solutions that provide information, address a need and are actually useful. In the case of the headlight, I would be very inclined to listen to a GM professional talk about car maintenance. They are clearly the experts, know the right products and techniques, and I’ve already bought the car, so I don’t feel like I’m getting sold one. It would also be so simple to piggy back the existing experts in these different channels and maybe work with one of them. Heck, find people with good names in the community to do it on your behalf and do some good ol’ fashion native advertising.
Educate First, Sell Second
It’s not about selling, at least not directly. It’s about building consumable content that applies to the product, encourages engagement and is worth following. You build an audience that comes to rely on your expertise, and it demonstrates your commitment to helping people. In the case of our car example, if you educate people on the right process and right equipment, it’s to direct them to approved parts and professional service. You can picture it, “For more information, go to our website or click this link to find an approved dealer near you!”
The point is that content marketing is a different way at looking at communication, and for many existing products and services, it’s not hard to find out ways to be a part of this.