What is Content Marketing? Why are we talking so much about it? And why is it the most important marketing approach today?
To really explain what it is and why it’s important, let’s go back in time for a little history lesson.
The Way Things Were
Do you remember a time when there were no cell phones, iPads, laptops, or video games? I know, it’s a very nostalgic memory. But I was there.
I remember actually spending time in front of my TV for hours watching cartoons. When the commercials came on I’d watch them. What else could I do?
But now I’ve got choices. My whole family has choices.
My daughter is constantly snapchatting her friends. My son is always watching some sort of YouTube video reviewing Nike or Adidas shoes, or watching a “how-to” about fishing. My wife always finds these cool home decoration ideas on Pinterest. I’m always reading articles on the newest online marketing strategy.
And we’re all on our phones. That’s our life now.
The New Reality
According to Mitch Joel in his 2013 presentation 25 Mind-Blowing Stats about Business Today,
- In 1999 38 million people had broadband internet; today 1.2 billion people have broadband internet on their phones
- 200 million tablets were projected to be sold in 2013 (that number is probably higher now)
- 14.3 trillion web pages are live on the internet
Those are some incredible numbers. But what about your own behavior?
- Does it annoy you when your phone rings?
- Do you have an email inbox full of unread emails?
- Do you watch shows you’ve recorded instead of watching them live?
- Do you bounce back and forth between Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, the latest article you’re reading and your current project?
I bet you answered yes to at least 2 of these questions.
What does this mean for you as a marketer trying to sell your goods and services? It means if you haven’t already, now is the time to completely adjust your marketing to this not so new reality.
As Gary Vaynerchuk says, you’ve got to market in the year we actually live in.
Enter Content Marketing
Because we can’t monopolize our customers’ attention, we’ve got to find a way to attract our customers instead. We must become more interesting than your grandmother’s latest Facebook update about her dentures, or your sisters’ Instagram pictures about her new born baby.
Content marketing can cut through all that noise and earn you a loyal audience who buys from you time and time again.
Here’s my definition of content marketing:
Content marketing is the creation and publication of content, whether written, audio or video, to attract your own audience who you then help to become buyers, and eventually loyal customers.
Content marketing is counter-intuitive to the traditional marketing and selling mindset, because the underlying principle of content marketing is value.
Give, don’t sell.
Educate, don’t promote.
Tell a story about me, don’t talk about your company, products or services
As a content marketer you think more like a media company, a magazine, newspaper or a television network, instead of as a product or services company.
The Psychological Principles Behind Content Marketing
Why does content marketing work? Author and marketing psychologist Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, talks about six powerful psychological principles that are key to influencing people.
Four of these six principles are activated when you use content marketing effectively:
By giving away value first, people start to feel indebted to you, and they’ll look for ways to give back to you. That’s why giving away free samples is so powerful. It’s also why tribal chiefs of the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest gave away all their wealth in their ritual potlatch ceremonies.
2. Commitment and Consistency
If you can convince somebody to read your content, and more importantly to come back and read some more, that person has made a small commitment to you. They’ve agreed that your content is congruent with their self-image, and in order to remain consistent with that small commitment they are more likely to make bigger commitments to you. They’ll sign up for your newsletter, make a small initial purchase, and eventually make a larger purchase until they become a loyal customer.
People respect authority figures, and will often do what that authority figure asks them to do. When you share valuable content that displays your deep knowledge on a topic, you establish your authority. This gives you power in the eyes of your readers, who are more likely to choose you instead of somebody else who has not shared their deep knowledge.
Content marketing, when done right, is storytelling. Our brains are wired for storytelling. And when we tell a good story that’s devoid of promotion, our readers start to like us. As any good sales person will tell you, people do business with people they like.
Content Marketing is Marketing
Finally, there’s the marketing aspect of content marketing. It’s not just about sharing educational, entertaining content just for the sake of storytelling. Your end goal is to sell something.
That’s why your content should be aligned with your purpose.
I like this definition of content marketing from the NextView blog: “Content marketing is just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.”
So if you’re selling accounting software, you wouldn’t want to publish a blog post about Kim Kardashian’s new outfit. But you would publish an article about the 5 Steps to Making Small Business Accounting Easy.
And that’s why you publish content for all stages of your sales process.
- Content to create awareness
- Content to generate interest
- Content to prompt a decision to buy
- Content to spur action
Just remember: it’s content MARKETING as copywriter John Rugh says.
To summarize, content marketing is the nectar that attracts the bees. Your nectar is your unique knowledge and personality that you share freely and without reserve. And once your customers become loyal readers who like you and consider you an authority, it’s pretty easy to ask them to take action and buy your product.
In the next post I’ll provide examples of different kinds of content marketing that might fit with your particular business model.
Stay tuned for more!