Is Content Marketing just the next in a long line of online marketing gimmicks? I believe that Content Marketing is one of the least understood, but most powerful, marketing methods available today. Here I’ll outline several reasons why this is true, and how it will become more true as the digital age rolls on. Content Marketing: you need to give a s@#t.
To many people, Content Marketing is just one more “thing” they need to worry about when it comes to engaging customers. Just like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their websites, Pay Per Click (PPC) for their online advertising, or even public relations for media exposure, Content Marketing is just another ancillary task that distracts from the real work of running a business. It is something that can and should be outsourced when possible, because in the long run, it doesn’t matter that much.
Content Marketing should be outsourced…
I think this is completely wrong. I won’t speak for those other marketing functions, but Content Marketing is much more than just another pain-in-the-butt online marketing tasks, I believe that it is the truest representation of your company’s competency in the marketplace. If done correctly, it connects you to your audience more than any million-dollar advertising campaign featuring fancy graphics, big stars, and amazingly clever delivery.
What Content Marketing Really Is
If you google “Content Marketing” you’ll get the following definition, or some close variation of it (this one is from the Content Marketing Institute):
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
This is a completely accurate definition, but it still overly simplifies the method.
Let’s imagine that your business is a living and breathing person. If you looked at his or her resume, Content Marketing would be their education level, past experience, and references. It would be what you would find if you could read minds and view his or her motivations to work and their innovative concepts as they formed them. Content Marketing would be your business explaining their history, their hopes, dreams, and fears, and the ultimate goal of their life. You might love or hate the personification of your business, but you would truly understand them, provided that the Content Marketing was a true representation of them.
Content Marketing gives you the ability to connect with your customers on a much more in-depth level. Better yet, it allows you to communicate the fact that you understand your customers. Through consistent content generation in the form of articles, graphics, videos, photographs, etc., you are able to connect on an ongoing basis that makes your business more than just another vendor, it makes it a resource. It makes it the go-to place for the stuff that your customers know you have because they understand your business and your business understands them.
What Makes Content Marketing Different
The difference between Content Marketing and other marketing functions lies in the development of the modern consumer. In the days of old (like 10-15 years ago) people weren’t as connected as they are today. Internet speeds were slower, applications were less capable, and all aspects of technology were more expensive. No one expected businesses to be as connected with their personal lives like they do today.
I am 32 years old right now, and let me tell you, I feel like a dinosaur when I see what the slightly-younger generation is capable of when it comes to information consumption. My 2-year-old son can navigate an iPad like a pro, and can even SKIP ADS on his favorite YouTube playlist (if that doesn’t say everything you need to know about the modern consumer, I don’t know what does).
The modern consumer is less impressed and less interested in clever advertising than ever before. Worse yet for the clever advertiser, the modern consumer will be insulted if you try to trick them. They will find out, and they will not be happy about it. Sure, you could keep reinventing yourself, change your brand name, or even shut down and start a new company, but in the end, wouldn’t it be easier to just do things right in the first place?
Content Marketing does away with the need for all the tricks. If you really believe that you have the best product or service out there, it stands to reason that you consider yourself more knowledgeable than your competitors, right? Content Marketing simply requires you to share some of that knowledge to prove your competency. Simple as that! However, it does require that YOU are the one to share it.
Why Content Marketing Can’t Be Outsourced (Entirely)
When you first get into online marketing, the ads that you’ll receive will fill you with confidence (especially if you have some money to invest). They will promise first page ranking on Google, a million fans on Facebook, and instant notoriety on Instagram. All you have to do is pay a few bucks! That would be fantastic if it made any sense, but it doesn’t.
When was the last time you were happy with a product that you were impressed with at first, then immediately regretted purchasing? At the time of purchase you may have thought, “I’d be stupid NOT to buy this,” while at the same time you were suppressing this thought: “This is too good to be true and is probably just that.” You probably got angry with yourself and angrier with the vendor/salesman who tricked you, right?
Outsourcing the complete task of Content Marketing is akin to hiring a designer to build your dream home with ZERO input from you. The designer will look at what’s popular and what they like, then throw it up as quickly as possible so they could get paid and move on. They’ll do a good job because they might want more business from you or maybe even some referrals, but at the end of the day it’s YOUR DREAM HOUSE and chances are that it won’t come out the way that you want it to.
What you want is your vision, creativity, and personality to be used to build your dream home (even if you don’t understand the nuances of interior design, architecture, landscaping, etc.). Without your involvement and persistence, that vision will be lost.
You CAN outsource Content Marketing, or at least the initial strategy (something I do for a variety of businesses), but it is vital that the person providing the guidance truly understands your business and can accurately translate your vision into a cohesive plan. That plan should connect you to your customer on a more in-depth level than any single campaign can deliver.
You know what your customers want. You know what your company is good at delivering. You are the only person that can communicate these two things to the world and Content Marketing is the best way to do it.
Why Content Marketing Won’t Go Away
As I stated earlier, your customers are getting more intelligent, more aware, and much less tolerant than they have ever been before. They can’t be tricked or lied to for long. They will find out. They will make you sorry.
Content Marketing is the only way to truly connect with your customer without a transaction being involved right now. Do your potential customers know that you sell something? Maybe. Do they care that you want them to be their customer if you’re giving them free information about something they want to know about? Probably not.
Content Marketing allows you to sell them your product or service without actually selling them anything. You have the opportunity to become their go-to resource for information that relates to what you offer without being a salesman. It’s the perfect soft-sell and if you want to do it for free, you can.