last updated: 23 August 2018 (approximate reading time: 6 minutes; 1101 words)
Content marketing is the process of using value-added content as marketing bait.
In summary, content marketing works as follows:
- you create content
- that content draws search traffic
- that content can also be widely shared (for example, through social media)
- people are drawn to you/your site through search traffic and shared content
- as people move within your orbit, you can use further content to draw them closer
- finally, those people who have been drawn to you can be converted (into sales or some other form of benefit for you).
That’s the short version. Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
How Do You Get Started with Content Marketing?
There are two steps to get started with content marketing.
- First you create content (this could be something written but equally it may be audio or video). Ideally this content will contain something that is directly useful to people or will otherwise pique their interest.
- Second you make this content available (typically, you will post it on a website).
And then you wait…
Content marketing is not a short-term tactic to boost sales.
It is a long-term approach to drive attention to you. That attention will primarily come from one of two sources:
- Search traffic. People will look for something on Google and your content will be the answer.
- Sharing—primarily social sharing. People will find your content and will share it with family, friends, business contacts, and their broader network. The people with whom the content is shared will then slowly find their way back to you.
If you have some followers who are interested in your content, you can let them know when new material is available. However, in essence, content marketing is a passive process that relies on people coming to you.
Only when people come to you can you begin to extract value and see some benefit from your work.
How Do You Extract Value?
In other words, how do you benefit from content marketing?
Well, that depends… And it depends on a number of factors, but most significantly, it depends on what you want and where you can find value.
The most obvious way to derive value from people coming to you (having been interested in your content) is to sell to these people—make them aware of your products or services and encourage them to buy.
However, there are many other ways you can find value from these people. For instance, these visitors may become followers who then share your content to other people (and those receivers may then be drawn to you). Indeed, some of these followers may move to become evangelists, actively going out to talk about your content.
And let us not forget that it is unusual that someone finds you and spends money immediately. Many people will hang around for a while before they dig out their wallet.
There are, of course, other ways to derive benefit from a following (provided your following has critical mass)—income should not be the only measure. A following—coupled with content—can anoint someone at an expert. Once you are known as an expert, that may open other doors for you. For instance, you may be invited to be a guest (on websites, podcasts, radio programs, YouTube channels, and so on) because you can bring an audience with you.
The possible benefits are many and varied—you just have to figure how to deploy the interest generated by your content.
What Content Should You Make Available?
If you choose to adopt a content marketing strategy, then the content you produce should be of interest. In this context, interest means the content:
- is entertaining, or
- provides useful information.
But remember, the judge of whether the content is entertaining or useful is other people—not you. Not your mother.
The nature of the strategy relies on having content that is relevant over a long period of time. Therefore any content that is highly relevant today but is likely to be uninteresting tomorrow is probably not suited for this approach.
There is merit to having content that appeals to a wider audience. However, in this case you are likely to find that you are in competition with other content marketers.
Extremely niche content offers the possibility that your content may be the only content available (or the only good content worth talking about and sharing). The niche nature clearly means that fewer people will be driven to you, however, there is a possibility that while small in number, these people will then be more loyal to you.
The other aspect to consider with the content is how you make your money. If your earnings are derived from selling/licensing intellectual property (for instance, if you write books), then you need to ensure there is still sufficient reason, for a sufficient number of people who are driven to you, to purchase your product or service.
The other factor when considering the content to offer is that it must link with your end goal.
The aim of the strategy is to create a chain:
- the content will appeal to people
- those people will seek you out
- they will stay within your orbit
- and while they are within your orbit they will then spend money with you (or bring some other material benefit).
In order for this strategy to work, your content needs to attract people who will ultimately spend money with you. Attracting people who are interested in a topic is, comparatively, simple. Finding an audience who aligns with your longer term goals (income) and then attracting them with content may be quite a challenge.
Should You Get Involved in Content Marketing?
In other words, should you make the investment to create the content with the aim of implementing a content marketing strategy?
Content marketing has many positives:
- It’s cheap (in particular, if you’re essentially writing text, then the prime investment is your time).
- It’s comparatively easy to implement.
- There’s no hard sell involved.
- It can (depending on the nature of your content) have long-term value.
There are, of course, reasons to be cautious:
- First, it takes time to create the content.
- You’re giving away your intellectual property (or at least a chunk of your intellectual property) for free.
- The results are not guaranteed and will not come swiftly. But that said, you may continue to accrue benefit over many years.
- You need to have a method for taking advantage of the attention your content brings and for converting that attention into something tangible (such as money).
The most significant challenge, of course, is aligning your content with the ultimate benefit to you.