Content marketing definition
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that gives information away for free to build trust with a target audience of potential customers.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the content marketing approach focuses on creating and distributing content that is:
The intent is to build trust and rapport with potential customers, so that when they are ready to make a purchase, they come to you and not your competitor.
Content marketing gives you an opportunity to prove to your potential customer that you put their interests first, not your own, by providing content that educates and meets their needs, rather than simply taking a promotional tone.
How content marketing works
Let’s break down that definition of content marketing. The first and most obvious element is content: What is content? What types of content are used in content marketing?
In content marketing, the content is the information or message. That information or message can take many forms and be reshaped for many different types of media. The idea, however, is to make that information audience-focused, so you’ll want to ensure that your content appears in media formats and on media platforms that your target audience uses.
Common types of content formats include:
- Web articles and blog posts
- Case studies
- Social media posts
For an example of how content marketing works, let’s take a fictional manufacturing company called Newton Machine. Newton sells an anti-gravity device that keeps apples from falling on your head. Their website lists all the different models of anti-gravity devices that the company sells, and all the features and options available. But what’s missing is the actual benefit for their customer.
Newton decides to take a new, strategic approach to their website using content marketing. In this scenario, Newton needs to change the content on their website from a promotional tone to an audience-focused, educational tone. The content is the information on their website.
Valuable and relevant: The difference between content and content marketing
Content marketing calls for content that is valuable and relevant to the intended audience, not just one-off advertising. Delivering content that is valuable and relevant to a target audience requires making a strategic, intentional decision to put the interests of the target audience first. It requires the discipline of identifying what your potential customers are looking for, and creating content that meets those needs.
Marketing messages that don’t help the audience in some way – education, entertainment or inspiration – are simply content. Content marketing, on the other hand, offers valuable, relevant content that actually helps the audience.
In the case of our fictional manufacturing company, Newton discovers that most buyers of anti-gravity devices are engineers working on physics-based applications. The physics involved in a typical anti-gravity application is highly technical. Qualified experts are hard to find, but Newton employs experts in the field. That technical knowledge is valuable and relevant to Newton’s potential customers.
The company works with a content strategy agency like Marketing Zone to transform the tone of their website from promotional to educational. Instead of simply listing products and features, Newton’s website becomes a treasury of articles, videos and case studies that address common technical issues. The website is a valuable and relevant destination for engineers working on physics-based applications.
Consistent: Building trust with a target audience
Consistent quality and timeliness of content is a key factor in building trust and loyalty with a target audience. That’s why content marketing is a long-term strategy.
It takes time to generate new content, and it takes commitment to generate new content consistently. If your content marketing consultant promises results in less than 6 months, keep looking for another content marketing consultant. Earning the trust of your potential customers takes time.
Returning to our fictional manufacturing company, Newton hires content marketers who understand the technical nature of their business. Technical writers interview the brains behind the anti-gravity devices at Newton and write new content, month after month, that helps engineers in their industry. With this consistent, high-quality content, Newton’s website develops a loyal following, and the company emerges as a credible, authoritative voice among anti-gravity engineers.
Marketing: Generating more sales
How about that other element of content marketing, you know, the marketing?
As defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, marketing is the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.
The strategic objective of content marketing is “ultimately, to drive profitable customer action,” according to the Content Marketing Institute. As you build relationships and trust with your potential customers, they come to you when it’s time to make a purchase, rather than your competitors. Your company’s bottom line benefits from the investment into earning the trust of your customers.
For our fictional manufacturing company, it’s payday. The Newton website’s loyal following of engineers comes to them when it’s time to order more anti-gravity devices for their physics-based applications. Newton sells more, enjoys better customer relationships and retains more customers because they met the needs of their website’s target audience first. End-of-year sales balloon as though powered by anti-gravity, but the secret? It’s content marketing.
Content marketing and SEO
Content marketing and SEO (search-engine optimization) naturally go together. You can’t optimize your content for search engines without having any content. SEO is more technical than content marketing, and SEO sets the standards that the content must meet for best representation on search engines. The disciplines of content marketing and SEO overlap considerably, but are not identical.
For more information on SEO, see What is SEO?
What content marketing is NOT
Content marketing is not spam. It is not spraying words and images all over the web and hoping something will stick. Creating content that is valuable to your potential customers is not easy, and it’s not fast. But it is well worth the effort, and pays off in better results on the bottom line. Content marketing’s strategic approach leads to increased sales, cost savings and better customers who have more loyalty, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Content marketing for industrial companies
In the case of industrial companies and precision manufacturers, the content marketing approach of giving information away for free may appear counter-intuitive. Surely that proprietary recipe for a manufacturing process shouldn’t be posted online for anyone, including competitors, to take for their own use?
Well, yes… and no.
If that proprietary recipe (process, system, whatever it might be) is what it takes to convince a potential customer of your expertise, then posting that information online may well be worth it. (In niche industries, companies already know their competitors’ products and systems anyway, right?)
And that proprietary recipe doesn’t have to be spelled out in a way that reveals every last detail, just enough for your potential customer to recognize you and your company as subject-matter experts.
Many online consumers today, including engineers, prefer to gather as much online information as possible before reaching out to a vendor. By educating your prospective customers and providing the information they are looking for, your company remains top-of-mind when they are ready to reach out.
To learn more about marketing for industrial and precision manufacturers, see What makes industrial SEO marketing different?