What’s the Deal With Content Marketing?

With the continuous industry shift towards inbound marketing strategies, the marketing sphere seems to be resting it’s gaze on the use of content marketing as a means to lure in customers. Why? Because content marketing is essentially at the heart of inbound marketing. In order to pull customers in, you need to offer them content that is interesting and valuable. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as:

“…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.”

The rapidly increasing industry shift is further made evident by the fact that apparently 90% of B2C businesses and 93% of B2B businesses use content marketing. In fact, 72% of B2C marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago and 60% plan to increase their marketing budget in the next 12 months (as of 2014).

Help! I’m Drowning!

In this vast sea of media and online content, it seems like anyone could easily drown. One of Google’s executive chairmen, Eric Schmidt, testifies to the boundless ocean of content that is being created everyday:

“More content is being created in 48 hours than what was produced from the beginning of time until 2003.”

I’m not sure about you, but this is a little hard for me to wrap my brain around. Even after exploring a tiny fraction of the information that is available on content marketing, I began to feel like I was losing air. There seems to be limitless amounts of articles, videos, and other forms of content that explain how to make content—It’s rather meta if you think about it. Is all of this content a good thing or a bad thing? How can we cut through the clutter? I’m not really sure that I have the answer to either of these questions, but if I did, then I would likely be writing a book right now instead of a blog post.

A Critical Analysis

Clearly there is value in content marketing, but it seems like the push is for everyone and their brother to be blogging nowadays. Is this really necessary to remain competitive in today’s business world? Companies like HubSpot, Marketo, Zerys, and organizations like the Content Marketing Institute produce a flood of content promoting the practice of content marketing, because they have a lot to gain from companies jumping on the bandwagon. Namely, that people will buy their content and software. My point in saying all of this, is that just because there is a crowd of corporate voices shouting all at once, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of their practices are for everyone. Continuously pumping out blogs may not necessarily be realistic or relevant for certain companies. It works well for companies like HubSpot because their company provides service in the broad domain of digital marketing. What about companies that offer a small range of products with straightforward value? Certainly producing content that offers value to the customer could possibly help drive their company forward, but I’m not so certain that a one-size-fits-all approach is the best when it comes to content marketing. Why? Because businesses are unique entities that have different needs, values, and capabilities. They should implement a content marketing strategy that caters best to their goals and abilities.

Some Important Takeaways

I could sit here and create a list of tips on how to create an effective content marketing strategy, but that is what everyone else is doing, and I would prefer not to add to the clutter (even if it’s a venture that is futile). Instead, I’ll leave you with a few of the most basic and essential takeaways that I have gathered in conducting my research. These are universal ideas that companies should consider when developing a content marketing strategy.

The first, is that value is key. It is extremely important not to create content for the sake of creating content. If you create meaningless content for the sake of increasing your online presence, then all you are doing is adding to the sea of clutter—and consumers will see right through you or ignore you altogether. Part of the problem with content marketing today seems to be that there is too much content and not enough value.

In attempting to create value, having a campaign that is focused is essential. Part of creating value for customers means that content must remain focused in more than one way. It must focus on a particular target market and focus on a particular need or interest of that target market. Sending out a grapeshot of content to the masses means less relevant content for everyone involved and a loss of potential conversions.

Finally, in the endeavor to create value, strategy and direction are important. You need a plan and a direction for your content, not only to create value, but also to create quality content. In fact, according to Content Harmony’s trends for 2015, it’s possible that we could see a rise use of serial content, which seems to be pretty effective at getting consumers’ attention. This refers to a series of related content that is released periodically, almost like a TV show. Serial content and other pieces of effective content require strategy and direction just like any other successful campaign on the planet.

Cutting through the clutter and creating value is not necessarily easy, but it certainly can lead to remarkable results for your inbound marketing campaign. I definitely don’t have all of the answers when it comes to content marketing and I likely have raised more questions than I have answers. But nonetheless, hopefully you found my content to be valuable.

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