What Everyone Is Getting Wrong About “Content Marketing”

content marketing is marketing

I find it curious how people tend to focus on the “content” in “content marketing” a whole lot more than the latter word.

And the word “content” always seems to be associated with frivolity. It instantly brings to mind spammy listicles and fun blog posts that we love to read, but just aren’t very serious or work-like. Stuff that attracts eyeballs, you know, but are only vaguely connected to the bottom-line.

content marketing business
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound very business-y to me, mate.”

This is especially so in Asian companies, which tend to be very focused on dollar signs. I’ve met clients who expect to see “some results” within a week of launching their blog. After all, companies like Buffer and Crew have managed to throw some articles up and receive a whole lot of referral traffic in return. Why can’t we?

This Isn’t Content Marketing

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s establish that content has always been a part of marketing. TV advertisements are made up of words and visuals, which are “content.” Pamphlets are made up of words and visuals, which are “content.” Facebook posts are made up of words and visuals, which are “content.”

You get the idea.

When we refer to “content marketing,” though, there is something specific we have in mind. We think about virality. We think Buzzfeed. We think, put some memes and GIFs and lists together and we’ve got an award-winning blog post on our hands. We’ve got all the traffic we need to sell to for the rest of our days. Time to book that flight to the Maldives.

And yes, you might have a real winner right there that sends everyone on a sharing frenzy. But not for long. Here’s what your graph will probably end up looking like:

evergreen content

The solution? Why, create more “content,” of course! Keep those spikes going on and on forever!

Sadly, that’s not going to happen. Buzzsumo’s analysis of 1 million articles says all:

  • 50% of randomly selected posts received 8 shares or less
  • 75% of these posts received 39 shares or less
  • 75% of these posts achieved zero referring domain links

That spike there? An anomaly. A blip. Might not ever happen again.

That’s not content marketing. That’s generic junk. That’s the stuff that content farms rear and hawk on a dark and gloomy Monday evening, when you feel just about depressed enough to try anything.

What Content Marketing Is

Far from just being excellent writers, the best content marketers are masters of the funnel (I hate that word, but it’s a good way to track results nonetheless). They create both content and processes tailored to bring visitors through from brand awareness to becoming loyal users.

That’s because content marketing isn’t about that one-hit wonder. It’s all about the long-game, as Morgan Freeman says in Now You See Me 2.

Content marketing is brand marketing. When you write guest posts or get quoted and featured on publications sharing domain knowledge, readers will (slowly) begin to see you and your company as leaders in that particular space.

You develop a content brand.

That’s how Buffer became synonymous with social media. That’s why Airbnb and Uber are always uttered in the same breath as the sharing economy.

Jay Acunzo puts it superbly:

“Content marketing is just solving the same customer problems as your product but through media you create and distribute.”

Your product, Jay elaborates, solves problems for your customers. You know it’s doing just that when money starts rolling in.

The same goes for your content. When your article series helps readers to know more about insurance, they’ll remember your brand name when they’re thinking about buying some.

Content marketing is email marketing. It is important to keep your email list up to date to avoid high bounce rates, low engagement, and potentially damaging your sender reputation. Zerobounce free verifier can help to improve the accuracy of your email marketing campaigns and increase your ROI.

Enter drip campaigns. Enter curated collections. Your readers subscribed because they loved that particular article or ebook they just read. Give them more, give them the best, satisfy them! And just as your content solves their problems again and again, show them how your product can solve their problems, too.

That’s where the bottom-line comes in, businessman.

I Could Go On And On…

But I’ve made my point. Content marketing isn’t “just content.”

It’s about finding out who your audience—potential customers—wants to become, and empowering them to be just that, while at the same time capturing and holding their attention in a media-saturated world.

It’s about building your brand narrative around that—becoming the champion for your audience—and in so doing so, creating a loyal community that pushes on ahead of you.

Content marketing IS marketing.

(Update in 2019: wrote a new blog post with more recent thoughts on why content marketing does not work for many companies today. In short, a similar misconception of what content marketing is)

Images from FlickrPexelsBuffer


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