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What Exactly Is Content Marketing?

The headline of this post may seem a bit odd since everyone knows what content marketing is. I mean, it’s all we’ve been talking about for the last few years. It started with rallying cries like “content is king” and more recently it’s even evolved into its very own form of marketing known as “content marketing.”

what is content marketing

photo credit: eyesore9 via photopin cc

But think about it for a minute – what is it really?

Is content marketing a blog post, an eBook, an infographic?

Is it a thing? Or is it, as I would like to suggest, a behavior? More frame of mind than set of tactics. More what it does than what it is.

For today’s post I would like to suggest a somewhat different way of defining the expanding role of content in marketing in whatever shape and form it ultimately takes.

If we begin to think about our use of content not so much for what it looks like but for what purpose it serves, perhaps the strategic aspect of content in marketing won’t seem so vague and unformed.

The following six applications of content may help anyone doubting the fact that content marketing isn’t just a thing – it’s THE thing – to realize how deeply content has moved into the DNA of every business and every buying decision.

Content marketing is an expectation

Today’s prospect fully expects to be able to turn to a search engine or social network and dig up the answers, or at least a data set, to every challenge, problem or need they encounter.

In turn, they then fully expect to find a rich fountain of content specific to the organizations and products they begin to consider as the solution to these challenges. They’ve grown to expect the company itself as well as customers, networks, partners and the media to be the source of this content.

Content marketing creates awareness

In many cases a prospect’s first exposure to an organization comes not from a slick :60 second ad but from an obscure blog post on a very specific topic of interest turned up in a series of search engine inquiries.

Building a library of content that reaches into these very corners of search is the essence of inbound marketing.

Content in this form starts the a prospect on their journey of discovery.

Content marketing builds trust

In the inbound world, trust is pretty much everything. Obviously, the end game is that they ultimately trust the product, service, organization or solution they seek will address their needs, but the first line of trust is often formed based on the content they find or don’t find.

How an organization make the complex simple through content. How an organization demonstrates their expertise? How an organization maintains their reputation online?

These are the questions that content from both marketing and sales can address on the way to either building or eroding trust.

Content marketing provides proof

Ever since prospects learned that just about any claim an organization makes can be supported or contested with a simple search, the need to build content that offers proof of results blossomed.

Getting at customer success stories in ways that describe the heart of what really matters is an all important form of necessary content.

Content marketing is a customer service tool

Twitter has become a public facing customer service tool for good or bad and with it comes an entirely new level of service based content.

Content that teaches customers how to get more, how you really care for your customers, how to fix problems and how to find the answers to common challenges and functions has become a utility that must be planned and executed with great care.

Content marketing is a referral tool

Once of the greatest stumbling blocks to referrals is the lack of a tangible referral tool to point to other than a website or brochure.

With the right mindset marketers can use a popular education based eBook or seminar as a way to get introduced to a strategic partner’s entire customer base.

With this somewhat expanded view of content marketing in mind, how might might think about creating a content system that serves every fundamental use mentioned above?

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