What is content marketing?

According to Forbes  and the Content Marketing Institute,

                            Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable,                                 relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience –                                 with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The above referenced Forbes article went on to describe the types of ‘content’ that might fall under the ‘valuable, relevant and consistent’ umbrella including blogs, info graphics, videos and books. But such broad strokes may not spark the kinds of unique ideas you’ll need to have to go on to create high quality content for your site that will help draw customers and increase conversion rates.

As Aaron Agius at SEMRush writes:
“[…] the challenge is this: how can you get your content to stand out amidst the endless stream of content being published online?”

I ask myself a version of Agius’ question every day, and I imagine you probably do too.  So, rather than define content marketing by what it is in an objective sense, what I’ll attempt to do here is breakdown some examples of how it can be done to get you started at a high level.  It is useful to remember that your content is not just a gimmick, but instead is part of the pipeline apparatus that is going to take a willing customer from interest in your product or service to actually making a purchase.Your goal with content is to create interest in your service or product, while also making clear what you want visitors to your site to do and how they can do it. For example, on this site, I want to share with you ways improve your site’s digital presence.  I encourage you to get in touch, respond, join my mailing list, etc. – all of which you can do by clicking contact AP Consulting .

GoPro’s use of content as part of their pipeline is particularly clever. And while GoPro is at a serious advantage both because their product is a camera, which can be used in their content creation, and also because their product is already perceived as cool and fun, there are still elements of their marketing content which can be utilized by other companies. If you go to their main page, you can select an option that says ‘shop by activity
What is striking is how GoPro has already intuited the needs of their customer base. They know that people who buy their cameras and accessories run the gamut from Sidney Crosby crazed NHL fans, to kids having pool parties, to surfers etc. GoPro uses its content to show it can anticipate how you might actually use their camera. Additionally, they show you exactly what you’d need and how much it might cost in order to emulate the experience.  Next to each video is a prepared ‘bundle’, which is really just an equipment package that includes everything used in the video.  The assumption by GoPro is that since you are on their site, presumably you enjoy some of these activities.  And furthermore, since you enjoy these activities, they are going to show you how to enhance your already awesome experience when you go wake-boarding, rock climbing, fishing etc., by using their products.

An example of how it can still be possible to intuit customer needs, albeit in a less flashy way, can be by providing similar information on the possibilities of your product in a blog (which will generally have a more immediately positive effect on your SEO as search engines tend to search text for keywords). If you go to Enlightened’s website and click on their blog at the top, you will learn about all sorts of things you can do with their ice cream and their snack products. Now what would make this particular piece of content even better, is if the store locator (which is on the front page of the website) was also located on the blog page. That way at the moment a potential customer would be looking at their chocolate cream pie recipe, that same customer could also take action to see where exactly to buy the necessary Enlightened products to make it happen. That being said, it might busy the page too much. As it is the page is interesting and clear.  (And in my case, the page makes me hungry for ice cream – which is the point).  These are the types of decisions you’ll have to make when organizing your content – sometimes, less really is more.

So what I’m now about to describe is a case of ‘when you know the rules, you can break a few of them.’
Chubbies is a shorts company, mostly for men but they also do a few shorts and swimsuits for women. Arguably, they have re-written the book on content marketing . And they do some pretty unorthodox things. For example, they write emails where the ‘friendly from’ includes Oh Farts and Kareem Chubdul-Jabbar among others. To quote co-founder Tom Montgomery, ‘we think about our content the same way comedy central would think about it, or Jimmy Fallon’. And that makes sense because their content, including a lot of their website copy, is pretty goofy and fun. Many clothing brands focus on a lifestyle, but it could be argued that Chubbies focuses on a worldview.   Indeed they even have a manifesto on the first page of their website detailing what they ‘believe’.  If you share in that worldview, and your buddies share in that worldview, then it stands to reason that you are going to want their shorts – right? It’s a bit of a leap, which is why I’ve called it ‘going rogue’, but if you are able to be clever and really hit home a specific message, it can be quite effective. What works for them is what they’ve described as ‘making their customer the hero’. For example, and there are many examples on their website and social media, they utilize user generated photos as part of their marketing material. Often, they simply tidy them up and add a caption. This helps them create/maintain a community, gives customers a tangible reason to post material, and makes customers feel valued. Indeed, it could be argued that with their content, they take their customer, himself, and put him right inside the pipeline apparatus that takes him from interest to purchase.

So what does all of this mean for you? Especially if your product or service is something less explicitly exciting like cameras, ice cream or apparently, shorts? All these companies think about their customers and their content in the same breath. They all consider their customer needs and how to fulfill them in such a way that celebrates those who use their product. No matter what your product or service, celebrating your customer using your product is definitely something you can do. And the more you think about content as something that not only gets a clear message across and provides a clear way to do what you want your customer to do, but also as a way of involving your customer, the more successful you will be. Admittedly, this will require some ‘guessing and checking’, but the long term returns will be worth it.

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