All too often, people confuse a corporate blog with a content marketing program. So often, in fact, that I regularly find myself in conversations that go something like this:
- Client: We need to do content marketing.
- DW: That’s great! Do you have a business goal in mind?
- Client: …
- DW: No problem, tell us why are you considering content?
- Client: Well, everyone has a blog, so we should too.
There’s a certain logic in this argument I can’t completely refute. If your competition is doing something, and you think it’s helping their business, then perhaps you should take their lead and try it too.
On the other hand, blogging without a goal or objective in mind is a mistake. So is assuming that a blog is what content marketing is all about.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined 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.” Simply put, elements of content can be anything from a photo posted on facebook, to blogs to white papers and many things in between. A content program includes much of this and so much more.
The very definition of content marketing has many important elements that every company should consider when evaluating a content marketing strategy:
- Strategic: Rather than blogging for the sake of blogging, develop a strategy for how you’ll use content marketing to help your business meet a goal.
- Creating: Remember that content marketing is all about creating something for your customers. It’s a creative endeavor so have fun with it.
- Distributing: Having an idea for content is one thing, deciding how it will get into the hands of your customer is another. One option is to use a blog to distribute your ideas, but also consider other channels.
- Valuable and relevant: Everything created should be developed with the customer in mind. If they have no use for it, what’s the point? As you create content ask yourself if they’ll find it interesting, useful/helpful or fun — if the answer is no, rethink that content.
- Consistent: One piece of content does not a content marketing program make. A good content strategy takes into account the available budget and resources to build a consistent content stream.
- Attract and retain: Marketers think of their audience as a funnel, where a bunch of people enter at the top as prospective customers and a smaller amount come out the bottom as customers. Content should be used to both attract the people at the top, and nurture those in the middle somewhere, as well as retain those who have decided to buy.
- Clearly-defined audience: Understanding your customer is imperative. By knowing them as well as you know the back of your hand, you can deliver content they actually want.
- Drive profitable customer action: Content should help make a business stronger. Sure, a profitable customer action could be an actual purchase, but it could also be retaining a customer or nurturing them closer to a purchase. Think about what action you hope a piece of content will deliver and use that information to both create that content and decide how you’ll market it.
Each of these points to a marketing program much deeper than a blog.
A blog is just one tactic that should be considered when developing a content marketing strategy. Other tactics include e-books or whitepapers, webinars, marketing automation/email nurturing programs, video, infographics, Slideshare, social media, PR, native advertising, case studies, newsletters, influencer marketing, microsites or landing pages, SEO, podcasts, print magazines and surveys.
The first step to creating a great content marketing program is figuring out your goals, resources and budget you have to work with, and what types of content your audience will find useful. With that information, develop a strategy that considers all possible tactics to deliver useful content, on budget, with measurable goals in mind.
Who knows, that may lead to a blog. But it also might not, and that’s ok.