A popular online buzzword right now is “content marketing.” The phrase is mentioned so frequently that I can’t help but recall the song lyrics by Harry Nilsson – “Everybody’s talkin’ at me, but I don’t hear a word they’re saying / Only the echoes of my mind.” Everybody is talking about content marketing and why it matters, but not many people have paused to consider what content marketing truly is and how it can best serve your business.
Content marketing is different than advertising. Content marketing is a way to interact with your current and potential customers through channels you own, without overtly selling anything. Content marketing is non-interruption marketing featured on earned media such as your website, and your buyers and prospects are choosing to opt-in. The underlying strategy in content marketing is to consistently deliver valuable information to your audience, with the goal of providing quality content that builds your brand and relationships with your customers. Content marketing offers your customers information that makes them more intelligent, with the belief that over time, customers will benefit from your expertise and reward you with their loyalty.Advertising, on the other hand, is typically paid for and featured on channels you do not own. It’s typically shared on paid media (i.e. channels that you’re paying to be featured on), and while on some level, advertising strives to build relationships between the customer and the brand, most advertising content is targeted to entice the customer to buy or act in some way. In other words, advertising is typically meant to drive action, whereas the intention of content marketing is to build relationships.
Permission marketing, a part of content marketing, is the act of delivering anticipated and relevant content to people who actually want to receive this information. For example, emailing people who have signed up for your email newsletter is permission marketing. Including relevant information in that newsletter for your customers, without offering coupon codes or “click to buy” buttons, is permision marketing. Permission marketing, while likely reaching a smaller audience than other marketing efforts, is typically highly effective because you’re reaching an audience who is ready to buy from you, or at least listen to you.
Now that we know what content marketing actually is, let’s discuss whose job it is to direct content strategy and distribution tactics. At the core of your content marketing efforts should be useful information, and that useful information can come from anywhere. IT, recruiting, R&D and operations can all provide insights into data your company is gathering, fluctuations in trends, market forecasting and more. However, the majority of highly-relevant content marketing should come from sales and – you guessed it – the marketing department. As the owners of customer relationships, it is the responsibility of the sales and marketing teams to work together to deeply understand client needs and act accordingly via content marketing efforts.
Content marketing must be thought-provoking, helpful and most of all, relevant. By providing great content to your customers and prospective customers, you are building your reputation as a subject matter expert and personifying your company. Content marketing also helps to grow your relationships with customers, and while there are no shortcuts to doing this, taking the long way is always worth it.