What is Content Marketing?

February 27, 2024
What is Content Marketing?

As a marketing professional, I use the term, "content marketing" multiple times a day. Rarely have I ever paused to think that some people may not understand what content marketing is. Let me take a moment to add some clarity to this question, why it is so important to consumers, and how it impacts the growth of businesses. 

What is Content? 

Content = Information

Information = any words, pictures, videos, audio, or pieces of data that convey ideas

What is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing is the process from planning to creating to the publication of content and then the distribution of that content via channels such as social media, blogs, websites, podcasts, apps, press releases, print publications, and more.

The goal is to reach your target audience and increase brand awareness, sales, engagement, and loyalty.  

The History of Content Marketing 

Before we dive in further, let's look at where content marketing has been and what it looked like before the Internet/ digital era.

Brands, companies, entrepreneurs, people -- they've all been doing some form of content marketing for hundreds of years. It's primarily been some type of storytelling, but hey, isn't storytelling the best way to connect with your audience?

Although content marketing grew exponentially once the internet took off, it is a lot older than the Internet. Aside from HubSpot, one of my favorite thought leadership resources is the Content Marketing Institute, and their article The History of Content Marketing. provides some examples of early content marketing:

1732 -- Benjamin Franklin first published the yearly Poor Richard's Almanack intending to promote his printing business.

1801 -- Bookstore Librairie Galignani employs creative content strategies to grow its business, including opening a reading room and printing a newspaper that featured articles from influential authors and books

1888 -- Johnson & Johnson launched a publication called "Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment" which is aimed at the needs of doctors to whom the company sold bandages. They also launched two publications to share helpful articles with the medical community. 

Content marketing has been around for a VERY long time, yet its influence and use hasn't diminished. In fact, it has increased exponentially. 

Content Marketing in the Internet /Digital Era

As of May 2023:

  • 86% of consumers get answers to their questions via search engines,
  • 53% search for answers on social media, and
  • 35% use AI chatbots. 

(The end of 2022 to early 2023 is when Openai launched ChatGPT and took our world by storm. The traction gained by ChatGPT, and chatbots since that time has increased beyond the numbers shown above.)

From these numbers, we know that the Internet is where consumers are going to look for answers, and this is where we should be sharing information to be considered part of their solution. 

Unfortunately, content marketing isn't as easy as "If you build it they will come."  An organization must communicate the same message multiple times, in multiple places, and in multiple ways to resonate with multiple groups of people. 

Why is Content Marketing Important to Business Growth?

Content marketing is an essential element for business growth as it enhances brand visibility, creates trust with audiences, and improves search engine rankings. When a brand engages and educates potential customers and existing clients through content marketing, it attracts organic traffic and supports conversion by guiding the audience through the buying journey. It is a strategy that supports other digital marketing efforts and is cost-effective for small to medium-sized businesses seeking long-term returns.

Most importantly, content marketing positions a brand as an industry leader which leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. 

What Does it Take to Implement Content Marketing?

A content marketing strategy.

There is a lot of groundwork to cover to implement content marketing correctly. Just as the story of the wise man and the foolish man shows, how you build your foundation directly correlates with the results you will achieve.

Here are seven elements to creating your content marketing strategy:

  1. Define your goals and organize them by priority. It may seem obvious, but clearly stating your goals for a content marketing strategy is essential to its success. Knowing your goals before you begin planning will aid in determining what is best for your strategy.

  2. Define Your Target Audience. You need to know who your audience is, what their pain points are, and how your product or service helps to solve those pain points. During your research, collect data and analyze it to find patterns. You'll find over time that you'll collect more data. Use this data to refine your audience and their needs even further.

  3. Audit your existing content. Auditing your content will provide several advantages. You will learn what content is and isn't working. This data will help guide what topics you should address, and what you can stay away from (or what needs to be revised).

    Find gaps and opportunities by keeping track of what content you review by recording page titles, the format, summaries, etc. You may find that since you developed older content, a new format (video, podcasts, etc) has increased in popularity among consumers. This is an opportunity to share your message on other platforms. 

  4. Select a content management system (CMS). A content management system is software that helps users create, manage, and modify the content of a website without needing technical help. Examples are HubSpot, WordPress, Wix, and Drupal. There are many more, but this gives you a good idea of what a CMS is. 

  5. Determine which content you will create. There are so many options available when selecting what type of content you will create. Review your persona and your goals, and most importantly, assess what type of resources you have available. How big is your team? Do they have time to create content? What is their skill set? What is your budget? The answers to these questions will greatly impact the content you will create. 

  6. Brainstorm and collaborate content ideas. Using a combination of your content audit and what you know about your audience and your resources, take some time to sit with various stakeholders in your company and brainstorm different ideas for upcoming content projects.

  7. Publish and manage your content. Your plan for content marketing should include a content calendar that shows the production schedule for new content as well as updates to existing content. With each piece of content, optimize it for reach. Don't forget to track and analyze your content's performance. The data you gather from this will help you to refine your content marketing strategy and to optimize your content production process.

Bringing It Home

When you hear marketers talk about content marketing, it’s not just about the anxiety of having to produce a catchy one-liner or new product tagline. These strategies sufficed in the “Mad Men” days and could complete your marketing initiatives for that quarter, but today’s marketing landscape requires more.

Quality, effective content creation is a full commitment that takes time, resources, and careful consideration of your current brand, target, and goals. If you are ready to use content to rank higher in search engines, to inform prospects, to illustrate your company culture, to increase brand awareness, and to delight and engage customers (and much much more), the good news is that you have taken the first step. 

Don’t stop here though. You’re ready for the next step. Download our E-book below now to learn more about the “Content Monster,” or reach out on our contact form!
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Author Bio

Mollie is a digital marketing enthusiast who thrives on creativity and innovation. Her insights into digital marketing help businesses navigate the complexities of the digital world. Beyond marketing, Mollie finds her greatest joy in spending time and making memories with her family.