Friendly Advice
Nov 27, 2020

Content Marketing: Explained

Katie Sabel

If you’re new to content marketing, you might be a bit confused. People keep talking about websites, blog posts, and social media… since when did those have anything to do with promoting a product?? Isn’t marketing supposed to be done with things like ads and coupons?

Let’s start from the beginning. Marketing is, at its core, about selling things. If you want a more formal definition, the American Marketing Association (AMA) defines it as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” 

So, by the AMA’s definition, marketing is direct. You have a product, you offer it to people who might want to buy it, and you profit. Enter: content marketing. Where marketing is specific and concise, content marketing is longer and indirect. In fact, a lot of the time it won’t even specifically promote any one brand. The point is to draw in customers in a different way- by using common interests and related content to your advantage.

So, without any further ado, let’s get into the heart of it. Here is how content marketing works, and why you should join the movement.

How Content Marketing Works

If someone asked you what you were interested in, what would you answer? If you’re like us, then your answer is probably going to vary depending on who you’re talking to. For example, in a job interview you might lead with your love of painting, but with your friends, you might profess your love for a niche video game. 

Say you’re with friends, and you start talking about video games. As you discuss the video game, it reminds another friend of a television show that they love. After a minute, you realize that you both watch the same show, and start talking about it. 

So what? Well, this concept of varied interests and related topics is crucial for content marketing. People are interested in a lot of things, and oftentimes, specific groups will share multiple interests. Ergo, if you’re selling a product, your customers are going to be interested in other products or services as well.

Part 1: Asking the Right Questions

A person with a magnifying glass identifies a relevant audience of five people for their content marketing strategy.
Besides just “who is my audience,” questions you’ll want to ask include: “what does my audience have in common? What do they like?”

If you’re familiar with marketing, you’ll remember that it’s all about figuring out your audience and making your material appealing to them. The kinds of questions you might ask include “Why does my audience need this?” and “How is our product different from other products?”

In content marketing, we take this notion and flip it around. Instead of asking questions about how to best entice our audience to buy our product, we focus on questions that will help us get to know our audience. We might ask questions like “if my audience is buying (x), what else might they be interested in?” and “if my audience is (x demographic), what would they want to read about?”

Now, you might be wondering why this is useful. After all, how are people going to know to buy a product if you never mention it? Well, think about it this way. Say you’re trying to sell vacuums. If you only advertise to people who currently want to buy a vacuum, your amount of customers will be very small. However, if you advertise to people who think their current vacuum is inefficient, your amount of potential customers will get bigger.

Or, if you try content marketing and run a blog about, say, the science of vacuums, or cool vacuuming hacks, your amount of potential customers will become much bigger.

Part 2: Picking Out Keywords

A person with a magnifying glass picks out keywords such as "science" and "technology" as keywords that their audience would be interested in
Once you’ve answered the questions about your audience, it’s time to find commonalities. Where does your audience agree? Do they share any one interest?

With that idea of broad outreach in mind, let’s break down the logistics of content marketing. We know that people have multiple interests, right? Well, the trick is to figure out which keywords most pertain to your product’s audience. 

Let’s take vacuum sales again. Some people’s interests might be more niche than others. The people buying vacuums can range anywhere from suburban households, to hotel suppliers who need room service upgrades. That’s a lot of people! 

However, we can also look at interests more simply. Maybe the most common overlap between different vacuum buyers is actually other cleaning products. So, even though you’re a vacuum brand, in this case you’d want to post content that involves keywords like “window cleaner,” “dust buster,” “mop,” etc. 

What’s more, content marketing works just as well with niche subjects. In our vacuum example, if you know hotel suppliers are interested, you could do an article on motel cleaning. Or, for younger buyers, you could write an article about keeping a college dorm room clean. The keywords might become more specific here, like “dorm room,” or “room service.” For maximum effect, you could even post both articles!

So, while your keywords and subjects might vary from article to article, all that matters is that they’re easily findable by your target audience. How do we make sure that people see it? Simple: we accomplish this through search engine optimization (SEO). Basically, we make sure to write articles with search in mind (repeating keywords, adding relevant tags, etc). Then, all that’s left is to post the article, sit back, and relax! Once the interested parties discover your article, they’ll click on it and bring a ton of new traffic to your website. 

Content Marketing + the Power of Sharing

Two people share successful content marketing pieces via their smartphones
With the growing popularity of social media, sharing is now easier than ever! This is great news for word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.

If you’re familiar with marketing, you might be familiar with viral marketing. Even if you don’t know it by name, you’ve definitely seen it in action. The Superbowl is a prime example. Superbowl ads take up a coveted spot for customer reach-  the Superbowl has roughly a hundred million views each year. 

If you’ve seen the Superbowl, you’ll also know that the ads there are completely different from ads on normal television. An ad on television might be 30 seconds long, and it’d probably tell you exactly what you need to know: price, the dates (if it's a specific promotion), and any special terms or conditions. 

For an ad during the Superbowl, though, all bets are off. An ad could be comedic, sad, action-packed, or confusing. It might feature celebrities, stunts, CGI, elaborate sets- you name it! 

By increasing the production value on these ads, the companies behind them use viral marketing to take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising. While we might never think to share an ad with our friends normally, ad creators for the Superbowl make it so we just have to share them. Maybe an ad was funny, and a friend sends it to you the next day. Or, maybe you’re a fan of a particular actor, and you see the ad promoted on their social media. Or, maybe you’re one of many who enjoy watching superbowl ads as entertainment (as with the 3 million viewers of this “best-of” vid).

The truth of marketing is this: we like to be entertained, and we don’t always love to be sold to. That’s why content marketing is so effective! By curating blog posts about your audience’s interests, you’ll be able to hold their attention for a lot longer than through direct advertising. 

Plus, content marketing can help you take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing, too! If we’re more likely to share Superbowl ads than regular ads, then the same is true of articles. If you produce a good article, who knows- maybe it’ll remind a reader of someone they know, and they’ll start spreading the word for you!

Key Take-Away’s

Two content marketers share their notes on how to create a successful content marketing strategy
Don’t worry- if you haven’t been taking notes, we won’t fault you for it. Continue reading below for our overview of content marketing.

So what’s content marketing all about? Well, everyone’s got interests. If we cater to those general interests rather than just their interest in our product, then we’ll gain more customers. Not only that, but we can also create greater customer retention through brand loyalty than by selling a single product at a time. 

Through these blog posts, we can provide value before a customer is interested in our product. So, if they end up buying our product, they know that we’ll have value afterward, too. Months down the road, maybe they’ll think of us when a friend needs a recommendation. Or, maybe they’ll be first in line when a related product is released in the future. 

By making our content consumer-driven, we’re able to better form a lasting relationship with our customers. After all, we might not sell just one vacuum, and they are not just a vacuum buyer. We’ve both got a lot more going for us, and with content marketing, we can use that to our mutual advantage.