Content Marketing Demystified: It Ain’t Rocket Surgery

Content marketing is the hot topic in marketing today. In fact, 83 percent of the B2B companies recently surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute have some sort of content marketing strategy in place. Keep in mind, this is a group that specializes in content marketing, so I suspect their survey respondents may not be representative of the entire B2B universe. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that content marketing is beginning to snowball.

Maybe you’re considering a content marketing strategy. Or maybe you’re considering whether you should consider a content marketing strategy. Or maybe you’re even considering whether you should try to figure out what content marketing is all about. I’m here to help.

Content marketing is really nothing new. I see it as the evolution of what we used to call white paper marketing. White paper marketing has long been a favorite in the B2B technology marketing arsenal. Here’s an example from my days running marketing at Symitar.

For a fee, CUNA (the Credit Union National Association) will send out an email blast to its subscribers filled with content you provide. In the early days of this program, CUNA would only send one vendor email per month, which made it very exclusive. In other words, by locking all of these down a year or longer in advance, I could a) have access to a very attractive audience, and b) keep Fiserv, FIS, HFS and all the others away from this same audience.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch a white paper marketing program. The process was simple. We’d write a compelling white paper – e.g., one on how to run a successful data processing conversion – and promote it through a CUNA eblast. The eblast linked the reader to a landing page designed just for that white paper. The reader was required to provide contact information to download the white paper, and that information was entered into our system as a lead.

This was a very effective program. Every white paper we published was typically downloaded hundreds of times (not bad for the relatively small credit union space), and a good number of closed core deals originated with a white paper download. In short, the program paid for itself many times over.

So why has something as simple as white paper marketing morphed into this beast we call content marketing? Simply stated, everything has gotten bigger. First of all, the list of content types one might produce has exploded. In addition to white papers, you can generate:

  • Blogs (Yes, you are being content-marketed to at this very moment.)

  • E-newsletters

  • Articles

  • E-books

  • Case studies

  • Webinars

  • Podcasts

  • Videos

I’m sure I left something off this list.

Also, thanks to the near-ubiquitous presence of social media, there are now many more ways to promote your content once it’s ready for public consumption. Lastly – and this may be the most important point of all – there is now fantastic technology available to help you track, monitor, guide, and engage people once they’ve accessed your content. Done right, content marketing really is an end-to-end solution.

I’ll probably spend at least a couple more weeks on content marketing, but for now, I’ll leave you with this. Content marketing is soft marketing. It’s not about pitching product; it’s about establishing brand presence and thought leadership. The urge to pitch product at every possible juncture is strong for most marketers. Resist this temptation in your content marketing efforts or you will fail.

That is all.


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© 2015 by John F. San Filippo

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