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What in the Actual F**** is Content Marketing?

If you’ve asked yourself some version of this question in the past, you are not alone, my friend. Marketing seems to be an enigma amongst professionals from every industry (Sometimes even our own.) From afar, it might look like it’s all fun and games. Or arts and crafts. And while many of us are particularly right-brained, when you look a little closer, marketing is a science that is just as convoluted as any other. 

There’s traditional, inbound, outbound, search engine, influencer, account-based, acquisition, and about 34 other types of marketing (according to HubSpot, and we trust them because we don’t want to count). But in our very humble opinion, some of the older forms of marketing are becoming less effective by the minute. And yet, content is still king (or queen). Why? Because instead of throwing products and services in your audience’s face, content marketing provides truly relevant, helpful, and engaging information to buyers with one simple goal: helping them make the best decision. Nice, right?

But that brings us back to the question at hand. WTF is content marketing?

Content Marketing Defined

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and train a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Meaning, instead of selling your product or service (because being salesy is so last year), you’re educating people on why your product or service is the best fit for them. And you’re establishing yourself as an industry expert. And your cultivating trust with your consumers. And you’re creating a delightful experience that keeps people coming back again and again. Picking up what we’re putting down?

What Does “Content” Mean, Exactly?

Content refers to any intentional, engaging, and relevant information you put out into the universe. Sure, it’s blog posts. But it’s also social media messages, emails, infographics, webinars, videos, eBooks, case studies, and everything in between. 

But here’s the catch: not all content is created equally. If your content marketing strategy is going to be successful, you have to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Think of it as the marketing “golden rule.” 

So how do you do that? By mapping your content to the buyer’s journey. This is the path every stranger to your brand takes when becoming a customer. The more helpful and relevant your content is along the way, the more likely you are to convert a total stranger into a delighted customer. 

Breaking Down the Buyer’s Journey

Awareness The first stage of the buyer’s journey is awareness. Obviously, if people don’t know who you are, they can’t buy from you. This is where the concept of “brand awareness” comes from – making efforts to meet your desired audience where they are and to show up often and consistently enough that you become recognizable. 

Awareness stage content looks like:

  • Websites
  • PPC ads
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

Consideration Once you’ve made people aware of your brand, it’s time to start educating them about the best possible solutions to their problem. It’s possible that at this point they aren’t even able to verbalize what their problem is. For example, you know you need more leads, but you don’t know how to go about getting them. (Hint: This article is consideration stage content aimed at helping you determine whether content marketing is the answer to that question for your business. Meta, I know.) At this stage, you want to answer your prospect’s questions and give them the tools they need to solve their problem. 

Consideration stage content looks like:

  • Blog posts
  • Email campaigns
  • eBooks and guides
  • Infographics 
  • Checklists

Decision Once your prospect has determined which solution is right for them, it’s time to pick a partner. If you did your job in the awareness and consideration stages, they already know and like you. They’re familiar with your products and already know you know your stuff. Now it’s time to get them to trust you (and to click that “buy” button).

Decision stage content looks like:

  • Case studies
  • Vendor comparisons
  • Whitepapers/reports
  • Demos

How It Works

Hopefully, this is obvious by now, but let’s reiterate. Showing up where your potential customers are and leading them through the process of determining their problem, considering their options, and making a decision with un-salesy, helpful, relevant, and timely content will help them to know, like, and trust you. 

Of course, showing up is easier said than done. That’s where other marketing strategies – like search engine optimization, reputation management, and advertising come into play. We show you how all those moving pieces fit together in this quick and dirty guide

TL;DR?

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