Something of a debate has opened up at the office around the exact definition of content marketing. It’s a valid debate; marketers play loose and fast with the term and, technically, almost every marketing effort uses “content” of some description. However, it’s not that simple. The value of Content Marketing lies in its ability to affect a change in a highly non-interruptive way.
There is no hard and fast definition. In fact I have read several definitions and I disagree with elements of all of them. So here’s a personal attempt at defining content marketing for B2B marketers.
Let’s start with some of the common arguments and definitions.
1. Content marketing is non-interruptive: TRUE!
Interruptive marketing spans traditional advertising and promotions, through public relations and telemarketing. It’s generally seen by many as an annoyance with brands shouting for attention. Content marketing is a form of permission marketing designed to attract customers’ attention and establish trust first. You can only do this if your content is seen as delivering value that educates your customers (rather than directly sells to them).
2. If it’s paid media it’s not content marketing: FALSE!
There’s a lot of folks out there who will have you believe that the minute you sign a cheque it’s advertising. This is a sweeping generalization. OK, so the reality is that 99% of paid media today is traditional advertising but remember it’s all about the intent; paid media doesn’t have to be interruptive. If the content meets the goal of earning trust in a non-interruptive way then its content marketing and why not use paid-media to amplify the message. Here’s one of the best examples I have seen this year.
3. All earned media is content marketing: FALSE!
This seems to be one of the biggest traps. There’s a huge difference between content marketing and an ad that’s gone viral over Facebook and YouTube. Yes, Old Spice have killed it with their ads; but while they are funny and highly shareable they are still ads. Their core remit is not to engage, educate or build trust; their product is front and center and each is a one-time campaign effort.
4. Content Marketing is only useful at the thick-end of the lead funnel: FALSE!
Great content marketing is designed to educate and engage prospects, pulling them into your lead funnel in a way that builds trust; so yes, efforts are largely focused on lead generation. However, there’s still value down the line. A good content marketing campaign will fuel your credibility as a thought-leader with leads nearing the point of conversion and even with existing clients (perhaps where you need to protect a price point).
5. Your content has to tell a story: FALSE!
Everyone’s a storyteller these days. It’s de rigueur for brands and marketing teams to define themselves as storytellers. Get over it people, you are not J.K Rowling. Yes, your content is valuable but it’s unlikely to be consumed for pleasure. Yes you need a narrative (you might even need a protagonist) but you don’t need a story arc. So don’t obsess over being a storyteller; the job of good content marketing is to concisely influence an opinion or affect an action in as uninterruptive a way as possible. That means presenting information to your audience in a way that they value. This man says it in ways far better.
So, if I’m going to attempt to sum the practice of B2B content marketing up into a single statement it would go something like this.
Content marketing is non-interruptive. It delivers something that your customers and prospects want to hear, not what you want to tell them. It allows you to be relevant in a way that educates and builds trust. If you do this consistently and honestly you’ll affect a positive customer action.
Let me know what you think. Does this work for your B2B Content Marketing efforts?