(and … Can it Really Help My Business?)

We’ve heard the term “content marketing” thrown around for the past few years at conferences, on business self-help websites and by vendors. The question is, is content marketing a valuable strategy or is it just another buzzword?

The answer here at Discover Publications is that it’s such a valuable tool, we’re embarking on a renewed effort to use the strategy in our own business. We’ve made the decision that content marketing is not only cost-effective, it’s an authentic, honest way to share experience to ultimately “prove it in the marketplace.” Further, content marketing is an effective way to communicate across many digital channels.

content-marketing-pictureHow We Define Content Marketing

At Discover Publications, content marketing is the process of creating relevant, quality content that helps attract clients or further engages existing clients. We will do this through regular, continuous communication where we share expertise and information to “prove it” in the marketplace. Great written and visual content dispersed among several online channels will lead to people being more comfortable working with us when they seek outside assistance to solve their problems and build their businesses.

So, let’s break this down into some more easily digested chunks, beginning with the word “relevant.”

Relevance is Audience

If you want your content to be meaningful and targeted, you need to identify (and know) your audience. At Discover we identified our audience generally like this:

  • High performing small business owners
  • Businesses that are actively marketing and open to doing more online
  • Businesses that operate in the context of a well-defined geography
  • Businesses that see the value in marketing that places them at the center of that geography in a community-minded manner

In order to keep this piece relevant to a broader audience, the bullets above are not all-inclusive and are overly general. A few questions to get you started on identifying your audience so that you create relevant content:

  • What industry are you in?
  • What are some of the characteristics of your best existing clients?
  • In your sales and existing marketing efforts, who are targeting to become clients?

Quality Content

Quality may be different things to different people, but we know it when we see it – and we really know it when we see those less than stellar efforts. Consider video. Does a video you produce need to be Hollywood-production quality? Of course not, but it should be well-framed, in focus and perhaps with a bit of editing. The message of the video should be clear. Is your audience short for time (probably) – then the video should be concise.

What about text? We’re not all budding Hemingways, but if you’re reading this and interested in content marketing, you probably have the chops to post on a blog once or twice a week about things of interest to your audience. You don’t have to write a tome for each post, focus on one concept or theme and simply explain. Develop your own voice. Proof read, and then proof read again. If you’re a one-person shop, this is even more critical. While online readers have gotten used to the stray typo or mispelling, quality written content should flow without readers getting hung up on a sentence that contains two stray words from it’s original version or an obvious misspelling.

Quality written content also contains things like bulleted lists, headings and the like. These devices break up the narrative for folks, especially in a longer post like this one.

Engagement

The next part of our definition is basically about engagement. On one level, as businesses, our audience consists of two major groups – existing clients and potential clients. Some of the content we create may be geared to people already using our products or services. For instance, at Discover, we have many clients for whom we publish a monthly community newspaper aimed at specific neighborhoods. For those clients, we might do a blog post or video detailing the key things to look for when approving or editing a proof from our team. This content may also be of interest to a prospective client, in that it demonstrates a bit about how we do business.

On the other hand, we could do a blog post that is about a subject of interest in our industry. This very post is an example. This sort of content is hopefully of interest to prospects and existing clients and has ties to our own digital service offerings.

Engagement is also sharing your expertise to “prove it” in the marketplace. A common goal for many content marketers is to establish themselves or their clients as “thought leaders” in their field. Herein lies a key point. As you share your expertise – even to the extent of seemingly “giving things away” – you are letting the world know, “I know what I’m talking about.” Ultimately, establishing this expertise makes it easier for that potential customer to engage with your business. Establishing yourself or your company as an authority is a first step in establishing the trust that will help you build a lasting business relationship in the future.

All the Channels

The last part of our definition is a nod to the fact that the information landscape is a lot more cluttered than it used to be. Not only do people have more choices in where to get their information; they often have the ability to decide whether they’re going to read that article or watch the two-minute accompanying video. If you have a message that you want to cut through all the clutter, you have to consider spreading it on as many channels as possible.

The way we do things at Discover is set our blog – which you are reading from now – as our ‘homebase.’ Our subject today, (what is content marketing), lends itself to an article format, so we produced the text you’re reading. Blog, channel one, is covered. The only people this will reach however, are those who subscribe to our blog’s RSS feed or otherwise check in occaisionally. So, we get the word out about this post on our other social channels – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. If we were concerned about the information in the post being consumed by video-first folks, we’d create a quick YouTube video.

The channels are the types of communication as well as the means or services by which we communicate. Content marketers use as many channels as possible, making it easier for their work to get to their audience.

Next Steps

Whether you’re a seasoned content marketer or still kicking the tires on the concept, use the comments below to add to the discussion. What do you think of Discover’s content marketing definition? Are you blogging or heavily using social media to promote your expertise? What works and what doesn’t work?

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Dayna Rothman’s offerings at Lynda.com regarding content marketing.  You should also watch this space! We’ll be writing about topics related to content creation and content marketing and other useful things in the very near future.