Content marketing is one of the areas that transcend marketing silos and links into so many other areas such as your website, digital, SEO, social, email etc.
Content marketing also contrasts with what a lot of marketing seems to be about in that brands just talk about and promote themselves all the time.
However, with content marketing, the basic premise is to provide some valuable information or entertainment (content) that stops short of a direct sales pitch or call to action, but which seeks to positively influence the customer in some way.
Content marketing can be seen as marketing through teaching. In other words, teach your audience things and solve their problems, by demonstrating your expertise, and they will come to trust you (and we all know we buy off people we trust).
If you want to build sustainable and strong marketing, that keeps generating business, and builds an engaged audience who trusts you, put your budget into content marketing.
Here is the video I mention in the show.
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
Social media marketing, digital marketing, integrated marketing, above the line, below the line, mobile marketing, display marketing, SEO, search marketing, content marketing, marketing marketing marketing blah blah blah.
Man, there is a lot of marketing we are all suppose to be across. I remember the good old days when all I had to worry about was tv, radio, print and direct mail!
Marketing, as a profession, certainly doesn’t help itself. It is almost like we come up with new buzz words or categories to make us sound important. And you don’t have to go far to find an SEO specialist, or Google Ads specialist, or an email marketing specialist who will spruik doomsday if you don’t pay attention to their area of expertise.
It makes my head hurt sometimes. It Is exhauisting.
That’s why I’ll sound hypocritical when I start talking about the power of content marketing. However, in my defence, your honour, content marketing is one of the areas that transcends marketing silos and links into so many other areas – your website, digital, SEO, social, email etc.
Interestingly, it is definitely one the oldest disciplines of marketing. When I say that, you might think to yourself, “Hang on, I’ve only really been hearing about this content marketing stuff in the last 5 to 10 years!”.
Well, what if I told you the oldest example of content marketing can be found 126 years ago and, it is still going now.
That’s right, in 1895, John Deere published its first issue of The Furrow and it is still going strong today. To be fair, they wouldn’t have been throwing the term content marketing around, but content marketing is exactly what they were doing.
The Furrow was started by Charles Deere, the second son of founder John Deere, and what it set out to do is at the heart of content marketing – provide the audience with value. Charles recognised that there was great value in the brand by becoming an accurate, unbiased source of information to farmers at the time.
For me, an interesting angle was that, in the beginning, The Furrow was delivered, each quarter, by the U.S. Postal Service’s then-new Rural Free Delivery system. Imagine having access to that! A free distribution channel specifically designed to get things to your exact target market! That would have been amazing.
Sure, the magazine had John Deere advertising in it, and everyone knew who was printing the magazine, but the value, for the target market was in the articles and agricultural tips that helped make them better farmers.
That is in contrast with what a lot of marketing seems to be about in that brands just talk about and promote themselves all the time. In fact, David Jones, publications manager at John Deere, says that if you picked up any edition of The Furrow then you would be had pressed to find the words “John Deere” in the editorial space more than half a dozen times.
I can tell you one thing though. Every farmer that gets The Furrow knows exactly who is producing it and focussing their content on helping them be better farmers.
There is massive value on that from a brand perspective.
John Deere know that focusing on the farmers themselves, rather than John Deere’s equipment, is what makes the magazine successful.
You would think, in this day and age, when we see so many other hard copy publications wither or die, that The Furrow might be suffering the same fate. Not true.
John Deere claims, that in North America alone, The Furrow has more than 550,000 readers, the majority of which are existing John Deere customers. Apparently, they conduct readership surveys which show that 40% of readers read every single word – including ads – in every single issue. That is crazy and it equates to roughly 25 million impressions each year, just in North America.
It is crazy because we live in a world where our attention span is getting shorter and we have so many channels and sources competing for that attention. In fact, when I develop content for people’s websites, one rule I work to is that we need to assume that a visitor to a page will only read the first paragraph and so we need to ensure we put the one most important thing in that first paragraph and make sure they at least get that.
Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!
The reason the attention span for The Furrow and a website someone has only just gone to is trust, remember that thing I keep harping on about? Marketing is about finding people with a need and getting them to trust you?
John Deere plays the long game with their publication and its content but lets’ break down content marketing after the break.
To define content marketing, I’m going to head to the Content Marketing Institute for their definition, which is, quote “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” End quote
The key there is the use of the words valuable and relevant. The use of those words means you have to create content with an audience-first mentality; not a ‘what can the business get out of making some content?’ approach.
Content marketing is an umbrella term for any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. The acquiring, or retaining, customers is still important for your, otherwise, why would we do it?
However, the basic premise is to provide some valuable information or entertainment (content) that stops short of a direct sales pitch or call to action, but which seeks to positively influence the customer in some way.
As I said before, content marketing is one of the areas that transcends marketing silos and links into so many other areas. That’s why content marketing should be part of your strategy and not some separate area of your marketing. It should be a guiding approach that enhances and fills your other tactics. It can and will help your efforts on your website, SEO, social media, digital ads, email campaigns, building your database, and even PR.
So, how does that fit into my definition of marketing – that marketing is about finding people with a need and getting them to trust you?
Content marketing can be seen as a marketing through teaching approach. In other words, teach your audience things and they will come to trust you and we all know we buy of people we trust.
So, whether you will write an article, produce a podcast, design a slidedeck, run a webinar, or create videos, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to people. By teaching them how to solve their issues or problems or do something better, you demonstrate that you actually have the ability to do what you say you can do and help them. And through that, you build trust.
Now, sometimes, people say to me, “Oh but people will see how I do XYZ for them and they’ll go and do it themselves”.
That’s not true. For two reasons. Anyone like that was always going to do it themselves. That was never a situation where the conversion was in the balance and you tipped it the wrong way. Second, unless you are seriously in the minority, the absolute minority, I highly doubt there is anything special about what you do that someone else isn’t doing. By that I mean there isn’t many things that people do that I can’t find someone else showing me how to do online.
So, you may as well be in the game, especially if your competitors are. As such, your focus should be on not enough people knowing exactly what you can do for them.
Here’s a personal example.
I ride Mountain Bikes and you can find videos on how to fix anything. Step-by-step, detailed walkthroughs. In fact, Park Tools is a brand whose maintenance videos are my go to. They are awesome. I do some bike maintenance myself but I still take my bike to the shop for repairs and servicing because I don’t have the time, experience, or tools to do it all myself.
But when it comes to buying tools, Park Tools are the top of my list. And it is reinforced when I go to most bike shops and see the mechanics using Park Tools.
So, a few weeks ago, I need a new air hose unit for my air compressor, the bit that connects to the tyre valve and pumps them up, as well as a new bike repair stand. Both I bought from Park Tools. In fact, I was having a little trouble with putting the stand together and quickly found a video form Park Tools which walked me through the process.
Would I have bought those products from Park Tools if I had of just Googled bike repair stands and their option came up but I’d never heard of them? Maybe, but that maybe is a small percentage compared to what happened. And what happened was that they built awareness and trust with me, through their maintenance videos, over many years.
I was pretty much sold on getting a Park Tools stand before I Googled. I mean, price is always a consideration so they could have lost me but they didn’t. And that’s because I already trusted them and so price becomes less of an influencing factor.
And the likelihood of me buying more Park Tool products in the future. Guaranteed. The likelihood of me recommending Park Tools to my friends. Guaranteed.
Advertising is so leaky and reliant on so many factors you can’t control compared to what content marketing did to me before I even thought about needing a new bike stand.
So, if you haven’t clicked already, content marketing is normally a long game, because we need to build trust over time, but also that content marketing can be focused on any part of the buyer decision process and the sales funnel.
That’s compared to advertising which is focused on the top of the funnel only.
That’s why, if you need business tomorrow, or next week, put your budget into advertising, however, that is a hand to mouth existence.
If you want to build sustainable and strong marketing, that keeps generating business, and builds an engaged audience, and you aren’t desperate for customers right now, put budget into content marketing, however, that is a longer game and it might be 6 months, a year, or more before you really start seeing results.
Over the next two solo episodes, I am going to dive into why content marketing isn’t just for the top of your funnel, that’ll be episode 22, and then, in episode 24, I’ll explain how you can take one piece of content and repurpose across many channels to make it work harder for you.
In the meantime, I want to share one of my favourite videos because I think it will really help you on the content marketing front. While it is 11 years old, and came out just as businesses were really starting to wake up to the power of content marketing, it is just as relevant as ever.
When this first came out, I was already ‘all in’ with content marketing and would rabbit on about it to anyone who would listen.
When I stumbled across this video, it felt like Jason (the guy in the video) was just like me in trying to get people to see how powerful content marketing is. So, I’d try and get everyone to watch it.
Since I first saw this video, I’ve run plenty of marketing workshops and, when time permits, I’ll get the group to watch this video. Personally, I never get tired of it.
While it is a video, there is no need to ‘watch’ it. In fact, just stick it on in the background at work or play it during your commute. Audio only is fine.
The only thing I don’t like about it is at the start when Jason says, “… a new way of marketing your company” and “I figured it out”. I’m sure John Deere might have something to say about that!
The rest of Jason’s talk is amazing. I promise. Just head along to the show notes at marketingbuilder.net to see the video or search Jason Fried, 37 Signals, Marketing by Sharing.