Creating Marketing

How to Get Started with Content Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Sarah Seweryniak

The theory of content marketing has been around for hundreds of years; however, its purpose and popularity have gained traction over the last decade.

There still seems to be confusion about what content marketing is, as many people often confuse the difference between content writing and copywriting. Whether you are new to content marketing, need a fresh perspective on how you’ve been using it, or even explaining it to someone, here’s a beginner’s guide to how to get started with content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a marketing method of producing and distributing informative pieces to create value for its audience. The content will familiarize and engage the audience with its subject matter. The ultimate goal is to acquire a new customer to take a specific action in the sales journey.

People seek out content because they are searching for it and want to consume it. Here are a variety of ways audiences consume content.

  • Infographics: Vertical graphics that provide information to audiences with statistics, graphs, and charts.
  • Websites and landing pages: They offer the ability to inform and create an experience. Websites allow the visitor to travel throughout the site to consume information so the prospective customer can gain knowledge to make a decision. Landing pages offer a similar experience; however, they’re typically a single page with relevant content with a specific call to action for the visitor.
  • Podcasts: Over the last few years, the popularity of podcasts has soared. It’s a unique way for an audience to consume information, especially if it’s something they’re seeking out. It’s an effective way to reach a market, create valuable content and potentially convert a sale.
  • Images and videos: Audiences are inspired and entertained by visuals. Exposure to videos that provoke thought while also providing entertainment creates the ultimate value experience between consumers and marketers.
  • E-books and books: Creating informative content that inspires through e-books and books is an encouraging tool to drive consumer engagement and create sales leads.

What is the history of content marketing?

Although it may not have been identified as content marketing specifically, the medium has been around since the human race created and sold products to make life easier.

In the early 1700s, Benjamin Franklin published the first annual Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote and raise awareness about his printing business.

One of the oldest and most highly respected forms of content marketing comes from John Deere’s The Furrow, which was first published in 1895. The magazine created valuable content for farmers that has been a resource of information about farming techniques. It grew to 4 million subscribers in 1912. The unique part of The Furrow is that John Deere doesn’t talk about its brand in the publication. Instead, they trust that their product and name will set them apart from their competition in that market and use the publication to provide a source of information for their subscriber. They’ve built trust out of their product and out of their publication, which is the core objective of content marketing.

In the late 1888s, John and Johnson launched a publication called Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment, which had a similar purpose to what The Furrow was for farmers. It was targeted toward physicians to share informative articles with the medical profession since Johnson and Johnson mainly was a bandage company.

As time progressed and the world of advertising shifted, so did the language and purpose of writing to the consumer. By the time the 1950s rolled around, creating informative and valuable pieces of written information slipped away and gave birth to a new movement in the industry – copywriting.

Copywriting used flashy language that was short, sweet, and to the point to try and grab a reader’s attention. By this point, television and radio were new ways to reach consumers, and advertisers had to make sure they stood out. The purpose of the short copy was to convert the audience into a sale.

By the time the 2000s came, the language was about to shift again, only this time the present form of content marketing as we know it was born. The main catalyst that promoted the shift into creating valuable, entertaining, and information content pieces again stemmed from social media and the internet.

Businesses were beginning to adopt having their own website, which was deemed the brick and motor store of the future. They were forced to have information in the digital world that would inform the consumer about their brand and product. Blog articles became useful marketing collateral to educate the audience before their purchase. The brand with the most information and seemed the most transparent typically gained the sale since they built a relationship of trust between themselves and the consumer. Sharing these articles on their social media pages that would bring the consumer back to their website would be an easy way to convert the sale. This form of content marketing became successful because brands and businesses could directly target the consumer through digital advertising efforts identified through specific demographics.

This form of new content marketing also allowed businesses to leverage other social media channels like YouTube. For example, in the mid-2000s, Blendtec, an innovative blender company, started developing videos on their YouTube channel that showcased the strength of their blenders. They would blend marbles and even an iPhone to show how strong their product was to the consumer. The videos organically caught on and led to the company’s success, resulting in more than 235 million views.

One of the most recent examples of how well content marketing has made its impact in consumer culture and the market would be The LEGO Movie. The brand is a beloved childhood toy, and by creating a film series, the brand has made a content marketing effort that has created an engaging piece of entertainment that will also serve the brand with new sales for the popular toy product.

The future of content marketing is bright, especially as more social media platforms come forward and brands create experiences that are both informative, valuable, and entertaining for their consumers. Brands are beginning to focus specifically on the medium, understanding its value to create trust between the brand and the consumer and ultimately leading to a sale.

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What is the difference between content writing and copywriting?

Copywriting and content writing—is it the same thing? The answer is, yes and no. 

While there is overlap between the two,  each exhibits its own set of purposes for doing well and being effective. 

The most significant difference between the two is their purpose. Copywriting is the art of the brand selling people on their business or product. It’s the pitch to consumers to use a brand’s products or services. Content writing is more of an art that is longer in form and has an intention or reason behind the piece. Its purpose is to inform, educate or entertain. 

Here’s another way to break it down: content writing carries information onward to the consumers, and copywriting communicates how the brand or product can solve their problems with what they offer.

There are similarities. First, they both have goals and objectives. They both look to persuade a consumer into a sale. Second, they both need to have high-quality writing to entice the reader to want to learn more. 

Copywriting is there to sell. Content writing aims to generate value and educate and encourage the audience on the brand or product and produce interest.

A copywriter develops and writes marketing material. While a content writer does write, there is a difference between writing styles depending on the specific material. 

Copywriting:

  • Digital and print ads
  • Web page content
  • SEO content
  • Email campaigns

Content writing:

  • Blog article posts
  • Digital and print articles
  • Feature stories in digital and print magazines
  • Whitepapers
  • E-books
  • Books
  • Organic social media posts
  • Email newsletters

There is an overlap of these categories between copywriters and content writers. But the purpose is what makes the difference. Copywriting sells, content writing informs. 

Why content marketing brings success to marketers

There are a variety of reasons why content marketing is important. Here are some reasons why it brings success to marketers:

  1. Awareness: Sometimes, a consumer is not aware of a brand or product. They may not even be aware that they had a problem that needed to be solved, which that brand or product provides a solution. Creating relevant content has the potential to find an audience and generate awareness around the brand or product.
  2. Research: If a consumer is aware of a problem they have, they’ll likely go on a quest to search for an answer to find a solution. It’s important to create content so it’s readily available and strategically available on a website, through social media channels, or a basic search through the internet. Having content for the audience will educate them and hopefully lead to a sales conversion.
  3. Consideration: While the consumer is on a quest for answers, they’ll likely start narrowing down their selections by comparing products. By providing valuable pieces of content, target audiences can be more informed with their decisions to purchase. Content also builds and provides trust between the consumer and brand. The more information and transparency provided by the brand and the product, the more likely the consumer is to trust that this option may be worth considering over other brands and products to be a solution to their problem.
  4. The result: After consuming content, researching, and considering their options, by this point, the consumer is ready to take action and move ahead with their purchase decision.

How do I get started?

There are many ways businesses and individuals can get started with content development. The easiest way to start creating something of value is by providing consumers with a blog. Creating a blog is a creative way to provide crafted content with articles that can inform and engage an audience and turn them into customers or clients.

Creating relevant information establishes a brand as an information source, which builds trust. These blog articles can also be promoted through digital marketing efforts to reach a wider audience. More engagement can be obtained and gained among an audience when blog articles are shared on social media pages.

Another great content development idea is to create valuable content and promote it through e-mail marketing. Whether you’re promoting the blog or offering deals on products, creating an e-mail list can generate sales leads.

To generate this idea, content needs to be created that’s of value, and a free incentive like an e-book or coupon needs to be offered to entice the consumer to want to sign-up and subscribe to the e-mail list. Once you have the subscriber, that’s a potential sales lead you’ll be able to reach at any time through e-mail where you can continue to engage with them and nurture the relationship between the business and consumer.

About the author

Sarah Seweryniak

Sarah Seweryniak is a Content Writer with more than 10 years of experience where her writing career has spanned from writing for local newspapers, online publications, and freelancing for brands big and small. She has a bachelor's degree in Marketing and Communication Media Arts. She loves creating content that connects, informs, and inspires.

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