The theory of content marketing has been around for hundreds of years; however, its purpose and popularity have gained traction over the last decade or so. But understanding content marketing is a different story.
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 need help explaining it to someone, here’s a guide to understanding content marketing and how to get started.
Understanding 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. Understanding content marketing starts with knowing there are a variety of ways audiences consume content, including the following:
- 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.
- Ebooks and books: Creating informative content that inspires through ebooks and books is an encouraging tool to drive consumer engagement and create sales leads.
What is the history of content marketing?
Understanding content marketing starts with knowing its history. 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.
Early examples of content marketing
In the early 1700s, Benjamin Franklin published the first annual Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote and raise awareness about his printing business.
Another 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 was mainly a bandage company.
How content marketing evolved
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.
Developing content that informs, inspires, and entertains — without overtly selling
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 informative content pieces again stemmed from social media and the internet.
Understanding content marketing at this time means putting yourself into the shoes of a business owner who was just starting to realize they needed 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 posts 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.
What is the difference between content writing and copywriting?
When it comes to understanding content marketing, you’ll want to know the differences between content writing and copywriting.
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.
- Digital and print ads
- Web page content
- SEO content
- Email campaigns
- SEO-optimized blog posts
- Digital and print articles
- Feature stories in digital and print magazines
- White papers
- 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’s a quick rundown to understanding content marketing’s cycle:
- 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, and a brand or product provides a solution. Creating relevant content has the potential to find an audience and generate awareness around the brand or product.
- 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.
- 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 in 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.
- 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.
Getting started with content marketing
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 email marketing. Whether you’re promoting the blog or offering deals on products, creating an email list can generate sales leads.
To generate this idea, content needs to be created that’s of value, and a free incentive like an ebook 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 email, where you can continue to engage with them and nurture the relationship between the business and consumer.
Don’t know where to start with content marketing? Explore ClearVoice’s content plans to get quality, consistent content, from leadership pieces to blog posts, that delivers results.