Has this ever happened to you? You’re at a cocktail party, swirling your perfectly aged chard, and someone saunters up to you and asks what you do. “I’m in content marketing,” you say with an animated twinkle in your eye. The reaction? A blank stare. If you’re lucky, you might get a, “Oh, how nice for you.”  Or, the worst—the look of complete and utter boredom.

It stings a little, huh? After all, content marketing is the center of the world as far as you and I are concerned. We know the power of a solid content marketing strategy. We bleed authenticity, relevancy and good content for all. But content marketing is, in many ways, still new on the scene. It’s a mere bullet point in many a traditional marketing plan. And to explain it to the typical business owner or professional outside our world, you need the strength and stamina of a superhero.

We can do this. Here’s the plan.

Start with the definition

The first rule of explaining content marketing is to practice talking about content marketing. Get a definition in your head you’re comfortable with and work it until it rattles off your tongue.

Let’s start here. Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

A marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

A solid start, but challenging to spout off after a glass of that well-aged chard. Say it a few times aloud and then put it in your own words.

My translation goes a little like this:

Content marketing is a way to attract new people to your brand through educational, entertaining content—usually on your site’s blog. The goal is to create a relationship with potential new customers or clients.

Easy enough? Moving on.

Throw around some buzzwords

Your next step is hitting home the point that content marketing is a powerful tool in getting website traffic. You’ve spent all that money on a shiny new website. How do you plan to leverage it? Most people would answer: SEO (even if they’re not exactly sure what it is). Anyone within ear range of a marketing department has heard this term. They know it’s important.

Start there and work your way through these key points:

  1. Content marketing is posed to trump traditional SEO marketing in garnering site traffic.
  2. The goal of content marketing is to build a relationship with a relevant audience.
  3. The blog is the heart of your content marketing platform.
  4. Social media and email are your primary content amplification tools.

You can mention other content opportunities like ebooks and case studies, but tread slowly.

Boil it down to the WIIFY

The next hurdle is nailing the “What’s in it for you,” and this is your chance to pull out the big guns: the customer journey. This is exciting to most people, especially small business owners, if you can boil it down to the essence of why it matters.

My pitch goes a little like this: Content marketing captures people at the top of the buying funnel. Sales happen at the conversion stage. Loyal clients sit at the bottom. So while your brand advocates have the biggest impact, they have the smallest reach because it’s only extended to their personal circles. Then I whip this out:

how to explain content marketing

People love pictures, especially at cocktail parties.

The goal of content marketing is to engage, start a conversation, build trust and inspire people at the top of the funnel to move further down toward the loyal customer stage.  If you can hit that point home, you’re nearly there.

Make it sound super easy to implement

If you’ve made it to this step, congratulations. Now comes the “how.” This is the stage where you’ll hear comments like:

  • “We blog every week and no one reads it.”
  • “Oh, we don’t have a blog. It’s a waste of time.”
  • Or, my favorite: “I publish a blog post every day. My SEO guy told me to.” That one’s just scary.

So here’s where you get ’em thinking. Why do you blog? What type of content do you create? Is it self-promotional? Or do you create content that’s helpful to your audience? Who is your audience?

You can boil it down to the basics of a content marketing plan:

  • Personas: A definition and profile sketch of the audience we want to attract.
  • Objectives: A clear understanding of goals (sell products, book services, establish authority, build a fan base, create community)
  • Content types: What does our audience want? Education, entertainment, enlightenment.
  • Publishing schedule: Consistent calendar of posts.
  • Promotional strategy: Email, social, strategic relationships to drive inbound links.

Get all up in their blog business

This is the stage where you really needle into the importance of the blog. Depending on who you’re talking to, the term “blog” has different meanings. Make the point that the brand blog is where all this good mojo happens—if done right. For a blog to be effective, it must be nourished with a steady stream of educational and/or inspiring/entertaining content that draws in fresh, curious eyeballs of those interested in your vertical.

Round your way through the components of a good blog post:

  • Actionable how-to’s, entertaining anecdotes or inspiring advice
  • Rich media including images, illustrations, infographics and videos
  • Subheads and stylized text that makes content more scannable
  • Links to related articles or resources
  • Final call to action

Share solid examples

You get a gold star if you’ve gotten this far. Bravo. Your final goal is to seal their understanding with examples of blogs that get it, such as:

  • Whole Foods Blog: Whether you love, hate or love to hate Whole Foods, their blog hits a home run. In between recipe posts with tantalizing photos of flourless chocolate cakes and cheesy dips, they intersperse stories about quality standards and low-sodium options. The message is that they’re there to help.
  • Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line Blog: Sometimes blogs jump the line of weblog into lifestyle magazine. The Cleanest Line does that well. This is a blog that embraces all aspects of the outdoor lifestyle. It’s not about the clothes.
  • HootSuite Blog: OK, so maybe it’s not the sexiest blog, and you won’t find any photos of delicious cheesy dips or chocolate-dipped confections, but you will find really good, instructional content. The posts are resourceful, educational and developed to help their core audience understand and implement quality social media outreach.

So that’s the skinny. Next time you’re at a cocktail party and get that blank stare, whip out your customer journey funnel graphic and let us know how it goes.