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EPIC CONTENT MARKETING
HOW TO TELL A DIFFERENT STORY, BREAK THROUGH THE CLUTTER, AND WIN MORE CUSTOMERS BY MARKETING LESS
By Joe Pulizzi
McGraw-Hill EducationCopyright © 2014 Joe Pulizzi
All rights reserved.
What Is Content Marketing?
You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that's assault, not leadership.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
In March 2007 I left a six-figure executive position at the largest independent business media company in North America to bootstrap a startup. Many of my friends and mentors actively went out of their way to tell me I was making a mistake. Don't let anyone tell you it's not fun to start a business!
For the previous seven years I had worked with brands from around the world helping them publish and distribute their own stories to attract and retain customers. By 2001, it was easy to see that effective marketing was starting to look more and more like publishing. Large brands were seeing amazing results by creating their own content, similar to what media companies had been doing since the dawn of time, rather than paying to advertise around other people's content. It was that year that I started to slip the phrase "content marketing" into my discussions with marketing executives.
What if more businesses of all sizes did this type of activity, focusing not on their products in marketing, but on the informational needs of their target customer first?
Then I asked myself, "What if I could launch a business using this model as the basis for starting and growing a business?"
That's exactly what we did when we launched our company, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), with very little money and an idea back in 2007. This year, we will exceed over $4 million in revenues. Next year, we'll be at $6 million. To achieve this type of growth with little to no traditional advertising, we had to develop a new business model around content creation and distribution.
Even while this idea of content marketing is now a recognized industry term (see Figure 1.1), most business owners have no playbook to do this properly. I talk to people every day from businesses that waste an incredible amount of time on social media tactics without first having the content marketing strategy to make it work for the business.
CONTENT MARKETING: A COLLECTION OF DEFINITIONS
The marketing strategy goes by many names: custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, member media, private media, content strategy, branded content, corporate media, brand journalism, native advertising, inbound marketing, contract publishing, branded storytelling, corporate publishing, corporate journalism, and branded media.
Perhaps nothing says it better than content marketing. But what exactly is content marketing?
CONTENT MARKETING: THE FORMAL DEFINITION
Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
A content marketing strategy can leverage all story channels (print, online, in-person, mobile, social, and so on); be employed at any and all stages of the buying process, from attention-oriented strategies to retention and loyalty strategies; and include multiple buying groups.
FROM MANAGING CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is a strategy focused on the creation of a valuable experience. It is humans being helpful to each other, sharing valuable pieces of content that enrich the community and position the business as a leader in the field. It is content that is engaging, eminently shareable, and, most of all, focused on helping customers discover (on their own) that your product or service is the one that will scratch their itch.
CONTENT MARKETING: LESS FORMAL DEFINITION
Content marketing is owning media as opposed to renting it. It's a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.
CONTENT MARKETING: ELEVATOR PITCH
Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you're a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.
CONTENT MARKETING: FOR PRACTITIONERS
Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated, and syndicated content.
Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to a target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.
CONTENT MARKETING: FOR NONBELIEVERS
Your customers don't care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.
This last definition is my favorite (with kudos to bestselling author David Meerman Scott for helping to popularize this), and the hardest for marketers and business owners to deal with. So often we marketers believe that our products and services are so special—so amazing—and we think that if more people knew about them, all of our sales problems would be solved.
MARKETING BY SELLING LESS
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is noninterruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection. The essence of this strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
Don't get me wrong, there is a time for sales collateral, feature and benefit marketing, and customer testimonials about why you are so awesome. If you are like most companies, you have plenty of that content. The problem with that type of content is that it is only critical when your prospect is ready to buy. What about the other 99 percent of the time when your customers aren't ready to buy? Ah, that is where content marketing pays its dues.
Ecclesiastes assures us ... that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh ... and a time to weep. A time to mourn ... and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore.
KEVIN BACON (REN) IN FOOTLOOSE (1984)
There was a time when paid media was the best and most effective way to sell our products and services, but not anymore.
INFORM OR ENTERTAIN
Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.
Ten years ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with Kirk Cheyfitz, CEO of Story Worldwide, a global content agency. His words at that lunch have always stuck with me.
"Inform or entertain," Cheyfitz said. "What other options do brands have when communicating with their customers and prospects? Brands serve their customers best when they are telling engaging stories."
Actually you have four choices. You can inform and help your customers live better lives, find better jobs, or be more successful in the jobs they have now. You can also choose to entertain and begin to build an emotional connection with your customers. These two choices help you build a following (like a media company does ... but more on that later).
Your third choice is to develop lackluster content that doesn't move the needle. This is content that could be self-serving and promotional. It could also be content that you want to be useful or entertaining, but because of quality, consistency, or planning issues, is ignored by your customers.
Your fourth choice is to spend money on traditional marketing, such as paid advertising, traditional direct mail, and public relations. Again, there's nothing wrong with these activities, but this book will show you a better way to use those advertising dollars.
CONTENT MARKETING VS. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Toby Murdock, CEO, KaPost
As I meet with brands and agencies, I still come across people who are totally unfamiliar with the term "content marketing." And as I begin to explain it, they often respond, "Oh, brands publishing content? You mean social media marketing."
Indeed, content marketing heavily involves social media. And, of course, in social media, marketers use content to get their messages across. But although there is plenty of overlap between content marketing and social media marketing, they are actually two distinct entities, with different focal points, goals, and processes. To help clear the confusion, let's look at the major ways in which they differ.
CENTER OF GRAVITY
In social media marketing, the center of gravity—the focus of the marketing activity—is located within the social networks themselves. When marketers operate social media campaigns, they are operating inside of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. As they produce content, they place it inside of these networks.
In contrast, the center of gravity for content marketing is a brand website (your ultimate platform; see Chapter 19 for more), whether it be a branded web address, such as AmericanExpress.com, or a microsite for a brand's specific product, such as Amex's OPEN Forum. Social networks are vital to the success of content marketing efforts, but in this case, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are used primarily as a distributor of links back to the content on the brand's website, not as containers of the content itself.
TYPES OF CONTENT
In social media marketing, content is built to fit the context of the chosen social platform: short messages in the 140 characters range for Twitter; contests, quizzes, and games for Facebook; and so on. With this type of marketing, brands model their behavior after that of the individuals using the social networks.
On the other hand, in content marketing, the context of websites permits much longer forms of content. Brands can publish blog posts, videos, infographics, and e-books, just to name a few formats. With this type of marketing, brands model their behavior after that of media publishers.
While both social media marketing and content marketing can be used for a multitude of purposes, social media marketing generally tends to focus on two main objectives. First, it is used for brand awareness: generating activity and discussion around the brand. Secondly, it is used for customer retention and satisfaction; brands can use social channels as an open forum for direct dialogues with customers, often around issues or questions that consumers have.
In contrast, content marketing's website-based center of gravity enables it to focus more on demand (or lead) generation. As quality content brings prospects to a brand's site, that brand can develop a relationship with the prospects and nurture them toward a lead conversion or purchase.
EVOLUTION OF ONLINE MARKETING
We need to think of social media marketing and content marketing less as two isolated options and more as interrelated parts of marketing's ongoing evolution. The Internet has unleashed a revolutionary ability for every brand to communicate directly with its customers—without the need for a media industry intermediary.
Social media marketing is the natural first step in this process: access to users is direct (users spend lots of time on social networks), and content is generally formatted into shorter chunks, which makes the publishing process relatively easy.
But as brands become more familiar with their new role as publisher, the natural progression is to move toward content marketing. Yes, the bar here is higher: in content marketing, brands must produce longer-form, higher-quality content and build audiences on their own sites—they must become true media publishers. But the rewards and results are arguably more powerful. Brands can engage more deeply with their customers through content marketing efforts. And by driving consumers to its own website, a brand has a greater opportunity to gain leads and move them down the conversion funnel.
As we all pioneer this new strategy of content marketing, a shared definition of what we do relative to approaches like social media marketing is invaluable.
THE NEW WORLD OF CONTENT MARKETING
Let's take a look at the first content marketing definition one more time, but this time remove the "valuable and compelling."
Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
That's the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you "stuff." Companies send out information all the time; it's just that most of the time informational garbage is not very compelling or useful (think: spam). That's what makes content marketing so intriguing in today's environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day. Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think, and behave differently.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONTENT AND CONTENT MARKETING
Not a day goes by that some marketer somewhere around the world doesn't try to figure this out. Here's the answer.
Some experts say that content is any word, image, or pixel that can be engaged with by another human being. In the context of this book, content is compelling content that informs, engages, or amuses.
What makes content marketing different from simple content is that content marketing must do something for the business. It must inform, engage, or amuse with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Your content may engage or inform, but if it's not accomplishing your business goals (for example, customer retention or lead generation), it's not content marketing. The content you create must work directly to attract and/or retain customers in some way.
CONTENT MARKETING NEXT
According to the Roper Public Affairs, 80 percent of buyers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, and 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions. Think of this: What if your customers looked forward to receiving your marketing? What would it be like if, when they received it via print, e-mail, website, social media, or mobile device, they spent 15, 30, or 45 minutes with it? What if you actually sold more by marketing your products and services less?
Yes, you really can create marketing that is anticipated and truly makes a connection! You can develop and execute "sales" messages that are needed, even requested, by your customers. Content marketing is a far cry from the interruption marketing we are bombarded with every minute of every day. Content marketing is about marketing for the present and the future.
Content is just ... content, unless it's driving behavior change in your customers and prospects. Then it's called "content marketing."
Your marketing needs to be anticipated, loved, and wanted. This is the new world we live in today.
Your content marketing strategy comes before your social media strategy—yesterday, today, and always.
Excerpted from EPIC CONTENT MARKETING by Joe Pulizzi. Copyright © 2014 Joe Pulizzi. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
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