If you search “content marketing” on Google, you get about 560 million results.
So, big business then. And yet…
Is there really such a thing as content marketing? Or is it just marketing, plain and simple, and a facet of a bigger picture?
According to Wikipedia:
So, by definition, content is information that may help in the decision-making process.
Marketing, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether. The core reason for marketing to exist, in no uncertain terms, is to make a buyer fall in love with something enough to purchase it.
This “something” can usually be categorized into three clear sections: product, service, expertise.
The Product and Service Angle
Product and service is straightforward. You make something, or provide something, and charge people for that. This could be footwear, a meal, cleaning services, or a million other things.
But it’s still the product or service that’s being marketed.
Sure, you might write a blog post about your industry and why your offering is better than anyone else’s.
Or you might create a video to showcase a design and embed on your website.
But that creation of content is simply a tactic in the bigger picture of marketing. The content is created to market the end product – you’re not marketing the actual content.
If you were, the message would be something like “See how cool this video / blog post is – buy the content now!”. Which wouldn’t make any kind of sense.
Switch to a marketing message, though – “The X1Z Thingymajig – Order Yours Today!” – and it’s back to using the content to drive sales of the product or service.
The Expertise Angle
One area where content marketing could be seen as a standalone solution is that of expertise (particularly on business blogs).
To show you’re someone a potential customer should do business with, you share your expertise and knowledge with your audience. You might provide white papers, or ebooks, or webinars, to help propagate that expertise and separate you as a thought leader (if that’s your goal).
The thinking here is, if the audience sees you know your stuff, they’re more likely to do business with you than your competitor.
But then, there’s that “do business with” phrase again. Because, as much as a business or consultant can say they’re offering expertise for the good of their readers, there’s always another end goal in sight – attracting business for your offering.
Sure, you’re offering free content as opposed to charging for it – but it’s with the goal of marketing your businesses through less in-your-face means. The end goal is still dollars in the cash register for whatever it is you’re selling (product, service, consultancy expertise).
Content is Still a Key Tactic
Now, I don’t want this post to come across as dismissing the importance of content when it comes to marketing your business. As someone who’s consulted clients over the years on the benefits of content, I know the value content brings to the table.
A successful blogger outreach, for example, can reap rewards at a far reduced cost to a business than traditional print or media ad buy can offer. A timely video can capture the hearts of your customers more than a radio ad ever could. And all the other pieces of content that get discussed when talking about content marketing all offer value too.
The thing is, though, it’s still just another tactic. The content is part of the overall strategy to get a customer to buy into your offering, and a solid part at that. But a standalone? I can’t see it.
Besides, when was the last time you ever saw a major news release and promotion for your latest blog post..? 😉