Widely used by businesses, content marketing is a specific type of marketing that revolves around the creation, publishing and distribution of content tailored to a targeted online audience. Effective content marketing involves valuable information and resources, provided for free with a view to drawing in potential customers in the hope they will convert to sales at a later stage.

What is content marketing used for?

As a form of marketing, content marketing is used for the same means as any other element of a marketing strategy but has a specific focus on the digital audience. It is used to increase brand awareness and expand a businesses customer base, attracting attention and generating new leads. This form of marketing is specifically focused on engaging an online community and generating, or increasing, online sales. Content marketing is a powerful tool for boosting the credibility of a brand and helping businesses to establish themselves as an authority in their field.

How is it used?

Rather than focusing on direct sales, content marketing is a method which focuses on building a rapport and trust with an audience. This approach aims to transform prospects into customers at a later stage. Via content marketing, businesses create and share valuable content and distribute it for free in order to build brand awareness and loyalty. This approach keeps a business in the minds of its target audience and can generate a willingness for them to make purchases from the company in the future.

It begins with the creation of valuable content. This could be useful information on a particular niche, provided as articles, blog posts or videos, or resources which people may usually have to pay for, such as e-books or short online courses. When content marketing is used effectively, businesses establish an existing need for information and set about providing this in the most appropriate format. Common formats include videos, news pieces, e-books, infographics, white papers, podcasts, how-to guides, photos and informational blog posts. The appropriate format will depend on the target audience and the platform it is delivered on. For example, the most appropriate format for a business audience in a technical field might be a white paper as this looks most professional. The white paper may be published on the company’s website and shared on a site such as LinkedIn, which caters to professionals.

The content is then shared and distributed online to the target audience. Businesses may publish the content on their website or share it on their social media platforms. Shorter, less in-depth content is often distributed widely via many platforms to reach a wide audience. For more expert, highly targeted, in-depth or valuable content, businesses often ask for valuable marketing data in return, such as names and email addresses. People will be asked to complete a short form with their details and the content will be sent to them thereafter via email. Email addresses are then used to follow up and target future marketing materials.

Why is content marketing important?

In the digital age, traditional outbound marketing strategies are not nearly as effective as they once were. It is a modern approach which has become extremely popular amongst businesses. If you want to be successful in business and compete with other companies online, a content marketing strategy is key. It will help you to create a narrative around your brand and build a sense of community, developing strong relationships with customers and other businesses. Content marketing allows you to connect with your customers, helping to solve their problems and build a good reputation for your brand.

The internet allows you to reach wider audiences than ever before but, online, reputations can be more fragile and easily damaged. By building a solid community via effective content marketing, you can develop a loyal customer base over time by establishing yourself as an expert in your field.

Although it may take a little time and effort to create quality content, once it has been produced, the internet does much of the legwork for you. Much of your content will stand the test of time and can be distributed again and again, without the costs associated with conventional printing and distribution methods. This type of marketing can, therefore, be much cheaper and easier to implement than you may think.

We live in an age where savvy customers can shop around easier than ever before and have great choice and control over the brands they interact with online. Quality content allows you to stand out from the crowd and draw customers in subtly, without bombarding and deterring them with promotional materials. Once you have built trust and rapport via your content marketing strategy, you will see a return in the form of conversions and interactions that last the test of time.