So what is content marketing, then? Well, it's pretty simple. Content marketing is the use of that content—any of it—to help meet a marketing goal for your organization. That could be acquisition of potential customers, retention of existing ones, making more people aware of your brand or your products, or really anything else. We'll go into many of the most popular and effective ways of doing all of these things throughout the rest of this guide.
Though you may not have the time or resources to create a specialized app to market your brand, you can create great content that gets to the heart of your target audience’s biggest challenges. By focusing on creating content that highlights and explains these challenges, providing simple and effective solutions, you’ll be on your way to building stronger customer relationships and influencing more conversions.
“Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer. Building that bridge requires more than a budget, editorial calendar, and vision. It requires people who care, who love content, and what it can do for people. Not just what it can do for revenue, but rather how it helps people live their lives.” – Jay Baer, Convince & Convert

Research is great, but it never hurts to try something new if your content marketing timeline (and budget) allow for a little experimentation. Jump on social media trends, try out a new technology, or reach out to your audience and ask them what they’d like to see. Just make sure you’re always tracking the results so you can revisit and potentially add something new as part of your successful content marketing strategy. 

Of all the car rental companies, Zipcar has best mastered this strategy. Since Zipcar's target audience is people who live in the urban areas where it has a presence, Zipcar tailors its content specifically toward city dwellers. Its content hub, Ziptopia, has sections about city living and the future of cities, as well as travel inspiration stories (many accessible by car from major cities). While most posts don't mention Zipcar, calls to action at the bottom of each give readers the option to join Zipcar or book a Ziptrip.
Content is essential, no matter what. The focus on the term content marketing should not take our attention away from this simple fact, that is true since long before the term was invented: people ‘consume’ content, they use it to prepare a purchase, they like it regardless of their relationship with you, words and images are essential in human behavior and persuasion and content plays a role in virtually all marketing tactics. A good content marketing strategy is really a mix of different tactics and strategies, aligned with the buyer journey and overall marketing strategy.
When businesses pursue content marketing, the main focus should be the needs of the prospect or customer. Once a business has identified the customer's need, information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs, etc.[5][6] Most of these formats belong to the digital channel.
A content marketer’s work is never done. We’re constantly updating and optimizing our strategies based on our latest learnings, observations, insights, and technology. At NewsCred, this is one of the reasons we find our work so exciting. We’ve been in business for nearly a decade and it’s been gratifying and fascinating to evolve with the space. In keeping with our annual tradition, we’ve taken a look at the state of the content marketing industry, plus our strategy and learnings, and put together a case study on ourselves. Here, our best practices for using content to drive business results.
24. Hansens: Surfer’s guides to everything. San Diego surf shop Hansens seeks to inform surfers of every ability. Check out this infographic guide to buying the right wetsuit and blog post about making sure your wetsuit fits properly. Hansens understands that surf gear is a big purchase for the average consumer, so equipping him or her with adequate knowledge is the first step toward conversion.
To emphasize this – and also because specific digital content channels, formats etc. are “different” in many aspects, as are tactics in the digital and social marketing context (from social content and search engine optimization to even online advertising) we see that more people talk about digital content marketing as a “subset”. Nevertheless, a holistic approach is important here as well.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing and business process focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. This lesson will introduce you to the world of content marketing and provide you a big picture view of everything you need for a successful content marketing strategy.
An Australian company, Metro Trains, wanted to run a campaign that would promote rail safety; normally, safety messages are dull, boring, and nobody really pays attention to them. But advertising agency McCann Melbourn wanted to help Metro Trains create something that would make people sit up and listen – and that’s exactly what they achieved with “Dumb Ways to Die”.

With so many ways to publish content as a brand, inspiration always helps. That’s why we created this list of our 30 favorite content marketing examples of 2015. Whether it’s an individual campaign, a new podcast, or an overall blog property, these companies demonstrate what it means to be customer-focused in every content creation effort. As you plan content marketing campaigns for 2016, consider emulating the spirit of these brands who already do it well.
Evans Halshaw is the largest volume car retailer in the UK, and they have made great efforts with their content marketing. Every plugged-in marketer knows that in order to grab people’s attention, you need to be unique, clever and relevant. So what did they do? Well, they released an infographic that tied in with one of the highest grossing films of 2012 – James Bond’s Skyfall.
Case studies, also known as testimonials, are your opportunity to tell the story of a customer who succeeded in solving a problem by working with you. A case study is perhaps your most versatile type of content marketing because it can take many different forms -- some of which are on this list. That's right, case studies can take the form of a blog post, ebook, podcast ... even an infographic.
A simple checklist can significantly improve your content quality. It’s a tool that should be in every marketer’s toolkit. By creating a quality checklist as part of your strategy, you and your stakeholders will determine a set of standards that align with your content marketing goals. By committing them to writing, you’ll have benchmarks to which you can hold your work. By distributing the checklist, you’ll ensure that contributors know what you expect from them. And by sharing the checklist with others in your organization, they’ll understand what you’re looking to achieve with your content.
Content marketing has helped the company reposition itself. It still faces challenges as industry revenue continues to falter, but the company has weathered the storm better than PepsiCo, Cott, and other producers. Sales have started to pick up this year, and Business 2 Community author Hephzy Asaolu has said that there’s strong data proving that growth in revenue is strongly associated with content marketing efforts, which have helped Coca Cola to engage with customers all over the world.
EXAMPLE: Sainsbury magazine is the top cooking magazine in the United Kingdom, with 3 million paid subscribers — a content marketing effort that pays for itself. But, what’s even more remarkable is that, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the company, eight of 10 readers have bought a product from Sainsbury’s after reading about it in the magazine.
27. Vitamix: Be Inspired. Everyone knows a high-speed blender boasts many applications, but Vitamix attempts to explain every use case possible on its Be Inspired site. From champagne cocktails to raw foods, Vitamix’s articles are an incredible resource for creative types with high-speed blenders. (And judging from the smashing popularity of Vitamixes, that’s a growing subset of the population.)
"From a marketing standpoint and strategy, it is absolutely a content-first one…We want people to learn and engage through storytelling – and branded content is a big piece of that, both from the original branded content that we are creating, and the ones where we are partnering with publishers to do it in a native format," says Liz Matthews, Senior Vice President of Global Brand and Creative at Dell Technologies.
So what is content marketing, then? Well, it's pretty simple. Content marketing is the use of that content—any of it—to help meet a marketing goal for your organization. That could be acquisition of potential customers, retention of existing ones, making more people aware of your brand or your products, or really anything else. We'll go into many of the most popular and effective ways of doing all of these things throughout the rest of this guide.

10. Betterment: Finance and investing content goes interactive. Investing service Betterment has a great blog and resource center with useful content for investors. But I’m especially enthusiastic about the interactive content Betterment creates — the best being quizzes to test one’s knowledge of finance and investing, as in this example. Quizzes are definitely not just for BuzzFeed; even financial services can get in the game.
Case studies, also known as testimonials, are your opportunity to tell the story of a customer who succeeded in solving a problem by working with you. A case study is perhaps your most versatile type of content marketing because it can take many different forms -- some of which are on this list. That's right, case studies can take the form of a blog post, ebook, podcast ... even an infographic.
"Our ambition is fairly massive," says Jay Curley, now Ben & Jerry’s Global Head of Integrated Marketing, in New York Magazine. "We're trying to create a new model for how businesses can use their voice to have an impact on important social movements, and show that you can do that and it doesn’t hurt your business. As a matter of fact, it may help."
The number of ways in which content benefits SEO is far too great to count here. In summary, great content attracts editorial links, which tell Google you're important and authoritative. Google can also crawl your content, getting a far better idea of what your company is about, allowing it to return your site for more relevant queries (including a great many long-tail queries). The list goes on, but it can all be boiled down to this: Without content, what is there to optimize for search engines?

As you’re building a content strategy that works with your brand, you’ll also have to bear in mind how well this fits with your search engine optimization (SEO) plan. You’ll want to focus your content marketing on audience engagement, and this should be genuine. However, you’ll also want to meld this with keyword research in order to ensure that the content you are creating is really going to bring traffic to your site if that’s your key platform.
In the latter category we also find platforms that are closely connected with, for instance, marketing automation platforms. The industry of content marketing software is growing fast but also evolving fast, with some players being acquired by large marketing software vendors. At the same time, we see several marketing software vendors but also content management firms and others including content marketing features.
This past year, First Round launched First Search, which curates the best advice from technology thought leaders. "It's a database of extremely high-quality, curated advice about all aspects of building companies, pulled from across the web and organized to help you find exactly what you need when you need it," explains Maddie Hall, First Search's Product Manager, in Medium. The plan is that First Search will evolve into personalized discovery experience for every user – which will further help First Round achieve its content marketing goals.
Blogs have many benefits for content marketing too. Do you need a blog for your organization? It all depends but there are many befits and reasons to at least have a corporate blog (which doesn’t mean it should be company-centric). Blogs have many inherent benefits, can serve multiple (content) marketing goals and there are dozens of good arguments to get started.
Many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, "Why do they get to have all the fun?" But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2B companies are just as passionate about their products as B2C companies are. And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge to provide them with solutions.

While all the ways American Girl connects to its audience are too numerous to cover in this one post, I’m particularly amazed by its print publications. For instance, The Care and Keeping of You is a book all about growing up for girls. It ranks second in its category (and 76th most popular among all books on Amazon.) It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.


My husband was in this camp until he told me about a newsletter that covers trends affecting financial markets. He looks forward to receiving it each day. He explained that the newsletters didn’t have anything to do with the funds the broker was selling, but the information was solid and valuable – and it was useful research for the investments he makes.
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