Content marketing is an umbrella term. This means that it can be used for numerous reasons and can mean many things to many people. It’s less tangible than search engine marketing, for instance. This is exactly the reason why you need to think about the strategic role of content marketing within your organization and its ecosystem. Without a content marketing strategy, you risk focusing on the content – and content strategy – too much and not seeing the overall goals anymore. In fact, this is one of the most crucial and deadly mistakes in content marketing. Unfortunately, this disconnected view on content marketing happens very often and leads to a focus on the wrong things.
Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”
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.
1. Hipmunk: Traveler’s Guide to Tipping. Travel booking site Hipmunk creates a wealth of content to answer common traveler questions and conundrums. One blog post called Traveler’s Guide to Tipping is a fantastic resource for tipping practices in countries around the world. It includes guidelines for restaurants, taxis, and hospitality. Other excellent posts from Hipmunk include How Travelers Can See the New Star Wars Movie Two Days Early, 48 Things to Do in Asia, and How Much Does a Disney Vacation Really Cost. The takeaway is simple: know your demographic and answer their questions. None of these posts are interactive or flashy, but they provide important and relevant information.
Celine Roque of Contently recently wrote a very insightful piece about American Express and its longstanding commitment to content marketing. Roque points out that the world’s largest travel company has been using content for brand building for the past 100 years, beginning with a series of engaging travel guides in 1915 that played a prominent role in growing the company.
Last January, Marriott released the 35-minute "Two Bellmen Three," set in Seoul, Korea. The goal of the film: to highlight Marriott's Asian properties and capture a piece of the wedding market. As part of the release, Marriott offered "Two Bellmen"-themed wedding, food, and spa packages at participating hotels. To date, "Two Bellmen Three" has more than 9 million YouTube views.
In 2011, the brand created a “Smart Community” in an effort to promote awareness of its renewable energy solutions. They optimized their platform for the keyword “smart community” and invested in a massive SEO campaign to boost their rankings. Their campaign proved to be remarkably effective, helping to generate 160,000 global followers on LinkedIn through the Smart Community campaign.
Different companies have different goals, so no two content strategies work quite the same way. Still, general goals like lead generation, SEO, and thought leadership are common, and starting from there, companies can customize strategies that are specifically designed to work toward whichever goal is most important to them. With sales trends always changing, content plays a key role in attracting new customers.
Be sure to talk frankly about the outcomes they should expect from content marketing. Brand building? Check. Helps your social efforts? Check. Increases your audience? Check. But because most content marketing sits up at the awareness stage of the funnel, it's not realistic to expect customers will go en masse from reading one blog post to buying all the things.
Read Joe Pulizzi's excellent book Epic Content Marketing. I started reading it after I wrote this post and it confirmed and expanded what I already knew about content marketing, with much more detail than I could ever go into here. Something Pulizzi emphasizes which I originally left out was the importance of focusing on producing mobile-friendly content, since smartphones are becoming the dominant way in which most of our customers access content. Also read Michael Hyatt's Platform, mentioned above. Frequent websites like those of Content Marketing Institute, Ragan, Copyblogger, Michael Hyatt, and Gary Vaynerchuk and sign up for their email newsletters. It won't take you long to become not just familiar with content marketing, but an expert.

Your content is only as valuable as its ability to attract audience members and compel them to engage with your business on an ongoing basis — as subscribers, customers, evangelists, or, ideally, all three. Once you have an addressable audience, your content efforts will help increase sales, gather valuable customer insights, and activate your most ardent followers as brand advocates.
Next, do some research and learn more about your target audience. What are their goals? What do they already know about banks and personal finances? At this stage, it’s also helpful to take a look around at the competition and see what they are doing. You don’t want to copy your competition, but you do want to produce content that’s much better and much more useful.
It doesn’t really matter what content marketing stands for. The debates around the definition of content marketing and even its value will not make the lives of your customers better nor will they improve your business. Content marketing is not a holy grail, it’s a popular term for a way of working with content to do better. On the other hand the debate does matter in the sense that often you will read things about content marketing that aren’t correct because the definition was wrong to start with. And misinformation can lead to wrong decisions.

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 71st most popular among all books on Amazon). It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.
The Farmers Insurance Inner Circle is a super customer-friendly resource that it created to empower the audience to become better educated about topics that, for a lot of us, go right over our heads. Farmers Insurance provides people with useful, practical information. It offers a huge variety of articles about things like taking care of your house and your car, how to prevent identity theft, what you need to know if you’re going through a divorce — basically how to deal with anything life throws at you.
However, you don’t need to work with influencers to utilize user-generated content as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you create a contest or just consistently ask for feedback through social media, you can encourage your fans and followers to post pictures of themselves using your products or services. When you repost this content, you are showing your leads and customers what others think about your brand while showing the customer themselves your appreciation for their business.
By defining questions like this, you are able to uncover information about your potential customers that will simplify the way in which you go about creating content for them. Specifics like these seek to improve your targeting efforts by supplying you with enough information to personalize content and move personas closer to a positive purchasing decision.

In the ‘modern’ approach of content marketing, where more people look at the role of content in branding, reach, engagement, social and SEO. especially in a pure branding, reach and engagement approach, organizations look less at buyer personas but rather at audiences. Nevertheless, such a view requires a content marketing strategy as well. Unless your company lives from website traffic, a pure publishing model without an overall strategy makes no sense. It’s also advisable to not look at content marketing from the pure social and search context.
The Common Language in Marketing website is an ongoing and comprehensive encyclopedia of globally relevant and standardized marketing terms, activities, metrics, and systems. This open-source, curated library of definitions combines the insights of leading marketing academics, industry trade associations, and subject matter experts with input from the broader community. 
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