Content marketing is not fundamentally different than marketing itself, because you can’t communicate or persuade without content. But content marketing tends to focus on free and gated formats to attract attention and website traffic, generate leads and to aid in the sales process. It can get super sophisticated with marketing automation and may require advertising to get traffic, as SEO has become more and more difficult with every passing year. Brian Carter, Author of The Like Economy

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.
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.
Content marketing already addresses a variety of needs and objectives for different departments. Sales teams use content to bolster pitches and improve client relationships. Brand managers turn content into goodwill and authority. Recruiters attract top talent by publishing content in places where the best candidates spend their time online. The possibilities are endless — and now, a new avenue is opening up.

The “Share a Coke” campaign gives every Coca-Cola lover the opportunity to personalize their drink. Individuals could personalize their own bottle with their name on the Coca-Cola website or look for their name (or a friend’s name) on a bottle at the gas station or supermarket. This campaign soon went viral as consumers began posting pictures online with their personalized drinks.
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.
But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious -- but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.
Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts -- the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.
Another reason? People are just not that into ads. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust In Advertising report, people trust text ads less than any other content medium, especially on mobile. What’s more, on the list of trusted mediums, editorial content outranked ads on all traditional channels, including TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines.

People are asking questions and looking for information via search engines like Google, and you want your business to be at the top of the search results. Answering people’s questions via blog posts, e-books, videos, and other content assets is a key way to make this happen. Of course, showing up is only the first step, but it’s essential if you want to reap the benefits of content marketing.


"The other guy is doing it" seems like a terrible rationale, except that showing off the shares and attention a competitor is getting for their content can really help prove your point with someone who still doesn't see the value in content marketing. Just be ready for what sometimes comes next - "Do exactly what they're doing" - which is not the way to win at content marketing.
'When it comes to business blogging, there’s no doubt that consistency is important,' says Vaughan. 'Just consider the fact that companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads. That being said, consistency must also be applied to the quality of your content, not just the quantity. If you pay any attention to the increased emphasis Google is placing on quality content, this comes as no surprise. Because marketers must also make a commitment to quality in all the content they create, increasing frequency alone won't get you very far. Quality and quantity must go hand in hand, and this will become even more important in 2013 and beyond.'
Big, consumer-focused brands aren’t the only ones providing great inspiration in the form of best content marketing examples. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that puts together unique and special experiences for children who suffer from life-threatening conditions like cancer. Even non-profit organizations have to promote their work in compelling ways to get the attention of donors, volunteers, and other individuals who can support their cause.
Web hosting is one of the most competitive sectors in the technology industry. There are hundreds of companies trying to reach the same customers, many of whom aren’t that tech-savvy. Not only that, many compete on price, rather than features or quality. Competing on price lowers the margins of the industry as a whole and makes the competition play hard in acquiring each customer.
28. Home Depot: Spreading seasonal knowledge. Home Depot shares excellent content year-round, but I especially admire how their content is hyper-focused on what’s top-of-mind for customers in the changing seasons. Energy-efficiency during the holidays, selecting a Christmas tree, and how to create a wreath were all recent articles as I wrote this post in late December. To ensure timeliness, Home Depot is always thinking ahead to the next few seasons and anticipating customers’ future needs — a great reminder for all brands who create content.
Unlike other forms of online marketing, content marketing relies on anticipating and meeting an existing customer need for information, as opposed to creating demand for a new need. As James O'Brien of Contently wrote on Mashable, "The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story."[3] Content marketing requires continuous delivery of large amounts of content, preferably within a content marketing strategy.[4]
It goes hand in hand with content sharing, social content marketing, social media, copywriting, visual content, you name it. Storytelling is also closely related with word-of-mouth, recommendations and the simple act of sharing and connecting, since long before digital marketing, let alone content marketing even existed. We know why: storytelling is one of the most human ways of passing along knowledge and traditions, mesmerizing audiences and, in fact, human nature as such. What does storytelling mean in a content marketing context? Below are a few resources on storytelling and content marketing.
You may want to be super-professional, very casual, or something in between. And you’ll have to manage the balance between showing your expertise and not patronising your audience. Here’s Sprout Social’s advice on creating consistency with your brand voice, and keep in mind important SEO ranking factors to optimize your content. Take a look at these successful content marketing examples for inspiration.
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.
You're looking for trends to see what successes you can build on and what needs improvement. Don't forget to look for gaps. Sometimes the content you most need is the content that isn't yet there. Do you have 15 posts about tools for every one case study? Are all of your posts about advanced niche topics? What if your audience is full of beginners who want to learn from other people's experience? Looking back through and classifying/quantifying your previous work gives you a bird's-eye view of where you've been in the past and where you have yet to venture.
Ally Bank is a completely online bank that’s made a name for itself through “disruptor” strategies. The bank has a reputation for coming up with creative ways to get people to think long and hard about their money. One example was a game called Ally Big Save, which only worked during the commercials of the NFL big championship game. In the midst of the football game, Ally’s app was downloaded 65,000 times, and more than a million people visited the game’s microsite.
Of course, how you communicate your strategy depends on the structure and culture of your organization. In some cases, it may be appropriate to share your full documentation. In other cases, it may make more sense to create targeted summaries for certain stakeholders (for example, busy executives, or external agencies), based on how your content marketing strategy will impact their particular roles, processes, and objectives.
Most people count on incorporating popular holidays such as New Year's and Thanksgiving in their marketing efforts, but you don't have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates. If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. HubSpot's Service Blog Editor Sophia Bernazzani compiled this ultimate list of social media holidays -- keep an eye on it when you're planning your calendar.
Zoom-Zoom Magazine has a clean, modern layout that feels like a consumer publication. Recent stories include a behind-the-scenes look at Mazda's test chambers, a writer's challenge to see how many states he could drive through in 24 hours, and a short profile of an engineer who worked at Mazda for nearly 50 years. Every story includes large, gorgeous images, and some even include the option to download them as wallpaper.
Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly, never leave your content without tracking the results. This can include monitoring view and click rates, reading customer comments and responses, or even tracking ecommerce stats in relation to your content releases. Data tracking will allow you to analyze the results of your content marketing efforts and learn what’s effective and what isn’t.

The definition of content marketing further depends on your viewpoint and background. A B2B marketer, looking to generate and nurture leads, for instance, might look differently at it than a brand marketer, looking to cause a shift of brand perception, or a search engine optimization practitioner, trying to increase organic ranking of content in search engines. However, the rules of good content marketing and essential strategies and principles are very much alike in most cases.
Once you've been regularly publishing content on your own site for a while, it might be time to start thinking about distributing your content on other sites. This could mean repurposing content into new formats and publishing them on your blog, creating original content specifically for external sites -- such as Medium -- or publishing website content on various social networks.
Before you select any tool, you need to assess your content team’s abilities, resources, and goals. These platforms exist to make your job easier, more efficient, and more effective, so figure out where you stand before you bring in any technology to help. When you’re ready, there are tons of options to choose from. Here are a few standout marketing automation platforms to get you started.

Which marketing and other organizational goals can we realize or improve by better using content marketing? An example: traffic building, conversion optimization, event marketing, lead generation and management, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation, customer service, etc. can all be improved by a better usage of content and content marketing. Your content marketing strategy looks at this. As a matter of fact, don’t just ask what organizational goals content marketing serves as in the chart. Many people, especially those calling the buying shots, have no clue what content marketing is and so do many executives, even in marketing. So, ask what organizational goals you can support and strengthen instead of trying to separate content marketing from the overall equation.
If you thought a company like Twitter doesn’t need content marketing, think again. The social media giant has been building up its Twitter Business Outlook blog with original and licensed content centered on how-tos and best practices for advertising on the platform. After all, while countless other websites and agencies counsel on how to tweet to your fullest potential, where better to hear it than straight from the source? 
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