In today’s increasing digital world it’s safe to say more business owners know about content marketing than ever before. While this is a good thing, because it shows us more companies and people realize the importance of creating content and engaging with their audiences, there’s still some progress to be made.
For instance some businesses still struggle with understanding what it is they are doing, and what exactly constitutes the practice.
There is still confusion about what it looks like, what it does, and how it behaves. For example, you might be surprised to know that it isn’t something you do just online, but that you can have offline content marketing as well.
I believe the better you get at seeing this particular channel of customer acquisition for what it is, hopefully the better you will be at producing it.
With that being said I wanted to make a post about five of the bigger characteristics of content marketing. This list will help you identify and learn some of it’s different behaviors and functions.
#1 Your Blog as a Marketing Strategy
To put it as simply as possible, content marketing is a form of marketing. This is the most easy to understand, so it’s fitting that we start here. This simply means that its main function is to connect product and customer.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean selling. It just means the customer and product or business for that matter, connect at a desired point. That point could be the customer or potential customer receiving value, or associating a level of authority and trust with the particular company that produced that blog post or infographic for example.
The key take away is when you see a piece of material that is produced by a company or individual, it is serving a marketing function. Just like advertising or a sales promotion, the point of this type of strategy is to get you to take a desired action on the real product or service that a company is offering.
If you are still confused, think of the difference between “content”, and “content marketing”.
Content is the actual material one creates, such as videos and books.
Content marketing is using material such as video, and books (think e-books) to market yourself.
In other words, it’s like having a YouTube channel filled with videos on cooking because you want a cooking show. The content (videos) is the product. That is what you are offering your audience to consume now that you are on YouTube, and you will be offering the same thing if you happen to get on TV one day.
On the flipside, if you own a kitchen equipment business and you post videos of cooking food with your equipment on YouTube because you want potential customers to find out about your product, then that is marketing with content.
This is by far the single biggest reason companies write blog posts, white papers, or e-books.
#2 Price Tag Not Included
Content marketing can never be sold. This is perhaps the second most important characteristic of this marketing tactic.
If you come across material from a business that you think is content marketing or is being passed as such, but is for sale then that is not what it is.
Anytime an e-book or the like has a price tag, then it has crossed over to being the product rather than something that is used to market a product.
If you are just starting to produce blog posts or even video, don’t get tempted to sell stuff. Your focus should be on establishing a connection with your audience and driving them to your desired goal.
#3 Content Marketing Never Takes The Place of The Product
This is another big one because it gives us a big clue about the functions and behaviors we have been talking about.
Videos, how-to guides, or even top ten lists can never result in the direct consumption or use of the product by the customer.
They only assist in things such as the use, adoption, and spreading of a product.
For example you might have a SAAS you sell through subscription online, and you set up a blog for some inbound marketing. That blog assists your service business. It might serve to spread the word, establish credibility, or provide some other form of assistance to your audience.
It doesn’t matter if one million people read or consume your blog posts, if none of them use the real product.
In otherwords you can have many potential customers watch a video you produce, but if none of them purchase a set of golf clubs for example, then no product was consumed.
#4 It Provides Value
This is yet another big characteristic that helps us recognize a key behavior and function.
This also happens to be one of the major types of material you come across online.
An example of providing value would be setting up a forum where users can interact and benefit from one another.
Yet another example of providing value would be user generated content in the form of pictures of cats on a cat related website. The pictures offer no specific form of help to the user, but never the less they provide value.
Users get joy out of sharing pictures of their own cats, or looking at other types of cats they might want as a friend.
If you are ever confused as to how to start doing this particular form of marketing just think of ways you can offer value to your target market.
#5 There is a Unique Benefit System
It’s unique in how you are able to interact with the customer and also receive benefit from them.
By choosing to attract customers this way, you get engagement now, and possible desired outcome now and later.
What this means is that no matter what type of content you create, you get engagement with the audience at the point where they consume it.
However, when it comes to the benefit it goes past that specific point of consumption.
You don’t always receive all the benefit at that point in time. Sometimes you get additional benefits down the line.
For example, someone could come across your blog post about link building they find extremely helpful and actionable. You might think it would be a negative if the visitor just went on their way to try some of those tips without any further interaction with you. However, if you look a little closer you can see you have already received a bunch of benefits.
For starters, if the visitor to your site found the post to be useful and actionable, then you have provided value and help. Furthermore, the visitor is getting exposure to your brand, likely associating you with it as an authority, and also spending time on your site reading through the whole post and not just bouncing.
As you probably already know a low bounce rate, or avoidance of a quick exit back to the search results would hopefully contribute further to your search rankings.
If we move beyond this consumption point we can see there are additional benefits to be had down the line as well.
For example, the visitor could link back to your post, become a regular visitor, or even purchase link building services from you because of your expertise.
As you were hopefully able to see, these characteristics help us determine how a particular piece of content behaves or functions.
The next step now is to start producing content with the above features in mind so you can do a better job of connecting with your target audience.
Also if you have other behaviors you have observed that use when you are writing your next post, or e-book, let me know.