It’s not an easy question to answer because there are subtleties depending on the situation. But you’d better have a good answer for your boss.
Every content marketer has been asked the same question at some point in their careers, most likely more times than they can count: What exactly is content marketing? It’s not just your family at holiday gatherings that you want you to explain what you do all day, but decision makers at work – your boss, co-workers and clients.
It seems like a simple question to answer, but it’s not. There isn’t one single accepted definition across the board. Yes, the answers are relatively similar but it is in the subtleties where the waters get muddied, and it gets confusing.
Content marketing is tough to boil down into a few sentences because it encompasses so many different goals – providing value to customers, building trust in the brand and gaining and retaining customers. To make things more confusing, you can’t just point to one single thing delivered and say “That’s content.” Content can come in many forms.
It may be easier to say content marketing is not: it is not advertorials or advertising.
How someone defines it is more than just semantics. Company decision makers not understanding content marketing can greatly impact upon your ability to solve your customer’s problem and create effective content marketing. You may even get fewer resources – think money – than you need. Higher-ups may not understand content marketing doesn’t produce overnight results, and they may not realize what metrics are important when measuring return on investment.
To help you answer this question, both to your boss’s boss as well as your cousin at the next holiday gathering, we found definitions from five content marketing experts:
Content Marketing Institute
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach 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.”
Ashley Jane Brooks
Director, Brand & Social at Hootsuite Media
“Content marketing is all about your customer. I’ll say that again for emphasis: You’re creating content that your customer needs and wants. The goal of content marketing is to create helpful, informative pieces (from white papers to animated gifs) that your audience finds valuable, in order to drive positive engagement with your customers, whether that be increasing sales or reducing churn.”
Director of Content at Hubspot
“Content marketing is a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience — usually online — the goal of which is to attract new customers. The most common components of a content marketing program are social media networks, blogs, visual content, and premium content assets — like tools, ebooks, or webinars.”
President, Convince & Convert
Cision, The Influencers video series
“It is marketing so useful that people would pay for it. Marketing with enough intrinsic and inherent value that if you said to someone ‘would you kick in a couple of dollars for this?, They would say ‘Yeah, you know I actually would kick in a couple of dollars.’”
Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
Inside Intercom Podcast
“When we create something, we think, “Will our customers thank us for this?” I think it’s important for all of us to be thinking about whatever marketing we’re creating, is it really useful to our customers? Will they thank us for it? I think if you think of things through that lens, it just clarifies what you’re doing in such a simple, elegant way.”