Modern content marketing is often an exercise in education, so that content marketers not only need to market, design, and write, but educate too.
At bottom, content marketing is about attracting, engaging, and retaining customers. It seeks to build relationships with customers, and relies on the principle of reciprocity.
Content marketing may also be a response to how advertising and marketing works now, since many content marketers believe that the relationship between buyers and sellers has changed, making so-called “traditional marketing” less effective.
Content Marketing as Education
Interestingly, the qualities of being helpful, engaging, and entertaining may also apply to educators, and education may represent content marketing at its best.
“The brands that place a priority on educating their prospects and customers through the creation of remarkable content are wisely choosing the road less traveled,” wrote Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, in a May 2013 article.
“The brands that place a priority on educating their prospects and customers through the creation of remarkable content are wisely choosing the road less traveled”…
“Think about this truth,” Pulizzi continued. “Our customers don’t care about our products or services; they care about themselves. If we buy into this, then we must also accept that the majority of the information we produce for marketing purposes cannot be about ourselves. Our content must be based on fulfilling our customers’ needs and interests, so that they come to build a trusted and emotional connection with our brands….So if we want to change our world through content marketing, we need to distinguish ourselves as the leading educational voices for our industry. No excuses.”
Pulizzi’s description of content marketing requires, perhaps, a specific set of essential skills. Content marketers who are educators, need to be learners, teachers, writers, designers, and marketers all at once.
Before a content marketer can hope to educate customers, that content marketer must first be a learner. In this sense, learning is an action. It is characterized by a hunger or drive to gain or acquire knowledge or skills. Learners study, experience, and participate, to gain a better understanding.
Whether you are hiring a content marketer or trying to become a better content marketer, start by learning about the industry you serve or that you hope to produce content about.
As an example, the content marketer for an online retail store selling fishing gear should genuinely learn about fishing.
How-to articles, videos, and guides are some of the best examples of content marketing, showing interested customers how to complete specific tasks or gain specific skills.
The Eastwood Company, which sells auto body repair tools, welding equipment, and painting supplies, does a good job of teaching. For example, its MIG welding tips video had more than 700,000 views on YouTube at the time of writing.
Content marketers should be able to develop concepts and explanations like a teacher would, breaking down relatively complex ideas or activities into consumable bits. Before a content marketer starts writing, that marketer needs to have developed a lesson plan.
Regardless of whether content will be delivered as an article, a video, or even a graphic, writing will be required.
Content marketers must be able to communicate with the written word. Fortunately, good writing is not a difficult skill to master. There are plenty of resources to help marketers write better, regardless of whether they are writing articles, video scripts, or a communication plan for an infographic.
Although content marketers can often delegate graphic design tasks, it is important to have an eye for design, layout, and visual aesthetics.
This skill can come in handy when choosing pictures to accompany an article, building graphics for a presentation, or storyboarding your next YouTube video.
If you’re a marketer trying to improve your content skills, learn a bit about design.
In a 2011 post, marketer Heidi Cohen listed 72 different definitions of the word “marketing.”
According to Cohen, the American Marketing Association said that “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
While Saul Colt, head of magic for Fresh Books said, “marketing is creating irresistible experiences that connect with people personally and create the desire to share with others.”
Perhaps Cohen’s point was the “marketing” is a fairly broad concept that may mean significantly different things in different contexts.
The marketing in content marketing is, to me, the skill of placing good, helpful, educational content in places where interested customers can find it.
The marketing in content marketing is a combination of public relations, website management, social media marketing, and even search engine optimization. It is the bringing together of content and audience.