Content marketing is one of the industry's biggest success stories of the past decade. Although it's been in existence since John Deere launched The Furrow back in 1895, telling farmers how they can be more profitable, the past ten years has seen rapid growth not only in industry awareness of the sector, but the size of marketing budget allocated to it.
Everyone with half an eye on the industry knows the principle of how content marketing works: draw in and engage your customer with content relevant to your brand and encourage them to take some form of action. But what is content marketing and how do you define it?
The CMA's definition of content marketing is:
“ The discipline of creating quality branded content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands. ” The CMA, www.the-cma.com
In this definition, the key phrase is ‘quality branded editorial content'. Fantastic content has always been at the heart of every successful campaign and should be the starting point for every future campaign. Of course there should be an efficient strategy set up, reliable measurement techniques in place, and the audience carefully targeted. But the true potential of content marketing can only be realised when you begin with content that will really grab your customer and hold on.
This isn't about content on a single platform - this is all direct customer-facing platforms around today and those that will emerge in the future. Print, digital, online, mobile, social - content marketing spans all channels. And when those channels are working together in a virtuous circle of engagement, effectiveness goes through the roof.
What content marketing does is sell without the obvious sell. It forms a relationship between brand and customer in which the customer receives useful, practical and entertaining information in return for their undivided attention, attention that can last up to 40 minutes in a single sitting.
More than that, content marketing gives a brand personality and character, transforming it from a faceless logo or storefront to a living, breathing team of knowledgeable and friendly experts. And it's with these friendly experts that your customers can have a dialogue with day in, day out.
The upshot of all this give and take is the building of a long-lasting relationship which leads to an increase in loyalty, awareness and ultimately, sales. There have been many studies proving the effectiveness of content marketing (many of them gathered here [link to CMA Research page]) but what really gives it credibility is the roll call of global brands shifting more and more of their marketing budgets into it.
Content marketing provides a valuable bridge between brand and customer, constantly surprising and moving forward. As technology develops, as does content marketing, its flexibility and ability to adapt quickly always giving it the edge over its traditional marketing rivals.
Some of the world's leading thinkers and marketing experts have said that content marketing is the future. Who are we to argue?
Seven elements that define successful content marketing
1. It's produced for a brand
Content marketing is ultimately a sales tool. It may take longer than some other mediums, but it still sells product.
2. It's multichannel
Good content will work across any channel. Engagement is the key.
3. It seeks to form a deep relationship with a consumer
This is no 30-second medium. Content marketing forms a powerful, long-lasting bond with its target audience.
4. It's measurable
No measurement, no results, no point. All content platforms have a number of established methods for proving effectiveness.
5. It engages the consumer for a significant length of time
Content is about all about sustained attention, gaining your customer's trust by drawing them into your brand's world for an enviable amount of time.
6. It performs a number of marketing tasks
Deep breath... Awareness, loyalty, sales, brand-building, engagement, cut-through, point of difference, and many more.
7. It's effective
Countless studies - many of them commissioned by the CMA - have proved that content marketing consistently outperforms other media over a greater length of time.
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