“Content marketing” is still a relatively new buzzword in marketing circles. But unlike typical business jargon, content marketing is a real thing that can make a company more successful.
So, what is it exactly? Basically, it is providing your prospects and customers with information, usually at no charge, that helps them solve a problem without obviously trying to sell them something. Examples of content marketing include case studies, white papers, e-books, blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts and checklists.
Here are eight reasons why your business should consider content marketing:
1. It helps your SEO.
Having regularly updated, keyword-focused and properly linked content on your website is key to attracting search engine-generated traffic because it provides exactly what a search engine is looking for: clear, honest and well-communicated answers to questions.
Tip: Use a tool like SEMRush to find your most popular content and link it to less popular content on your site.
2. It provides customers value before they buy.
That is, the new marketing paradigm involves providing customers with value before they provide you with money. Without content marketing, you’re out of the game.
The psychological foundation of this approach is the principle of reciprocity, which holds that people who receive a gift, even a gift they did not want, are hardwired to reciprocate by providing the gift giver something else of value — in this case, buying what the company behind the content marketing campaign is selling.
Tip: Make your content appear more valuable — and gather useful information — by requiring website visitors to provide their email address to download your best content, like white papers and case studies.
3. It helps position your company as the best solution.
Consumers want to know who provides the best product or service. When searching for something they want to buy, I’d wager that, in nine out of 10 instances, at least one search query will be “who makes the best X.” You become known as the best by providing valuable content, like tests of quality, customer testimonials, sales figures, case studies, white papers, etc.
Tip: Compare your product/service with that of competitors’ in a features matrix on your website.
4. It’s not enough to rely solely on traditional advertising.
Simply telling a potential customer that your product or service is the best, as advertising often does, is no longer believable. You have to prove it, which engaging content gives you the bandwidth to do.
Tip: You shouldn’t necessarily abandon advertising, especially digital advertising, when you use content marketing. In fact, you can use online ads to drive traffic to your content.
5. It creates a devoted audience that traditional media can’t provide.
Content marketing is about creating an audience with whom you develop a relationship of trust. That doesn’t happen overnight. But when it does happen, you are likely to have loyal, evangelistic customers for life. This brings us to another key benefit of content marketing (see reason #6).
Tip: Think like a publisher, not a marketer. One of your main goals in content marketing should ultimately be to create an audience you can monetize.
6. It creates more reliable and loyal customers.
Content marketing results in a better grade of customer than traditional “push” marketing — a customer who will stay with you through thick and thin, spend a lot of money over a lifetime, be less likely to shop you and more likely to tell their friends about you.
This is because content marketing is focused on identifying and solving a customer’s problem, not just selling a product. It is the only form of marketing in which the stuff you create to sell your product — that is, the content you provide — can be as valuable as the product itself.
Tip: Provide something special (e.g., a discount, a book, a customer profile on your website, etc.) to customers who regularly interact with and dig deep into your content, which may encourage them to become evangelists for your brand.
7. It can establish you as an authority in your industry.
You can’t be a thought leader without content marketing, and thought leadership is key to owning your market because it establishes you as an authority on solving a particular problem. Content marketing is fundamental to thought leadership because that’s what good content is: sharing your thoughts. No one ever advertised their way to becoming a thought leader, but many of them wrote (or recorded) their way there.
Tip: Read about anything and everything that pertains to your industry so you can bring truly valuable and objective insights to your content.
8. It’s more fun.
Content marketing is simply more fulfilling, fun and honest than most other marketing tactics. Think about it: Is it more fulfilling to create an ad or to write a blog post? The former has no purpose other than to sell something. The latter is about freely sharing lessons from your years of solving a particular problem. It is more likely to lead a conversation than a pitch. In other words, it’s more about living than simply earning a living.
Tip: Make sure a large portion of your content does not directly relate to what you are selling but rather helps customers better understand the industry or discipline in which you both share an interest.
So, to sum it up: Though it can be more difficult, be more expensive and take longer than traditional marketing efforts, content marketing can also be more effective, more sustainable and more enjoyable, leading to loyal customers, not shoppers. It is also the only truly authentic form of marketing, as your only motive is to help people, not sell to them. And when you help them, your products and services will sell themselves.
(Originally published in Forbes)