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What is Content Marketing & How Can Businesses Use It?

Digital Marketing

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet…” –Bill Gates

Content is King, January, 1996

Depending on the whim of the stock market, Bill Gates might or might not be the world’s wealthiest person at any given moment.

The bulk of his fortune grew from his development of an operating system for computer hardware.

In January 1996, the internet as we know it, the world wide web, was less than 5 years old.

So how did a guy, who was already fabulously wealthy because he wrote software that helps us use hardware, have the foresight to predict the importance of content on the web (which has nothing to do with software or hardware), and do so when the web was still in its infancy? (…and coin the term ‘content is king’, which, above all else, underscores the value of content.)

Because he and we saw it all happen before. The “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet…” line finishes with “…as it was in broadcasting.”

How Businesses Started to Use Content Marketing

To get a better idea of what Gates meant, consider the following.

Television is one of the greatest inventions in history. But even today, if you bought the slickest, 4K, HD, 82-inch, razor-thin television there is, but never connected it to an antenna, media service or the web, what would you do with it?

It’s the stuff you watch on television, the content, that’s the real value.

Savvy marketers saw the value of content marketing long before the term was coined. “The Furrow”, a magazine published by the John Deere tractor company starting in 1895, is widely cited as an early example of successful content marketing.

Surprisingly, (considering the fate of so many printed newspapers and magazines in the wake of the web) The Furrow is still in print today. Its content focuses on farmers, farms, and farming. Most remarkably, in over 120 years of publication, the “John Deere” company name appears fewer than two dozen times in The Furrow’s editorial content.

The Furrow is a good an example as any of what is content marketing, even web content marketing

Content marketing consistently offers a business’s prospects and customers useful and/or entertaining and relevant information that solves its readers’ issues. It does so in a way that promotes and supports awareness, reputation, loyalty and, ultimately, sales for its publisher. And it does so without blatantly promoting the business.

Content Marketing on the Web

As reflected in the foresight of Gates and others, the web gave birth to content marketing as its own marketing discipline. The term ‘content marketing’ first appeared in 1996. And in 1998, Netscape created the office of “Director of Online & Content Marketing”.

As with any new science, it took a while for the parameters of content marketing to fall into place.

Especially on the internet, where capturing and holding an audience’s attention is a slippery slope, you must use a very calculated approach to reach the potential that content marketing offers.

The Basics of Successful Content Marketing for Your Business

If you’re just exploring the possibilities for content marketing, consider the following as the minimum of a successful strategy.

  • Planning – Again, the flightiness of web readers means your content must be highly relevant. Not only should you plan for content relevance, but also publish the content at the most relevant time. A content editorial calendar is often the basis of content marketing programs. And planning a constant stream of content is crucial.
  • Content Media Mix – Web content is delivered through a wide range of internet media. Copy is the purest form of web content and a blog is a staple of most content media mixes and content marketing programs. Video is one of the easiest of all content types to create. If you have a smartphone, off you go. Other web content media include podcasts, whitepapers, ebooks, images, and infographics.
  • Content Creation – You may have heard reference around the web to everyone being their own publishers. That starts with being your own author, producer, and host. Your company needs a plan in place to create your own, fresh content.
  • Content Curation – Content marketing involves being part of online communities of like-minded publishers and their audiences. Sharing good, pertinent content published by others not only helps your markets solve their issues, but it connects you to other publishers who may share your content. Content curation gives you more content to publish and the potential of reaching larger audiences.
  • Promotion – It’s the missing link between the blog posts you sweat to create and anyone knowing that they exist. It’s not enough to be a publisher. You need to market your content. Social media is a great way to not only promote your content but also to find the communities who will be most receptive to it. Current email lists put your content into the hands of those who have actively sought a connection to your business. And, if nothing else works, or in combination with other promotional channels, you can use paid content promotion.

The Content Marketing Big Picture

Just in case you’re still trying to grasp the idea of content marketing, James O’Brien of Contently wrote on Mashable that “the idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return.”

To learn more about content marketing, or even start putting a successful strategy in place, get in touch with the content marketing experts here at nvision, they’re ready to answer all your questions!


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