Understanding Content Marketing

Understanding Content Marketing

Understanding Content Marketing

It’s hard to tell when a business trend is a worthwhile investment of resources for an entrepreneur. Particularly in the field of digital marketing, where the landscape changes on an almost daily basis, determining where to focus your efforts to increase awareness of your small business can be especially challenging.

However, there is one digital trend that every small business needs to embrace: content marketing. Sure, you’ve probably heard the phrase thrown around quite a bit over the last several years. A colleague would mention content marketing, and you would nod your head knowingly, even though you were not entirely sure what it meant, or how it could be applied to your startup. Like many entrepreneurs, you probably made assumptions about content marketing that allowed you to overlook this incredibly effective method for lead generation.

So What is Content Marketing?

While the phrase “content marketing” was first used in 1996, the concept became popular within the last decade or so. A content marketing definition was explained by author Jeff Cannon in 1999, “In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.”

In the eighteen years since Cannon first provided a content marketing definition, the Internet and its users have dramatically evolved. Therefore, the content marketing definition has changed to encompass the depth of this bold strategy for lead generation.

Now the Content Marketing Institute, the foremost experts on the topic, offers this widely-accepted definition, “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.”

Basically, brands make content that addresses consumers’ questions and issues, rather than trying to blatantly sell something to them. Consider all the places where your business uses content. Email marketing? Social media marketing? SEO advertising? Website development? Content marketing tactics apply to all of these efforts, and more.

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

So if content marketing includes everything and the kitchen sink, where do you begin with a strategy? It’s a daunting task to anyone who is unfamiliar with the nuances of content marketing. But fear not, because, with the right direction, developing an effective content marketing strategy is much easier than it seems.

When constructing a content marketing strategy, there are five areas to focus on:

  • Purpose and Goals
  • Audience
  • Story
  • Process
  • Measurement
Purpose and Goals

This is the driving force behind your content marketing strategy. What need will your content fill for your audience? What do you want to accomplish with your content marketing strategy? Solidifying these two aspects will keep your efforts aligned as you move through the rest of the development process.


The way you communicate with baby boomers is much different than how you would speak to millennials. Defining your audience helps you hone your brand persona and decide what will define it. Is your brand hip and edgy? Or maybe your company is more professional and to-the-point. Understanding your audience helps you understand how you will convey your brand via content marketing.

Additionally, defining your audience helps you apply your content marketing purpose and goals. If your purpose is to deliver useful information about car insurance to recent college graduates and your goal is to get them to sign up with your agency, then you have to know that your audience is in their early-to-mid twenties, they are educated, and they are working on a tight budget. That’s extremely applicable knowledge that will greatly ease your efforts in creating a story.


Just like audience is the “who” of your content marketing strategy, the story is the “why.” Why are you conveying this information? Why are you paying good money to strategize, research, create, and disseminate this content?

While this isn’t a story in the literary sense, with content marketing, your company is telling its audience a story to inspire action. Returning to the auto insurance example, why does your agency feel it is important to engage recent college grads? Obviously, the answer is to increase potential leads for your company. It sounds straightforward enough, but you have to reach these people by using content to create a need or immediacy that demands follow up, such as visiting a landing page, requesting a demo, or contacting a business for further information.


This is the “how” of the strategy, the nitty gritty details that outline how your story will be put to work for your company. An operational plan of the process should be used, that includes:

  • The steps in order of how the strategy will be executed
  • The person/team responsibility for each task in the strategy, from writing copy to coding emails and publishing blog posts
  • Guidelines to insure the brand persona is properly conveyed across teams and channels
  • Any important resources
  • Detailed outlines of content formats with corresponding media channels

Measuring the Success of a Content Marketing Strategy

The final component of your content marketing strategy is measurement, meaning how you will gauge the success of your efforts. As you set benchmarks for success when outlining your content marketing strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that these efforts are ongoing. For example, just because your insurance agency launches a new blog aimed at recent college graduates doesn’t mean you are going to see new business within the first week. As with anything worth waiting for, it takes time and patience.

Most small businesses will measure the success of their content marketing strategy by the growth in email subscriber lists, clickthroughs to contact pages on websites, increased social media engagement, and eventually, a higher percentage of leads converting into sales. A tip to the wise: don’t set goals so high that they are unattainable. While 10 percent increase in leads might seem reasonable, that is a huge jump to make. Start slow, and ramp up as your execute your strategy over time.

Content Marketing Institute recommends using the analytics pyramid to measure the efficacy of your strategy. There are three levels of the pyramid: user indicators for the analytics team, secondary indicators for managers, and primary indicators for executive-level reporting. As you measure audience activity, you will understand which tactics are most effectively driving your immediate goals, while informing future efforts and defining long-term objectives.

There are so many elements to consider when understanding content marketing, but make no mistake: content marketing is imperative to the success of any small business. Without a well-developed strategy, your burgeoning startup will find itself losing business to your competitors who did embrace content marketing.

Think of how much time people spend looking at their smartphones, tablets, and computers. All of those people are consuming content provided by innumerable businesses, organizations, and media outlets. It’s time to add your brand’s voice to that conversation and develop your very own content marketing strategy. Need some guidance? We’re here to help.  

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