What is “content marketing?”

Most of us should have a pretty good idea of what “content marketing” means. On the other hand, if pressed by a member of the C-suite to define it quickly and simply, how many of us could do so?

CMI_Final_20131The Content Marketing Institute defines it this way: “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.”

You can tell that the CMI is trying to use as few words as possible, but they require two more paragraphs to define the definition—which indicates that this is, indeed, a bit more complex than it may appear at first glance. I prefer their explanation a couple of paragraphs down:

“Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

Okay, we nod our heads. Then we stroke our chins and ask for examples. Here’s where it gets interesting. In answer to this need for samples, a year ago the CMI website offered a free download for an e-book listing one-hundred different examples. I looked up my original notes on this version of the book, and I found that only about 20 out of 100 organizations profiled were B2B companies, and of these, only a handful were manufacturers. On the other hand, 20 is a lot more examples than I thought I would find, and many of those profiled were applicable to what we do. Since then, CMI has replaced that book with a new one containing 75 current examples of content marketing, and of those, only six might be considered B2B (more about that later.)

E-books, reference books, white papers, company and association magazines (print and digital), newsletters (print and digital), podcasts, webinars and videos, articles and blogs, all were well represented in both versions. I was impressed with the number of e-books and magazines included in the examples of excellence. I appreciated one of the comments regarding a corporate magazine, which said in part, “Most successful custom publications speak to the interests of … readers without overly promoting its brand.” Ellcom currently publishes three regular “in-house” magazines for various clients, and we have found that adhering to that philosophy builds a dedicated readership. E-books and even printed versions of reference books are also popular with our clients and their customers.

Magazines 2016Without a doubt, content marketing is a successful strategy that can benefit most marketing departments. Of course, the actual creation of quality content is what tends to trip up companies wanting to increase their content marketing efforts. It requires a very specific skill set and time that not all teams have.

But when I see that even fewer B2B companies are represented in the newest edition of CMI’s examples of excellence, it makes me wonder if creating great content isn’t an area of real opportunity for manufacturers in the construction, mining, oil and gas, and bio-sciences vertical markets that we serve. If your marketing efforts are not standing out from the crowd as much as you’d like, beefing up your content marketing—with an emphasis on quality, engaging content, of course—is likely your quickest route to a turnaround.





Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.