Content is king.
Anyone who’s ever worked in publishing or broadcast media has heard this familiar mantra ad infinitum. In media, content is the bait. It’s what captures eyeballs, ears, attention, and engagement. It’s part of a timehonored contract with consumers: We’ll give you content, you give us attention—but you’ll have to agree to get ads or commercials as part of the bargain. The traditional media model is interruptive marketing.
That model still holds true, of course, and will continue to do so. But these days, traditional media is on a continual decline. Newspapers, television, radio, and magazines, although hardly on the verge of extinction, are nevertheless experiencing catastrophic disruption. Circulation and tune-in are sinking. Journalists are losing their jobs in record numbers.
Content can also create a virtuous circle in tandem with search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. More content helps a brand, product, service, or company rank higher in search engine results—provided that content is useful, helpful, relevant, or engaging. People talking about that content in social media channels creates links to the content, which in turn further elevates it, search-wise.
Content marketing is also coming to the fore as marketers realize the importance of focusing not only on the buying cycle, but also equally on the sales cycle. Marketers are then flipping the funnel over entirely as they quickly learn that customer service, reputation management, branding, positioning, and public relations (PR) are occurring in digital channels as well as positioning, lead generation, and nurturing.
Businesses of all kinds are adapting, and they’re learning how to create great content. A 2010 study conducted by the Business Marketing Association and American Business Media, in conjunction with MarketingProfs and Junta42, surveyed 1,100 marketers in North America and found nine out of ten businesses—across all industries and companies large and small—are incorporating content into the marketing mix. On average, they’re spending a quarter of their marketing budgets on content, and over half said they plan to increase that investment in the coming year.
These marketers know content can provide the solutions prospective buyers are seeking when they use search. They know prospects need to be educated before making buying decisions. They know that when credible, trustworthy information is found, it can easily be shared with others involved in the buying process.
They know they can become publishers. Rather than invest time, money, and resources buying or influencing media with advertising or public relations campaigns, savvy marketers can redirect the flow of that money to become the media.
Marketers worldwide have caught on to these strategies. Although, as Figure 2.4 illustrates, most still rely on print to distribute at least some of their content, virtually all marketers have made digital the centerpiece of any content distribution strategy.
Case in point: For many years, I was editor-in-chief of the top online publication covering the digital marketing industry. Our bread and butter was selling ads to marketing technology companies and publishing those ads in our email newsletters and on the website.
HubSpot is a marketing technology company—one that would have been a hot prospect to my former employer’s ad sales team. But no longer. A serious, longterm commitment to content marketing means the company features more than 50 digital marketing case studies on its website—all with videos. The site attracts roughly one million unique visitors per month. It sends email newsletters to more than 700,000 subscribers who have opted in to receive them. More than 100,000 people follow the company on Twitter, while another 50,000 track the company’s LinkedIn updates. As a result, the company is spending little on other sales and marketing efforts.
And I promise you, these numbers seriously compete with the subscriber, following, and website traffic statistics of the major editorial property I led just a few short years ago.
Consumers have come to expect content from brands and the companies they do business with. More and more, marketing is structured to supply content and to enable customers to use it, interact with it, and share it.
To sell, engage, educate, and inform in a highly competitive online environment, the time for marketers to embrace content marketing is now.