Content marketing is not about content – it’s about media. In particular, it’s about deciding to own your media channel rather than simply renting it by buying advertising.
Content Marketing is defined by Joe Pulizzi (Content Marketing Institute) as:
“…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.”
That’s not wrong – but it’s not precise.
Content marketing is not about creating and distributing “valuable, relevant content”… if it were, then artists, cinematographers, etc., would be marketing experts. Instead, I would argue that content marketing is:
“…a particular way of solving the customer acquisition problem. Content marketing solves the customer acquisition problem by openly demonstrating value to suspects, prospects, and leads, in an attempt to emotionally fascinate them long enough that they are involuntarily attracted to the value proposition posited by the content marketer. This process creates customers that are willing to buy not only the initial offering, but subsequent offerings, at significantly less cost of re marketing – perhaps requiring no re marketing whatsoever.”
To do that, one needs to own, not rent, the media space because, in the end, one needs to own the platform for conversion as well. Ultimately, good content marketing is about establishing a closed loop system between media, market, and the buyers of your products/services.
Content marketing is also not “storytelling”; Stefan Sagmeister was right in saying that most storytelling is bullshit, and content marketing is about demonstrating value – not telling stories effectively. We’re drawn to it because, when value is displayed openly and honestly, it helps build on the customer’s story, not that of the marketer.
Measuring Costs / Returns for Content Marketing is different than measuring ROAS or other similar type of measures.
What would be the return on investment for being Harley Davidson? Imagine it’s 1905 and you have the potential to own the category just as John Deere owns agricultural machinery and Betty Crocker owned cookbooks for generations.
That’s the potential ROI of a media-based approach to promotion.
Media doesn’t become less valuable over time — it becomes more valuable as information accrues to the media property. Take Warner/Chappel’s music library and Google’s library of information, for example.
Yes, good content costs money. But content marketing, if done well, has greater ROI than the best possible ad campaign you can think of, because media ultimately has a far longer half-life.
Here’s an example from Neal Patel of KISSmetrics:
- KISSmetrics created a total of 47 infographics. An infographic on average costs $600, which means they spent $28,200 on infographics in the last two years.
- Within the two-year period, they generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains, all from those 47 infographics. On social, they’ve driven 41,359 tweets and 20,859 likes.
If you were trying to game Google and get the same results, you would need to spend a total of $1,072,905.80. That’s a lot of money, especially when compared to the $28,200 KISSmetrics spent.
Conversion is ultimately about customer acquisition and then holding them in the hourglass – not the funnel:
The primary challenge with the funnel approach is that the funnel has no end — one must repeat the sale for the returning customer every single time. The process might get easier, but you’re still selling the same product to the same person.
When you build an audience, however, the challenge is to delight that audience rather than to repeat the sales drill yet again.
Content marketing is less about the sale of a product/service than that of an idea and the brand behind that idea. For this reason, it can ultimately be stronger than advertising in driving sales — and it explains why competitors cannot displace content-rich brands like Apple and Harley Davidson and why Apple can successfully go from selling computers to selling watches and, yes, even cars.
Ultimately, media-based approaches are about building audiences that can be then delighted with any number of things. For this reason, media-focused content marketing is more valuable in the long-term than any flash-in-the-pan ad campaign could be.
Bryan Del Monte is the Managing Member of Clickafy Media Group, a communications and advertising consultancy firm in Minneapolis. He publishes daily at www.brandmediastudio.com.