Content marketing world.
I'm about to tell you all about this crazy crazy content marketing world we live in, but before we begin I recommend you check out Sticky Notes, my email list reserved strictly for folks like you looking to sell like hell. Now, where were we?
As a copywriter and content marketer that has been fortunate to work with some pretty stellar startups, I’ve seen first-hand (and admittedly at times by my own hand) what works and what doesn’t in the content marketing world.
For the past decade, most everyone has won when it has come to content marketing — primarily because the path to victory has been crystal clear — quantity over quality. Blast enough content at your target market and eventually you’ll strengthen your website’s SEO, build your email list, raise awareness and drive sales.
However, this strategy is dying. In fact, I would argue that it’s probably already dead. With more brands than ever before now competing for customer’s attention (whilst spewing out endless amounts of content), there seems to be an absurd amount of noise — very little of which is worth listening to.
Just think about how many posts you scroll past on sites like Medium, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to finally stop for a moment and stare at a piece of epic content you can appreciate. Your inability to end your own mindless scrolling serves as proof that it's nearly impossible to stop thumbs nowadays.
This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s extraordinarily bad for “content marketers” hoping to half-ass their content while getting whole-ass results. But, it’s good for the brands that have placed a tremendous amount of time and care into creating epic content marketing (and perhaps have been disappointed with the results they’ve been seeing).
Anyways, in this short snappy guide, I hope to give you a rundown on content marketing as I see it and how to build an epic brand in a content marketing world that is more competitive than it's ever been.
But, to begin, let’s get straight on what content marketing is. After all, it's a slightly ambiguous term, don’t you think?
What exactly is content marketing? A buzzword that’s actually valuable.
I would argue that “content marketing” has become a buzzword up there in ridiculousness with “move the needle”.
Amateur marketers who don’t know what they’re talking about have an easy way out when they find themselves in a meeting with an oblivious client — sprinkle in the word “content” a few times and suddenly you go from a moron to a thought-leader.
But, not unlike most buzzwords we see, content marketing was once a very valuable word that had a considerable amount of meaning and punch. Then, one day everyone started using it and nobody knew what it meant and BAM!
The content marketing world is now viewed as either a sleazy place greaseball internet entrepreneurs selling thousand dollar courses hangout in or some super-ambiguous place that most people can’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
However, the truth is that it’s neither. It's something far greater, far more wholesome and far more valuable to your brand and your customer. And, while all content marketers have their own definition of what content marketing is, here’s mine:
Content marketing is creating robust high-quality marketing that is so valuable to your customers that it is practically a product or a service in itself.
As you read the rest of this post, I want you to reposition content marketing in your mind from a type of "marketing" to an actual product or service your brand is offering for free. View it not as marketing but rather a free product or service that promotes a product or service you are selling.
While this is counterintuitive thinking, it can be revolutionary in regards to how you view the content you are creating.
For the past, however many decades, marketing and advertising have been universally known as a clever slogan pasted to a big billboard at a busy intersection or a cheesy ad read on the radio.
But, here is what differentiates content marketing from regular marketing — a billboard has never been and will never be valuable to your customers.
Sure, it might give them a chuckle and make them want to tell their friends about it.
And, yes, perhaps they might even take a right at the next exit for a big swig. But, billboards in and of themselves aren’t valuable to the customer. Content marketing however is.
While people won’t read a billboard and use its value to impact their lives in any way... an ebook, a blog post, a video, a picture or an event created by a skilled writer, photographer, videographer or marketer could quite possibly impact someone’s life on some level.
Now that we understand what content marketing is and why it's so damn valuable, let's discuss the types of content marketing you can choose from.
Three types of content marketing.
In my opinion, content marketing is created to accomplish one (and in some cases two) of the three things below:
1. Inspire –– to inspire the prospective customer to create impact or take action –– whether that's losing weight, running a marathon, going to college, starting a business, being a better person, changing the world, etc. When your content marketing strategy aims to inspire, you are creating content with the sole intention to motivate your reader or viewer to be better than they were before consuming your content.
2. Educate –– to educate the prospective customer in some area that is relevant to the product or service you're selling and to do it in such a way that it will add value to their lives in the form of knowledge. When your content marketing strategy aims to educate, you are creating content that teaches your reader or viewer something they did not know before consuming your content.
3. Entertain –– to entertain the prospective customer by making them laugh, smile or feel something. When your content marketing strategy aims to entertain, you are creating content that ultimately makes you reader or viewer feel better than they did before consuming your content.
While there are certainly various mediums like video, audio, written, etc... all in all, content marketing exists to offer one of the three types of value listed above. To inspire them to do something. To educate them about something. To entertain them in some way.
Now, to analyze each of these types on a much deeper level, let's take a look at some content marketing examples from real-life brands.
Examples in the content marketing world that'll make yo' jaw drop.
While making the jump to whole-ass your content might seem intimidating, you have plenty of trailblazers to pull inspiration from. I've broken down the three types of content marketing and have included some examples of each below.
Inspire –– Nike's Just Do It.
If you’re a brand that is seeking to create content that inspires your prospective customers, you want them to feel something. You want them to be moved after they watch your videos, look at your pictures, listen to your podcasts or read your articles.
I can't think of a better example than Nike's recent collaboration with Colin Kaepernick to mark the 30th anniversary of their Just Do It campaign.
Nike’s ultimate goal is to inspire their customers to just do it. And, of course to wear Nike while they're just doing it.
Sometimes they accomplish this through video storytelling and other times they might utilize badass pictures that make their customers want to get up and sprint. Regardless, Nike's inspirational content has served them well for years and will only continue to do so –– though this most recent campaign might end up being their riskiest yet.
But, besides Nike... Adidas, Onnit and Lululemon are all brands that utilize an inspirational strategy in their content marketing. If your brand is in the finance, apparel or health & fitness space, inspiration works extremely well.
Educate –– Grammarly
Then, of course, there is educational content. Grammarly is app that helps people catch silly typos in their emails, blogs and other forms of written content in the digital age.
They're an exceptional example of a brand that uses education to fuel their marketing content. Their immersive blog helps their readers write cleaner, crisper and with less fluff –– and it gives them answers to the questions we're all guilty of Googling like –– what's the difference between affect and effect?
I would argue that educational content is the most versatile of the three content strategies I've touched on today. However, I find them to be especially helpful when marketing software, service based businesses and health & fitness.
But, with that said, Bellhops is a brand I've done a lot of writing for whose content marketing has paid off well... and they are a moving company of all things.
Entertain –– Moonpie
While I don't regularly eat MoonPies, from a content marketing standpoint they're one of the most impressive brands I've seen.
One scroll through MoonPie's Twitter and you'll quickly see they've got the entertainment side of the content marketing world down to a science. Here's an example of one of their ridiculous tweets,
"It's as good a day as any to stick a MoonPie in the microwave light a couple candles and scream into a soft pillow."
They're witty and their 248,000 followers on Twitter agree. MoonPie is proof to the world that you don't have to have a massive content marketing team and millions and millions of dollars in the bank to entertain a large audience –– all you need is a decent sense of humor and a can do attitude.
Final thoughts on this crazy content marketing world.
One thing to keep in mind as you decide on a content marketing strategy is to align your content with your brand.
For Grammarly, it doesn’t make much sense for them to take an entertainment direction in their content marketing strategy. Sure, they should write in a fun entertaining voice, but most of Grammarly’s users aren’t interested in using Grammarly for entertainment purpose… they’re instead using it in hopes to not look like complete idiots in their emails.
As you choose a strategy, I would also encourage you to approach your content creation the same way you'd apprach product creation –– with a deep level of seriousness — because it is a product… remember?
We frown upon brands that bring an incomplete product to market and then market the hell out of it. So, we should do the same when it comes to brands that shell out poor content.
If you’re serious about the content you’re creating you should never under any circumstance create something that won’t accomplish one of the three things above? Inspire your customer, educate your customer or entertain them.
By Cole Schafer.
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