Digital Transformation

Marketing With Content: The Next Step for Brands

I have done hundreds of interviews in the eight years that have passed since I co-founded Contently. And every time, without fail, the interviewer asks me, “What is the definition of content marketing?”

Over the years, I didn’t care much about the answer because the term “content marketing” was always pigeonholed. Since it rose to popularity in the early 2010s (I thank the good folks at Content Marketing Institute!), people largely treated content marketing as a euphemism for things that have been around for a long time: custom publishing, advertorials, owned media.

Of course, content marketing was always more than those things. When done right, it can impact just about every department inside a company, from sales and marketing to human resources and investor relations. So after nearly a decade of definition-warping, I think marketers need to start talking about content marketing a little differently.

Perhaps more importantly, after all this time, it’s clear that most brands have matured in the way they think about content. So it’s time for the industry to do so too.

At Contently, we’ve made a subtle change to address that. To make sure companies are thinking beyond the blog, we’ve begun talking about “marketing with content.” What does that mean? I drew a diagram to explain:

marketing with content

If brands have historically used their blogs to increase brand awareness, now it’s time for content to apply to the entire marketing funnel. The fundamentals of storytelling can still power demand generation, sales enablement, and retention. (At even more content-mature organizations, this diagram could also include recruiting, customer training, and employee engagement.)

If we break down the tactics that the modern marketer has to choose from, we see that every one of them gets better when the content gets better. This is one of the reasons the founders of Groupon originally invested in Contently—they saw how great content increased their email open rates and coupon purchase rates. E-commerce content doesn’t typically get bucketed under the content marketing department (or definition), but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is it gets result.

Based on what we’re seeing from clients and prospects, expect more brands to start closing the audience engagement gap. Companies will own their audiences by infusing content in every marketing tactic. Organization structures are going to change. And the technology that organizations use needs to change with them.

That’s why Contently will focus this year on marketing with content—across the funnel, across the channels, online and off.

Every brand is the sum of the stories it tells. Infusing content into every aspect of marketing, not just the traditional blogs and social profiles, is the best way to build that story. The assets you use to do that can be articles and infographics, but they should also include e-books, calculators, webinars, case studies, videos, one-sheeters, and more.

Either way, it’s time for marketers to start thinking of content as the battery that supercharges everything they do. Content is no longer just a channel.

Image by iStockPhoto

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