Most brands are aware of the importance of content marketing, but many still don’t quite have a handle on how it really works. A good starting point, however, is to understand the difference between content marketing and outbound marketing. Whereas outbound marketing is all about telling people how great your product or service is, content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is about adding genuine value by solving problems.
Content marketing is, of course, promotional at its heart, but it’s not just about illustrating how your own products or services solve people’s problems. That’s what sales content does, and that’s not what content marketing is about, for the most part. There’s also content of the clickbait kind, which typically comes in the form of so-called sponsored content (also known as native advertising). This type of content is basically a scam, since it masquerades as content that solves real problems while all it’s really doing is trying to sell a junk product.
But My Product Does Solve Problems!
A successful, or at least a reputable, brand is obviously one that’s proud of its product or service and genuinely believes in it. After all, you’re in no position to sell something that you yourself think is rubbish unless, of course, you’re an accomplished scam artist. Scammers and spammers aside, a reputable brand recognises how its product genuinely solves a problem, so this might sound like the obvious subject to talk about when it comes to content marketing. However, talking only about your product is a matter of writing sales copy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, depending on the context. Where the bulk of content marketing comes in, however, is not talking about your brand and its product, but building up a reputation as an industry authority.
Representing Your Brand as a Thought Leader
Although a woefully overused term in the world of inbound marketing, thought leadership is what content creators should be aiming for. A thought leader is an informed individual who becomes a go-to authority for trusted information on a subject. They are the people who build communities of dedicated followers and ultimately get people believing that the brand they’re representing knows exactly what it’s doing. As such, a thought leader’s job is to present a brand in such a way that transcends the product alone to the extent that the brand itself becomes synonymous with authority and brilliance in its niche. Thought leadership starts with a driving passion that builds influence by solving real problems and, ultimately, inciting a revolution in your industry.
It’s Not About Putting Your Genius on Display
Content marketing differs enormously from more traditional forms of advertising in that it’s a lot humbler. Rather than being about putting your knowledge on display, it’s about helping people make their lives better and, in doing so, earning their gratitude and, consequently, their patronage. To this end, it might sound like content marketing is about giving away something for free and, to an extent, that’s exactly what it is. However, offering genuine value for free is precisely what builds trust in your brand while also humanising it to the extent that consumers will be in a better position to empathise with you.
Let’s provide an example to help give a better idea of how content marketing works. Whole Foods Market Inc. is an enormously successful chain of supermarkets in the US that’s specifically orientated towards healthy eating. It’s also a company with a fantastic content marketing strategy. Anyone can visit the Whole Foods Market website and check out their recipes page to access thousands of user-rated recipes covering an extensive variety of categories. They also have an extremely popular blog offering everything from healthy-eating tips to saving money on groceries. At the same time, their content is active and inclusive to the extent that it draws readers in and makes them a part of the whole experience. Ultimately, by educating, helping and entertaining its website visitors, the company has built itself up as the industry leader in its niche as well as becoming a household name across the US.
Content Marketing Applies to Everyone
It’s often easy to dismiss certain industries as unsuitable for content marketing. After all, it makes sense that anything related to healthy lifestyles has a major advantage when it comes to content marketing, since most of us do spend a lot of time thinking about our health. However, content marketing applies to absolutely every industry without exception. It doesn’t matter whether your company specialises in selling sock monkey sewing patterns or smartphone-operated hydroponics systems for the living room – there’s always the potential for content that can solve problems or entertain. Even the most obscure and specialised niches of all are worth writing about and, if they’re not, then there’s not going to be a product or service worth selling anyway.
A good customer is a happy customer, and a happy customer is someone who has found a way to solve their problem. As a brand aiming to build up its reputation, one of your key goals should be to create content that solves the problems that your target audience faces, whether that involves providing invaluable lifestyle tips or simply being a great entertainer.