Content marketing is a term that's thrown around often in business circles, but I've realized that there are many misconceptions on the topic. "Is content marketing the same thing as blogging?" "Content marketing sounds really complicated." "Content marketing might work for your business, but it doesn't make sense for mine." Today I'm clearing up some common misunderstandings on this one subject that's had the greatest positive impact on my business.
1. Commerce isn't the goal of content marketing
Content marketing requires a lot of time and energy. It's an investment, and the purpose of an investment is to see a return. Content marketing isn't just a way to gain followers or gain the respect of others in your industry, although those are some great benefits of this practice. The point of content marketing is to make a sale or book a client by providing useful, beneficial content and building trust.
This change in perspective completely transformed the Elle & Company blog last summer from an outlet to a resource. When I began to see this blog as a marketing platform to appeal to my ideal clients, my business began to grow by leaps and bounds. The increase in page views that I received from posting helpful content led more people to my site day after day, which led to an increase in inquiries and bookings for my design services. Library subscriptions also increased as a result of this new traffic. The same can be true for you if you begin to think of your blog as a way to appeal to your ideal clients and customers. This change in perspective will cause you to place the focus on your audience and consider what beneficial content you can offer them to create a loyal following and earn a return on your investment.
2. Content marketing is done only through blogging
Although blogging is a popular content marketing outlet, you can share content and appeal to your ideal audience on several different platforms. Youtube videos and webinars are becoming increasingly popular for sharing content like tutorials. Newsletters and email campaigns are another fantastic outlet for sharing quality, niche-focused content. Podcasts are also a great way to share content audibly. The neat thing about content marketing is that it's ever-evolving and changing, so you have the opportunity to get creative about how you deliver content.
3. Content marketing and blogging are synonymous
As I mentioned above, you can practice content marketing on several outlets other than blogging. But even if blogging was the only platform for content marketing, the two still wouldn't be synonymous. Content marketing requires intentionality and purpose in creating content that will appeal to a specific audience in order to make a sale or book a client. I covered this in #1, but it's worth mentioning again: there's a commerce component to content marketing that is often overlooked. The purpose of this practice is to make a return on the investment of time and effort that go into curating content, whereas the purpose of blogging isn't always so straightforward.
4. Content marketing is only effective for certain types of businesses
I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t prosper from content marketing, from interior designers to clothing boutiques to gyms. Every entrepreneur has an amazing opportunity available to them through content marketing, while the methods with which they could go about it might be drastically different. The interior designer might share helpful content on their blog about how to hang a gallery wall, how to choose the perfect paint color, or how to pair textile patterns. All of those topics have a great chance of attracting others who have an interest and a need for interior design. The clothing boutique might share ideas on social media for different ways to wear an item in their collection. They could also highlight the latest fashion trends, explain different fabric types, or even feature one of their clothing designers on their blog. And the gym could attract potential members by sharing nutrition, health, and fitness advice through a podcast or blog post. They could demonstrate exercises and recipes video tutorials and share them on social media, and they could out a weekly newsletter that includes meal plans and fitness routines. The opportunities are truly endless, regardless of which field you're in.
5. Content marketing is complicated
Content marketing may sound technical, but don't let the business terminology fool you; content marketing is a fairly straightforward concept. I like how Jake succinctly defined the term a few months ago in another Elle & Company post:
"Content marketing is connecting your audience with useful content in order to earn the opportunity to sell something."
Think about the wants and needs of your ideal client/customer, think through ways that you can meet those wants and needs through content, share it through an outlet like a blog, newsletter, or podcast, attract your ideal clients/customers through that content, build trust with your new audience, and land a sale or book a client.
6. Content marketing is salesy
I would argue the opposite. If you're effectively marketing your content and focusing first and foremost on sharing things that benefit your ideal customer, you won't be posting promotional posts often. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the 90/10 rule (or even the 95/5 rule) to guard against that salesy impression with your audience, where you share helpful content 90% of the time and keep promotional posts to a 10% maximum. If you post once a day, that means posting only one promotional item once every two weeks. The less you promote, the easier it is to build hype around promotions when they do come around. And when your audience trusts that you're providing content that's suitable and relevant to them, they are much more likely to support you when you launch something new or make a big announcement.
7. Content marketing is a lot of work for little return
The first part is no misconception; content marketing is definitely a lot of work. But the benefits and the return from your investment can far outweigh the time and effort you put into it.
Jake and I saw this firsthand when we opened registration for the first Elle & Company Adobe Illustrator e-course last week. We had spent months brainstorming content and producing posts that would benefit bloggers and business owners (my ideal design clients and e-course attendees). We curated purposeful content for months without any sort of promotional post, so we were very curious about how it would be received. Because content marketing drew in a larger readership during those months, we had a much larger audience with which to market the class, and I had proved my experience with Illustrator through design-related posts, blog graphics, and tutorials. When registration opened at noon last Tuesday the class sold out in 15 minutes, and we attribute that surprising outcome to the work we put into content marketing.
And just like most things in life, the more you practice something the easier it gets. Content marketing may take a little more thought and effort at the onset, but it has a snowball effect on the growth and reach of your business. And the larger your reach, the greater your sales and service bookings.
8. Sales are the only benefit of content marketing
Commerce is the primary goal, but there are other numerous benefits to content marketing. These include positioning yourself as an expert, gaining respect from others in your field, building community and relationships with your audience, pushing your creativity and challenging yourself to come up with new ideas, and most importantly, giving back to your followers.
If you hadn't put much consideration into content marketing before this post, I hope these insights helped you see all of the great opportunities that are available to you through this creative form of marketing. It truly is a win-win for everyone involved, and it's the one thing I contribute most to the success of my business. I have a great feeling that content marketing can contribute to the future success of your business, too.
What are some other common misconceptions that you have heard? Have you utilized content marketing for your business?