What I've learned about content marketing in three days

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In the interview for my job of Marketing Content Assistant here at Axonn, I was asked (unsurprisingly, in retrospect) “what do you think content marketing is?”. I pulled out my well-researched notes (I have an English degree after all), and talked about blogs, link building and offsite SEO.

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I felt fairly confident in my answer, considering I was interviewing for the position from a background in digital marketing - most recently social media - and was also a blogger. As soon as I finished my answer, I knew there was a lot more to content marketing than scheduled tweets and intermittent news posts. I just wasn’t sure what.

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Turns out, content marketing is everything. Everything that a brand puts out in the public sphere, at least. From tweets to email campaigns to blog posts to whitepapers. All those things that we read and enjoy  but don’t think about. Or at least we don’t think about until we have a purchase to make (67% of people would prefer to buy from a brand they follow on social media, for example).

Content marketing is almost subliminal. We often don’t realise that the moving video we shared on Facebook was a marketing campaign until the credits. We know what this experience is, but many of us have never put a name to it before. This is content marketing.

So as there was much more to content marketing than I thought, there is a lot more to learn than I expected, so my first few days at Axonn have been focused on familiarising myself as much as possible with what content marketing is, how it works and how to develop strategies. Obviously as part of the marketing team one cannot market a product until one understands how it works. 
So here are some of the key takeaways from my three-day crash course on content marketing:

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1. Content marketing is about producing content with the audience in mind

What would interest them, inform them, entertain them and, most importantly, encourage them to come back to your site again? Content marketing isn’t about direct sales - it’s about building and nurturing relationships with customers through relevant information tailored to them and their needs. 

2. It goes beyond the typical (rarely updated) company blog

Altogether too many companies would answer a question on content marketing experience with “well of course we have a blog”, but a rarely updated blog is often worse than none at all. A blog that was set up by a teenage work experience girl in 2009 that has only been updated twice is not going to cut it. Content marketing covers a wide array of platforms, from Twitter to YouTube, whitepapers to emails, Facebook to infographics. Not everyone wants to watch video after video, nor view infographic after infographic, even if you really love infographics. A good balance demonstrates a broad knowledge and appeals to different people and moods, variety is the spice of life when it comes to marketing, and each platform has different strengths and weaknesses.

3. Content marketing goes beyond the "what"

Of course “what” content is produced is still important but why? How? For whom? By whom? With what? Where? When? How often? What next? These are the questions that each content strategy should be able to answer.

4. Content marketing is intrinsically linked with branding

Branding is defined as “the promise of an experience”, and is the telling of the story of your business to audiences By supplementing your branding with blog posts, social media and other forms of content marketing, you are continually developing the your brand in the eyes of the consumer.

5. It has become expected

Axonn’s research paper on 2013 Content Marketing Trends claims that 31% of people expect companies to produce relevant content, and 82% of people enjoy reading branded relevant content. For example, I personally enjoy it when fashion retailers produce content specific to their products. If I see “Five ways to wear this dress for the new season”, I am much more likely to purchase said dress. It demonstrates that the company care about content I am interested in and want to help me get the most from my purchase, without bombarding me with sales messages.

6. 60% of a prospect's research is done about a business before they they reach out to a sales rep

A potential prospect is already more than halfway through the sales funnelbefore they even contact you for more information, so what information are you going to have out there for them to consume? The better the quality of the content (and to an extent, how much content) you have out there, the more likely they are to continue through the funnel.

7. Content marketing is about real people...and personas

Content marketing is about building content to engage, interest, inform or entertain real people. But how do you know who they are? Personas are “behavioural models” built from quantitative and qualitative research from existing, future or lost customers, fleshed out to become “human”. 

Personas are used to give marketers an insight into how a typical user will react to your content, and must be goal-orientated and context-specific. By building personas we can create much more targeted, tailored content for the right kind of people, instead of simply shouting out to everyone. 

8. International content must be transcreated, not simply translated

Did you know, for example, that in China, Christmas is not celebrated by the older generations and is more of a holiday for friends than family? It is important to make sure your content is not only linguistically, but culturally specific when going out to an international audience.

9. Content marketing is growing, and here to stay

90% of companies are using content marketing, and 78% say content marketing will become more important in the next 12 months, with 52% cutting down on traditional AdWords and PPC to accommodate content marketing.

Content Marketing is entering into a really exciting stage of its evolution and it’s a great time to be part of this growth. In today’s world we don’t just visit the web, we live our lives online, and we are always on the hunt for new content to consume and enjoy. In a world where marketing is “no longer about creating customers” but about creating “passionate subscribers to our brand” (Joe Pulizzi) content marketing is only going to become more important to a business’ marketing plan.

Find out more about content marketing strategy