"Content marketing is the only marketing left". Attributed to Seth Godin, this simple statement expresses the view that traditional marketing in all of its various forms (print, radio and TV advertising, for example) has been played out, no longer as effective as it once was.
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions are down, viewers DVR their televisions shows and skip through the ads, and many people have replaced commercial radio with premium stations like Sirius/XM, Pandora and Spotify, to name a few. And that's not even accounting for the fact that the Internet has substantially and irreversibly changed how we seek, obtain, disseminate and exchange information. All of which is to say that content marketing is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
So what, exactly, is content marketing?
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty. (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/)
If we accept this definition as accurate, then content marketing is the vehicle by which companies offer information to the marketplace in hopes of converting consumers to customers. And therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub.
The dissemination of informational content may be marketing, but it isn't necessarily effective marketing. Copywriting isn't rocket science, but there is an art to it. You might be knowledgeable about a topic or be a good technical writer but neither guarantees that you can write content that achieves some company's marketing goals.
What do we mean? Let's look at my story as an example. My education, background and training is in law and, more specifically, in personnel/employment law. I can competently communicate on topics related to labor law, workers compensation and the like. My vocabulary is solid and I consider my issue identification skills (i.e., the ability to see the forest from the trees) to be among my strongest professional attributes. None of these necessarily ensure copywriting success, however.
Content marketing isn't for everybody. You're probably a good writer. But are you a good copywriter? Can you write content that helps clients connect with consumers? Here are some things I've learned over the past several years that help keep me on task and remind me that I'm not writing for me:
Read. The. Instructions.
If you accept an assignment, read the instructions. All of the instructions. Too often writers accept work that interests them only to discover, on closer inspection, that the content requested requires more research than anticipated or that it must be formatted a certain way with which they're not comfortable working, for example. Be sure you understand exactly what the client wants. Not sure? Ask.
Research the client.
If you're provided a website, go there. If you're given examples of what is being sought, review them. Get to know the enterprise so that you can speak in their language and tone and, therefore, more effectively communicate to the target demographic.
Target the target.
Be sure you are comfortable that you've correctly identified the market the client is attempting to reach. Not sure? Again, ask.
"Once upon a time...".
One of the keys to effective content marketing is storytelling. No matter how well you can detail facts or information, that in and of itself won't be sufficient to engage the reader. And make no mistake, effective content marketing is all about engaging the reader. It's been suggested that online content has somewhere between 2 and 3 seconds to connect with consumers, failing which they'll click away to another site (and likely never return). Telling a story engages the reader because it provides an opportunity for the consumer to make a personal connection with the content.
In order for content to truly "market" a product or service, it should call the reader to action, thereby converting them from consumer to customer (which is, if you'll remember, the whole idea!). Ask for contact info, provide links, solicit comments/feedback.
Your ego is not your amigo.
It's content marketing, not a Pulitzer piece. Don't take criticism or revision requests personally. It's not easy writing for others. Have patience, do your best work and keep your eyes on the prize: The satisfaction of being paid for your writing. Isn't that why you're here?