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Content Marketing: A New Approach to a Classic Idea

by Guest Blogger  |  
March 22, 2012

A guest post by Aaron Dun of Percussion Software.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard the term “content marketing" a great deal in the last six months.

The Forbes MarketShare blog recently had a great series of articles about marketing in 2012, complete with quotes from big brands about their plans for the year. Part 3 focused on content curation and content marketing, and quoted General Mills, L'Oréal, and Visa.

Anxious about content marketing? For all you hyperventilating marketers just trying to come to grips with how to manage an inbound marketing program, understand the new rules of SEO in a Google Search world, and figure out if that mobile marketing thing is for real, it's OK. Take a deep breath. You are going to be just fine.

You see, we marketers are pretty good at taking a solid idea or a good strategy, tweaking it to match the current market situation, and giving it a lovely name. Then we write about it, vendors flock to the market, the industry analysts deem it the “next big thing,” venture capitalists get behind it and invest, a mini-bubble is formed, and the next thing you know, your CEO is standing at your door asking about your “strategy for the hot new thing.”

However, content marketing is a bit different. It isn’t new. It's actually what many of you have been doing all along as you think about driving traffic to your online properties, engaging with your audience, and using content to achieve those online and marketing goals.

What is new is thinking about your content as a holistic system to achieve those goals. It's new to think about creating a compelling story that fulfills your brand promise and engages customers in your network, wherever they happen to be, with actionable content designed to guide them from awareness to purchase. And most importantly, it's about measuring the outcome of that activity in the one term the business can relate to: revenue.

(For more definitions about content marketing, you can read a book by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi titled Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand and one by C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley titled Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, and Wbebinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.)

So, why will your CEO be darkening your door to ask about your content marketing strategy? Because content marketing can be one of those rare ways to encapsulate many discrete pieces of “soft marketing” (the pieces not directly tied to revenue) and connect them to true business objectives.

How to Connect Your Story Vehicles With Business Outcomes

Many people in the C-suite listen politely when marketers explain why we need to tell a story, but they don’t see how telling a story is going to drive the bottom line. On the flip side, marketers struggle with how to deliver compelling ROI messages for the things that are not directly attributed to revenue.

Content marketing as a strategy and a discipline creates a way through a morass of soft metrics and creates a cleaner story in its own right.

Here’s how. Content marketing has two critical components. One is telling a compelling story about your company or brand. The second component is using that story to create engagement with customers and prospects. The art of storytelling has been well-understood for years. But now that you have a story, how do you use it to drive engagement? What business outcomes will you measure as a result?

Use this simple table below to connect your story vehicles with a business outcome:

I can see you exclaiming, “But wait, I already do those things! Why use the fancy new name of content marketing?”

From what we've seen, most people are not taking the final step and connecting the business outcome (the last column in the above table). That is what your C-suite wants to see, however, and why content marketing is something they will get behind. Content marketing, as a whole, offers a way to measure the effectiveness of your activity, of how good your story is, and the impact of your efforts to get that story told.

Aaron Dun is vice president of Marketing and Strategy for Percussion Software. He has more than 15 years of experience marketing software and technology services globally. Follow him on Twitter @ajdun.

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