What is Content Marketing?

There was only one time in my life that I had a job that was easy to explain. For two years in college I was a bank teller. When people asked what I did, I would say "I'm a teller at ______ Bank" and they would nod, satisfied with their assumption that they pretty much knew everything that my job entailed. Then they would usually ask me some weird question about money, like "what's the most amount of money you've ever seen all at once?" (The answer is a few hundred thousand dollars. Banks don't keep as much on hand as you'd think.) 

That was the first and the last time that has ever happened. Since then I have had jobs that required much more explanation and even after a long dissertation on my job duties, people would still seem sort of quizzical. This is particularly true when I tell people I own a content marketing company. There are generally two responses: 

1. "Huh?"

2. "I need you!" 

The first response comes from 90% of people. The second comes from people who are currently struggling with content marketing needs. These people run the gamut from business owners who are having trouble staying on top of their social media messaging, to designers and developers who are building websites for clients who won't get them the necessary content to populate their site, or organizations who have major communication needs that simply can't be met by their internal team. 

Content marketing is the thing you don't notice if it's being done well and the thing that can hold up an entire project, campaign or even a new company if it's not done well. Content marketing is how every piece of collateral, whether it's your website, fliers, business cards, social media posts, emails or blog speaks to your audience (read: customers). 

A content marketer can come into a business or a project and ensure that all the content - regardless of its format, is working together, engaging your audience and creating trust. Yes, trust. 

This means that a Content Marketer's job is (at least) two-fold: to understand your audience's needs and to write lean and compelling content that they want to read. 

There is an old marketing "rule of 7" that states that a potential customer needs to be reached by your marketing message seven times before they buy. These messages may be in the form of a billboard or a Facebook post or an email in their inbox or a catalog in their actual mailbox. The medium doesn't matter. What does matter is the message itself. If those seven messages are inconsistent or seem to be coming from different companies with different voices, that can create distrust. 

And customers today don't just want to hear just any message from a company; they want to engage with those messages. Whether that's by posting a comment on a blog, retweeting a tweet, or pinning or sharing an image, they want those seven messages to be something they can interact with - otherwise, it's just noise. This is where Content Marketing comes in. 

Whether it's an email newsletter, your website's content, an abandoned company blog or even mailers or fliers, Content Marketing can help get your message heard by your audience and allow them to interact with it in a way that creates trust, and ultimately loyal customers.

I'm sure I'll continue to get lots of quizzical looks from folks when I tell them what I do, but I hope that with time, the term, and more importantly the practice of, Content Marketing becomes as commonplace as being a bank teller. Because content really is a currency, and we need professionals who know how to handle it with care.