If you attend any event focused on content marketing today, there is a very real chance that you will spy this definition peeking out from a PowerPoint deck or two:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content Marketing Institute
But is that really capturing the essence of what this is all about?
We decided to ask members of the Asia Content Marketing Association (ACMA) board a simple question. How would you define content marketing in your own words?
Here are six responses from some of the leading ladies of ACMA in Asia.
Melissa de Villiers, Senior Writer & Editor, Editor Group Singapore
Great content marketing takes ‘selling’ out of the equation. It’s not about pitching your products or services to your customers and prospects – rather, the aim is to deliver information that makes them smarter, or is entertaining – or both.
The idea is that if we, as companies with products and services to sell, provide information that’s consistently valuable in these kinds of ways to our buyers, they’ll reward us with their business and their loyalty.
Of course, the first step is to understand what ‘valuable’ actually means to our target audience – what issues they care about and how they like to spend their time online. It’s also pretty vital to know what form of content they find most convenient – from videos and blog posts to case studies, articles, eDMs, LinkedIn posts, Twitter feeds and white papers.
Then we can get on with the business of harnessing the power of ‘storytelling’ to communicate with our customers – in the process establishing long-term relationships and a closer engagement with our brand.
Andrea Edwards, Head of Content Marketing and Training, Novus Asia
When people ask me, “What is content marketing?” I like to challenge them by answering the more important question – why do we have content marketing in the first place?
Content marketing exists because how your customer learns, decides and buys has changed. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking B2C or B2B; things are different now.
Today, customers are likely to be 90% of the way through your sales cycle before they even come to you. Where are they? Consulting peers, searching the Internet, being interrupted by amazing content, and most fundamentally, getting advice through their social media connections. This is the big shift that has occurred, and it is precisely why businesses must market themselves in a new way. Customers have moved beyond brands, so you need to be where they are today.
But customers are not just online to learn. They are also being entertained. From the antics of the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus to the latest Korean soap operas to that cute baby/puppy/kitten video their friend posted on Facebook, people are online for many reasons today.
The goal of content marketing is to earn the right to your customer’s time within the mix of how they are consuming information online. Being awesome at this is the game changer for businesses today.
Hedvig Lyche, Strategic Lead, Asia, King Content
Content marketing is nothing but great storytelling. People have used stories to make sense of information since the dawn of time, and with the proliferation of channels and explosion of available information online, this skill has become more important than ever.
With the introduction of data and analytics and the constant drive to prove ROI, the role of the story is often lost in the numbers. When we lose our story, when what we say comes from a need to sell and not from the value of informing and engaging, we become irrelevant. Our content becomes nothing more than ‘stuff.’ And we have enough stuff.
The sharing economy and the always-on demand for immediacy also means brands are competing for attention not just within their industry, but also with anyone communicating to their particular audience. It’s not about you anymore; it’s all about them. And what they want are stories to validate, engage and inspire.
The goal of content marketing is, therefore, to help brands decipher the eco-system in which they need to operate, distil insights into audience behaviour and consumption patterns, define the relevant story they can fully own, and craft the content and format in which to tell it. Content marketing is taking centre stage because it is channel agnostic, like consumers today. It can take shape through a new eco-system of paid, owned and earned (where influencers, peers and consumers become channels in their own right) media.
I like to think of content marketing as the evolution of great storytelling in context.
Henry Adams, Founding Partner at Contented
Primarily, I’d say content is a buzzword. It’s actually the same entertaining, informative, engaging stuff we’ve always done, just repackaged in different channels, under a different name. And if that’s what it takes to make clients take it seriously, buzz on.
Anu Menon, Chief Operating Officer, Black Marketing
When we think Content marketing, we think about how we can create a message that is relevant and resonates with the right target audience via the right channel, be it offline or online.
The key to developing a successful content strategy is to firstly ensure you know who your target audience is. Secondly, identify the right marketing channels you will be communicating that message through. Thirdly and most importantly, ensure that your message is one that is informative, relevant and engaging.
While many advertisers are beginning to understand the importance of having a sound content marketing strategy integrated into their marketing mix, the ability to roll out this strategy across multiple platforms is still a challenge that needs to be addressed.
Shamila Gopalan, Founder & Managing Director, BlinkAsia
Content, the buzzword of 21st century marketing. Traditionally, brands demanding to capture consumer attention have interrupted consumers to talk about their product. When you're reading a magazine, you see an ad; if you're watching TV, you see a commercial; when you're online, you get a pop-up.
Each of these interruptions are unwelcome and possibly annoying marketing messages from brands that disrupt the consumer’s experience. And equally, they may not really care about what you are trying to sell.
The remedy to this is: brands must seek 'permission' to gain the consumers' attention. The best way to gain that permission is when they are actually looking for you. Or at least something you can help them with.
Content marketing has become the best means to reach people who are continually looking for information, entertainment or help. Brands can use content marketing to pull consumers in who aren't necessarily interested in a specific product, but instead, meeting a need-state behind the product purchase.
Final thoughts: party on
There you have it – six very different definitions (“Buzz on!” indeed) from some of the sharpest minds in media today. But they do all share a common golden thread.
In the end, maybe great content marketing is like being a great dinner party guest. Earn the right to talk to people. Tell a great story. Make us feel something before you make us buy something. That way, you’ll get invited to the next party.
This blog was originally published in ACMA website.