Content Marketing has been a critical part of business competition in market economies since the last century. Marketing oriented business organisations have always produced and distributed content through quality newspapers, magazines and other relevant media since modern marketing emerged in the 1950s.
Although it was not called so, then, businesses practised Content Marketing in one form or another. That activity, which involved the creation and distribution of content, was known mainly as publications under the public relations or publicity functions of organisations.
The dominant media technology of the era were newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, cinema, and later, home video. Naturally, those were the same media available for businesses to reach mass consumers, and that’s how Content Marketing was practised. These media remain very relevant in modern economies today, albeit differently.
Media technologies have changed greatly from the mid 1990s, when the term “Information Superhighway” used to be the most popular reference to the internet. A new media emerged with the explosion in internet access. A White House report from the 1990s captures a vivid perception of the internet at the time this way:
“The internet has become one of the major and most dynamic modes of communication. The Internet can link people, groups and organizations together instantly. Moreover, it allows an extraordinary amount of unregulated data and information to be located in one area and available to all.”
It’s important to identify a set of technological developments which have impacted the evolution of Content Marketing. The first is the introduction and adoption of digital publishing by businesses and individual consumers. The second consists of the exponential growth in high speed internet, growth in availability of bandwidth, and the development of wireless broadband internet. The third is the development of the smart mobile phone, smart tablets and internet-enabled devices and various applications and their mass adoption by businesses and consumers over a relatively short period of time.
Some of the outcomes of the rapid technological developments today is that we have seen the cost of high speed internet access and price of devices tumble. The affordable technologies means that it’s easier for more people to own internet-devices, and devices have become part of everyday life.
With these new connected devices, new media opportunities and consumption behaviours emerged. In 2017, the internet search giant, Google revealed that, more than ever, people turn to their phones for advice when making a buying decision, with the expectation of finding what they need, immediately right where they are, in the moment.
Businesses as well are learning and evolving in the ways they engage target customers and conduct strategic marketing communications. The modern Content Marketing, as a distinct activity now and subject matter, is a result of all the above developments.
Definition of Content Marketing
Today, the Content Marketing Institute, a leading online resource on the subject provides the following definition : “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.”
Out of the definition, we may infer that Content Marketing, being strategic, is planned and should be part of the overall business marketing plan. Again, Content Marketing is focused only on creating and distributing content that is of great quality, valuable and relevant to target consumers’ needs. Also, the themes of the contents are consistent over a period of time and consistent with overall business marketing plan and business strategy. It is directed at achieving specific measurable objectives — to attract a well-defined audience, and to retain that audience and ultimately impel them to become loyal consumers, advocates and influencers for the marketer’s products.
Why Content Marketing?
Basically, Content Marketing is not an entirely novel business or organisational activity. But it is a very critical aspect of marketing communications and public relations now. It is absolutely essential in marketing strategy in this era of mobile internet and unlimited, unregulated social media. Surveys have shown changing consumer behaviour patterns with respect to the way people make buying decisions, for which reason Content Marketing provides a very powerful tool for businesses to adapt to the identified behaviour.
Before making a purchase, people search online for solutions. Again, consumers rely on search for inspiration and ideas, when they aren’t quite sure what they want. But if what they find doesn’t match their budget or requirements, these tech-empowered consumers know they have the tools to find something similar to that aspirational product or one that’s more practical for them.
Forms of Content Marketing
Content Marketing may be executed in any or a combination of the following forms.
Websites and Webpages: It entails the creation of a website and relevant content to market a product, service, event, a cause, personality or anything that is legal. Webpages are the the individual pages that hold content in a website. A webpage largely comprises text, but may include any one or a combination of text and images, graphics, illustrations, and embedded audio-visual content.
Blog: A blog can be a website or a part of a website that is dedicated to publishing relevant contents of one page or a few pages in length, regularly, to a defined audience. You can use a blog to publish, serially, features and uses for a product. It may be used to update the audience on different stages in product developments, with the aim of sustaining consumer interest and loyalty. Also a blog can be used to elicit certain responses from the audience.
Video: Video can be used in a way similar to blogging, for product demonstrations, education and entertainment. Video hosting and sharing sites like YouTube have features that enable custom channel creation. A business can create a channel for a brand as part of its Content Marketing programme.
Podcast: Podcasting is the production and distribution of audio material in a manner similar to blogging and video. SoundCloud is a popular platform for podcasting.
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a host of other social media sites are very useful channels for content distribution and consumer engagement in Content Marketing.
A very crucial advantage of modern Content Marketing is that, content producers, distributors and businesses get instant feedback and measurements about how a target audience consumes and interacts with the shared content.
Now that we’ve gained a fair understanding of the evolution of Content Marketing, let’s identify what businesses use to achieve and also, how you can use it too. If you run a business, you can use Content Marketing to do achieve the following goals:
- Attract attention and generate sales leads;
- Expand your customer base;
- Generate or increase online sales;
- Increase brand awareness or credibility;
- Engage an online community of users.
Furthermore, Content Marketing can help a business achieve cost savings and find better and loyal customers.
In branding, Content Marketing may be employed in creating and reinforcing brand equity.
Brand Equity is the added value that a strong brand endows a product or a service with. Brand equity is reflected in the ways people think, feel and act with respect to the brand.
Brand Awareness is the consumer’s ability to identify a brand under different conditions. Brand awareness is reflected by consumers’ brand recognition or recall performance.
Brand Knowledge entails all the thoughts, feelings, images, experiences, beliefs aspirations and all the emotions that that become associated with the brand.
In conclusion, it’s important to note that Content Marketing in this age of high speed mobile internet offers the same opportunities to all types of businesses, large, medium and small, and has blurred the divide between local and international business. When applied well, Content Marketing is able to help small businesses upend larger ones across various industries. You too can grow your business with Content Marketing. Go start now.
Labone Express has Content Marketing solutions for small businesses in Ghana. You may send WhatsApp to +233 24 479 0288 for help with your Content Marketing.