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content-is-king-bill-gatesContrary to popular opinion, the idea of content marketing and its importance isn’t a new one. Bill Gates first drew attention to the concept in his appropriately-titled 1996 essay ‘Content Is King’. In the essay, he talks about his predictions for the Internet after its recent birth and his message is simple: understand that companies who find ways to inform and entertain will thrive on the Internet and reign supreme. Content marketing is on the rise.

Gates’ 18-year-old prediction was accurate - it’s still an extremely important issue today. Content marketing should be adopted as a philosophy, not taken to and tested like a trend. There are plenty of misconceptions and assumptions about content marketing, so what’s it all about?

What is content marketing?

Put simply, it’s the strategy of attracting and retaining customers by way of creating content.

Who’s using this strategy?

Almost everyone. Nowadays, most businesses create content (whether they’re aware of it or not). Content marketing is big – it’s second only to Internet advertising in accelerated growth and it’s said to account for more than 20% of marketing budgets.

Why have a content marketing strategy?

There are three main reasons why content marketing is so effective:

  1. People are tuning out to traditional forms of marketing. Marketing is pretty simple in theory: you create something of value and then tell everyone about it. But what if people aren’t listening? Well, that’s where content marketing comes in.
  2. Thanks to technology, people love looking at content whether they’re at work or on the bus – so potential customers have never been so accessible.
  3. Creating great content takes time, but it’s a very cost-effective strategy.

What is ‘content’ exactly?

That’s a pretty subjective question. There are many different types of content and some of the more popular forms are: blogs, ebooks, videos, webinars, podcasts, whitepapers, competitions, press releases, emails, newsletters and infographics.

As a business owner, the trick is to work out the type of content that’s right for your audience. If you sell insurance, for example, your approach to attracting audiences is probably going be very different than if you sell slick gadgets. Either way, the umbrella principle is that compelling stories drive action.

The ideas behind content marketing.

Put simply, content marketing is used to attract audiences to your shop window and genuinely nurture relationships. The days of the hard sell are gone - this is about building brand loyalty through emotion, interest and usefulness. The tactics you use will vary. Some businesses may just need a cool product and people will flock anyway. Many might need a fashionable brand identity. Others aren’t so lucky and will have to think a bit more laterally, maybe by using content that’s unrelated to the business. Content marketing is subtle. It’s used to create a loyal community of people that either don’t notice or don’t care that they’re being sold to.

The beauty of content marketing.

SEO is important for any business with a website, because we all conduct business on the Internet in one form or another. Not only that, but we’re approaching 1billion active websites in the World so competition to get to page one is tough. However, it would be dangerous to rely on Google to deliver your audiences. Who knows, in a year or two, great content might only get you to page three. Therefore, instead, why not go out, get your own audience and build your own fanbase?

The great thing about content marketing is that quality content still carries an SEO benefit. Quality content will be shared, so you’ll be rewarded for popularity and relevance by search engines. In that respect, content marketing kills two birds with one stone.

Are there any problems with content marketing?

In a sense, yes, because we’re all publishers now. Because most businesses are creating content and using social media to share it, there’s a lot of stuff being created, sometimes making it difficult to get noticed. Nevertheless, where there’s a problem, there’s nearly always a solution. The majority of companies aren’t working hard enough or clever enough on their content, so by consistently creating quality content and optimizing it for search, you’ll be getting ahead of the game.

By making a commitment to create content that’s both useful and interesting, you’ll rise to the top. Creating quality content is hard work, but don’t take the easy route - write one amazing post every week rather than cranking out 5 poor ones every day. Remember that anything that’s easy for you is probably easy for everyone else too.

How do I create ‘quality content’?

Here are three quick tips:

  1. Be consistent. Creating quality content requires careful planning. Solve problems, make people laugh, express your personality and deliver value without expecting anything in return. Content marketing is a method of nurturing leads and encouraging word-of-mouth, so it’s a long-term commitment.
  2. Use content marketing to expose the people behind your brand. Everyone’s heard the cliché that people buy the person first and the product second, right? Well here’s your chance to reveal that persona.
  3. Try and personalize your content so that your reader feels that you’re addressing them. Don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, be as bespoke as possible and speak their language. Most companies are concerned that they’ll lose out on business if they narrow their focus too much – in fact, the opposite is true.

While your aim is to create an audience, focus on your bottom line.

This isn’t a game of vanity – it’s not about getting the most followers, or the most visitors to your website. Once you realize that it’s about creating the right audience, you’ll realize the true power of content marketing.

Topics: Internet Advertising, Infographic, SEO, SEO Recommendations, Content Marketing

Tim Nichols

Written by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a digital media buying agency with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Minneapolis, MN, Milwaukee, WI and SouthWest Florida.

Tim Nichols is also a contributing author on Forbes.com.

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