The technology analyst firm Gartner recently weighed in on the difference between “content marketing” and “marketing content.”
Marketing content, according to Gartner, is “All content assets created by marketing teams.”
To borrow a phrase from 1980s-era marketing, content assets are more or less synonymous with the term marketing collateral. That collateral, filled with features and benefits, was what marketing attempted to trade for trust in a time when information was not so abundant or free.
Yet times have changed, and information is perhaps overly abundant. If one source doesn’t provide utility in content, another will.
By contrast, the analyst firm defines content marketing as follows:
“Content marketing involves creating, curating and cultivating content and distributing it through media platforms to tell stories that engage and nurture customers, prospects and other audiences. The goal is to drive awareness, demand, preference and loyalty through deeper engagement with content that serves the customer in a helpful and useful way.”
This important distinction is the sort of thing progressive digital marketers have been saying for a long time about content marketing. In my estimation, a lot of marketing leaders have been nodding their heads north and south about the concept but haven’t really grasped how it’s different.
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‘We produce webinars, and publish white papers, and infographics, and the occasional blog post, and we publish this stuff all over the internet and on social media, so yes, we’re doing content marketing,’ these folks say.
It’s not that those things, those assets, are good or bad, it’s that the process isn’t different from what marketing has always done. As a result, all the competitors in a vertical market all begin to sound the same – the same features and benefits – and if everyone sounds the same, the only defining difference is price.
So, no, to the contrary, producing the same stuff marketing has produced for as long as anyone can remember and putting it on the web does not make content marketing.
Content marketing is more than a buzzword, it is a different approach to marketing. Content marketing is about building an audience – that is yours forever – instead of renting one for fleeting moments and campaigns.
To build an audience you have to build trust. To build trust you have to deliver useful, relevant and valuable content consistently over time. This means in order to build an audience you have to show up, at the same place, at the same time, consistently, over the long run, and with quality content.
If this sounds like a lot of work that’s because it is, at first. Until you build the systems and processes that facilitate production and publishing. Content marketing is not a campaign, it’s a culture.
More importantly, the metrics – the proof this stuff sells enterprise technology – are compelling. However, getting there requires patience, and planning, and a lot of good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Now that an analyst firm like Gartner is making the same case, I believe some marketing leaders are going to recognize the difference. This would be good for all involved because Gartner predicts that all marketing becomes content marketing and that’s the future.
For those that do not, well, the content marketing divide has been lengthening for years. You can always cut the price or cut costs to maintain the margins – but you can only do that for so long.
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