Having worked on a number of content marketing projects, I’ve come to appreciate the journey aspect of content marketing compared to the destination motif. When I first got into content marketing, I thought it was something like SEO, where you just stick some keywords into a website and wait for the magic to happen (that too is an oversimplification). Over time, and as I learnt more about what content marketing is, I discovered that the guys who’ve been doing content marketing for the longest time and most effectively are media companies.
These are publishing houses that have editorial briefs and armies of writers and designers and photographers and videographers all working in concert to create the next great story. And stories are at the heart of content marketing. As I dug deeper into the subtle nuances of content marketing, it finally dawned on me that there is really no end to content marketing. If the stories are to be told, the narrative must go on. And this is where I concluded that content marketing is a journey and not a destination.
When I meet new clients, they have the same assumptions I used to have: let’s do this content marketing thing and drive traffic to our site. This creates high expectations of content marketing that almost always are disappointed within the first few weeks of the project. I’ve had clients abandon content marketing when they realized it was too much work and that they had to commit to it for an extended period (with or without me) for it to work.
I once had a client who had me develop an email marketing campaign series and landing page, only to give up when he realized we needed to first build an email list in order for these two campaigns to work. This is a terrible reality that has been brought on by the hype-masters of the Internet. Content mills tend to latch onto any new or novel thing and sensationalize it unnecessarily. So when I work with clients, I try to tone down this hype and help them understand the true nature of content marketing.
Content marketing is about telling stories. It’s sitting your customers on your virtual lap and giving them a good story that uplifts their spirits and gives them hope for tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter which business industry you are in, every business has human beings as customers and those human beings have emotions and that is what stories appeal to.
So the journey of content marketing is about finding stories that appeal to your audience and sharing them. These could be stories you develop yourself or they could be stories you’ve curated from other sources online. These stories could be videos or graphics or blog posts or even just photos that you share with your community. This storytelling nurtures a community around your central themes and ideas. If you have a theme of inspiration, you’ll attract and retain a community of people who believe in your brand and in inspirational ideals.
What I have come to appreciate most about content marketing, however, is that we are all natural storytellers. That makes content marketing a more natural and wholesome form of marketing than the gimmicky type of marketing where you are constantly trying to trick people into buying. When you tell stories, people gravitate towards you on the strength of the truth behind those stories and not based on any tricks.
When such people converge around your brand, they become genuine members of your community and are more likely to become long-term customers as compared to those acquired through slight of text. This is the message I carry to all my customers and my hope is that they come to see the joy and excitement of content marketing and to appreciate the slow yet steady organic results that accrue over time.