What is content marketing?

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what the heck content marketing actually is.  People tend to immediately drill down to tactics when asking:

What is content marketing?”

  • Is tweeting a bunch of infographics content marketing? 
  • What about writing white papers?
  • How about videos? 

Yes, yes, and yes, but those are all just wrappers. It’s the content inside that defines content marketing.

The whole point of content marketing is education.

Good content marketing is about educating the buyer. Not making them laugh. Not flattering them. Not even convincing them your product or service will make them cool. Those are all the province of traditional advertising and PR.

 Content marketing is about providing the information buyers need to make their own decision.

The point of education is establishing TRUST.

Ask anybody and they’ll tell you that a primary attribute of anyone they do business with is trust.  Trust is the first step in establishing a real business relationship.  This is true in almost any transaction size, but it’s most critical for large, complex sales.

And this is exactly where so many content marketing campaigns fall down.  Marketers don’t want to let go of the fiction that their offerings are the BEST and have no problems. They have internalized the idea that anyone who doesn’t buy their offering is insane or stupid.

The problem? None of that is true.  And people can tell when you’re lying or hiding information from them.  And when you do so, you immediately lose their trust.  And establishing trust is the reason you have a content marketing budget in the first place.

What to do?

If you want to be a resource for your customers, or potential customers, you have to be credible.  And that, in turn, means honesty.

But, remember, honesty is more than just not telling lies; it’s full disclosure.

As marketing professionals, we’ve all been through the process of establishing a positioning grid where we pinpoint our offerings and who they are best suited for.  We argue and haggle over the most minute details of our value proposition for any given persona and what the pros and cons are for that buyer—as well as how we stack up against the competition.

So here’s a radical suggestion: as a first step toward establishing trust with your customers, post your messaging grid on your website. Tell everybody your strengths and weaknesses.  Which personas would do well by doing business with you and which would not.  Use it as the basis of your content marketing campaign.  Cater to the personas who should be doing business with you and don’t worry about discouraging those who would be better off with your competition.

Think I’m crazy?  Will sales freak out when they find out that you’re discouraging (bad) prospects?  Maybe.  But will they still freak out if you consult with them first and point out that bad fits just waste their time?  Yeah, maybe.  But will better messaging to better prospects more than make up for that in actual salesWe think so. 

Let us know what you think in the comments.

And… in case you’re wondering if we eat our own dogfood.  The answer is “Yes.”  Look for our own unedited messaging grid within the month.

Rich Quarles

Rich is a marketing strategist focused primarily on startups, technology, and marketing to doctors. He has advised early-stage startups that have collectively returned over $2 billion to founders and investors.

Rich founded glassCanopy in 2001.
Rich Quarles

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