Everyone has now heard of Content Marketing – the discipline. It is that thing that businesses do to ‘engage’ with customers. It has value but we can’t articulate what that value is. We need it because we’ve been told that it will make us lots of money, but we don’t know how. So what is the point of content marketing?

Everyone used to think that search engine optimisation (SEO) was a dark art. Well, it ain’t got anything on Content Marketing. There are those who ‘get it’ and those who make it (or buy it). I often receive requests for more information about my content marketing services. These are paying customers with a ready budget looking to buy some great content. This is fantastic. This is why I do what I do. But then, these enquiries turn into something more than just a straightforward demand and supply situation. The customer knows they want what I offer but they don’t know why. And I have to explain that there is no one good reason to buy and distribute content. It is a complicated combination of reasons that begin with competitive advantage. In other words, if all of your competitors are doing content, you have to do it too.

There is a lot of information out there about the value of content marketing and most of it completely misses the point (in my opinion). Now if you have done your research, you know that the product description for content is ‘To connect with and engage with your potential customers’. And it is that, definitely. But it’s a bit more complicated than even that, because you need to engage with those prospects before the competition or better than the competition. You need to hook your fish with great content that is better than your competitors have to offer, so you aren’t just communicating with your customers in isolation. You are trying to shout the loudest in a very crowded market place.

For that reason, your content has to be the easiest to find. We try, where possible, to take that content directly to your reader. So we go where they are and we establish those channels through the development of a clear content marketing strategy. This speeds up the cycle because it means your prospects don’t have to come looking for you and prevents them finding someone else in the process.

In the event that they do need to find you because you haven’t connected with them in the right place or at the right time, you need to be easily found. So content marketing is also a version of search engine optimisation. That means we need to optimise our content for the search engines without over optimising. We use a variety of techniques like light touch keyword density and a lot of synonyms and long tail, natural keywords.

When your prospects do find you, your content needs serve as a means to establish a connection with them. Ultimately, you want them to buy whatever you are selling. But here’s the thing. Content created for the purposes of informing and engagement should not be overt sales copy. Lay off on the calls to action and promotion. But don’t make the mistake that many content creators do and assume that your content isn’t doing the job of selling your wares. Of course it is – just much more subtly. Your content needs to create trust, connection and an appetite for whatever it is you are peddling. If any of those key elements are missing, they probably won’t buy from you. Writing content that engages, informs, entertains and sells is a craft like no other – a true dark art.

So when you think about calling me to help you with some content creation, or you are trying to justify the expense of a content marketing campaign, think about the competitive arena in which you operate. Imagine how really good quality content, technically crafted to sell without selling, is going to set you apart and give you that competitive advantage it is so difficult to gain amongst all the noise of online business. Because that is the real point of content marketing and it will only get tougher out there as more people realise this and up the quality of their content game.