What Exactly is Content Marketing and How Does It Benefit Your Business?

Editor’s note: With this post, we begin a series of articles about content marketing by guest author Joseph Putnam. Please share your thoughts in a comment below – we appreciate your feedback.

Content marketing is a relatively new marketing concept where businesses trade content that customers want in exchange for attention.

Traditionally, businesses only used advertising to attract customers’ attention and to market their products and services, but now, with the widely available distribution methods of the internet, businesses can now provide content in exchange for attention.

So what exactly is content marketing, and how can it benefit your business?

A Review of Traditional Advertising
In order to provide a contrast with content marketing, let’s first do a review of traditional advertising.

With traditional methods, advertisements are used to gain attention from customers. In order to get the word out about their products and services, businesses use advertisements to attract attention to their business.

But the problem with traditional advertising is that it interrupts customers. It interrupts them as they’re watching their favorite show, and it interrupts them as they’re walking down the street or driving their car. These interruptions often don’t create the best interactions for brands. Instead of helping customers, businesses interrupt one of their favorite activities.

Not only do ads interrupt customers, but they also rely on brief moments of time to capture attention and deliver a message that will hopefully lead to a sale. Billboards have only a few seconds to convey an important message to customers before they zoom by, and television commercials hope to capture customers’ attention before they decide to leave and heat up dinner during a commercial break.

Regardless, commercials must take advantage of a brief moment in time to convey an important message for businesses. Good advertising is both an art and a science where businesses do their best to maximize the brief amount of attention they receive from customers.

Last but not least, traditional ads are expensive. Billboards, print ads, and commercials cost a lot of money, and even Google advertisements add up as businesses pay per click for people to visit their site.

So what should businesses do? Is there an alternative? Is there another way to get attention from customers besides traditional advertising?

The answer is yes, and it’s called content marketing.

An Introduction to Content Marketing
Content marketing provides an excellent alternative to traditional advertising.

With content marketing, instead of interrupting customers, businesses provide content that their customers want or need, in exchange for their attention.

This content can be in the form of blog posts, e-mail newsletters, Youtube videos, SlideShare presentations, or something else. No matter what the format, the point of content marketing is to provide content that customers want, in exchange for attention, and this is what separates content marketing from traditional advertising.

As mentioned above, traditional ads rely on interrupting customers to capture attention for a brief amount of time. With content marketing, businesses can capture customers’ attention for as long as the customer is willing to use the content. If a blog post is super helpful, they may save it and come back to read it later. Instead of glancing at an ad and then moving on, customers may spend five minutes reading a post, and they may come back later that year to read it again. Each time they interact with the content, it becomes a positive interaction with the business.

Not only is it a positive interaction, but there’s also a high return on investment (ROI) with content marketing. With an ad such as a Google ad, businesses pay each time a visitor comes to their site. Each click becomes an expense on the balance sheet. With content such as a blog post, businesses invest time or money to produce the content, but each additional view is divided from the time or money they paid to produce the post. If a post goes viral and gets shared 2,000 times over the course of a year, businesses only pay the original amount to publish the post, and each visitor after that becomes less and less expensive, compared with costing per click.

In addition, content takes advantage of social sharing to create free advertising. People don’t share Google ads or billboards with their friends, but they do share blog posts and Youtube videos. In short, people share content, not advertisements, so content marketing takes advantage of people’s digital social networks and the social sharing phenomena of the internet.

To review, content marketing is the act of creating content in the form of blog posts, presentations, free reports, Youtube videos, etc., and offering this content to customers for free in exchange for attention. The benefit of this type of content is that it creates:

  1. A positive brand interaction with customers by giving them something they want or need for free.
  2. Content that people want to consume and spend time reading and watching, compared with content that only grabs attention for brief periods of time.
  3. Content that people not only consume but also share with their digital social networks, creating even more attention for businesses.
  4. An asset on the balance sheet in the form of content that attracts customers’ attention over a long period of time.

Even with all of these benefits, it doesn’t mean that companies will never need to do any traditional advertising. As always, every business needs the right marketing mix to generate more attention, but producing content adds one more component to this mix. And not only does it add another component, but it also decreases businesses’ dependence on traditional ads. Instead of only using something like Google ads to create awareness, businesses can spend less on advertisements and invest in producing content as a way to become less dependent on expensive traditional advertisement.

So if you’re business is looking for ways to create more awareness without breaking the bank, content creation is the way to go. Spend some time to learn more about content marketing, and before long, you’ll know how to use blog posts, e-mail newsletters, free reports, Youtube videos, and SlideShare reports that will provide your business with long-term, attention-generating content. This content will take some time or money to produce in the beginning, but in the end, it will become an attention-generating asset on your balance sheet.

Joseph PutnamAbout the author: Joseph Putnam is a freelance copywriter and digital marketing consultant from Orange County. He helps businesses create effective content marketing strategies. He also writes highly shareable and compelling blog content. You can follow him on Twitter and keep up with him on Google+.

46 Responses to “What Exactly is Content Marketing and How Does It Benefit Your Business?”

  1. Tom Smith

    Joe, I really liked the post. It was well written and easy to read. I’m convinced that effective content marketing is crucial part of any operation’s success.

  2. Dr Kavita Shaikh

    You are absolutely right about offering value to potential customers by way of quality content. That is the best way to market your services / products

  3. Anya

    Well written. Very informative and easy to assimilate.

  4. shalini

    very informative n helpful.. thanks for sharing with us

  5. Joseph Putnam

    Hi everyone, thank you all for the comments. Creating valuable content is definitely a great way to promote products and services. It takes time and effort, but it gets results for the people who are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to create valuable content.

  6. Fax Authority

    Good article! Content marketing is great, and it’s also important for helping a buyer determine “who” you are and what a company’s views and perspectives are.

  7. John Walsh

    A ‘content marketing’ project example; watch “ChoppyRides” on Tube. Please 5-Star all. Then log into “Ping” in Apple’s iTunes Store and search for “ChoppyRides” where you’ll find each mini-movies’ music and a selection of iPhone “RoadApps” laid-out for ‘1-click’ purchasing. All motorcycles and trend-setting apparel compliments of Harley Davidson. Feedback on this evolving content marketing project welcome.

    John Walsh
    CEO, Modern Media Miracles
    Very Direct Email: john@walsh.net

  8. MARIA

    Hi Joseph,
    Very interesting and dummies-wise written to be understandable by all.
    I have a question to you: can be used for charities, for their charitable events? I guess so but I want to be sure.
    Such a pitty that I can’t be connect with you on LinkedIn.
    Thank you very much.

  9. mike

    I’m already a fan of content marketing, but this is the best description of it I have ever read. Thanks.

  10. PILAR

    Thanks a lot for this kind of articles…I am working on this….is a new stuff for me …but this is what exactly `m looking for my company and my comercial future ….Can you let me know where can I find more info about how to work with blogs, youtube videos and all content marketing???….Thanks from Colombia..

  11. Sue

    We have been doing this without realizing it! Mind you, it is easy to think of info that would be valued regarding weight control surgery. We work hard at keeping our content interesting, updated and fresh. But still, we get little traffic. I look forward to reading the rest of the series! Your comments and criticisms are most welcome!

  12. Bernd

    Congratulations for this well written article. Content is king! This paradigm is as old as the Internet. At all times useful and well written content was crucial for the success of an online business. With content marketing as a part of marketing strategies this becomes now true for any kind of business. In my opinion content marketing is the very essence of successful online marketing.

  13. George Alves

    Joe, you are absolutely right. In this day and age with plethora of data out there and bombardment of advertising across the board, this form of advertising by creating value content makes a huge impact to the target audience by adding value and reducing the interruption factor that traditional marketing does from time to time.

  14. Putcha V. Narasimham

    Hai Joseph:

    Great presentation. I agree with you on defects of traditional advertisement. Further I hold that it is highly expensive, intrusive, perhaps ineffective and thus wasteful also.

    I have not understood all of CONTENT Marketing but I am using your first suggestion of putting my content on SlideShare…it is quick and easy. Will read the rest. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Sammy@GetBestHomeBusiness

    This content marketing part is very true. But what is so new in it?

    I mean it was always there in article marketing, blogging, guest posting, forum marketing, etc. Maybe people don’t realize the importance of it and use all these tools as mere advertisements, thereby causing its failure.

  16. Yashodhan Kanade

    This cost effective innovative way of marketing scores over lacunae in traditional marketing. Thanks for giving a new concept

  17. Mustafa Rangoonwala

    Hello sir,
    I am mustafa rangoonwala. I know what you are talking about here…
    and its good. I am in a Marketing field from last 1 year and i have seen the result. I want to share something that always your content should be True”means what you are offering should not be balloon”.

    Now a days there are a lot of Marketer who use to Publish things and they use to claim certain thing which they should not and that’s why people now a days doesn’t believe Instantly in your article or website or anything like that.

    May be i can wrong or my language can be rude….and if you feel like then “i am sorry” just wanted to share a good thought for Marketing people that’s it….

    You can have a look here: http://www.slideshare.net/mustafakhumusi/dxn-opportunity

    Mustafa Rangoonwala

  18. Daniel Jk

    It’s really a wonderful Content to read about the” Content Marketing” latest development in reaching customers through effective marketing strategies. Your contents are very easy to assimilate , at very first reading itself. Thanks a ton, michael.. for your word worthy of contents..

  19. Johanna Kulcsar

    Great article! It is interesting that it is about content marketing and this article really is a great way for Slideshare to practice that for real.

  20. Jagdish Gohil

    Excelent post on content writing , and this indeed a needs of current competitive adge. the only thing is how to make them into practice, if the post include the standerd operational process (SOP) would add the value.

  21. Akintunde Olusegun James

    Content Marketing as opposed to traditional marketing is of importance to the 21st century business world wide. I would to see more of developing economy examples in this new trends of marketing development and outlook in their value chain.

  22. Rangita Shah

    I concur with the comments left by others. There’s many a blog I’ve saved in evernote to come back to and review again and it’s a great way to get the message across.

  23. rbarnes

    I’ve never thought about it but an ad in any sort of print usually starts at over $100. That’s enough to get a blog post, a white paper, or other media content produced by outsource (by someone like me:-). Ads run for a day to a month and vanish. Web content is forever and often grows in it’;s weight and value, working 24/7.

  24. Leonard Simushi

    With content marketing it is good way to go, instead of interrupting customers, businesses can provide content that their customers may want or need, in exchange for their attention. This is really useful to put the things in perspective. I would like to know just one thing, whether slideshare can also help us to develop the content of our presentations,

  25. Mujeeb-ur-rehman

    Good way to marketing and appritiate the efforts made.

  26. nojrgarcia

    I agree with Leonard Simushi, I also would be interested in whether or not Slideshare can be of some assistence on implementing such a program with my business.

  27. Vinod

    Content management is an additional mechansim to connect with prospective customers. Each mecahnism has its own pros and cons. Many a times the objective is to generate sales, doing this through Content management may not yeild results when the time horizon is short google ads and other advertisements may give better results in such cases. For the long term branding , yes, content management can be a good choice.

  28. Arqam

    I agree with the fact that content marketing is a vital marketing TOOL, but that doesn’t mean it is the BEST way forward – I think that would depend based on the nature of the product, the technological understanding of the T/G and stuff.

    But very useful stuff, I am just critically analyzing what you have said! :-)

  29. Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC

    Thanks for your well written article. I write my blog for the purpose of educating my current patients and in hopes of providing useful content for those looking for credible information on the topics posted.

  30. Matt Ryman

    It’s really great to read an article that actually defines the difference between traditional marketing and content marketing by focusing on the interaction with the audience, i.e., interruption vs engagement. It’s not often that the ‘disruption’ bit is highlighted.

    Thanks for the read. I will be sending this to some clients who need the definition!

  31. Imelda Mayuyo

    It is such a very informative article which I could use as an Instructor of Marketing and Management courses. Thanks for the info.

  32. Joseph Putnam

    Hi everyone, thank you all for the great comments. As a lot of people have said, producing content is a great way to provide value to customers while also earning their attention. One of my favorite comments mentioned that taking at the cheapest add at $100 is equivalent to paying someone to write a blog post for $100. The difference is that the blog post will live on the internet indefinitely and the ad will only run for a week or a month.

    Thank you all again for the great comments!


  33. farheensayed

    There are many Organizations
    small – Medium or big who are using Content marketing strategy because for the
    simple reason – It works, Content is the king, and considered as one of the
    most important pillar of SEO.
    If you build a proper content for your target
    audience you gain with high traffic and returning visitors. Without creating
    great content marketing is impossible in today’s economy. With proper content
    you gain inbound traffic and leads.

  34. Alex Bisset

    I find that there is many benefits to content marketing. I find that using a content marketing platform like Opentopic (http://opentopic.com/ ). Using Opentopic to create and publish content makes the process much easier.