What is Content Marketing? An In-Depth Look

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When you think about content marketing, what first comes to mind? These days, you might think about a blog, or an attractive social media post that brings in lots of viewers. While you’re not wrong, there is so much more to content marketing than what we see on the surface today. 

In fact, content marketing has a pretty interesting history on how it got where it did today, and why it has evolved into one of the most effective and vital marketing strategies regardless of your business market or niche. 

The history of content marketing is a pretty long one, and you may not even realize that term “content marketing” was coined back in the 90s; even still, people have been using content marketing much before that. So, what is content marketing, exactly? 

In this article, we’re goig to discuss a variety of topics, and once you read, you’ll understand: 

  • The history of content marketing
  • Strategies for content marketing 
  • Examples of content marketing 
  • How content marketing benefits your business 

If you haven’t been implementing content marketing strategy and want to know more about it, looking to learn more to enhance your strategies, or are trying to change up your content marketing, this article is for you! 

Let’s take a look.

What is Content Marketing? A Definition 

If you haven’t already heard of them, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has put together a really great definition of content marketing: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience— and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” 

That’s the bonafide definition of content marketing, but we want to break it down a little bit more. If you notice, there’s a key word in there: valuable.

This means that you have to know what is useful to your target audience, and through your content, you offer them valuable and relevant content that builds a relationship with them. This is the main premise of content marketing, and it is a long-term strategy that you continue to build on over time. 

This helps to build customer loyalty because they will have built that relationship with you and come to prefer your offerings and your products and services over time.

You’ll build a competitive advantage through your content and be able to beat your competitors through customer preference. 

There is a big distinction between content marketing and normal marketing; showing customers you care.

With the more personalized nature of social media and the ability to make stronger connections through digital media, consumers expect that from businesses and ultimately their marketing efforts. 

Customers are more likely to support businesses that demonstrate that they care. There are so many ways that you can do this through content marketing, which helps to strengthen your overall strategy.

Don’t forget that element as we go through the rest of this article. 

Content Marketing is Strategic Storytelling 

Another thing that you must understand about content marketing from the getgo is the element of storytelling that content marketing inevitably encompasses. 

Content marketing isn’t just understanding your target audience and writing about what you think they want to hear; you have to know how to not only tell stories, but how to do so in a relevant way.

This idea is twofold, and we’re going to explain it a bit more in detail. 

The first part, telling stories, is what keeps your customers interested in your content and keeps them coming back for more. 

As you can see from this old Bayer ad, content marketing has been around for a long time.

This advertisement is a perfect example of content marketing. Of course, content marketing nowadays has some specific needs due to technology, but we’ll get to that later. 

One thing that Bayer does well in this ad is address the audience’s needs and it also engages them through writing as well as photos.

It’s a great example of how to tell a story with an ad, and your content marketing is going to do the same. 

Now, the second consideration that we’ve got to keep in mind is that Bayer’s ad is quite short, and when we think about the unique opportunities that technology has offered us, we’ve got a new set of needs in terms of content marketing. 

You still want to tell stories in attractive, well-written ways with visual supplements, but you also need to ensure that the length is right and the text is optimized for Google rankings (more on that later). 

When you look at the stats, the longer content that you put out will bring you more traffic naturally. While that’s great, you’ve got to find ways to keep your readers engaged and get them to stay on your content as opposed to doing a click-back (using the back button on their browser to navigate back). 

Content pieces with many words, sometimes even into the tens of thousands, can take a long time to read, so using effective storytelling and visuals in your content is vital to keep readers engaged and interested. 

Catching the reader’s attention, offering them a solution or satisfaction to a problem or need, and stimulating their interest along the way is the key to good content marketing as far as gaining traffic and building relationships is concerned. 

Thus, think of content marketing as a form of strategic storytelling. 

The History of Content Marketing 

As you can see from our above Bayer example, content marketing goes back ages. The Content Marketing Institute attributes the first content marketing example to Benjamin Franklin through his Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was established in order to raise awareness about his printing business. 

The first one was released in 1732, so as you can see, content marketing is an old concept with a name that was coined around 1996, when a group of journalists were discussing this concept, and it developed into what we know and see almost everywhere today. 

Content marketing strategy continued over the years in many different forms— newspaper articles, newsletters, posters, radio ads, TV ads, and more.

This helped make way for what would eventually become the content marketing that we know today, through online blog writing. 

The first blog was written in 1994 by Justin Hall, and by 1999 it was known as the term “blog,” which stemmed from the word “weblog.” When this idea of blogs was established, the idea of content marketing began to develop into what we all know of it today. 

As you may or may not know, most content marketing pieces are featured on websites under the section “blog,” and this is purposefully created by companies in order to house their extensive database of content marketing. 

That’s not the only place that content marketing can be used these days, however. With the development and optimization of social media networks, more opportunities for diverse media styles of content marketing became available. 


Platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and more all offer brands and businesses a unique opportunity to strengthen and diversify their content marketing strategy. 

Content Marketing: Is it Right for You? 

Now we know that content marketing has been a successful form of advertising since the mid-16th century, and has worked for many different businesses across many different markets to build relationships with customers and increase conversion and loyalty. 

But is it right for your business? Before we go on to sections about content marketing examples and strategies, we’re going to help you understand two things: 

  • Whether or not content marketing makes sense for your business
  • If content marketing is a valuable investment that you’ll see eventual ROI from 

Of course you want to be sure about your marketing strategy before implementing it; based on the numbers of content marketing and the current status of technology and social media, we’re leaning towards a yes for both points. 

When considering content marketing, you should first understand what your business model is and what your primary goal is. Are you a C2C business? A B2B? Or B2C? 

This is the first thing you want to understand, because you need to know exactly who your target audience is and who you’re marketing to. 

B2B Content Marketing 

B2B content marketing does still need to have an appeal to emotion, but also needs to focus on data and number-driven results, as that is what is most attractive to businesses. 

In general, B2B has shown good levels of success as reported by businesses using content marketing in their B2B companies. This data was reported by the CMI at the end of 2019. 

Overall, B2B models felt that content marketing had an impactful strategy on their business and showed a reflection in ROI. While it can be a valuable strategy, that doesn’t mean it’s all roses for B2B endeavors. 

You can see in the graph that only 63% of respondents felt that they were able to build loyalty with existing clients/customers, which means that they had difficulty in creating effective material and perhaps felt they could be doing something more. 

This is something that all B2B companies go through, as the markets are incredibly competitive today, and simply because you felt that your content marketing didn’t drive as many results as you’d have liked doesn’t mean that it’s not a powerful strategy for your business. 

B2C Content Marketing 

B2C Content marketing can focus mostly on solutions to problems or fulfilling needs of customers, as well as appealing to the senses and practical life hacks. 

CMI has provided some data about results achieved by B2C marketers, which is reflected in their graph below: 

If you are a B2C business, it’s vital that you implement some form of content marketing, if for nothing else other than raising brand awareness. 

C2C Content Marketing 

C2C content marketing is not mentioned through data on CMI, but there is a good chance that C2C content marketing is also valuable. 

With the rise of social media and blogs, the more coverage you can get for your products or services, the better. If you have an influential blog or a large social media presence, you’ll be much more likely to generate more interest in your brand and gain more leads, and hopefully conversions. 

This is similar to the statistics about B2C content marketing that you can see above in terms of C2C marketing goals. 

Content Marketing is for Everyone

At the end of the day, some businesses may feel iffy about their content marketing strategy, or feel like they’re not seeing the results that they need, but this doesn’t mean that content marketing can’t work for you. 

In fact, content marketing is one of the best and most diverse ways to reach a wide range of your target audience. If you notice all of the data above, almost a whopping 90% of all survey respondents felt that they were able to increase their brand awareness through content marketing. 

So, with that being said, content marketing is valuable no matter what business model you go by, nor what market you’re in. The key is knowing a wide range of strategies that can help you diversify your content and reach your target audience. 

How does content marketing reach your target audience you might ask? The main way that your content gets in front of your target audience is through Google search results, which is why SEO is a vital part of your content marketing strategy. 

SEO = Search Engine Optimization. 

There is a place for every market and every niche within SEO content marketing, so you dont have to worry. We will talk mroe about content marketing and SEO strategies in the next section. 

Content Marketing Strategies

Now that we’ve talked about all of the different definitions and foundations of content marketing, let’s talk about some different content marketing strategies that can help you perform better when you implement content marketing. 

In order to develop a successsful content marketing strategy, you should first understand the user experience that people go through when looking at content marketing. This is now shifting from building customer relationships and storytelling to understanding how content marketing actually works. 

The content marketing funnel is a bit different that other strategies, and it can be considered a top-of-funnel strategy. 

This graphic is great because it shows not only the top funnel, but the bottom funnel of what happens after customers make a purchase. 

In the top funnel, there are different stages, which include: 

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase

It also shows a variety of different elements that are necessary for each stage; for example, at the “awareness” stage, something like a blog post could be an activity that helps people to learn about your business and get to know it better.

Something like reading a blog post is considered a no-risk offer, because there is no registration required and no sharing of information. 

For this reason, many people feel that content marketing has helped to expand their brand awareness, but tracking real businesss results through content marketing can be a bit difficult without any type of measurement. 

In order to make sure that your customers have a valuable and impactful expereince through your content, which will lead them to the purchase phase and beyond, you can create content for each of these stages mentioned above, which can be consolidated into the following: 

  • Awareness stage
  • Interest and evaluation
  • Decision 

When you take all of these stages into account, you can build content that helps to funnel people through one stage and into the next. 

Content Marketing Awareness Stage

In this stage, potential customers are becoming knowledgeable and aware of your business. They aren’t going to be apt to buy anything just yet— they may not even be ready to committ to giving you any information nor opting-in to your communication channels. 

This is a very important stage for your marketing strategy because without awareness, you can’t get people into the funnel and lead them to purchasing or conversion. 

Content marketing, then, is one of the best ways that you can help to build awareness around your brand and business and get people interested in what you have to offer. 

This can be done via many channels, but for these stages, we’re going to focus on SEO and google results. 

For instance, if you search the phrase, “how to build an online business,” you’ll see a variety of links pop up and other dropdown menus that address similar topics that are searched for. 

When you look at these results, which would you be most likely to click on? The first one by BigCommerce has all the info you need, so you’ll be likely to click on that one. That’ll take you to the BigCommerce website, which is an e-commerce support system. 

When you get a potential customer to click through to your content and they don’t bounce back (hit the back button on the web browser), you’ll gain an even higher ranking, allowing your brand awareness to climb. 

SEO is one of the most prominent ways to do this, but social media marketing such as Instagram and Facebook are incredibly powerful tools for brand awareness in content marketing. 

Content Marketing Interest and Evaluation Stage

After people discover your content and become aware of your business, they will then have the potential to buy from you. This is never a set-in-stone thing, but that’s the hope. 

They first have to go through a consideration process, during which content marketing can also help push them to the third stage, which is the decision stage. 

When your potential cusomer is in the evaluation stage, building trust is key. In order to do this, they need to know more about you, your brand, your products, and what your business stands for. 

Some examples of content that aligns with this includes e-books, social media posts and DMs, newsletters, and email marketing. 

The goal in the interest and evaluation stage is to remind people about your business, build more trust, as well as foster their interest without being a nuissance or overly salesy. 

Content Marketing Decision Stage

The final stage of this process is the decision stage, which is also known as conversion; this is where people actually buy. 

Once they make it through the previous two stages of your content, you’ll be able to make your final case in getting them to convert to a customer or forget you ever existed in the first place. 

Let’s say that we stick with our example of “how to build an online business” and our BigCommerce website. When you click on the link we saw in the awareness page, a potential client will land on this page: 

Before you even scroll down to see the content, you’ll be able to see that BigCommerce offers a service that can help you with your business, and you see two times the option to start a free trial. 

The article is very well-organized and put into chapters for easy navigation, which helps to build trust and your reputation as the potential client views your content: 

When you read through the article, you’ll see again the option to download a free in-depth guide: 

You will be prompted again throughout the article to start your trial: 

If customers are still not ready to sign up at that point, they can join the newsletter through the prompt at the end of the page: 

BigCommerce has shown a very effective way to help funnel potential clients through the different stages with the hopes of conversion and actionable results through content marketing. 

Examples of Content Marketing 

Now that we’ve seen the basics of how to lead your potential customers through a content marketing funnel, we’ll talk about some potential types of content marketing. 

Remember, with the many options for social media platforms and technological communications, you can decide what will work best for your particular company and your business needs.

Marketeting Insider Group has created a go-to guide for choosing content and also created this easy-reference infographic for some of the content marketing types. 

Some possible options for content marketing include: 

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • eBooks
  • Press releases
  • Checklists
  • How-tos
  • Social media posts 
  • Interactive content posts such as quizzes or surveys 
  • Slides presentations 

These are by no means the only options for content marketing, but they are some popular ones. When deciding what type of content to create, you should consider your target audience and how they consume media, the cost and benefits of creating the media, and what kind of skills you have to create it. 

What is Content Marketing? Final Takeaways 

No matter what your niche or business type, the vast and all-knowing worldwide web can open your business up to a world of content marketing opportunities. 

From it’s long history beginning in 1732 to the current content marketing landscape, there is something for every business type if for nothing more than building awareness. 

Social Media and SEO are some of the key components of content marketing, so learning more about those aspects as well as what your target audience desires and reacts to in terms of content will help you craft a strategy that is right for you. 

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has so many excellent resources on content marketing and has been around for 10 years helping people to underestand how to make content marketing right for their business. 

Don’t miss out on this huge opportunity for reaching members of your target audience and converting them into loyal customers— history doesn’t lie, and content marketing is here to stay.

By Nicole

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