Marketing tools and tactics seem to come and go faster and faster. While a platform could be a must-use today, in a couple of years you’ll probably start seeing headlines pop up that it’s officially “dead.” We’ve been told that email is dead (… or not). Traditional “interruption” advertising is dead. News releases are dead. Google+ is definitely dead.
But content marketing seems to have mostly shaken off that pattern so far. While the principles of content marketing (sharing helpful information, not a direct sales pitch, with your target audience) have been around for a very long time, marketers started talking about “content marketing” less than 20 years ago — this Content Marketing Institute infographic pegs content marketing’s modern birth to about 2001.
By 2010, 88 percent of brands were using content marketing, and now most marketers are still actively pursuing and refining content as a core strategy.
So why has content marketing stood the test of time? Why is content still king? I talked to three content strategists to get their take.
Content marketing is built on storytelling.
Content marketing has opened doors for more meaningful conversations and stories. Instead of just headlines or subject lines, content expands the message.
“Websites, newsletters, ads, email … they’re all essentially vehicles for content. They’re packages delivering a message,” says Chris Williams, a copywriter and digital marketing manager at PlanetMagpie IT Consulting. “Content is conversation. And as we see on social media every day, people love conversations. We are a story-driven species.”
Kaya Ismail, founder of content marketing agency Wordify, says content opens up opportunities for marketers to tell stories in multifaceted ways. “Through content you can expand on facts and figures, tell stories and add real personality to whatever your message is,” he says. “You can’t do that with a billboard or banner ad.”
The CMS keeps growing more sophisticated.
Content management systems have always been the backbone of content marketing. They’re what we use to plan, organize and publish our content, and the role of the CMS will continue to evolve. Beyond basic publishing, we now expect our CMS to easily flex to support e-commerce, apps, video, broader marketing campaigns and other digital experiences.
But even as we expect our CMS to perform all these jobs, we also need it to make our jobs easier, not burden us with new tech headaches. “If you have to switch between four different tools to manage content effectively, you’re burning hours,” Williams says.
A simple, powerful CMS does more than just make a marketers life easier, though. It makes it possible to “democratize content creation and publishing,” by including a wider pool of voices, says Ian Truscott, a digital marketing strategy consultant and former director of the Content Management Professionals Association.
“Consumers want to engage with a broader range of people within an organization. They want content that’s not just from sales and marketing, but the people who can help them with their problems.”
Access to data is making content marketing stronger.
Content and data analytics are a particularly powerful combination in the hands of a skilled marketer.
“We have moved away from driving marketing based on ‘Mad Men’-style intuition and developing stories for a persona we just invented on the whiteboard,” Truscott says. “I recently read a great quote: ‘Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion,’ by W. Edwards Deming. If you’ve ever been in a marketing meeting, it’s so true.”
It’s become easier than ever to tap into “what people like to read, what people want to hear from companies, which approaches they like and which they don’t like,” Williams says. “Many marketers are using this data to refine their messages, learn more about the audience and basically do their jobs better. Less ‘pushy salesman’ and more ‘hey, would this help you out?’ ”