• Zoe Barnett

What actually is content marketing? (And how can it work for you)

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

In the world of business - and the world of marketing - there are a lot of buzzwords. 'SEO', 'PPC', 'algorithm' and 'content marketing' - to name just a few. And yes, they do have a purpose to a certain extent. They are quick ways to refer to some kind of marketing tool - or strategy. Which is great for those in the marketing industry. But what about, you? A small business owner? You might be an expert in skin care or the latest interior design trends - but you're not an expert in marketing terminology...

desk with content marketing examples by Zo Connected Marketing consultant in cheshire
What actually is content marketing? Buzzwords are great in context - but do you know what they mean, exactly?

And that's okay!

Great, even! (We can't be experts in everything - and neither should we!)

Because that's where I come in!

Zo Connected Marketing Consultant in Cheshire at her desk discussing content marketing
A girl (woman, actually) on a mission to BUST UP marketing jargon.

*insert superhero music*

Miss Marketing-Jargon-Buster.



The definition of content marketing

So c'mon already, explain what it is then!

Well according to The Content Marketing Institute it's this:

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.

Okay - so what does this actually mean?

(Genuinely, no disrespect to The Content Marketing Institute - this is great for marketers but not so small biz owner friendly...)

Content marketing is simply...

Creating the following:

  • Blog posts

  • Social media posts

  • Email newsletters

  • Podcasts

  • Videos

  • Live streams

  • Animations

  • Infographics

  • Thought leaderships articles

  • Etc.

That are:

  • Informative

  • Educational

  • Entertaining

  • Amusing

  • Interesting

  • Etc.

All geared up perfectly for your target audience.

That have the primary focus to do all of the above (to provide value for the target audience).

With the ultimate goal of...

Driving sales (of your services or products)!

magazine showing content marketing for small businesses
Think about a great free magazine you love (I love the Tesco magazine because of all the recipe inspiration) - now think how they put it together... do they ever say BUY ME, BUY ME! Or, is it more subtle?

What's the thinking behind content marketing?

Content marketing works because...

1. You appear educational (they trust you)

Through content marketing you share your expertise and knowledge with your target audience.

You help them solve their problems - and from this they trust in you as an authority on the subject.

I mean, I do like writing blog posts. But why do you think I do it... like really?

I do it because I'm sharing my knowledge with my target audience (you, reading this) - giving you a little bit nugget of information with the hope (and the goal) that you'll go,

"Hmm interesting point, Zoe. Now that I trust you to help me with my SEO, I will invest in your services."

And then voilà, I have a (lovely) client secured.

2. You create relationships (they like you)

As well as appearing like you know your stuff, content marketing is an opportunity to speak WITH your target audience.

From opening up conversations to expanding on 'customer pain points' (i.e. the things your target audience worries about), it's your opportunity to create relationships.

And when you create (good) relationships, people actually like you (and your brand).

And that is very powerful when they make buying decisions.

For example...

I know a local business called Tilly Wonka - ran by the lovely, Tilly - who makes the most beautiful chocolate art.

tilly wonka chocolate handmade in Northwich Cheshire - chocolate art
I mean - who could resist? Sometimes even something simple - like a social media presence - is all part of your content marketing strategy,

I've known Tilly for a while now on social media - I started to follow her artsy photography and admired her style.

After all, stunning photography combined with a social media presence is usually a very important cog in the wheel of content marketing.

So, when I wanted to buy a little thank you gift for a friend... I naturally thought....

"A-ha! I know what I want to buy - and who from!"

(Said friend loves chocolate - and said friend loves gin too... so Tilly's little flavoured gin liquors were just perfect).

And there, a sale is made.

And the reason why is because I'd followed Tilly's journey on social media - from her Instagram stories to her beautifully curated photos, I felt a 'connection' and therefore it felt natural for me to buy from her.

It's simple buyer's psychology. And also - it's nice to buy from real people, that you like (of course!).

3. You DON'T directly sell to your audience (they DON'T get irritated by you)

Anyone else get up and make a cuppa (pour another glass of wine) when the adverts come on TV?

Well, yes - direct selling is annoying. And a bit boring. So, you avoid it.

And TV adverts tend to do that a lot. Also, we know it's the ad break - so something in our brain is just like 'nah'...

Disclaimer: TV ads are obviously still very successful - otherwise they wouldn't be the most expensive way of advertising. So they do work - mainly because we can't do anything about it (or for me, I get my other half to make the brew - pour me a glass of vino - so I end up watching them anyway!).

With content marketing, you do NOT direct sell.

Yes, you market - indirectly. Subtly, even.

By providing your audience with useful tips, tricks, advice - even an amusing story or inspirational tale - you have the opportunity to nudge your audience towards your products or services.

Again, let's take a real life example of one of my clients - KindaGifted, a kids eco t-shirt store.

Screenshot of KindaGifted instagram showing video of field in yorkshire to represent content marketing
Sometimes there's a feeling that content marketing has to be polished - perfect even. This is SO not the case. In fact, a quick video snap (like this one) is a great example of content marketing as KindaGifted show their audience their roots in Yorkshire and where their brand focus comes from (the environment) - creating a relationship with like-minded folk (and their target audience)

In her social media posts the lovely lady who runs this doesn't always SELL SELL SELL!

She educates - and she inspires through her mantra of 'valorous, not glamorous' and 'eleemosynary'.

(Give it a read by the way - it's fascinating and very motivating stuff for those who wish to inspire a kinder world - me, me, me!)

Simply, direct selling is annoying. And old-fashioned. And everyone knows what you're up to. Yawn!

However - advice, helpfulness, storytelling and general kindness is a great way to sell your services, without p-ing anyone off.

How to get started with content marketing

Dare I mutter the 's' word, 'strategy'?

woman at desk planning content marketing strategy
Making a plan with your content marketing can help you stay on track - and see results!

I know. It sounds like corporate marketing waffle - but bear with me.

Strategy just means a plan. And how you're going to make that plan happen (execute as the corporate bods might say).

Think about who your target audience is and what content they'd like to see?

Would it be top tips in a blog post?

Or a short how-to video.

This can help you build a little plan of content marketing.

Then, you can hone it for your target audience.

Related: read this blog post about finding your blogging voice - there is a great exercise to reveal who you target audience truly is

Just give it a go

And - if in doubt, I often say just get started, already! Don't overthink it - there's no point.

You might not get it right straight away - you might feel nervous posting your first blog post... but really, what's the worst that can happen?

And here's another cliché for you - WE LEARN THROUGH OUR MISTAKES.

quotation your best teacher is your last mistake zo connected marketing cheshire

So go on, create some content and see what happens.

If your audience likes it - then great, you're on the right tracks.

If they don't... but they replied to your newsletter last month - then LEARN from that. (Hint: your audience likes top tips in a newsletter but didn't like your blog post rambling on about your holiday last month).

Related: Feel the fear, and publish anyway! A blog post dedicated to getting over your marketing nerves as a small business owner

Get some help with content marketing

Writing blogs isn't for everyone.

Nor, is crafting social media posts.

Or newsletters, for that matter.

In fact, it's normal to feel a bit UGH about getting those fabulous inner thoughts down into a super tasty bit of content for your target audience to dine on.

(Can you tell it's lunchtime and I'm feeling hungry?)

I can help you by understanding your business - your target audience - and then, turning that into content that they will like.

I can be a helping hand - or, can just give you some inspiration to get you on your way.

So, if that sounds like something that could help your small business content marketing, get in touch!

I'm based in Northwich, Cheshire - but I work with businesses all over the UK.

woman typing on keyboard surrounded by flowers, lipstick and coffee
Gosh - I *wish* my desk looked like this pretty blog-ending stock image.