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Content marketing is the use of informative written or spoken material to capture the attention of readers. It may be accomplished through print or online newsletters, digital content, video portals and in-person roadshows, to name just some of the many options. Direct product promotion is never the role of proper content marketing; rather, advertisers communicate useful information and helpful advice in their area of expertise to inspire consumer trust as well as motivate brand loyalty.
For example, a company that makes insoles for footwear is likely to publish content on foot care. While their products would certainly be mentioned somewhere in the marketing content, it wouldn't be like a direct mail piece in which the focus is to sell the product aggressively. Both direct mail and content marketing persuade, but in different ways. Direct marketing compels the target market to take a certain action, such as to place an order, while the informative content method persuades consumers to trust the brand as an industry authority. It also gives prospective customers information on how the company's products can fit into their overall lifestyle.
For instance, using the shoe insole company example above, an instructional video on foot care, sponsored by the firm, could be an effective type of content marketing. The video could show how to buy properly fitting shoes as well as demonstrate the correct use of insoles in footwear. This kind of helpful, free information can give people a positive view of the company as a helpful leader in its field while at the same time creating an environment that gently encourages, rather than outright promotes, product sales. Consumers today want to be informed so they can make intelligent buying decisions.
Consumer media and custom publishing are other names for content marketing. Using informative content as a means of helping to market products can be done effectively by a one person business or a huge corporation. Something as simple as creating an online newsletter that customers opt to receive in a monthly email keeps the business name in the consumer's mind as well as provides helpful information.
Larger companies may add more involved content communications, such as implementing in-person roadshows at malls and shopping centers. An example of this would be a cleaning product company accepting people's silverware or other items to clean during the roadshow demonstration while giving tips on how to apply their products. In order to keep the focus on helpful marketing content, rather than a direct sales push, the demonstrator is likely to pepper his or her communications to the audience with an assortment of household tips that don't directly apply to the company's products.