A Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing

Marketing Content

By Alicia Morga

What is content marketing? Is it content creation or marketing? Well — it’s both. Content marketing encompasses the creation, editing, and distribution of content to help a specific target customer along in their journey toward a business. It’s marketing that simply looks like content. And that’s why it’s a secret weapon every marketer must have.

In an increasingly savvy world where most people don’t like being sold to and can see an advertisement coming from a mile away, content marketing is more important than ever. Content marketing allows marketers to couch their message in meaningful contexts — in short, to give before they get.

Marketing is not about selling — it’s about the relationship you create with your target customer. Like in any good relationship, marketers need to first forge a connection, and they do this through creating and distributing content that potential customers want to consume, use, and/or share. The idea is that the consumption of content signals an interest that marketers can develop into more meaningful interactions — including sales and increased brand loyalty. It’s like giving someone a single chocolate to make them want the whole box.

Content marketing can look like a blog with tips, content hubs with engaging and useful content, white papers, calculators (e.g., car payment or calorie-counting calculators), podcasts, videos, a Facebook Live Q&A, or even a mobile app.

Content Marketing in Action

L’Oréal uses high-quality content and partnerships with beauty influencers to address the needs of its audience at Makeup.com. The site covers beauty trends, features makeup tutorials, and offers expert advice without ever blatantly asking the audience to buy anything.

The grooming-product company Dollar Shave Club takes a similar approach with its online publication MEL Magazine. The site targets DSC’s male customers and features articles that keep with the brand’s humorous tone, with headlines like “Our Google Searches Reveal We’re All Insecure Weirdos About Sex, Bodies.”

Content marketing is not just for business-to-consumer (B2C) initiatives. It’s very effective for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, too. For example, Square, a credit card reader for small businesses, has a website called SquareUp with valuable resources for small- to medium-sized businesses. Content pieces include research on how to set prices and how to engage Generation Z.

But content hubs are not the only way to do content marketing. Interactive content can help educate and establish expertise. Like Goldman Sachs’ dynamic visual exposition of blockchain technology.

Images can get your audience talking and feel a part of the conversation. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art does a great job of this through Snapchat, through which you’ll see photos of famous artworks in the museum’s collection with pop-culture-referencing captions. For example, a photo of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Shade was captioned, “All the single ladies,” a reference to the popular Beyoncé song.

Even music can create a connection you can leverage, like when Hamburger Helper released Watch the Stove, a five-track hip-hop mixtape on Soundcloud. The songs have solid beats and catchy hooks with lyrics that incorporate the brand. The songs were played over 4 million times and resulted in over 400 million social impressions. Yep — you read that right. This type of engagement happens when your audience doesn’t feel like it’s being sold to, but rather feels a part of a community. In this case, the people who get the hip-hop references feel spoken to. Is there anything more powerful than that?

Finally, what all these examples have in common is that:

  1. They created content audiences want.
  2. They publish new content regularly.
  3. The content is authentic to their brand and related to their marketing objectives.

Content Marketing at General Assembly

Learn how to do the same for your company or cause. At General Assembly, we cover content marketing as part of our part-time Digital Marketing course on our global campuses and online. Students conduct content audits for their clients, map content ideas to their customers’ journeys, and practice repurposing and curating content. The compelling subject matter sparks conversation and creativity.

GA also helps businesses determine and develop the capabilities of their in-house marketing talent and evaluate potential hires through our Credentials and corporate training programs.

Digital marketing skills not only help you achieve your objectives — from raising the profile of your company or cause to acquiring customers — but also help you become a more discerning customer. GA’s focus on active learning provides students with the experience they need to put their skills to work.

Meet Our Expert

Alicia Morga is a serial entrepreneur and digital marketing expert who has helped clients like Best Buy and Ford acquire customers. She teaches General Assembly’s 10-week Digital Marketing course in San Francisco. She holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and a B.A. from Stanford University.

“In an increasingly savvy world where most people don’t like being sold to and can see an advertisement coming from a mile away, content marketing is more important than ever.”

Alicia Morga, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly San Francisco