What's the definition of content marketing?

February 13, 2012
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Answer updated March 7, 2016 I've also heard this question phrased: What's the difference between content marketing and content strategy? Let's take a look:


Content Marketing: A Definition

Content marketing involves developing content and stories to attract and engage an audience, usually for a specific action or result. Content can include text, video, infographics, blogging, and even social media. Content marketing strategy may include inbound marketing, outbound marketing, and direct marketing approaches, among other deliverables.

Content Strategy: A Definition

Content strategy is the planning, creation, and management of content over time, to help a business achieve their goals. This can include content marketing efforts, website content, social media content, offline sales support collateral, video, and other means of getting your brand story out there. The content strategy process includes these five steps.

Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy

So what's the difference between content strategy and content marketing strategy? Content strategy encompasses your strategy for all content efforts, not just your marketing. Some might argue that all of a business's content should be marketing-driven, and if that's the case for you, great. Others may also need an overarching enterprise content strategy for other content types, such as PR, sales, customer service, application development, in-product, merchandising, value-based, relationship-management, and customer service.

Marketers Define Content Marketing

Those are my -- a content strategist's definitions. So what do marketers think? I decided to ask. I met about 60 sponsors and speakers from the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego at a small, red-walled restaurant. As I moved around the room, I asked about their software, their services, and -- albeit indirectly -- their definition of content marketing. Here are a few of their definitions:

  • "Content marketing is blogging, right?" I suppose that's part of it.
  • "Content marketing is the valuable content that feeds into a multivariate landing page." Another part, sure!
  • "Content marketing is outreach. Content strategy leads to self selection." I like this one.
  • "Content marketing is a what. Content strategy is the how." This works for me. Combine and get "content marketing strategy," which can be a component of your enterprise content strategy.

Content marketing needs content strategy like any other online initiative that involves content. And your content strategy likely needs a content marketing component. The point though is: content marketing and content strategy are not interchangeable.

Content Marketing Deliverables

Here are some examples of content marketing deliverables:

  • Company-published blog articles
  • Industry-published blog articles
  • Public facing white papers
  • Affiliate content on partner sites, including photos, videos, calculators, articles
  • Content posted on social media sites, like Pinterest, Flickr, Vimeo
  • Company profiles on social media platforms or industry directories
  • Conversations on social media channels, such as Twitter or Facebook
  • SEO driven web site pages
  • Content for campaign-driven landing pages

And here are some examples of content strategy deliverables. To bring all this together into an actionable, effective plan, you need strategy. Call it a content marketing strategy, if you'd like, but whatever you do, be sure it aligns with your overall content strategy for the most powerful outcome. What's your definition of content marketing? What kind of content marketing deliverables are you producing?

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About the Author: Shelly Bowen

Shelly Bowen, content strategist

Shelly Bowen, MFA, is a content writer, content strategist, and founder of Pybop.

For decades, Shelly has written for businesses on complex topics from disease prevention and medical devices to alternative energy and leveraging data. Today, she's hyper-focused on supporting B-B technology businesses. In her spare time, she hikes, kayaks, draws, and works on her T-Bird.

A wide variety of brands rely on Shelly as an essential freelance writer and content strategy resource.

Follow Shelly on Instagram @pybop or connect on LinkedIn. More about Shelly and Pybop.

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