Content Marketing – What, Why, and How

Content marketing is the best way to promote a business. Let’s spend a few minutes to understand what it is, why it is important, and provide some simple guidelines on how every business owner can effectively create a content marketing strategy.

What is Content Marketing

If you do a search on the phrase content marketing then you will find many definitions of the term. Most I don’t like because they seem to want to overly complicate what it is. Though the following definition may not be perfect or exact it does capture the essence of what it is: content marketing is telling stories about your business.

In fact, I want you to think about everything that you say about your company as a story. This includes Face Book ads, direct mail coupons, fliers, trade show booths, website posts,  and on and on. Everything you say about your company is a little story and should include some consistent elements; what I call the key messages.

This post will walk through the basics of how to do content marketing. We will move through the following: key message development, content type definition by stages in the commitment funnel, examples of how to create several common content types, and why packaging of the content and distribution of content are secondary considerations in developing a great content marketing strategy.

Key Messages

Most businesses know their key messages and have boiled them down to a concise elevator speech. A 15 to 20 second phrase that summarizes the entire business.

To simplify the content generating process I encourage every business to formalize the information they want to communicate by creating a key messaging document. First, the elevator speech should have from one to four primary messages about the business that tells a potential customer what the business does. The reason it is kept to one to four is that is about all a potential customer can remember about your business so additional messages just make the entire message confusing and less memorable.

In addition I recommend the business create a formal key message so they cn more effectively communicate the supporting facts for each of the messages, and the benefits that flow to the customer when they buy from the business. You can get a worksheet that will walk you through creation of your key message document by following the directions to get the Free Marketing Worksheet that can be found in the right side bar on this page.

Types of Content

Content creation is easier if you segment content into different buckets based on the commitment funnel. This illustration shows some common content types associated with different stages of the funnel.

Commitment Funnel

A couple of things to highlight. First, the difference between awareness and interest is not as distinct online as it is with traditional media. Second, though paid advertising online really an awareness builder it transitions with a click to the associated link to an interest builder. Third, though the commitment stage focuses on your potential customers connecting with your business it is implied that the business is responding to each commitment individually.

Awareness and Interest

Here are a few examples of content marketing that builds awareness and interest in your business.


Everyday there are dozens, hundreds, thousands (?) of videos, posts, podcasts, etc. that go viral.

Ant chambers illustrate how content marketing should be interconnected.

Ant chambers illustrate how content marketing should be interconnected.

It is relatively easy for a business to find and share one that includes a short message on how that viral content illustrates a key message, or benefit of the business. It should not be heavy handed but in the spirit of, “heres something you might like”.

Here is a quick example: “Creating a good content marketing strategy is easy to do, however, the business must consistently add new content. Just like the ant colony that starts with a single chamber and grows into a huge, interconnected city the content marketing strategy is most effective if new chambers are built every week.”

Curated Content

Another relatively easy way to create content is to curate content that is already available online. By finding good examples of your topic and adding your perspective you can help your audience by doing the work for them. The key is to always give credit and provide links to the original information.


In the evaluation step the business needs to make available content that illustrates why they are good at what they do. There are many options available. One of the most effective is to create a self-help guide. This can be something that you, as the business owner, are not interested in doing for your prospective client or is such low level work that it is not worth your time. However, by helping the prospective client through a basic task you are building trust with that person.

Two of the most effective ways that a company can impress potential clients is through work examples and  testimonials or referrals.

What Content is Not

Content marketing from idea, to creative packaging, to distribution.

Content marketing from idea, to creative packaging, to distribution.

Notice that throughout this document I have not mentioned or de-emphasized how the content is packaged (video, podcasts, photos, etc.) or how it is distributed (Face Book, website, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). All good content starts with the idea. Only then do you decide how to creatively package the idea which then helps define how to distribute the content.

Do This Next

If you have made it through to the end of this post then you should have some thoughts on how to move forward with content marketing. However, I have saved two important considerations for last.

First, make sure that you have a website that you control/own that will house ALL of your content. Though you may distribute this content through Face Book, LinkedIn and other avenues it is important that you use your website as your central repository. It also makes it much easier to distribute/share the content once it has been posted.

Second, create an outline of what content you will create each month. For example, you could decide that the first week you will curate some information. The second week will be to create an example of your work. The third week will be a self-help guide etc. By doing this you have a plan that will help you move forward.

Remember that you cannot overnight create an extensive website with lots of content. However, if you do just one post per week then in a year you will have 52 pages of content that you can share with your audience. And it will grow each week just like the ant chambers.






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2 thoughts on “Content Marketing – What, Why, and How

  1. Doug, this is a great review of content marketing and why it’s so important. I love your last point about making an outline so you can really plan for the types of content you’ll be creating. This helps out a ton with consistency, which is also very key when it comes to content marketing. Thanks for this post!

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