What is Content Marketing? A Primer for Non Content Marketers

"I don't get it" conversation bubble

So what’s this content marketing thing everyone’s talking about?

Have you ever noticed the length that some content marketers go to to not only use the term ‘content marketing,’ but also actively spread it around? The term is popping up everywhere, and while most marketers and savvy entrepreneurs understand what it means, not everyone does. If you have ever gotten blank stares like I have when telling people what you do, or have been the one staring blankly because content marketing just isn’t on your radar, then you know what I mean.

For me, the conversations usually goes something like this:

Other person: So, what do you do for work?
Me: Content marketing.
Other person: Oh, so you’re a writer?
Me: No, not really.

Maybe those people don’t get what content marketing is because to them it’s just another buzz word (now how the heck did that happen?!?) that they automatically equate to the traditional forms of marketing their most familiar with. Cue the the glossy brochures and direct mail. What they don’t realize is that it’s actually a whole lot more.

Here’s how I define it: Content marketing is a strategic approach to driving business results. It’s the process of creating valuable content that’s tailored for a specific audience and delivering that content at the right times and in the right ways to attract and retain customers and drive sales.

That’s simple enough, right? Of course, defining content marketing is one thing. Understanding what it is is another. Let’s take a closer look by breaking it down into its three core components:


Every content marketing program needs to be underpinned by a solid strategy. Fundamentally, a good content strategy will align your contextual understanding of your audience (who they are, what they care about, what their pain points are, what their buyer journey looks like, etc.) with specific conversion goals, key messages, content formats, and content delivery tactics. Using this information, a content strategist will determine what content to create when, and how to best distribute that content to get it in front of the target audience and drive conversions. This information can be captured in a content matrix and then translated into the types of editorial calendars that most of us are familiar with.

There are other aspects of content strategy to consider as well. These include determining what keywords to target when optimizing your content for search engines, figuring how to efficiently manage the various resources it takes to build and scale your content marketing program, and how to effectively use your content to position your company in the best way.


Execution typically falls into two buckets. The first is content creation, which is exactly what it sounds like. This is where writers, graphic designers, copyeditors, and videographers, among others, get involved in producing whatever content the strategy calls for. As they’re doing so, they are thinking about how to make their content as effective as possible by tailoring it to their audience, peppering it with the right keywords, making it visually compelling, using pithy headlines and calls to action, and above all making it inherently useful to the end consumer.

From there we move on to the second bucket, content delivery. The focus here is on figuring out how to best ‘market’ your content so that it’s getting in front of the right people at the right times. That can include utilizing your website, social media, e-mail, or industry influencers, as well as developing sophisticated campaigns designed to nurture people through their buyer journey.


The last major piece of content marketing is measuring what you have done so that you can not only see what impact your efforts are having, but also glean meaningful insights that will help you refine your strategy and tweak how you create and deliver your content. This is the area where a lot of content marketers run into trouble. They develop and execute their strategy, but then never take the time to gather and analyze the data their work produces. As a result, they have a really hard time justifying their cost and demonstrating their value.

I hope this very basic overview gives you a better sense of what content marketing is. If you are a content marketer, you already know this stuff, but just remember that not everyone does. Do yourself a favor and share this simple explanation with the folks who need it. You know who they are.

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