Content marketing definition: Fishing for customers

Sep 25, 2017 | Beginner Basics, Featured

A useful content marketing definition is one of the first and most valuable things you need to understand in order to learn content marketing and develop as a content marketer. That’s because without a guiding outline, it can be easy to get lost while learning the many details and nuances of content strategy and tactics.

Unfortunately, nearly every blog about content marketing has a slightly different content marketing definition. And few, if any, define content marketing from the perspective of a startup, entrepreneur or small business trying to learn this rich discipline.

Let’s fix that.

We’ll look at a simple definition meant for beginners, expand on it, and then illustrate what we mean with a story that shows you how content marketing is like “fishing for customers.”

A simple content marketing definition

Here’s the basic definition we use at CM Startup:

Content marketing is the process of providing people with information they care about in order to form a trusting business relationship.

Besides being easy to remember, this content marketing definition emphasizes some pillar concepts:

  • Process
  • People
  • Information
  • Care
  • Trust
  • Relationship

An expanded content marketing definition

To expand on these concepts a bit:

Content marketing is a proactive process with specific steps, strategies and tactics.

It’s focused on the people you want your business to serve (not you, your products or your company).

It’s based on the idea that people are hungry for information (content) about problems or opportunities they care about in their business or personal lives.

It works only if the content you provide helps a person trust your business to assist with his or her needs.

And finally, the intent of content marketing is to form an initial and lasting business relationship with prospects and customers that will help your business thrive and grow.

It’s no wonder so many businesses are ditching traditional advertising for the buyer-centric benefits of content marketing!

A base for understanding

Everything we teach on CM Startup deals with one or more of these core concepts. So when you’re down in the weeds of a particular lesson, it’s a good idea to recall this content marketing definition and use it as a base to better understand what you’re learning.

But to get really good at this, you’re going to need more than a simple mantra.

A guide for development: The CM Startup Framework™

While our short definition tells you what content marketing is, it doesn’t tell you how content marketing is done.

That’s where our CM Startup Framework™ comes in.

The CM Startup Framework is both an in-depth content marketing definition and a skills development guide for beginning practitioners. It covers some prerequisites and the five stages of development necessary to become an accomplished content marketer.

The CM Startup Framework helps you get started on solid ground and work forward step-by-step to acquire the content marketing skills you need to succeed. It also defines the strategic and tactical aspects of content marketing in detail along the way.

CM Startup Framework overview

We call the Framework’s prerequisites Beginner Basics. These include resources and knowledge required before you start your development journey. For example, this content marketing definition is a Beginner Basic.

As you start to learn and apply content marketing, you’ll progress through five sequential stages: Focus, Aim, Create, Convert and Enhance.

1. In the Focus stage you’ll determine your content niche, content goals and unique business value.

2. In the Aim stage you’ll define and profile your target audience.

3. When you reach the Create stage you’ll begin to create information (content) that matches your business focus and your audience’s needs. This is an ongoing process.

4. In the Convert stage you’ll begin to use your content to encourage people to engage more with your company, including identifying themselves as potential buyers.

5. And in the Enhance stage you’ll optimize your content efforts to include managed, measured, efficient campaigns.

Mostly sequential

It helps if you learn and apply these prerequisites and stages in sequence, although you might find that some overlap is normal. For example, the Create stage is a continuous part of content marketing, so you’ll likely begin to use more advanced Convert and even Enhance techniques when just some of your content has been created.

But skip or delay the Focus and Aim stages at your own peril! Focus and Aim are the foundation for all of your content creation, conversion and enhancement so you should always build them first.

Fishing for customers: A virtual fishing trip

If you’ve read my About page you know that I love to fish. In fact I just returned from an entire week of fishing in Canada, so you know it’s an important part of my life.

I got to relax and think a lot during that trip, and sooner or later my thoughts drifted to content marketing. (It’s true!)

I realized that the process of fishing is amazingly similar to the content marketing definition I’ve just outlined: it has prerequisites and sequential stages that closely parallel those of the CM Startup Framework.

Of course the difference is that your business is fishing for customers, not seafood.

Come along on a virtual fishing trip with me and I’ll show you what I mean. Even if you’re not remotely interested in fishing yourself, I think it will help you understand more about the process of content marketing.

Some fishing givens (Basics)

At its most basic level, fishing requires access to water. It helps to understand a little about what it means to go fishing (both the what and the how). Fishing requires quite a bit of time and a little money (although you can spend a lot). Surprisingly, it doesn’t require fish, but the experience is much less satisfying without them.

Content marketing has prerequisites, too. You need access to a business, a website and a blog. It helps to have a solid content marketing definition (both the what and the how). It requires quite a bit of time and a little money (although you can spend a lot). While it doesn’t require customers at first, the experience is much less satisfying if they never show up.

The purpose of fishing (Focus)

Oddly enough, not everyone goes fishing just to catch fish. A person’s fishing purpose might also be to have fun, harvest food, relax, enjoy fresh air or interact socially. It might even be to catch a trophy fish or win prize money in a tournament.

It helps to identify this focus up front so that the experience better matches the intent.

In content marketing, focus is also the first step after satisfying the prerequisites. Your focus includes deciding what your specific business niche or topic is going to be, your goals for using content marketing to promote that niche, and how you’ll differentiate your topic from the rest of the world. (Learn more about how to Focus your blog and other content.)

Identify these first so that your subsequent content efforts match your intent.

Species and behavior (Aim)

Before starting to fish, it’s wise to decide what type of fish to pursue since behavior and availability can vary widely by species. I primarily fish for walleye, a fresh water species that’s the Minnesota state fish and a delicious taste treat. But there are thousands of species on Earth. So if I blindly throw a hook and line into the water without knowing what I’m aiming for, I may be fishing but I won’t likely be catching.

It’s also a good idea to study the behavior of your target species including their geographic location, habitat preferences, natural food, effect of water clarity and more. For example, walleye are very light averse so time of day and water clarity can make a big difference in my choice of tactics – and my success.

Aim your content marketing efforts in a similar manner. Decide whom you’re trying to attract with your content first.

Then study their behavior and craft personas that profile their needs and wants. Get inside the minds of your ideal buyers. Who are they? What jobs do they have? What are their challenges, their dreams? What could you say that would appeal to them? In what online habitats might you find them?

Careful aim will make a big difference in your choice of content tactics and messages – and your success.

Attract fish (Create)

This is where amateur anglers usually start their fishing process, and it’s usually where they fail. That’s because in the excitement of getting a line in the water, beginners often forego the planning stages (Focus and Aim).

At this stage, fishing involves using tools such as a rod, reel, line, lures and bait. These can vary greatly depending on the species desired. The manner of presenting bait to prospective fish can also vary. Bait can be jigged, trolled, cast, floated, sunk near the bottom and so forth. Time of day and time of the year can also have an impact.

This is where amateur content marketers also fail if they’ve neglected the Focus and Aim stages. Instead, use what you’ve learned about your business purpose and ideal audience to create content that’s truly helpful. Create content that matches the buyer’s journey toward a purchase and that helps buyers buy. Use a variety of techniques to get content in front of prospects – website, blog, ebooks, social posts, videos and more. Entice buyers to click with enticing calls-to-action.

Just remember you’re going to spend most of your time, energy and money attracting prospects rather than landing them and that this is an ongoing process. Have some patience.

Catch fish (Convert)

Once a fish nibbles or begins to take the bait, it’s payoff time in fishing – if you’re skillful and lucky. To be successful at this stage, an angler must set the hook, reel in the line, re-present bait to fish that get off, land the fish in a net or by hand, and keep the fish alive after catching it (for freshness).

This is payoff time for content marketers as well – if you’re skillful and lucky. Your calls-to-action need a response such as further information, a download or follow-up communication. If you use landing pages for some of these tactics, be sure to build them so that they increase the chances of conversion. If a prospect nibbles on a piece of content but doesn’t sign up or buy, try suggesting a related piece of content. Keep known prospects fresh by using lead-nurturing emails.

Be sure to keep your content informative and helpful at this stage, not sales-y or pushy. Remember the trust factor in our content marketing definition.

Improve your fishing experience (Enhance)

If you really get hooked on fishing and want to raise your experience and success to another level, there are a number of actions you can take.

Hire a professional guide. Take fishing lessons. Book a fly-in trip to the wilderness. Track your success (and failures) in a logbook and analyze what works and what doesn’t.

You can enhance your content marketing efforts at this stage as well.

Hire a content specialist on contract or as an employee. Take professional courses. Acquire advanced tools to plan, analyze, manage and improve campaign results. Use team collaboration tools to keep multiple people working toward the same goal. Integrate your inbound content efforts with outbound techniques such as telemarketing and direct mail.

This stage of development is all about getting more efficient and more effective with content. And that can do amazing things for your business!

Start wherever you are

Whether you’re angling for dinner or fishing for customers, you need clarity of purpose and a solid understanding of the process.

Use the insight you’ve gained from this content marketing definition to start wherever you are on your content marketing development journey and move forward toward more success. The lessons in Content Marketing Startup can help.

I’d love to go along for the trip. Let me know how I can help!

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