To really understand content marketing, I find it helpful to go back and look at marketing before the internet. I know, I know, that's like the dark ages. But hear me out.

Before the internet, marketing and advertising was limited in its use of space and it’s access to people. Information had to be crammed into a print advertisement, or a flyer, or on a billboard. There was a limited amount of space to use and it was often priced by the size. The bigger your ad or the longer your commercial, the more expensive it was.

Additionally, the only way to reach individual people was on the telephone or at their home address. 

For service-based companies, the goal of marketing and advertising was to get the individual people to contact you. Phone numbers were prominently displayed in ads. The prospective customers had to pick up the phone and call you, or walk into your office.

At that point, the sales process would start. The person who called you or walked into your office had clearly identified themselves as someone who is interested in your services. You would smile at them, and thank them for contacting you. You would ask them about their situation, and answer any questions they might have.

It is in this process when you begin to build relationships with people, earn their trust and see if you are a good fit to work together.

Now, flash forward.

When the internet comes along, all of a sudden there were no more limitations on space or access to people. We had websites and e-mail! You could put as much information as you wanted on your site, and it didn’t cost any extra. You could e-mail people as much as you wanted.

So what happened?

Marketers were so used to the old model, that they used the internet the same way they used other marketing tools. They still provided information and tried to get people to contact you. Even though the tool was very different, the tactic was the same. And for many small businesses, this is still the case!

There is information - more of it - about the company and what they do, and a phone number (or e-mail address) where you can contact them. But the relationship building part of the process doesn't happen until a prospect makes personal contact with you.

The real power of the internet is not in the expanded amount of space to work with, although that is nice. The real power is in our ability to use it to build relationships with people.

Content marketing is what takes things to the next stage. It isn’t about getting people to call you or come to you. When they opt-in, or follow you, or “like” you or subscribe to you, they are identifying themselves as someone who is interested in your services.

The next stage is the conversation. The part where you build a relationship with them, answer their questions, share some of your expertise, and see if you are a good fit to work together. That is what content marketing is about!

You likely have a lot of marketing materials and copy in your business that is intended to inform people and get them to contact you. But do you have content that carries the conversation to the next level?



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