9 Definitions: How Content Marketing Works Within Marketing

One topic that generates a lot of interest on our blog is how content marketing relates to other disciplines. Readers want to understand how content marketing fits within their overall marketing plan, and we have written about this topic over time.
Next time you are asked – or simply wonder – how content marketing is related to insert your approach of choice, come back to this post for a quick explanation.
I am including screenshots from Google Trends so you can see the popularity of the terms over the past five years.

Content marketing vs. content

This first definition looks at content in general. Michael Brenner’s post is one of the top-shared posts on our website in the past year, and the premise is simple yet important. Marketing content does not equal content marketing. He explains:
Content marketing is about attracting an audience to an experience (or ‘destination’) that you own, build, and optimize to achieve your marketing objectives.
Content is everywhere. There’s product content, sales content, customer-service content, event content, employee-generated content, marketing and campaign content. Even advertising is content.
With content marketing you are attracting an audience to a brand-owned destination versus interrupting or buying an audience on someone else’s platform.

Related approaches to content marketing

The next definition categories are approaches related to – and can be used in tandem with – content marketing.

Content marketing strategy vs. content strategy

Melanie Seibert helps clarify the difference between content strategy and content marketing strategy:
I see content marketing strategy as a sub-discipline of content strategy. Let’s start by clarifying the difference between these two terms:
  • Content strategy is a sub-discipline of user experience (UX). A person in that role considers an organization’s content holistically and shapes the way that body of content influences people’s experiences with the brand. Content strategists think about how all the organization’s content fits together. As Rahel Anne Bailie puts it, ‘content strategy’ equates to an ‘umbrella strategy.’
  • Content marketing strategy deals specifically with content marketing. Content marketing strategists determine what content will build the customer base by helping people make decisions or solve problems at various points in their experience with the brand.

  • Content marketing vs. product marketing

  • One common question is similar to one posted to me on Bruce McDuffie’s podcast, Manufacturing Marketing Matters:
    We are working on our audience-facing mission statement, but we’re having a hard time understanding (lots of heated discussions with sales and product) how educating the audience without pitching the product will help us grow the business. Could you elaborate on that concept?”
    My background is in product marketing, so I understand first-hand what a challenge it can be to transition from product marketing to content marketing. While product-marketing groups are evolving to be audience-focused, some of them are stuck in “product-pitch” mode (not all product marketers, but it is a challenge faced by many).
    Here are the big differences when someone wants to simply pitch a product:
    • Content marketing creates a more knowledgeable customer. Product pitches often focus on sales.
    • Content marketing builds relationships. Product pitches answer questions at one moment in time.
    • Content marketing helps people feel smart. Product pitches check a box on their to-do lists.
    • Content marketing is an investment that reaps long-term rewards. Product pitches are short-lived.

    Content marketing vs branded content

    Joe Pulizzi loathes the term branded content as people continually confuse it with content marketing. But, the two are different. “Simply put, branded content looks and feels like advertising,” Joe says.
    Branded content looks and feels like advertising says @joepulizzi.
  • He goes on to explain some characteristics of branded content in an unscientific review of examples in the category, concluding:
    • Most of the entries are campaign-based. They are not ongoing editorial products serving an audience.
    • There is heavy usage of product placement. It’s amazing how often the product becomes the central character of the story.

    Content marketing vs. inbound marketing

    Over the years, a lot of comparisons have been made between content marketing and inbound marketing. While the tides are gradually shifting, inbound marketing has traditionally been associated with top-of-the funnel activities, while content marketing approaches customer pain points from brand awareness to consideration, to sales to retention, upsell, and advocacy. In short, the big difference between content marketing and inbound marketing is that content marketing focuses on – or should focus on – customer retention and loyalty.
  • Methods to distribute content

    The remaining comparisons on our list all have something in common: They are ways to distribute content and they all require audience-focused content. Said another way: if you don’t have great content, none of these approaches will work well.

    Content marketing vs. native advertising

    As Joe talks about in his post, many people think native advertising equals content marketing, but this isn’t the case. Native advertising is simply a way for brands to distribute their content on another publisher’s platform as a way to attract a new audience. Joe explains:
    If you pay for placement, it’s advertising.
    If you pay for placement of valuable, relevant content in a format similar to the third-party site, it’s native advertising.
    If you don’t pay for placement, the content is not advertising.
    If that content is valuable and relevant, designed to attract a clearly defined audience, and posted on your own or other unpaid platform, it’s content marketing. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay to promote your content as part of your content marketing strategy. If you don’t have an audience that is subscribed to receive your content, you should look into paid media as a way to reach a targeted audience.

Content marketing vs. PR

As Paul Roetzer discusses in this post, PR is a way to amplify your content marketing, and he offers eight ways PR can accelerate your content marketing success:
  1. Build a media list. (Amanda Subler recently provided a template to do this.)
  2. Research editorial calendars from your target media publications so you can best pitch story ideas.
  3. Pitch story ideas to relevant media contacts.
  4. Identify bylined article and post opportunities.
  5. Conduct influencer outreach (check out our recently updated guide on creating your influencer marketing program).
  6. Consider partnerships with associations and organizations.
  7. Pursue speaking opportunities.
  8. Submit your content for industry awards (shameless plug: such as the Content Marketing Awards).

Content marketing vs. social media

As Toby Murdock explained in 2012 – and is still as relevant today – social media fulfills two primary objectives:
  • It generates awareness for the brand by providing a platform with a built-in audience.
  • It helps brands stay connected to current and potential customers.

Content marketing vs. SEO

Quite simply, you won’t be found in search without great content. And, as Google continually updates its algorithms, it’s even more imperative that what you publish is focused on what your audience wants as Google considers quality back links, social shares, and more.