[Editor's Note: This is an excerpt of a conversation form the Integrated Marketing Mix LinkedIn group. See it in context and see the replies.]
Some LinkedIn commenters seem to consider almost any online interactivity that accompanies e-commerce to be "content marketing"—comments, user reviews, etc. My definition would be narrower.
When I think about content marketing, I think of marketers creating editorial, non-selling content in order to attract and hold an audience. This is generally employed to:
- Collect names (lead generation).
- Educate readers on the topic without selling, but with an eye to preparing them to make the buying decision in a forthcoming sales pitch (lead nurturing).
- Building an audience for your company's "thought leaders," so they are respected and trusted and read by the wider community of your prospects; which, to some extent is brand building, and to some extent a type of soft list-building or audience development.
I would not include an offer or sales pitch in any content being used for those purposes. But all of those things are being used in clear marketing strategies to prepare the audience for offers to come. The combined strategy does two things:
1. It softens up the audience for sales pitches in the future.
2. It effectively gives the marketer direct access to the "means of media production." The company has total control over the media messaging delivered to that content's audience without having to fight through outside media channels or spend advertising dollars.