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29th January 2020

Content marketing: beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Content marketing is nothing new, yet there’s still debate simmering about its true origins.

Many experts argue that the first examples date back as far as the 1800s, others argue that the first evidence was seen in cave paintings (bit of a stretch if you ask me).

Much like the debate about its origins, even today the definition, practise and application of content marketing is sometimes misunderstood. Amazing really, considering more than 40% of B2B marketers say they will devote more time and money to content marketing in 2020.

Content is not the same as content marketing

As Michael Brenner from the Institute of Content Marketing says, “Content is not the same as content marketing”.

I couldn’t agree more. There so much more to a successful content marketing strategy than just creating the odd video, social ad, whitepaper or hosting a webinar.

The good news is the rewards for a job done well can be great, and it can be a useful antidote to many of the well-documented troubles us B2B marketeers face: navigating complex decision making units, being present throughout elongated buying cycles, and appealing to both the rational and emotional characteristics of our audience.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The practise of content marketing is indisputably an inbound marketing technique. It’s about attracting an audience to a brand-owned destination as opposed to interrupting or buying an audience on someone else’s platform.

‘Attracting an audience’ being the operative words.

When thinking about attraction and making ourselves and the brands we represent attractive, us humans have a tendency to look inwards. And that’s the first, and critical, mistake when it comes to content marketing.

The result of looking inwards is the creation of loads of content about the amazing products and services that a business offers. That is not content marketing.

True content marketing requires an outward view. A steadfast focus on the customer, the landscape they operate in, and their needs.

Issues-based marketing

I like to think of content marketing as ‘issues-based marketing’. Thinking of it that way immediately stops you falling into the trap of looking inwards, you’re forced to think about customer issues and needs.

At Silver, we use a number of techniques to truly understand customer needs. Some more quantitative inputs, such as SEO research. Some good old-fashioned methods like getting stuck into in-depth research about the consumer and category they operate in. And indeed, some more case-specific techniques such as language analysis.

It’s all about getting as much context as is humanly possible. Because without context, content marketing is nothing.

Raison d’être

In some instances, content marketing programs can become vast and can do so quite quickly. As such, it can be difficult to stay focussed and true to the issues discovered in your research phase. That’s where the raison d’être comes in…

If context is king, a well-written raison d’être is the throne on which your entire content marketing effort should sit.

raison d’être
/ˌreɪzɒ̃ ˈdɛtrə,French ʀɛzɔ̃ dɛtʀ/
the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.

Whenever talk turns to content marketing, a research-backed raison d’être is a must.

It’s a clear statement that builds upon all of your customer and category research. It acts as the foundation to your whole strategy and a focal point against which you can stress test all the activity and content you create within your program.


Give it a try. What’s the raison d’être for your content marketing effort?