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Content Marketing Basics: A Get-Started Guide

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Content Marketing Basics: A Get-Started Guide


Updated April 21, 2022

No matter how far you’ve come in your content marketing career, you might wish you understood specific strategies, tactics, or skills more deeply. Or you might need a straightforward guide to explain content marketing basics to new team members.

I traveled from print journalism to public relations to digital publishing before landing in content marketing. When I needed to get up to speed on fundamentals that hadn’t factored into my previous roles, I turned to informational resources like CMI to power my journey of discovery.

Now I’m returning the favor by revisiting the fundamentals of successful content marketing from top to bottom. Use this post as a guide to CMI’s best resources on the topics where you (or your team) need a refresher course or an expanded view.

What is content marketing?

You can’t reach your full potential for content marketing success until you understand what it is – including its definition, the goals it can help you achieve, and how it complements and relates to other marketing disciplines and techniques.

You can’t reach full potential until you understand what #ContentMarketing is, the goals it supports, and how it works with other disciplines, says @joderama via @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

Content marketing definition

You might find variations, but the content marketing definition CMI uses represents the consensus:

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Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing works by capturing the attention of your desired audience members and helping them address their informational and task-oriented needs. The aim is for that audience to grow to trust and rely on your guidance, recognize your company’s unique value proposition, and reward you with their business, loyalty, or evangelism.

Let’s dig into the definition’s three essential characteristics:

  • Valuable: Content marketing is most likely to succeed when it serves an unmet need (e.g., delivering critical information buyers are likely searching for, providing a tool or technique to make their lives easier, or guiding them through the steps of a complicated process).
  • Relevant: Your content should appeal to audience interests and information needs – not just perspectives and priorities your business wants to further.
  • Consistent: Viral success with a single content piece feels great in the short term. But you’ll only get those visitors back if you consistently offer something valuable. That means you produce and deliver valuable, relevant content on a reliable schedule.

Why build a content marketing practice?

Companies use content marketing to meet several different goals. Some of the most common include:

According to our latest research, most successful B2B and B2C marketers use content marketing to create brand awareness, build credibility, educate audiences, build loyalty, and generate demand or leads.

Goals B2B Marketers Have Achieved by Using Content Marketing Successfully in Last 12 Months.


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The State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report

Looking to grow your business with content? Explore the ultimate blueprint for content marketing success: the State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report by Semrush. 500K articles analyzed. 1,500 marketers surveyed. 9 industry experts surveyed. Download your free copy now!


Where content fits in your marketing plan

Content marketing isn’t a replacement for other promotional techniques. Instead, content works best when used to complement other marketing efforts that support your business goals.

For example, content marketing works well with:

#ContentMarketing works best when used to complement other marketing efforts in support of your business goals, says @joderama via @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

Get executives and other teams on board

Now that you can clearly characterize content marketing’s value proposition, you can better communicate its benefits in terms that others – including your internal and external teams, the C-suite, and other key stakeholders – will understand and appreciate.

The value proposition is a must to secure buy-in and ongoing support: If your executive management doesn’t believe in the value of content marketing, you’ll struggle to get the budget, resources, and approvals to keep your content engine running at peak performance over the long term.

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Every buy-in conversation is unique to the organization’s priorities and marketing goals. But you’re likely to encounter these common questions and objections:

Be prepared, too, for questions that focus less on “why do we need content,” and more on “why isn’t the content we’re already creating achieving any of these goals?” Robert Rose wrote a whole post to help when your organization is already creating content but lacks a strategic approach: How To Make a Better Case for Content Marketing.

Set the stage for success

With buy-in secured, you can get down to the business of planning, creating, and sharing quality content.

While no single technique for developing and managing content suits every organization, focus on these five core elements to run a successful, scalable, and highly strategic content marketing operation:

  • Purpose and goals: The foundation of your content marketing strategy – why you are creating content and the value it will provide for your business
  • Audience: A well-defined explanation of who your content can help the most and the benefits your program will provide them
  • Brand story: The specific and compelling ideas that will flow through your content and how they will reflect your organization’s values and brand voice
  • Processes and teams: The details of how you will structure, plan, execute, and manage the tasks involved in activating your content marketing strategy
  • Measurement plan: The way you will monitor the performance of your content, evaluate its impact, and implement processes for ongoing optimization

Spend some time diving into each of these building blocks. You may be surprised by how much you and your team know – or how much you still have to learn.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

Old Navy will update its yearly Fourth of July promotions by saluting the metaverse with an NFT drop, going live June 29.

In honor of the year they were founded, the retailer will release 1,994 common NFTs, each selling for $0.94. The NFTs will feature the iconic Magic the Dog and t include a promo code for customers to claim an Old Navy t-shirt at Old Navy locations or online.

“This launch is Old Navy’s first activation in web3 or with NFTs,” an Old Navy spokesperson told MarTech. “As a brand rooted in democratization and inclusivity, it was essential that we provide access and education for all with the launch of our first NFT collection. We want all our customers, whether they have experience with web3, to be able to learn and participate in this activation.”

Accessible and user-friendly. Any customer can participate by visiting a page off of Old Navy’s home site, where they’ll find step-by-step instructions.

There will also be an auction for a unique one-of-one NFT. All proceeds for the NFT and shirt sales go to Old Navy’s longtime charitable partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Additionally, 10% of NFT resales on the secondary market will also go to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Support. This activation is supported by Sweet, who’s played a major role in campaigns for other early NFT adopters like Burger King.

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The Old Navy NFTs will be minted on the Tezos blockchain, known for its low carbon footprint.

“This is Old Navy’s first time playing in the web3 space, and we are using the launch of our first NFT collection to test and learn,” said Old Navy’s spokesperson. “We’re excited to enable our customers with a new way to engage with our iconic brand and hero offerings and look forward to exploring additional consumer activations in web3 in the future.”

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Read next: 4 key strategies for NFT brand launches

Why we care. Macy’s also announced an NFT promotion timed to their fireworks show. This one will award one of 10,000 NFTs to those who join their Discord server.

Old Navy, in contrast, is keeping customers closer to their owned channels, and not funneling customers to Discord. Old Navy consumers who don’t have an NFT wallet can sign up through Sweet to purchase and bid on NFTs.

While Macy’s has done previous web3 promotions, this is Old Navy’s first. They’ve aligned a charity partner, brand tradition and concern for the environment with a solid first crack at crypto.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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