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What’s the definition of content marketing?

What’s the definition of content marketing?

Answer updated March 7, 2016

I’ve also heard this question phrased: What’s the difference between content marketing and content strategy? Let’s take a look:

content-marketing-definitionContent Marketing: A Definition

Content marketing involves developing content and stories to attract and engage an audience, usually for a specific action or result. Content can include text, video, infographics, blogging, and even social media. Content marketing strategy may include inbound marketing, outbound marketing, and direct marketing approaches, among other deliverables.

Content Strategy: A Definition

Content strategy is the planning, creation, and management of content over time, to help a business achieve their goals. This can include content marketing efforts, website content, social media content, offline sales support collateral, video, and other means of getting your brand story out there. The content strategy process includes these five steps.

Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy

So what’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing strategy? Content strategy encompasses your strategy for all content efforts, not just your marketing. Some might argue that all of a business’s content should be marketing-driven, and if that’s the case for you, great. Others may also need an overarching enterprise content strategy for other content types, such as PR, sales, customer service, application development, in-product, merchandising, value-based, relationship-management, and customer service.

Marketers Define Content Marketing

Those are my — a content strategist’s definitions. So what do marketers think? I decided to ask. I met about 60 sponsors and speakers from the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego at a small, red-walled restaurant. As I moved around the room, I asked about their software, their services, and — albeit indirectly — their definition of content marketing. Here are a few of their definitions:

  • “Content marketing is blogging, right?” I suppose that’s part of it.
  • “Content marketing is the valuable content that feeds into a multivariate landing page.” Another part, sure!
  • “Content marketing is outreach. Content strategy leads to self selection.” I like this one.
  • “Content marketing is a what. Content strategy is the how.” This works for me. Combine and get “content marketing strategy,” which can be a component of your enterprise content strategy.

Content marketing needs content strategy like any other online initiative that involves content. And your content strategy likely needs a content marketing component.

The point though is: content marketing and content strategy are not interchangeable.

Content Marketing Deliverables

Here are some examples of content marketing deliverables:

  • Company-published blog articles
  • Industry-published blog articles
  • Public facing white papers
  • Affiliate content on partner sites, including photos, videos, calculators, articles
  • Content posted on social media sites, like Pinterest, Flickr, Vimeo
  • Company profiles on social media platforms or industry directories
  • Conversations on social media channels, such as Twitter or Facebook
  • SEO driven web site pages
  • Content for campaign-driven landing pages

And here are some examples of content strategy deliverables. To bring all this together into an actionable, effective plan, you need strategy. Call it a content marketing strategy, if you’d like, but whatever you do, be sure it aligns with your overall content strategy for the most powerful outcome.

What’s your definition of content marketing? What kind of content marketing deliverables are you producing?

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Author Shelly Bowen

Shelly Bowen, Pybop's chief content strategist, has led teams of writers and creatives to develop websites and interactive content for more than 15 years. Read more about Shelly.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Dan Haley says:

    Hi, Shelly!

    Joe P.’s session at the OMS last week was great. The definition he used for CM was “Thinking and acting like publishers to attract and retain customers.” This definition seems to have more CS in the mix, since publishing involves careful planning and execution. Hopefully.

    Seems to me like you can have CS without CM–like managing content for a company intranet–but not CM without CS.

    At Scripps Health in San Diego, among other projects, we’re producing original content for our monthly health and wellness e-newsletter. This includes 4-5 timely, consumer-focused articles, and occasionally a fun infographic. We’ve seen really good open and click through rates.



    Here’s our women’s healthy heart tips infographic, BTW:


  • Shelly Bowen says:

    Glad to hear it, Dan! And I agree; not all content strategies need CM in the mix.

    I also heard Joe Pulizzi talk about “thinking like a publisher” before. I wrote on that idea back then:

    Walk Like a Publisher, Don’t Evolve Like One

    The good news is, publishers *are* starting to evolve. With ebooks, iPads, and digital media being more and more widely accepted, it seems like publishers have begun to leverage different resources and publish more good stuff in the ways we want to consume it.

  • […] Shelly Bowen asks readers what their definition of content marketing is at pybop, eliciting some noteworthy replies. […]

  • Chris Moritz says:

    I see content marketing as a communications philosophy and a collection of journalism-inspired content formats. Content strategy is a methodology that makes content marketing (and much more) possible and effective.

  • Shelly Bowen says:

    Thanks for the definitions, Chris! So, would you say that “marketing with valuable content” is the fundamental philosophy of content marketing?

  • writer jeff says:

    I like this definition.
    Short but direct to the point!
    “Content marketing is a what. Content strategy is the how.”

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