media update’s Nikita Geldenhuys checked in with these agencies to find out what the term ‘content marketing’ means to them and how their content marketing services have grown over the years.

Their comments show a clear distinction between marketers that simply produce content, and agencies that do so with a clear goal in sight for their clients.

What most of these agencies also have in common is the understanding that content created by content marketers has to improve the consumer’s life in some way. For brands, this means they have to get ready to care for their consumer on an even deeper level.

What is content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute in the US defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Many South African marketers have come to grips with this definition of content marketing and its potential to transform businesses. For them, it’s a simple concept that they have accepted as integral to their clients’ marketing efforts.

For Rogerwilco’s digital strategy director, Andre Wilkinson, content marketing boils down to this: “Be visible where and when people are looking, with content that addresses their needs and encourages action.”

Content marketing may have started as the practice of having a branded magazine, but it has grown beyond this. “Content marketing is so much more than publishing media on behalf of brands, as was the case a few years ago,” explains Robyn Daly, content director at Narrative.

She says that, at one stage, the words ‘content marketing’ meant publishing big-budget magazines for brands. “We spent a lot of time educating potential clients on the power of content marketing and then dispelling the myth that this was only for print budgets.”

Content marketing, in its current form, is still a new concept for some businesses and requires marketers, and their executive teams, to change the way they think about the role of content in their organisation.

Here’s what South African content marketers need your brand to know about content marketing:

1. A content strategy is crucial

A content marketing strategy considers your brand’s specific needs and outlines a plan that will drive unique content, instead of run-of-the-mill marketing messages.

Jackie Stierlin, GM of League in Johannesburg, explains it this way: “Each client has a unique digital path that they need to walk; each business or product needs to be represented online in different ways aligning to your customer’s experience.”

She notes content strategies dictate how marketers communicate about their brands and products as well as the formats or channels in which they engage. From here, agencies like League take this strategic content and determine when it is used, how it is used, and who to market it to.

The content marketing agency Foreword also places a strong emphasis on content strategy when it approaches a new project.

Candice Pivacic, a content strategist and writer at the agency, explains that Foreword’s service consists of two elements. The first is a content strategy for clients, where Foreword’s team sets content marketing KPIs according to its client’s business goals. This, Pivacic says, is the “blueprint that clients need to follow to reach goals”.

The second element of the service fulfils the plan that the strategy set out. “Here, we create, distribute, and manage content,” says Pivacic.

2. Content is produced for your consumers, not your company

Content marketing requires content to be suited to the needs of the reader.

The user-centric approach of content marketing cannot be overstated, as Pivacic notes: “Content marketing fills the gap between what your business wants to say and what your customers want to hear.”

So Interactive, which has been offering content marketing as a service since its inception, is seeing more clients warming to the idea of producing content that speaks to consumer needs.

The independent digital agency’s digital director, Darren Mansour, tells media update that So Interactive started using more and more content as its clients noticed content’s value in building business values and giving back to the consumer.

The implication for brands? When brands sign up for content marketing, they have to be willing to step away from corporate speak or the content style they think will portray their brand in the best light. Users will be the ones consuming the content, so content needs to purely be created with their needs in mind.

3. Content marketing is more than just the written word

Tara Turkington, CEO of Flow Communications, points out that content marketing encompasses more than just the written word: “Content marketing is about storytelling. So though the written word is often a strong element of this, we use other tools of storytelling, such as video, animation, infographics, design, public relations, and activations.”

Other agencies apply the principles of content marketing to formats like podcasts, whitepapers, and even projects that make clever use of Google Maps. For So Interactive, content marketing also covers newer content formats, from interactive apps, games, and animated GIFs to niche websites and virtual reality experiences.

4. Good content marketers know more about content than brands do

Rogerwilco’s team realised early on that content was a vital part of any of the websites it built and that websites were easier to sell if people were engaging with them. The company has since grown this offering and even developed technology to assist its content marketing activities.

“We now know the true value of content and how it can affect a brand's bottom line,” Wilkinson says. “Our content marketing approach is now based heavily on data insights and is geared toward answering relevant needs for digital consumers.”

Teams like Rogerwilco’s rely on data to help them make informed decisions regarding their clients’ content strategies. Brands don’t always have access to such data and, without it, they can’t build content strategies that carry the same weight.

5. It's how your business needs to evolve if it wants customers for life

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s definition, content marketing should be valuable and relevant to its readers.

For agencies like SoulProviders, content marketing is, therefore, about creating content that makes consumers’ lives better, whether subtly or overtly. The company’s CEO, SJ Boden, and its head of content, Nicole Gazard, explain that this element of content marketing can turn consumers into “loyal members of the brand family”.

For Foreword’s Pivacic, content marketing has the ability to create a lifelong bond. “Traditional marketing has always been a one-sided conversation with very little understanding of the audience on the other side of the message. Fill the gap with the right content and you won't just convert browsers into buyers; you'll have customers for life.”

Ready to dive into content marketing? Read what content marketing trends to be inspired by in our article, Five content marketing trends that survived 2016.

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