To explain how content marketing works, we first have to agree on a definition. Unfortunately, I might've sent myself on a fool's errand -- I went through dozens of different iterations of a content marketing definition (including the somewhat flippant "content marketing is using content for marketing") and found none of them totally satisfactory. But I hate to let perfection get in the way of progress, so let's just get something down on paper so we have a basis for discussion:
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If you’ve ever slogged your way through reading a piece of marketing and only finished reading because you had to, then you’ve experienced bad content marketing. When I speak to companies about content marketing I tell them that content is good if they genuinely want to read it. Content is great if they’re willing to pay to read it. If you want to see great examples of content, just look at what you’ve paid to read, watch, or listen to lately. If you watched The Lego Movie this year, you saw one of the greatest examples of content marketing to date. Oh, you thought they made that movie in order to sell movie tickets? Think again. That was a 100 minute toy commercial, and rather than using a DVR to skip it you paid good money to watch it. Is it any coincidence that Lego recently leapfrogged Mattel, the creators of Barbie, to become the largest toy company in the world? You may not have the budget to make a feature film to promote your company, but you can still give potential customers valuable information.

Notice how the second sentence is somehow less exciting (even though it contains a killer lion?) That;s because the active voice emphasizes the action with “the lion attacked.” In the passive voice, the village is the subject. The agent (the lion that performed the action) is only mentioned afterwards using the prepositional phrase “by the lion.” It’s almost an afterthought.
Everywhere, there are people / small businesses trying to create their own website who get stuck and need help. As a copywriter, you are the ideal person to help them, because you don’t just give them “a website”. With copywriting skills you can give them something which delivers their message powerfully. (The technical side of creating a website can be easily learned – just sign up for free accounts with Blogger, Wix, Weebly…and play around with them to get familiar.)
When businesses pursue content marketing, the main focus should be the needs of the prospect or customer. Once a business has identified the customer's need, information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs, etc.[5] Most of these formats belong to the digital channel.
What do you want readers to do with the content you create? If your only answer is, “Well, read it, I guess,” you need to go back to the drawing board. Before you even start writing, you need to know what your call to action will be, and you need to make it compelling enough that readers can’t help but click. That’s how you connect content writing to marketing goals and prove ROI.
Today, 41% of B2B marketers focus on content tied to the buying journey of a customer, yet many businesses fail to produce personalized content dedicated to each stage of the buying cycle. Personalized messaging doesn’t just mean targeting by demographic or filmographic criteria, it means proactively producing content that is suitable for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Eighty-five percent of consumers trust solutions that take the time to walk them through various paths toward decisions rather than just attempting to make that choice for them. This type of content shows consumers that you acknowledge and value their ability to evaluate and make decisions for themselves. 
It’s that, for most of us, the idea of selling something is already unnerving. Who wants to come across as a slimy salesperson? Plus, with writing, there’s a delay between copy being created and the other person reading it. You’re vulnerable without the luxury of self-correcting based on that person’s body language. You have to release your words into the ether and hope that someone receives it and acts upon it.
Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”

"The best way to help your sales team is to build brand awareness and create content that generates a lot of leads over time. An increase of twice as many leads means twice as many quality leads -- as long as you have software that lets you filter those incoming leads efficiently. That's how you build a successful sales and marketing machine," explains Mike Volpe.
You know what? 87% of B2B marketers practice content marketing to produce more qualified leads. And 78% of marketers are preparing to spend more money on content marketing. But according to my experience, the consistently producing quality content brings more traffic to a website. It also improves engagement with targeted audiences. Not least but using images in post increase audience engagement up to 30% more than plain text.
Ask a ‘yes’ question – This is a little trick many copywriters use and is something many bloggers use too. Open your blog post with a question that has a ‘yes’ answer. This immediately makes your post more engaging and conversational. Secondly, when a person answers ‘yes’ to your question, this means they want to learn more about the topic, and they are more likely to read your post.

Great list, Sonia. Many of these are new to me. One blog that somewhat fits in this list, is Michael Hyatt’s blog. Since he is the former CEO of a publishing company, he has a lot of great insights about actually getting a book published and how the whole process works. If there is a book in your future, Michael’s blog may be a good place to start. (michaelhyatt.com)
The reason is that each form of writing has its own style. News is delivered AP style, in short, informational paragraphs with the meat of the story at the top. Blogging is personable, friendly and often opinionated. Ad copy is short and persuasive. White papers are long; they describe a problem and provide the solution. But, regardless, each and every category is content, and each style writers master makes them more valuable and in demand.
I’m currently taking a course on how to write case studies. Being a fiction writer, one of the aspects I love is the research and being able to talk to SMEs. I figured writing case studies would be a good fit. I was thinking about focusing on case studies for professional services. Which leaves it open to a pretty broad spectrum. As a newbie in this field, is it TOO broad? Should I narrow it down and focus on a specific TYPE or professional service?
In 1933, Procter & Gamble started to broadcast a radio serial drama sponsored by their Oxydol soap powder. The owners wanted to build brand loyalty by aiming to adult women. They could intermix their marketing messages into the serial drama. The term soap opera was born in this year, and they marked a precedent for native ads. Engagement with the audience was a key element with the creation of this content.
The reason is that each form of writing has its own style. News is delivered AP style, in short, informational paragraphs with the meat of the story at the top. Blogging is personable, friendly and often opinionated. Ad copy is short and persuasive. White papers are long; they describe a problem and provide the solution. But, regardless, each and every category is content, and each style writers master makes them more valuable and in demand.
With a marketing team size of around 18, your content marketing team will be staffed with all the same roles -- bloggers, long-form content creators, SEO specialists, designers -- just multiplied. Aim to have three bloggers on staff, and two employees for each of the other roles. It's wise to have one of those bloggers have expertise in editing, too, so there's someone dedicated to maintaining content quality as output increases.
With a marketing team size of around 18, your content marketing team will be staffed with all the same roles -- bloggers, long-form content creators, SEO specialists, designers -- just multiplied. Aim to have three bloggers on staff, and two employees for each of the other roles. It's wise to have one of those bloggers have expertise in editing, too, so there's someone dedicated to maintaining content quality as output increases.
Don’t think for a second that a boring or technical topic gets you off the hook either  — IKEA assembly instructions have nothing to do with gay dating (usually) but we used a visual to help the reader make the connection. Push yourself to add a little creative fiction to your website content writing and see how much more fun it is to read (and write!)

Practice article writing. Learn how to write a newspaper article and how to write a wikiHow article. As a professional content writer, you may find a position that focuses on journalistic article style writing, or more educational how to writing. Study the form, structure, voice, and tone of each type of article so you are familiar with both types.


Hi Neville, I’ve been poking around on your website for the last hour or so… great stuff, and I’ve been doing this (writing copy) for nigh on 25 years. I’d like to republish one of your articles in my weekly copywriting e-letter, the Copywriter’s Roundtable (link above, along with my email). I’ll look around for your contact info, but in case I don’t find it… how can we get in touch?
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