Content marketing is not new. However, with the rise of social media, content produced has exploded – Facebook users alone share 2.5 million pieces of content. Every minute! Increased content publishing creates noise and a more competitive market for potential customers’ attention.

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So what is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute provides the following definition:“Content marketing is a marketing technique 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.”

There are a number of successful content marketing stories and they have been around for a while: In 1895, John Deere launched a customer magazine called “the Furrow” – it now has a 1.5 million circulation in over 40 countries and the magazine has been a substantial part of its marketing efforts. The “Michelin guide”, introduced in 1900, helped drivers maintain their cars and find decent lodging, while keeping the tire manufacturer in the back of users’ minds. More recent examples of successful content marketing includes the Scandinavian farming cooperative “Arla” that introduced safety tips for families on their milk cartons, and IBM’s “Big Data and Analytics Hub” provides readers with data-centric information that is optimized for sharing (see illustrations below).

Albeit the examples above have very different content and strategies they have in common that users engage in content provided by the company without directly being pushed to buy a product. People want to consume the content rather than avoid it. Instead of pushing a product, they are trying to educate the consumer and make them spend time with their story or product.

 

            Example 2

Example 1

Content marketing is getting increasingly important for a reason. According to the Roper Public Affairs, business decision-makers are more likely to get influenced by content marketing than more traditional marketing:

  • 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement
  • 70 percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
  • 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions

So why is it so important and why do business decision-makers get so influenced by it? Because Marketing is impossible without great content. Content marketing is in fact part of a number of different marketing activities:

  • Social media marketing is dependent on having the right content that customers want to engage with
  • Searh Engine Optimization (SEO) rewards quality and consistency in content published
  • You need great content for Pay per Click (PPC) to work
  • Content is the key piece in “Inbound marketing” (marketing activities that bring visitors in rather than having to “go out” to get propects’ attention)
  • Successful PR campaigns focus on what customers care about instead of on the business – getting the content right is crucial for any PR campaign

Example 3

The competition for consumers’ attention is high for a number of reasons. There are many people creating high quality content without the purpose of using it for marketing purposes (journalists, independent bloggers, interest groups, etc.). Furthermore, the explosion in the possibilities for sharing through social media (e.g. through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) leads to businesses having to compete with millions of experts and businesses that create free content for their business advantage. Moreover, editors’ role as “gatekeepers”, controlling what content that is shared with consumers, has been reduced, as so many forms of communication now exists that requires no editorial approval. These trends makes it more important than ever before to focus on good quality content to rise above the noise, as content marketing is not going away. According to experts, staying consistent and speaking to the heart of your market gives you the best chance to reach maximize the effect of your content marketing going forward.

Example 4

 

By: Fridtjof Berge


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The notion of sharing isn’t new to us.  From carpooling to soccer practice to enjoying your week at a timeshare vacation home, we’ve seen informal and formal sharing mechanisms for a long time.  A recent wave of startups has taken old-fashioned sharing to new levels.

Valued at $1 billion in July of this year, Airbnb seems to be the biggest success so far.  A marketplace to list and rent homes to and from others, Airbnb was launched in 2008 and has since grown to over 100,000 unique listings across 13,000 cities in a bid against the more traditional hotel model.  But people are finding ways to share and monetize every underutilized asset they own.  Beyond homes, there are recent consumer-to-consumer startups facilitating sharing of cars (Relay Rides, GetAround, HiGear), boats, bikes, planes, and RVs (Qraft), and parking spots (Parking Panda); at least one business-to-consumer site that rents unused office space (Kodesk); and another bevy of business-to-consumer sites that rent their own inventory: handbags (Bag Borrow or Steal), designer dresses (Rent-the-Runway), and even children’s toys (Toygaroo).

So what’s driving this trend?  For one, consumer preferences are as fickle as ever today.  Is it a sailboat or skiboat day, Porsche or Ferrari tonight?  Gone are the days of committing to one leisure good.  Sharing sites allow indecisive, hard-to-please consumers to spread their spending over a diverse variety of indulgences that might change from day to day.  What’s more, rental sites give everyday Joes access to a higher-end luxury than they otherwise couldn’t afford.  To be sure, though, these sites facilitate sharing of non-luxury goods as well (parking spots?); and so some of it just comes down to simple economics: sharing sites offer an easy way for lenders to monetize their underutilized assets, and they allow borrowers a much more sensible way to consume.  Why buy a full-time parking spot that I’ll only use when friends drive in from out of town?  These more frugal spending behaviors were born out of necessity for some during the financial crisis, and bolstered more recently by inspired movements against waste, extravagance, and reckless spending.

What’s the next step in the evolution of these sites?  Well, perhaps not surprisingly, an aggregator already exists, though largely for B2C sites.  Rentcycle, founded in early 2009, pools inventory from stores renting everything from power tools to office furniture to rock climbing gear.  They raised a $1.4M seed round in August of this year from a group including Andreessen Horowitz and Max Levchin.  But as consumers become more comfortable with the concept of borrowing and sharing, look for more peer- to-peer sites to grab the headlines in the future.  Consumers will continue to find new ways to monetize underutilized assets, and they’ll demand equal innovation in the peer review systems that facilitate trust on sharing sites today.

So what’s your take?  What will define the next growth phase of this promising category of startups?


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