If you talk to enough business owners and marketing professionals, you will hear a lot of terms and buzz words that can seem to overlap in certain areas. Content marketing is sometimes dismissed by old school marketing experts as the same thing as advertising, but that is not accurate at all. When broken down into its component parts, content marketing utilizes the interactive power of the Internet to generate revenue and increase profitability. What Is Content Marketing? According to Forbes Magazine, content marketing is the process of delivering useful information to a specific target audience with the objective of persuading the target audience to make a buying decision that favors the marketer. That is just a fancy way of saying that content marketing offers valuable information in return for sales. It may be easier to understand what content marketing is by giving an example of what it is not. Evian Water developed an ad campaign that created digital images of babies on roller blades. The videos were cute and seen by millions of people online, but they did not result in a whole lot of sales. The videos lacked content that inspired the viewer to buy Evian’s products and that is what separates brand recognition marketing from content marketing. Who Invented Content Marketing The Content Marketing Institute tells us that the idea of using helpful stories to sell products has been around for thousands of years. But when it comes to modern content marketing, most people point to The Furrow, which was a magazine that the John Deere Company started publishing in 1895. The stories and content in the magazine were all geared towards educating the reader about John Deere products and helping the reader to see themselves riding a John Deere tractor. The magazine was extremely successful and helped to make John Deere the corporate giant it is today. The association between content marketing and the Internet started in 1996 when Bill Gates declared that “content is king.” Gates understand the value of good content and his ideas helped to shape the concept of content marketing as we know it today. Viral Is The Key Social media, press releases, videos, and website content are just some of the components of content marketing used by experts today. The content is given a home, usually on a website, and keyword-enriched content is used to point search engines towards that content and establish a base audience. But if content marketing is to be truly effective in the Internet age, then it must go viral through the use of social media. Content marketers utilize social media platforms of all kinds to get their valuable content to go viral and draw an audience. The key is to avoid Evian’s mistake and put all of your time and effort into promoting content that does not have a valuable sales message. With good content marketing, the message is clear and the delivery is entertaining. How Prevalent Is Content Marketing Since we see content all day long on the Internet and we see marketing getting shared over social media, the assumption is that there must be a lot of content marketing going on. But Sirius Decisions estimates that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of all marketing content that is generated goes unused. That means that the majority of content that is designed to sell a product or service does not get shared and does not help to boost sales. Why is so much content being wasted? The breakdown in the proper use of content marketing comes in the disassociation between viral and valuable content. Unfortunately, not all viral content is valuable and there is no collaborative effort between sales and marketing groups to develop valuable viral content. Just like the Evian roller babies do not inspire the need to buy bottled water, so too does much of the viral marketing content that gets shared fall on deaf ears. While marketing experts think they are creating profitable content because it is getting shared, all they are really doing is producing expensive Internet entertainment. When Content Marketing Clicks A good example of successful content marketing is offered by he Business2Community website in the form of the Help Scout marketing campaign. Help Scout is a customer service outsourcing company that released a series of customer service horror stories to introduce its service. It showed clients the dangers of bad customer service and inspired them to learn more about Help Scout. When good content marketing clicks, it educates and inspires an audience to action. Successful content marketing is usually released as a stream of information that the target audience consumes continuously. Put simply; it is impossible for a target audience to ignore good content marketing. The key to content marketing starts with understanding your target audience. In order for your marketing to be successful, it must be targeted at a very focused audience that you know everything about. In order to sell to your audience, you have to know what information that audience needs to make buying decisions. Good content marketing continually provides that valuable information and constantly inspires your target audience to turn into a large crowd of happy, buying customers.