What is content marketing?

In Articles by Josh Robbs0 Comments

You’ve probably heard the phrase “content marketing”. It’s 1 of the marketing techniques that’s replacing tradition advertising. But what is content marketing?

You could Google it. In fact, I did Google it.

I read dozens of definitions – articles on HootSuite, i-Scoop, Marketo, CopyBlogger, Heidi Cohen’s site (a roundup post), and even Content Marketing Institute.

I was not pleased or impressed. None of the answer were completely wrong. But they were all either incomplete or out of date.

And I refuse to link to the Wikipedia article because it defined content marketing using both the words “content” and “marketing”. Lazy jerks.

What do the pros say?

Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is 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.

Thoughts: Defining content with content? Grrr. But the definition hits the most important idea: you’re trying to make a profit.


CONTENT MARKETING means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.

Thoughts: Only definition that hits “know, like, and trust” which is crucial to profit. But they use content to define content.

And I think some lines are starting to blur. I don’t know that content marketing has to be free. It’s certainly primarily free. But I think tripwire purchases are part of content marketing. Chris Brogan said, “$20 is the new free.” He posts articles to his public blog but he doesn’t do free webinars. They’re all $20.

A tripwire sale is a low-ticket product… with the only purpose to turn prospects into customers. (September 26, 2014) UncoverMarketing


The goal of content marketing is to create helpful, informative pieces (from white papers to animated gifs) that your audience finds valuable, in order to drive positive engagement with your customers, whether that be increasing sales or reducing churn.

Thoughts: I disagree that the content must be informative. Entertainment is a content marketing tool. But they’re right that the audience must find it valuable. It doesn’t matter how valuable it is to you. It also ignores distribution. You have to get it out there after you make it.


Content marketing is an umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfill business and customer goals by using the most relevant content to serve, attract, convert, retain and engage customers.

Thoughts: This might have been the best definition because content marketing is giant umbrella. But I’m bummed that they used content. I’m not sold on that last, run on phrase.


Content marketing is the process of creating high-quality, valuable content to attract, inform, and engage an audience, while also promoting the brand itself.

Thoughts: Ignores distribution. I disagree that content marketing requires high-quality content. Valuable does not equal high-quality.

Heidi Cohen

Her post has 25 definitions. I grabbed the 2 best (short) definitions.

Dan Blank – We Grow Media

Content marketing is engaging with your community around an idea instead of a product. What it is is to try to serve the community first, and sharing information, ideas and experiences that benefit others without directly asking for anything in return. What it isn’t is just a veil in front of a sales pitch.

Thoughts: This definition is strangely specific. Content marketing is for more people than your tribe. But I really like the focus on “an idea instead of a product” and doing it “without directly asking for anything in return.”

Sam Decker –Mass Relevance

Content Marketing is creating or curating non-product content — be it informational, educational, entertaining, etc — and publishing it to contact points with customers to get their attention, to focus on the topic around your solution, and pull them closer to learning more about you.

Thoughts: This is the last definition. Did you notice the 2 things that this definition mentions that is skipped in the rest? I already talked about entertainment. Did you guess that 1?

What about the 2nd idea? It’s curation. You don’t have to create the content. I had to bite my tongue when sharing my thoughts about CopyBlogger’s definition (bite my fingers?). Brian Clark’s new project, Further, is all about curated content. Why does that matter? Brian Clark is the big brain that started CopyBlogger. C’mon, Brian, update your definition.

This is the best definition in the list.

So what is content marketing?

The Rust Belt Webworks definition of content marketing

Content marketing is creating or curating valuable information or entertainment products and distributing them, at no or low cost, with the goal of getting people to know, like, and trust you/your brand so that they ultimately become customers.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Share this Post

About the Author

Josh Robbs

Josh is the founder and cynic-in-chief at Rust Belt Webworks. When he's not testing marketing strategy and tactics, he's spending time with his family or playing guitar (poorly).

Leave a Comment