Image by Hugh MacLeod
Does this look like marketing? Not really, but it is.
Since 2001 Hugh MacLeod has been publishing cartoons on his Gaping Void website, giving them away for free and encouraging people to republish and share them.
Doing this has made his site one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. It’s given him a platform to launch several different business ventures, selling Savile Row suits, South African wine, a Scottish feature film — and limited edition, high-quality prints of his most popular cartoons. It’s also landed him consulting work with Microsoft and Dell.
By giving away valuable (funny, entertaining) material, in order to raise his profile and build an audience, Hugh is practising content marketing.
Traditional marketing is about making promises – I tell you how good I am, you decide whether to believe me.
Content marketing is about delivering value – I show you how good I am, by giving you valuable content for free.
What makes for valuable content? It depends on your audience, but most popular content tends to be at least one of the following:
By publishing valuable content, you should aim to make your online presence an extensions of your off-line activities. Visiting your website should be like visiting your studio or office, or attending your exhibition or concert. Talking to you online should be like meeting you at a networking event or for a consultation.
So for example, I see my blogging as an extension of my teaching and coaching. Just as I do in seminars and coaching sessions, in my blog articles I tell stories, suggest ideas and resources, and ask questions to engage my audience.
For an excellent introduction to content marketing, read Content Marketing 101 on Copyblogger.