Content marketing has been a hot topic in social media and marketing for the past few years. The Google Trends chart shows a dramatic upturn in searches for content marketing since 2011.
But if you look carefully at the chart you can also see that there had been a sustained level of searches by that term from before 2004. Actually it goes back much further than 2004. Content marketing is not new: in fact the origin of content marketing is often traced back two centuries. According to an article on the Content Marketing Institute site, content marketing dates to the launch of The Furrow magazine by John Deer & Company in 1895. Other early practitioners of content marketing included Michelin, Jello, P&G and Sears.
As I noted in a previous post, I had been teaching marketing and social media marketing for several years before a conversation with and an article by Sander Biehn (@sanderbiehn) led me to the realization that I had been a content marketing and content salesperson in my two careers prior to becoming a professor. In this post I will talk about content marketing and selling in pre-social, even pre-web times.
According to the Content Marketing Institute the definition of 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.”
Four years out of school I took a job in the marketing department of the world’s premier financial derivatives exchange, The Chicago Mercantile Exchange. One month into the role I volunteered to write the weekly interest rate summary in the exchanges weekly market review. Most of my colleagues saw it as an onerous task and the publication was primarily subscribed to by retail accounts, not the institutions I was assigned to cover. This was my first sales job and I had realized that I was not the extrovert and life-of-the-party that my two bosses were. I hoped that I could build credibility and differentiate myself by writing the weekly column.
I signed up every bank derivatives user or prospect that I met, talked to or uncovered, to the subscription. Before long I noticed that even first visits were warm as the prospects felt that they knew me from the column they had been receiving (whether they actually read it or not… though some did!). I would also occasionally hear from prospects about a commentary and had the sense that the columns were keeping my name in front of the clients and prospects between visits or calls..
When I left the exchange to join the then fifth-largest Wall Street broker as an interest rate derivatives marketing manager I naturally wanted to continue a weekly newsletter. I saw it as so valuable that I took on some of the responsibility for production – sometimes spending Friday afternoon printing the newsletter off, folding it and putting it in the envelopes.
I also began to organize seminars for our prospects and volunteered to be a guest speaker at seminars and conferences held by other parties. Speaking at seminars held by others seemed even more effective for reputation building than holding our own sessions. This was of course, another form of content marketing.
As my marketing and sales career continued I became even more involved in content marketing. In my next post I will talk about pre-web use of contributed and branded content.
Salespersons: Were you and ARE you a “content salesperson?”