Definition: Content marketing is the process of generating and sharing content that passively attracts relevant consumers with the intent of eventually converting them to paying customers. This inbound marketing strategy has grown popular in ecommerce due to its long-term SEO benefits and consumers' evolving preference of quality content over direct marketing efforts.

Why does content marketing work?

Consumers are inundated with advertisements and brands on a daily basis. The dilution of direct marketing has led to a rapid rise in content marketing, where companies publish articles and provide information that users are genuinely interested in. Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing: instead of going to users at the point of sale, content visibility brings users in.

While content marketing cannot sustain a business by itself, it's an important means of attracting new customers and generating brand equity. Content marketing educates prospective customers, thereby building a rapport that can lead to short-term sales and long-term loyalty.

When effective, content marketing can spread in a viral manner through social networks, creating critical word of mouth advertising that is often much more effective than traditional advertising methods.

A Means of Engaging Customers without Selling

Content marketing is the art of initiating communication with potential customers without actually selling them products or services right off the bat. This is a method of delivering desired information that introduces — or reminds the customer about — a brand. The success of this marketing strategy hinges on:

a) Producing content that people legitimately want to consume
b) Effectively distributing it to be found via organic search, social media, or email.

Turning prospects into customers

Content marketing occurs at the top of the sales funnel, in the "awareness" stage. The ultimate objective, of course, is to move users from reader to loyal customer — but how is that accomplished?

1. Show them more interesting content that establishes you as an authority on the subject. For online retailers, developing authority on the topic of their products helps form an association between that subject and the brand. Alert them to your blog and any other informational content on your website.

2. Prompt them to sign up for a newsletter or any other form of email communication. Newsletters help drive customers down the funnel and combine content with information about product sales and upcoming offers. From here, you can begin to educate them about what you have to offer.

3. Educate them about what makes your products different. Via product pages and more information content, tell them what makes your offerings unique. Deliver your value proposition and continue providing the very content that brought them into the sales funnel to begin with.

Learn more about how to craft an effective content marketing strategy for a fast-growing or enterprise ecommerce business.

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