What Is Content Marketing? Definitions from 25 Thought Leaders

February 2, 2016

Depending on who you ask, content marketing is the future of marketing, a buzzword, a trend, or a fad. Bloggers say it’s over, it’s just hitting its stride, it’s dead, it’s the next big thing. Either it’s been around for years, or it’s a radically different way of thinking about marketing.

Before we recreate the entire intro to Tale of Two Cities (It was the best of times; it was the worst of times), let’s take a break from the discussion, step away from the hype cycle, and get back to basics. Since we’re going to discuss content marketing, we should get on the same page about content.

What is content?

Content is anything an individual or brand creates for consumption. Blog posts, photographs, videos, infographics, tweets, and SlideShares are all examples of content. Content marketing is what makes all those consumable pieces of information work for you or your brand in a cohesive way.

We took a look through mountains of content from top marketers to find definitions that struck us as, well, definitive. Read on for our top 25 (in random order) content marketing definitions.

What is content marketing?

1. “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.”
Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

2. “Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star.  Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one.”
Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute

3. “Content marketing is the process of developing, publishing, and distributing useful information that engages prospective customers and propels them toward purchase.”
Anne Murphy, Director of Marketing Content, Kapost

4. “Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated and syndicated content.”
Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

5. “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.”
Sam Decker, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, Clearhead

6. “Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.”
Amanda Maksymiw, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines

7. “Content marketing is anything an individual or an organization creates and/or shares to tell their story. What it isn’t: A warmed-over press release served as a blog post.”
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

8. “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.”
Seth Godin, Best-selling Author, Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Public Speaker

9. “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.”
Brian Clark, Founder & CEO, Rainmaker Digital

10. “Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer. Building that bridge requires more than a budget, editorial calendar, and vision. It requires people who care, who love content, and what it can do for people. Not just what it can do for revenue, but rather how it helps people live their lives.”
Jay Baer, President & Social Media and Content Marketing Strategist, Convince & Convert

11. “Content marketing is advertising that delivers value to its recipient, not just an impression.”
 Chris Bolman, Director of Integrated Marketing, Percolate, Inc

12. “Content marketing can be defined as the creation and distribution of meaningful insights, perspectives, and best practices that are valuable to a specific audience. The aim is to retain existing clients including doing more business with them and to attract new high-quality clients.”
Bruce Rogers, Chief Insight Officer, Forbes

13. “It isn’t advertising. It isn’t push marketing, in which messages are sprayed out at groups of consumers. Rather, it’s a pull strategy—it’s the marketing of attraction. It’s being there when consumers need you and seek you out with relevant, educational, helpful, compelling, engaging, and sometimes entertaining information.”
Rebecca Lieb, Principal, Conglomotron LLC

14. “Content marketing is the alignment of customer needs with business goals through purposeful content.”
Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing

15. “A plan to grow and engage your customer base that is built around discovering what you can do for someone else, developing and delivering related content, and then measuring the results.”
Robert McGuire, Owner, McGuire Editorial & Consulting

16. “Content marketing is just solving the same customer problems as your product but through media you create and distribute.”
Jay Acunzo, Vice President, NextView

17. “Content marketing means educating your consumers about your product and your industry in a comprehensive and compelling way.”
Elizabeth Pop Nikolov, Content Strategist, Venveo

18. “Content marketing is an inbound methodology. Rather than interrupting prospects with sales pitches they don't care about, you instead demonstrate value to qualified traffic with content tailor made to solve their problems.”
Zachary Chastain, Head of Community Engagement, Thought Labs

19. “Content Marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.”
Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer, Actionable Marketing Guide

20. “Instead of one-way interruption, [content marketing] is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it.”
David Meerman Scott, Keynote Speaker & Bestselling Author, Freshspot Marketing

21. “Producing, curating and sharing content that is based upon customers’ needs and delivers visible value.”
Ryan Skinner, Senior Analyst on Brand Storytelling, Forrester Research

22. "Successful content marketing means communicating effectively, making connections, engaging your audience, inspiring customer action, and providing something of value to your fans or followers."
John Rampton, Founder & CEO, Due.com

23. “It is a strategy of producing and publishing information that builds trust and authority among your ideal customers.”
Neil Patel, Co-Founder, Crazy Egg & Hello Bar

24. "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."
Dan Blank, Founder, WeGrowMedia

25. “Content marketing is what web searchers are looking for.”
Dan Blumenthal, Media & Branding Designer, The University of Arizona College of Medicine

Clearly, there is more than one approach to content marketing. Our hope is that with these definitions in mind, you’ll be better equipped to develop your own path to content marketing success.

For more definitive marketing tips and strategies to achieve your content marketing goals on LinkedIn, download our guide.