What is Content Marketing?

April 9, 2019

Content marketing is selling something by being a helpful resource instead of an annoying advertiser. It’s a preferred strategy for those who make money online because it has a low barrier to entry, low overhead and low risk.

How does it work?

As the name suggests, content marketing is about information.

It works like this:

  1. You create helpful, entertaining or inspiring content related to you, and what you sell.
  2. You publish this content online (on a blog, YouTube channel, podcast, etc.), for free, for a specific audience.
  3. Your audience finds your content and begins to know, like & trust you.
  4. They buy what you sell. You get paid.

Two parts of content marketing

Notice you need two things: something to sell + free content to go with it.

First, you need something to sell. This might be a product you make yourself, or a product someone else makes but you sell (commission, wholesale, etc.). It could be a service you provide, like consulting, keynote speaking or virtual assistance. You might sell ad space on your blog or sponsorship spots on your podcast or YouTube channel. So many options!

Second, you need free content to go with the thing(s) you sell. This content is related and meant to inform people about you (humans respond to humans!) and what you sell in a genuine and helpful way. The more they trust you, the more likely they are to buy your thing.

I think of content marketing as the no-badgering counterpart to traditional marketing.

Here’s how old, traditional marketing works:

  1. A company creates a product.
  2. They tell as many people as possible about it and push them to buy, buy, buy.

Why is content marketing better?

Raise your hand if you hate endlessly repeating TV commercials, piles of junk mail in your mailbox, email spam, texts from unknown companies, voicemail messages from salesy robots, pushy solicitors who show up at your door, telemarketers who call at dinnertime and sales flyers stuck under your windshield wiper in the Walmart parking lot.

Yeah, your customers hate those things too. They didn’t ask for them.

Now imagine customers seeking you out because of the information you provide.

Content marketing is effective because it gives you a chance to provide value to your audience before you ask them to buy your thing.

Why is this important? Because it’s more helpful, relevant, friendly and palatable. It’s less unwanted, random, annoying and manipulative. Frankly, it’s a healthier way to do relationships in general.

Wouldn’t you rather customers buy out of gratitude instead of guilt? Yes. Why? Because it’s right, but also because grateful customers are happier, more willing, they leave good reviews, are more likely to be repeat customers and are more likely to tell their friends about you.

People aren’t opposed to buying stuff. People are opposed to being badgered into buying stuff.

Who uses content marketing?

Content marketing is everywhere. It’s used by huge brands, small businesses and everyone in between.

Do you watch YouTube, read blogs, follow influencers on social media or listen to podcasts? It’s all content marketing. You get helpful, entertaining or inspiring content. The people providing that content get paid.

Who pays content marketers?

Sometimes customers pay them directly. A customer buys their book, course, planner, music, t-shirt, wooden coffee table, or something else they made. Or a customer joins their membership site, attends their event or hires them directly to help them with a something.

Sometimes a company they partner with pays them. An advertiser pays them to mention or share a picture of their product or service. An advertiser pays them when followers click on an ad in their blog’s sidebar or at the beginning of their YouTube video. A sponsor pays to have a “commercial” read during their podcast episode. A company pays them a commission when their recommendation results in a sale.

Types of free content in content marketing

There are many ways you can distribute your content. Just make it free. Here are some examples:

There are many more.

Content marketing in action (examples)

Example 1 (simple): Let’s say you own a company that sells African safaris. Now let’s pretend you start a blog.

In your blog posts you answer all the common questions you get about African safaris, like:

  1. What are the best places to visit on safari?
  2. What should I wear on safari?
  3. What’s the typical cost of an African safari?
  4. What are the dangers of going on safari?
  5. Etc.

The more you provide helpful, trustworthy information, the more you become a go-to resource for African safaris.

Some people will read your posts and leave it at that. Some will tell their safari-seeking friends about how helpful your site is. And some will want to go on an African safari themselves. When they don’t want to plan it themselves, who do you think they will hire? You. Because they know, like and trust you.

Example 2 (more robust): Let’s say you make and sell custom dining room tables. Now let’s pretend you start a YouTube channel.

In your videos you provide all kinds of tips and tutorials about woodworking, like:

  1. How to build a simple coffee table
  2. The top 3 must-have woodworking tools
  3. Common mistakes beginning woodworkers make
  4. One trick every woodworker should know
  5. Etc.

Your expertise shines through in your videos. Your helpfulness shines through in the way you answer questions and help people in the comments of your videos.

As for making money, there are all kinds of ways to do so in this scenario. This is called having multiple income streams.

Some people will enjoy your videos and click on the YouTube ads, generating ad income for you. Some will follow your instructions to build their own furniture and use the links you provide to your favorite tools, generating affiliate commissions for you. And some will hire you to build them a custom table, generating direct income for you.

But wait there’s more ways to generate income in this scenario…

Maybe you create detailed plans viewers can buy and download. You sell these in PDF format. Maybe a tool manufacturer sends you their latest tool and pays you to use it or review it one of your videos.

The list goes on. There are so many ways you can use your content as a tool to generate income.

The best part is, not only are you benefitting, the people consuming your content are benefitting to. It’s a win-win.

Is content marketing the same thing as income streams?

No. Content marketing is an overarching strategy. Income streams fit under it.

Income streams are the things you sell. Content marketing is how you spread the word about what you sell.

5 things to do to become a successful content marketer

  1. Become the go-to resource in your topic or niche. Therefore, pick the right niche.
  2. What questions do your potential customers have? Make your content the best of all answers.
  3. Use content marketing to draw attention to yourself and your business by informing, not selling.
  4. Don’t focus on your product or service. Focus on what’s important to people who would use your product or service.
  5. Aim to turn strangers into fans, and fans into customers, not strangers into customers.


You can be a content marketer! Just start simple. Start a website with a blog. Each piece of content (article, tutorial, recipe, video, podcast episode) should be its own blog post.

Do I need my own site if I’ll be doing mainly videos or Instagram posts? Yes.

Everyone making money online should have their own website. Why? Because you don’t have ultimate control over YouTube, Instagram or any other platform that isn’t yours. They do. If they decide one day to remove your content, they can. You don’t want to build a business on “rented” land and get caught without a place you own.

So, start your own website. It’s not difficult and it’s not expensive. Turn on the blog feature. (I show you exactly how to do all this in this post.) Start with written articles on your topic. You want to get your content out there as quickly as possible so it can work for you. You can even add videos or podcasts later if they’re not ready to go now.

Don’t worry about making things perfect. No one will know you exist for a while anyway! This is an advantage because you can practice and tweak things. You learn as you do.

Another reason you want to start as soon as possible is because it takes search engines like Google a long time to find your content and start recommending it to people. If you wait to launch your website until you have the perfect design and the best photos and the most polished blog format, you lose valuable time. You’ll launch and then you may have to wait another 6-8 months before you start getting traffic.

Instead, launch your site as soon as you can. Write excellent content. Do not skimp on excellence! I mean meaty, in-depth information. The way it looks (blog design, photos, etc.) is not nearly as important as the content itself at the start. You’ll get to the other stuff as you go.

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6 thoughts on “What is Content Marketing?”

  1. Good points, I like your simple comparison between content marketing and income stream. For me content marketing is all about marketing the content you have; here your product is the content/knowledge in the niche. And making money from it comes only after you acquire a decent number of followers/viewers so it is a slow process.
    Thanks for sharing !

  2. Amy,
    Traditional business puts huge money for advertising. What If content marketers spend money like that? I am amazed and thrilled! Although, content marketers take much time because of money (They don’t spend like a traditional business). So, Content marketing is a slow process and long term output coming. Thanks again.

  3. Hi Amy,
    I’m a regular reader of your blog and I really love your writing style.
    But the thing is you publish less posts. I really want more from you. It’s a request.
    However, thank you for sharing this post. It’s been a long I read a new post in your blog.

Comments are closed.