I don’t like the term Content Marketing because when it’s used with certain people and/or without proper context, it can cause confusion or be potentially meaningless.

It’s a common term among marketers but not my target audience (buyers), i.e. I have never heard a client or prospective client use the term ‘content marketing’, particularly when talking to me in initial conversations about their needs and goals.

I, like many marketing consultants, use the term religiously on my website and social media and reference it when talking to marketing professionals or people who bring the term up. Because I get it and I believe in it.

But when talking to most prospects and clients, I refer to it somewhat differently (at least initially) so that it makes more sense to them. Picture this:

A CEO of a new cloud platform who is an engineer by training says: “I need to put a go-to-market plan in place. Can you help?”

  • Me: “Sure. We’ll establish a foundation for your brand and strategy, then decide the best mix of tactics and the investment needed to get you going. One thing you need to be prepared to invest in is Content Marketing.”
  • CEO: “What does that mean? I need a marketing plan, not just content.”
  • Me: “It means no matter what we decide for your marketing, you will likely need to produce a lot of great content to get noticed and get traction, i.e. I can almost guarantee content development and production will need to be a large part of your plan and budget.”
  • CEO: “Okay, THAT I get (at least conceptually).”

The reason for this potential reaction is that non-marketers don’t always think about content the way marketers do. I’ve found a better way to explain content’s place in a go-to-market plan is to relate it to the role content plays in building connections and that fact that it’s no different from traditional marketing of yesteryear. Marketing has always been about content, whether TV and radio commercials, advertisements, press releases, magazine articles, flyers, business cards, brochures, pitch presentations, testimonials, etc. The game has just changed because of the Internet and the fact that people have more control over what they consume.

Most people get that. They know that marketing often equates to or involves content, and that people have access to more content than ever before and are in more control to find what they want. But sometimes they don’t get or care about the marketing lingo used.

Below are various terms, phrases and positioning angles I’ve found work best to talk about content as it relates to marketing strategy, planning and budget with prospective clients. ‘Content Marketing’ isn’t necessarily used unless some context is set or we are further along in the conversation.

  1. Content strategy – A strategy for the types of content your audience wants and needs to hear/read/see throughout their buying journey or the sales process. Think of content as you would any product – you need analysis, a roadmap, use cases, etc. before you start building and designing.
  2. Content production – Writing, creative elements, design, etc. and the time/money it takes to produce a piece of content (whether text, images and blog posts for the website or case studies, videos, eBooks, newsletters and sales presentations).
  3. Content to drive web traffic – You need content to drive traffic to your website. It’s the foundation for your brand’s presence and for generating inbound leads. You need to be thoughtful and strategic about basic web pages as well as new content you produce like videos and blog posts.
  4. Content to support the sales team – If your sales team plans to send emails, share case studies, give presentations etc., they need good content that is relevant to their buyer’s needs and their stage in the buying process, and that stands out from the competition.
  5. Content’s role in promotion, publicity and advertising – Content plays a large role in driving inbound leads and supporting the sales team. You also need to weigh the role it could/should play in outbound promotional campaigns, advertising, media pitches, events, etc.

Side note: Many marketers now hate the term ‘content is king’, but I’ve had quite a few people say to me, “I know content is king but I don’t know what to do about it”. So, I guess sometimes clients and prospects do use marketing lingo.

All this said, I still use the term Content Marketing because many in my target market are CMOs and/or savvy CEOs and business leaders that do a lot of research and/or often see the term, and it’s clearly popular in keyword tools. But I’ve found that framing it in simpler and more direct terms works best when it comes time to talk specifics.

This article originally appeared on Lydia’s Marketing Blog