Guest post by Sharon Tanton, Creative Director at Valuable Content, a content marketing agency and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing – How to Make Quality Content the Key to your Business Success.

Sure, you know about content marketing—but do you really know about content marketing?

Do you think content marketing is the same as blogging, for example? (It’s not.) Does launching a content marketing strategy seem either too easy or too hard? (It shouldn’t.) The truth is, most companies today are still a little fuzzy on what exactly content marketing means.

So to help you clarify your understanding, here’s a look at four of the most common content marketing misunderstandings!

1. Content Marketing = Blogging
Think that if you’re blogging, you’ve got content marketing covered? Think again. While blogging may be a powerful part of a good content marketing strategy, it is not the only part. Good content marketing reaches far beyond regular posts and can include video tutorials, email newsletters, a free ebook series, Web articles, whitepapers, podcasts, and more.

So if content marketing is more than blogging, what is it?
Think of content marketing as an overarching term or category, under which all content-based marketing strategies fit. Simply put, content marketing is the creation and distributing of content for the purpose of turning prospects into repeat clients. It’s all about winning over the potential customer, moving him or her to a place of trust with your brand.

2. Creating Content Is Easy—We’ll Just Throw Something Together
Too many firms make the mistake of churning out ho-hum content in the name of content marketing. The problem? Empty content, overstuffed with keywords, does more than harm you in the eyes of search engines; it destroys your value in the minds of your audience. When readers don’t think what you’re offering is actually useful, you may as well skip writing it because it does you no good.

What defines valuable content online? 
Recognizing value isn’t hard—think about what you respond to online. Do you want to read another stale Web article on marketing, or do you want to read the case study of a brand that increased sales by 55%? Then, take that same logic and apply it to your audience and its desires. Offer your audience information that is relevant, to-the-point, and specific—in their eyes.

For more ideas on what valuable content looks like, check out what other experts have had to say:

“Valuable content is supercharged content. It is content with a bigger purpose; useful information created for a particular audience; content that hits the mark. By valuable content we mean the words, knowledge and information you choose to shape and share for your clients and customers: content that educates, helps or inspires them. Content they appreciate.” Sonja Jefferson, Business Zone

“Writing valuable content really comes down to one thing. Knowing who you’re writing to and what they find valuable.” Meagan Visser, MeaganVisser.com

“By thinking strategically about what your readers will actually use and enjoy, you’ll be seen as a thought leader and a source of inspiration. Try relating the content to your business somewhat indirectly. If your business has something to do with food, for example, share delicious family recipes or special cocktails that your readers can try at home and get excited about.” Loren Ridinger, Loren’s World

“If you want to attract and engage your prospects and lead them down the sales funnel, you need to focus on them and their problems. The more you create content that helps your prospects succeed, the more engaged they’ll become with your blog.” Rich Brooks, Social Media Examiner

3. Creating Content Is Hard—We Have Nothing to Say
If your industry is highly technical, specialized, and confusing to the masses that doesn’t matter. You’re not trying to reach the masses with your content; you’re trying to reach the specific niche of people who buy what you sell. Those are the people that matter—don’t you have something that would be interesting to them?

How to Come Up with Content:
The good news is that coming up with topics in your niche is as easy as recognizing the topics that relate to what you do every day. If you’re a catering company, post recipes or links to food blogs. If you’re an accounting firm, provide tips for financial planning. Here are a few other tips for brainstorming ideas:

  • Stick to your industry
  • Think about questions your clients ask
  • Think about topics relevant to your industry
  • Try to demonstrate your own knowledge and skill in the field by providing valuable insight

4. Content Marketing Means Losing Money
For many companies, the concept of content marketing seems counterintuitive. If the essence of content marketing is giving away valuable content for free, doesn’t that mean fewer sales? When you give your prospects what they’re looking for, why should they buy it?

The truth is, content marketing is about giving away enough valuable content or information to win over your audience—to get them to buy in before they buy. When done well, it communicates a strong sense of your authority and value, making your products or services more worthy of attention and purchase.

Here are some examples:

  • A writer building a blog audience to sell a book
  • A plumber teaching free workshops to promote his services
  • A grocery store publishing cooking tutorials that show fans how to use ingredients

In other words, content marketing is all about demonstrating your value rather than just talking about it—when you show your audience what you offer, they’ll be much more likely to become clients.