How baseball cards are a perfect example of content marketing

Jul 10, 2017

A lot of businesses we talk to struggle with the concept of content marketing. What does it mean, and how is it supposed to work?

Content just means something of substance, something that’s useful or interesting. You create content to attract attention, build trust and increase the likelihood of future sales.

Ultimately, the key idea is that instead of pushing someone to purchase, you pull them in by offering something valuable.

This isn’t a new idea. For instance, in the late 19th century, Americans valued the emerging technology of photography. So, businesses started producing small photos, often of beautiful places or famous people, with information about their brands on the backs.

These were first called trade cards, because companies used them to promote their trades. But people started actually trading them with each other when companies began producing cards with baseball players on them, a.k.a. baseball cards.

It was tobacco manufacturers who led this trend, partly because inserting a stiff card helped protect cigarette packs anyway. They produced countless millions in the late 1800s and early 1900s, creating a valuable industry in and of itself.

And while some of these companies no longer exist, their cards live on. The most expensive baseball card in the world, of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, was printed by the defunct American Tobacco Company more than a century ago. In 2016, one of these cards was sold for more than $3 million.

Meanwhile, at least one company left the cigarette industry to focus primarily on trading cards. Ever heard of Topps? Its founders first owned American Leaf Tobacco.

Long story short: give and you shall receive. All commerce is a value exchange, and creating value above and beyond your products and services increases the chances you’ll receive something valuable in return.

Further reading about valuable content driving sales

“‘Experiences’ is a crucial guide to navigating the new age of marketing
Still trying to wrap your head around this whole content marketing thing? In 2016, we reviewed a book that explained how we got to this point in marketing history, and how content drives people toward purchases.

Marketing Is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It
Did anyone buy cigarettes solely to get baseball cards? Maybe, but that’s not the only goal. Creating content your audience values inspires greater loyalty among existing customers, and this Harvard Business Review articles provides contemporary examples, from Apple to Chipotle to J. Crew.

How B2B Buyers Perceive Sales Professionals
Does content lead to B2B sales as well? Absolutely. A LinkedIn survey of 1,500 B2B purchasers found that 86 percent of respondents would listen to a sales rep if they can demonstrate actual intelligence in their business, while 89 percent said they would reject a sales approach if they couldn’t demonstrate expertise.

This article first appeared in on our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. To get stories like this automatically every Monday morning, sign up here.

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