Recently I got into an online discussion on LinkedIn about content marketing and it revolved around, what IS content marketing? It’s a pretty simple concept and haven’t we been doing it forever? And it’s a legitimate question so for clarity’s sake I wanted to give you my definition of content marketing:
Content marketing is offering customer-focused, value-add content (whitepapers, articles, webinars, videos, services) that introduces a potential customer to your organization, your expertise and indirectly, your product line.
Content marketing is not about a direct product pitch and serves to engage and warm up a prospect before they even start down the buy cycle. It’s also a indirect form of brand marketing because the prospect establishes a relationship and understanding of your organization without necessarily, a specific product or even brand pitch.
Where I think content marketing can be most effective is for purchase cycles that are long and infrequent. You know a marketing professional may be evaluating marketing automation technology but it’s not that frequent. So you keep them engaged with value-add content that indirectly tells your story and establishes your expertise. Here’s an example of a content marketing email I received from marketing automation specialist, Teradata! With a 2015 marketer survey as their content bait, they are establishing digital marketing expertise without pitching the marketing automation solution.
When I marketed Microsoft and Red Hat training it’s often not enough to tell prospects that you offer great training and expertise. It’s even better to SHOW them you offer great training and expertise. I offered up whitepapers, blog posts and webinars from industry experts to help them learn technology. So of course when you’re ready to take a more formal training class, I would expect to be top of mind. Content marketing is a strategy and tactic that takes some patience but it does pay off. The periodic chart of content marketing (from eConsultancy below) is a great way to visualize the breadth and spectrum of potential content marketing and how it can drive your business! And noticed how I shared out their valuable content creating a viral, marketing pitch?!
It all goes back to my adage: do what’s right for the customer in all phases of your business: operations, marketing and sales. All your usual product marketing (product sheets, FAQ’s, customer success stories) assets are still crucial but your overall story gets enhanced and extended with content marketing. Content marketing fits neatly into that expectation by giving customers what they want to hear and know, not just what you want to tell them. Establish a trusted relationship first, then the sale will follow…