It's all about educating your prospects without the hard sell.
By Liz Lemarchand, MediaDev
“I wish we had less content,” said no sales executive ever. It’s long been known (and deemed true by Bill Gates himself who actually coined the phrase) that “Content is King”. With the rise of social media, the sheer reach of viral videos, the decrease in our attention spans and our constant need for what’s new, where would we be without content? Can you imagine what Facebook would even look like without it?
Plus, people are sick and tired of traditional advertising. Admit it; we’ve all huffed in frustration at the ad that interrupts our YouTube video tutorial, or our favorite television program. In fact, the desire of consumers to eliminate ads entirely from their daily lives is reflected in the rise of paid apps without them, and other paid programming like Netflix. Consumers want content — and they want it to be accessible wherever they are, on the device (or devices) of their choice.
The rise in content is changing our society. Consumers have never been as informed as they are now, and the availability of content (in massive volumes) never as easy to find. More people are out there creating content on a daily basis than ever before for the pure and simple reason that they can. Even my 8-year-old daughter wants to have her own You Tube channel!
This is also why advertising these days is changing too and much of the time is designed to resemble (you guessed it) content. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between advertising and content. (Although, this concept is not entirely new; if you’re a magazine reader, I’m sure you’ve come across what looks like an article, only to see in the small print at the bottom of the page that it’s a sponsored ad). That’s not to say that “content is the new advertising,” but just that it’s getting harder to distinguish between what’s legit and what’s not. And let’s not even talk about fake news!
What’s sure is that content marketing is all the rage, but it’s not as easy to carry out successfully as it may appear from the outside, especially in the B2B space. According to Forbes magazine, “As the mixture of paid, owned and earned media is becoming ever more complex and creating new kinds of marketing, such as native advertising – a combination of owned and paid media – it’s never been more important to create a viable content strategy.”
OK, but wait, let’s back up. What is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute says that, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action by changing or enhancing consumer behavior.”
Basically, that means company assets are used to educate consumers in a conscious effort to try to influence them to buy specific products or services. And of course, content can take many forms (infographics, e-books, videos, on-demand webinars, whitepapers, guides, case studies, blog posts … the list goes on) and should be published across channels.
It’s important to have realistic objectives in mind when you start using content to generate leads. Expecting tons of qualified sales opportunities to come knocking on your door immediately after you’ve published new content is highly unlikely; but putting in place a pipeline of marketing qualified leads that can be nurtured over time (with new and varied content), is certain to have value for your business in the mid to long term. Making sure that your key messages are consistent in each new piece of content will ensure that you drive them home for your target audience. Doing so will enable you to better determine the marketing ROI of your best assets.
So what kind of content is the most useful for your business to create? From our experience conducting outbound telemarketing campaigns to promote content, here’s our list of what prospects ask for most often:
Infographics are great because they are short and to the point. They take a lot of information and condense it into one page in order to highlight the most important ideas. The design is inherently visual and pleasing to the eye — because of this, they are easy to read and understand so the take-away for a prospect is significant.
Some people just don’t like to read. Videos are a fun way to transmit information without the prospect having to make much of an effort. All they have to do is watch and learn. If you’re looking to demonstrate the value proposition of your product or service, videos can be a great way to do that.
Blog posts are a good way to get relevant information on timely subject matters out there fast. They are usually short and don’t take a lot of time to produce. Some are highly personal, which can help create a closer link between you and your audience than other types of content. This can also be a means of maintaining regular contact with your target, since subscribing to blogs means that they’ll get access to what’s new as soon as it’s published.
Generally, e-books are a little less dense and not as highly technical as a whitepaper, but they are still chocked full of data. By combining text with images, e-books can be a good way to get a lot of information into the hands of your audience.
Webinars on demand
Along the same lines as videos, webinars on demand are a good way to visually demonstrate your product to your audience when and where they want. Committing to attending a live webinar is not always possible, but having the possibility to watch it when you want is an attractive option for many.
Conducting a content audit of what you have, analyzing how it’s performing, comparing that to what your competitors are out there doing, and seeing how you can optimize it for SEO is a good place to start when you’re thinking about your content marketing strategy. Keeping your audience's preferences in mind before you create content should also help you engage them better and convert them into sales leads faster. Content is and will continue to be a driving force in the marketing world for years to come; making sure your content is relevant, and that it gets into the hands of the people you want to see it, is key to ensuring a successful buyer journey.