It’s well-known that the nature of sales and marketing, specifically effective strategies that fuel sales and drive business, has changed dramatically over the last several years. Digital technologies and social media have truly given customers a voice – an opportunity to engage with companies they do business with and share feedback, whether positive or negative. Further, the customer buying cycle has evolved with the firm establishment of online research as a critically important component. Customers are seeking information that informs and adds value to their decision making process, and they now have access to copious information from a variety of resources – including your competitors.
This shift has resulted in the need for companies develop a strategic focus on nurturing longer term relationships prospects and customers, as well as invest in content marketing.
Defining Content Marketing
According to Wikipedia, content marketing is “an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.”
Executed effectively, content marketing can significantly help you nurture relationships with prospects and customers – leading to a high level of customer loyalty and increased demand generation for your company’s products and services.
Becoming a Thought Leader
The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in your recognition as a thought leader and industry expert. The focus is on informing customers and prospects about key industry issues and topics, sometimes mentioning the products and services you offer – but not overtly spouting their virtues. For example, you may chose to write a blog post that educates customers and prospects on data storage compliance regulations in industries such as financial services and healthcare. Or, alternatively, you could execute an email marketing campaign to provide customers and prospects with access to a white paper that provides detailed insights and information on a relevant topic.
A variety of tools can be used for content marketing, including:
- Social media
- White papers
- Company website
Companies need to consider which tools are most appropriate based on their specific target customer.
Leveraging content marketing to cultivate thought leadership and build sales over the longterm requires a well thought out plan, hard work, perseverance, and devoted resources. It isn’t easy, but given the right focus, it is very achievable.
Consider the following questions when developing a content marketing strategy:
- What information do prospects often ask you for, when evaluating your products and services?
- What information can you provide, that would truly provide them with value and make their decision easier?
- How can you best provide information to prospects? Via a blog? Emails? Videos? Webinars?
- Do you have the in-house resources to create the content?
- What other online resources, such as industry blogs, trade media, or association websites can you pull content from?
- Are you prepared to share content on a regular basis?
If you would like to learn more, and you have some time to spare, please listen to this interview with content marketing expert Marcus Sheridan (aka The Sales Lion).