Content marketing is not a new idea. Credit is often given to John Deere’s magazine The Furrow, first published in the late 1890s, as the first example of content marketing. Other brands have been marketing their content online for over a decade. So why is content marketing getting so much attention now?
Changes to our buying behaviors, the rise of social sharing, low barriers to entry for publishing, and the overload of advertisements in our daily lives have brought content marketing to the forefront of Internet marketing.
Content marketing attracts high-quality leads, makes sales prospecting easier and, when done well, helps move buyers through the purchase process by educating them on offerings and guiding them on next steps.
What is content marketing?
You’ve seen content marketing all over the Web. It’s the white paper you recently downloaded, the webinar you attended last week and, even, the article you’re reading now.
Content marketing is a method of delivering content to potential buyers that doesn’t sell them. Instead, it informs them about a particular solution or market challenge that they are facing. Informing buyers about the challenges they face and desirable solutions lowers the hurdle to their purchase decision.
Educating potential buyers establishes a trusted relationship while demonstrating expertise and providing insight into the quality of products or services. As prospective buyers consume more and more content, they learn more about the content’s source and can be guided through the buying process.
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” ~Joe Pulizzi, The Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing includes planning, creating and distributing content to a targeted group of potential buyers. It’s true that content marketing is a lot of work. However, the benefits far outweigh the effort and expense.
What are the benefits?
Content marketing creates a sales pipeline for a business by creating a community of readers, which includes potential buyers, and then guiding those buyers into the sales process. Using content in sales campaigns creates additional touch points and references for sales staff which makes prospecting easier.
This library of content is used for brand awareness, sales campaigns, offline marketing and online marketing campaigns including email, social media, pay-per-click and search engine optimization (SEO). Combining content marketing with traditional SEO creates highly-qualified inbound traffic for a website.
In addition, reusing content across many marketing channels helps to reinforce message brand and establish a business’s position as a subject matter expert.
How does it work?
Content marketing works hand-in-hand with the buying process by attracting prospects and guiding buyers through the purchase event. In this process, buyers are educated about their challenge, products or services are positioned as the solution, and a clear call-to-action is presented to encourage the potential buyer to inquire about the product or service.
Landing pages and Web forms populate a marketing and sales database of prospective buyers for the business. Ongoing lead nurturing is conducted by email and traditional touch points like phone calls.
Content marketing begins with a messaging plan that leads to a sales meeting. Consider the following when planning messages. What unique challenges are your buyers facing? What do they need to know to make a purchase decision? Where, in the buying process, can the content help to create clarity and enable a reader to make an informed decision? What are the steps they will take to make the purchase?
The key to success is offering valuable, informative and timely content. Nobody wants to be sold before they understand what the problem is and what’s possible. By offering informational content first, businesses guide buyers to a smart, informed solution for their challenge.