by David Kirkpatrick, Marketing Sherpa |
By this point, I think most marketers understand the value and importance of the content marketing channel. It’s well known that prospects for both consumer and B2B marketers are now doing most research on their own — I’ve seen research reporting B2B prospects are now getting 80% down the pipeline before ever raising their hand and letting you know they might be a customer.
A prospect 80% down the pipeline is likely going to be a more qualified prospect because they are nearing the end goal in terms of making a purchase — and because Marketing and Sales only have to get that last 20% to close the sale. At the same time, it means you can’t just push out marketing messages to names and leads in order to reach the entire marketplace.
The solution to this issue is to have a solid content marketing strategy in place, maybe even making content marketing the centerpiece of the overall marketing strategy.
Having spoken with hundreds of marketers about their content strategies over the years, I wanted to share tips on some of the basics of content marketing with the MarketingSherpa Blog reader.
It’s not about selling
One point about content marketing that can’t be emphasized enough is this: It’s not about selling your company, your products or your services. At its core, a content marketing strategy is targeting those prospects in the research phase that have yet to identify themselves as potential customers. You don’t know their names; you don’t have their email addresses in your database, and they might not even follow you on social media.
However, they are conducting research on your products, your services, your marketplace, your competitors and your company. If you can become a resource of basic information and instruction around the general marketplace of your business, you can become a trusted destination for those as-yet unknown prospects.
The two terms to keep in mind here are thought leadership and brand awareness. If you can provide valuable and relevant content to people conducting research on your marketplace, products and services, you can become a thought leader for information in that space.
As people visit, and revisit, your website and other digital outposts (such as a Facebook page or answer to a question on Quora) without being sold to, they will become aware of your brand. When they do decide to take a more definite step and raise their hand to be sold to, hopefully you will be top of mind.
Take advantage of multiple resources and types of content
Content can come from many sources, including:
- Created internally by Marketing
- Provided internally by subject matter experts within the company
- Third-party experts and industry leaders
- User generated
Most of the content in a content marketing strategy will likely be created by Marketing, but don’t overlook taking advantage of institutional knowledge within the company. A developer or engineer could be a great resource to provide more technical information on a product category or a solution to a challenge prospects might be facing.
Third-party experts and industry leaders can provide guest blog posts, host webinars on specific topics or maybe just be interviewed for a video. Utilizing third party experts can offer a certain level of validation of you as a resource that is working to solve problems and provide the best information for your visitor. This validation provides an overall level of credibility for your entire content program.
However, don’t forget user-generated content in the form of customer testimonials, reviews and more. Once again, this provides a form of third party validation, and it’s essentially your customers and brand advocates creating content for you.
While creating content from a variety of resources, you should also be creating a variety of content. Think far beyond just written pieces (although they are a very important group to focus on.)
Here is a short list of different types of content to share:
- Written blog posts
- White papers
- Video (which can be found on a channel such as YouTube, repurposed in a video blog post and shared via social media — even uploaded directly into Facebook)
- Webinars (which should be saved and shared on the website via an on-demand library)
- Slidedecks from webinars shared via sites such as SlideShare
Check out this infographic created by MECLABS colleague, Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, about the five most effective email list growth tactics.
This list is nowhere near comprehensive. Just keep in mind content can be found in many forms, and offering a variety of content types makes it more likely that you’ll reach as many prospects as possible. For example, one person might want a deep read into multiple white papers and case studies, while another might prefer watching a series of short videos when they have an extra five minutes.
Sometimes it is about selling
Although the content strategy is about providing relevant information and not selling, there is one aspect of content marketing that actually is about selling. Once a potential customer raises their hand and becomes a name and a lead, the marketing becomes more targeted via lead nurturing. Depending on where they are in the pipeline, you should be prepared to offer them content that more-directly addresses their pain points.
When a person becomes a lead, they are looking for more direct solutions and information on the purchase they are about make. The further they are down the pipeline, the more direct the nature of the content can become, up to even comparing your specific solution to a competitors, for someone at the final stage before that conversion becomes a sale.
The important thing with a content marketing strategy is providing everyone the type of content they need, when they need it — and ideally in the format they prefer to receive that content. That means for the unknown researchers, provide basic information in a wide variety of formats.
Once you are content marketing to known leads, you can get more specific with content topics, and test to find out what types of content your prospects respond to best.
* * *
You can follow David Kirkpatrick, Reporter, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @davidkonline.