Friday, March 12, 2010

For Effective Content Marketing, "Form Follows Function"

When marketers decide to implement a content marketing program, there is a tendency to think first about content in terms of format.  You might, for example, hear a marketer say something like, "We're going to need a few articles, two or three white papers, at least four customer case studies, and a Webinar."

This approach misses the mark.  When you start planning the development of marketing content, the first thing to think about is the purpose or function of the content.  As a whole, your marketing content has to perform three basic functions.  I call these functions educate, demonstrate, and reassure.

Educate - This type of content is designed to help potential buyers understand the problem or issue they're facing and how the problem or issue can be addressed.  Educational content is factual and mostly non-promotional.  It focuses on your prospects' challenges and not on your company or your products or services.  Educational content includes content that:
  • Explains the root cause of the problem/issue
  • Describes the ramifications of the problem/issue
  • Explains why it's important to address the problem/issue now
  • Describes how other companies have successfully addressed the problem/issue
  • Explains how to evaluate potential solutions
Demonstrate - Those of us who advocate content marketing stress the importance of providing content that is not self-promotional and not focused primarily on your company or your products or services.  But prospective buyers who reach a certain point in the buying cycle will want and need to learn about a prospective vendor's solutions.  So, you still need marketing content that "demonstrates" how your solution works and what specific benefits it provides.  This includes marketing content that:
  • Describes the features/functionality of your solution
  • Describes the unique or differentiated benefits that your solution provides
  • Describes your company (history, values, etc.)
  • Demonstrates the value of your solution
Reassure - This type of content is designed to alleviate the fear that always surrounds a major purchase decision.  In its groundbreaking BuyerSphere research project, Enquiro found that B2B buying decisions are usually driven by fear.  More specifically, B2B buying is all about minimizing fear by reducing or eliminating risk.  "Reassurance" content is content that helps buyers feel comfortable about purchasing your solution.  The best kind of reassurance content is content that involves third parties - customers, industry experts, industry analysts, etc.  Some examples are:
  • Customer success stories that prove the value of your solution
  • Customer success stories that validate ease of implementation and use
  • Analyst reports that show the financial stability of your company
In general, educational content is most relevant for buyers who are in the early stages of the buying cycle, demonstration-oriented content becomes important for those in the middle stages of the buying cycle, and reassurance content takes center stage in the later stages of the buying cycle.

Once you're sure that your content plan includes content that performs all three of these functions, then you can focus on specific formats.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, David - appreciate the plug for Enquiro's B2B study.