Friday, February 19, 2010

Content Makes Marketing and Sales a Value-Adding Process

The forces that are reshaping the B2B marketing landscape have given rise to a new marketing discipline - content marketing. There's little doubt that content marketing will be a driving force in B2B marketing in 2010. According to a recent survey by Junta42, 59 percent of marketers plan to increase spending on content initiatives in 2010, up from 56 percent in 2009, and 42 percent in 2008. A study by the Custom Publishing Council found that branded content accounted for 32 percent of the average overall marketing, advertising, and communications budgets in 2009. The CPC said that this is the greatest ever proportion of total marketing/communications funds dedicated to branded content. It's not insignificant that just this week, the Custom Publishing Council changed its name to Custom Content Council.

What is content marketing? Joe Pulizzi, co-author of Get Content. Get Customers. says that, "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."

Content marketing has become a critical discipline because B2B buyers are increasingly researching buying decisions online, and they are delaying conversations with salespeople until much later in the buying cycle. So, marketing content must carry a heavier load in the overall demand generation process. Adam Needles at the Propelling Brands blog puts it this way: "What is interesting is that this type of interaction is what you might have once thought of as a dialogue with the sales person - except in this context it is dialogue being managed by a marketer . . ."

Content marketing is a tested and proven technique, and we can identify several "best practices" for creating great content. I'll describe those best practices in future posts. But content marketing is still a relatively new discipline, and it requires a different way of thinking. I believe it helps to place content marketing into a larger context.

To put content marketing in the proper perspective, think of your marketing and sales activities and programs as being part of a process that must in itself create value for customers. In other words, treat the marketing and sales process as if it is another service that you offer to customers. You wouldn't expect a company to purchase your products or services if they don't provide value to that company. If your marketing and sales process doesn't provide value to potential buyers, your shouldn't expect them to engage with you in that process.

And how do marketing and sales create value for potential buyers? By providing information and tools that help them make better purchasing decisions. More specifically, marketing and sales activities create value for potential buyers by helping them understand:
  • The full ramifications of an important business issue, challenge, or problem
  • How the issue, challenge, or problem can be addressed
  • How they should evaluate potential solutions
  • Why your solution is the right one for their organization
Content marketing is the vehicle for providing this kind of information to potential buyers.  Therefore, once you start treating marketing and sales as a process that must provide real value for prospective customers, the logic behind content marketing becomes clear and compelling.

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