Content marketing has become a major trend in marketing today and organizations are spending an increasingly large portion of their marketing budgets creating and distributing content. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
In a world of competing demands for the marketing budget, why should an organization create a content marketing program? Here are five reasons it’s critical to create and Content Marketing program today.
1) The buying process has changed and customers are in control.
The Internet has dramatically changed the buying process. At one time, companies that sold goods and services controlled the flow of information to buyers. They provided product information through sales people in stores, at events, over the phone, and through outside sales teams in the form of brochures and other printed documents. Sellers controlled the buying process through the flow of information and buyers often faced an expensive and time-consuming task to get the information needed to make the best decision. The most important information such as reviews and real-life experiences from other customers was often the most difficult to get.
Today, buyers can get access to product and service information much faster on a company’s website, and they can also access articles, videos, reviews, white papers, e-books and other information that is provided by the sellers, their competitors, industry experts, amateurs, social media and even other customers.
Content Marketing lets you engage with potential customers by creating and distributing information that is important to your customers whenever they need it.
2) You need to get potential customers engaged early in today’s complex buying processes.
It’s no secret that the sales cycle for most B2B products is getting longer and that there are more people involved in the process. Since every organization is under pressure to make good decisions and keep costs low, buying committees are created and include people from disciples such as engineering, finance, marketing and IT. These committees develop purchase criteria and evaluate products over long periods of time to make good purchase decisions. Your sales team may only be engaged by the committee late in the process, but they are all consuming content to better understand your offering. If you wait until the end of the process when they are actually taking to vendors, you will miss the opportunity to influence the team as they set their decision criteria and even select possible solutions. By providing good and valuable content early in the process, you will be able to influence the team weeks or months before they reach out to your sales team.
3) It’s critical to establish thought leadership and set the purchase criteria schema so that you win.
Good content is more than a nice product brochure or pretty web page. It can influence the buyer to establish decision criteria that positions you to win. Well-written white papers or e-books that help the buyer understand how to diagnose a problem or understand a technology can help them, can be delivered in a way that features your strengths in the marketplace. These thought leadership documents are not written to promote your product, but designs to help properly frame the question. If you are successful in creating the framework for their buying decision, you’ll be much more successful when you present your solution to the problem.
4) If you have content, you can leverage social media and search to cost effectively drive engagement, leads and sales.
Social Media and search marketing have become major tools for marketing professionals. By taking advantage of organic search traffic and social media sites, you can generate traffic to your website without paying for advertising, and this in turn makes lead generation much more cost effective. The key to success in social media and search is good content. Search engines such as Google highly value new, original content on your blog and website when they decide on search engine rankings. In social media, it is the marketers with engaging and relevant posts, articles and videos who are successful in turning likes and followers in to website visitors and sales.
5) If you don’t provide the content, someone else will control the conversation.
Buyers have many choices when they are searching for information to help them solve a problem. You may feel that if you stay out of the content marketing game, buyers will still engage with you as they did in the past. The reality is that they have too many choices to go back to the past. If you don’t provide the content that sets the agenda and influences complex buying teams early in the process, you may find that are you left out completely when it’s time for the buyer to actually talk to the sales person.