Articles about content marketing seem to be everywhere today. But few of them are focused on content marketing strategy. Why do businesses need to integrate it into their marketing strategies? Why now?
It’s time to shed some light on the critical importance of content strategy in the marketing mix.
Why content marketing?
The fundamental reason that content marketing has become immensely popular as a marketing discipline is that the way customers buy has changed. To understand the extent of that change, we need to look at the traditional buying cycle.
Traditionally, B2B prospects became aware of new products via advertising, direct mailers, articles in trade magazines and trade shows. The only place to get product information prior to the internet were these sources, or by visiting the dealer or the manufacturer itself. A salesperson would handle nurturing the prospect from the initial contact until the point of sale.
What’s changed? We are now over 20 years into the digital communications and marketing era. Customers in nearly every industry and profession are now comfortable gathering product information, reading reviews, collecting specifications and doing product comparisons on a self-service basis. Unlike the “old days,” the typical buyer doesn’t want a salesperson in their face until just before the sale.
The prolonged recession has accelerated this change, by making B2B buyers much more discerning about the products and services they are planning to purchase. In addition, travel budgets have been constrained for many years, making it harder for companies to send buyers and influencers to trade shows, conferences and other events where manufacturers are represented.
As a result, most companies that have continued to rely on traditional marketing and sales are now facing flat or declining sales. Business owners and marketers desperately need a new strategy to drive growth.
A new model of marketing
If customers have changed the ways in which they buy, then we must change the ways that we communicate with them.
Enter content marketing, which seeks to inform and educate prospects, rather than interrupting them with endless ads and offers. The most successful content marketers conduct research to deeply understand the needs and motivations of their prospective customers, develop content that addresses those needs and consistently publish it. Over time, your target audience gets to know, like and trust your company, which can lead to increased sales and other desirable outcomes.
Savvy companies are now enabling prospects by assembling collections of content and resources that are based on the needs of their ideal buyers. In a sense, the content becomes a surrogate salesperson, helping to nurture prospects through their buying process to the point of sale.
A growing body of evidence proves that this type of marketing strategy, when implemented strategically and based on real customer needs, can pay big dividends in terms of increased sales and customer loyalty.
There’s no question that content marketing can be a valuable part of the marketing mix in today’s organizations. This leads us to the question:
Why now? What is the risk if you maintain the status quo?
If one of the leading content marketing strategies is to create the “go-to” collection of content and resources that are focused on the needs of the buyers you want to attract, then it follows that there’s a definite first mover advantage in doing so. If you are able to create the first authoritative information portal in your industry, that gives you a distinct advantage.
If you’re not the first mover in your industry, there is still hope: You just need to get a bit more creative and define a narrower content niche that you can “own.”