Why content marketing? Why now?

Why content marketing?

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.

Why now?

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.”

What Has LinkedIn Been Up To Lately?

Whether you’re a LinkedIn aficionado or just a casual user, you’ve most likely noticed some major changes to the business focused social network lately. LinkedIn has undergone many changes since our last review, so let’s dig in and find out what they’ve been up to.

Earlier this year in July, LinkedIn did a complete design overhaul of the familiar home page. The change, as described by Product Manager Caroline Gaffney, was intended to provide a newer, simpler, and more modern design with more relevant updates feeding a richer, cleaner stream. While the design overhaul drew mixed responses at first, the general consensus seemed to be a step in the right direction.

LinkedIn old vs. new

In August, right around the time Microsoft was migrating Hotmail users to the new Outlook.com, LinkedIn announced their featured partnership with Microsoft’s new app store with a new LinkedIn for Outlook app. As Product Manager David Breger writes:

“We’ve been working closely with Microsoft to make it easy for you to infuse LinkedIn goodness right into your new Outlook experience.”

If you’re an Outlook user, the app allows you to:

  • View relevant information about people you’re emailing or meeting with like their profile and photo
  • Display any updates or information shared on LinkedIn
  • Display common connections and groups
  • Provide information about the person’s company
  • Provide the ability to like or comment

As the redesigned site was rolled out globally to all users, LinkedIn made several announcements about added features like a real time notification system, an easier to use endorsement system and ability to follow people.

In September, LinkedIn announced the redesigned look and feel of the site was being baked into company pages as a way for members to get more relevant information about companies they are interested in following, and as a way for companies to better engage with their target audience. If you haven’t visited your company page in a while (or worse, haven’t created one – eek!), check out some of these companies making the most of the new layout:

So what do you think, is LinkedIn making meaningful user experience improvements to the platform, or just trying to play catch up to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google+. What types of features would you like to see added? Sound off in the comments below and let’s discuss.

Mike Kissel

PS – Here’s a sneak peek at member profile updates on the horizon.

images and slideshow courtesy of LinkedIn