5 Ways to Become Customers’ Partner with Content Marketing

Brands that walk side by side with customers show up as partners. Content marketing can go a long way towards proving that you’ll be a good partner to customers. It’s crucial to demonstrate your potential as a partner, because customers perform 2/3rds of the buying journey online and only 1/3 with a sales rep.

I'll be speaking at Content Marketing World!
I’ll be speaking at Content Marketing World!

This is among the topics I’ll address next week in my talk at Content Marketing World, “How to Speed the Journey from Content to Cash.” (More about that in next week’s blog.)

Good partners, like good friends or companions, are always there and ready to support you. They understand your business, they bring you new ideas and opportunities, and they make it work for you.

Here are 5 ways to partner with customers in content marketing:

  1. Treat customers as equals; invite them to tell their stories. Create a relationship of trust where customers see eye to eye with you. Share what you know is useful to them right now. Be willing to think out loud and suggest ideas, risks and opportunities that will serve both of you. Be willing to say, “I don’t know” when you don’t, then partner to pursue answers. Let customers tell their stories their way to build your content assets.
  2. Save customers time by curating content. Since you know your customers’ interests well, gather the content that’s most relevant to them. Add value with brief introductions and opinions to make it even more relevant. Boil down long-form content into bullet points, a video or an infographic.
  3. Build virtual communities. Partners can create value for customers by helping them connect with each other in virtual communities. A great example of partner content for small businesses is the AmEx Open Forum website, designed to help small businesspeople make better decisions. AmEx provides a community chock-full of content that’s easy to relate to, whether you’re a brand-new or highly experienced small business. Similarly, Spiceworks connects people who work in IT with answers they get from each other.
  4. Convene customers and industry influencers. Bring your customers together with industry influencers in face-to-face events. This is not about preaching to the choir (as guru content might do). It’s about creating value by bringing together the right people to incite a dialogue that might not happen otherwise.
    For example, McKesson’s Better Health Tour brings together hospital administrators, doctors, professors and innovators to ask, “What’s keeping you up at night about healthcare in this community?” Participants co-create a journey map at events such as Better Health Boston, sharing their vision for how to make healthcare better in a given metro area. Together they share intelligence, make new connections, and align McKesson with the needs of the local healthcare community.
  5. Customize content for each specific customer’s needs. One advantage of good partners is that they know each customer intimately. If your customers are large enough to justify it, customization is a good way to demonstrate this knowledge. Personalize content. Gear it to a specific persona, job title or function. Create various versions for different industries and geographies. Tailor offers and calls to action, based on where each recipient is in the buyers’ journey. Demonstrate that you’re the best partner because you understand your customers and their business the best.

Certain kinds of brands find a natural fit in partner content. For example, many professional services firms in law, engineering, construction and finance sensibly position themselves as customers’ partners.

If the partner approach doesn’t fit your content marketing, you may choose to position your brand as a guru, guide or helper instead. Here’s a way to think about those content marketing choices.

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