Content Marketing Old Idea or New? – Helping people before you sell
Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1739 to promote his printing business. Among the content nuggets he created: “A friend in need is a friend indeed!”
The idea behind content marketing, then and now, remains the same: help people before you sell.
Successful content marketers attract attention, help customers learn, and enable them to make good buying choices. Here’s my short video on content marketing for the Business Marketing Association of Chicago.
How can you make sure your content is relevant? Talk to customers and prospects, face to face. In complex B2B sales, include not only the buying decision-maker, but also buying influencers.
To form the backbone of your content marketing, use real customer questions. Reflect an understanding of customers’ needs, worries and doubts. Address customers with answers, context and stories that demonstrate your expertise.
Speak customers’ language and tell their stories. Frame the challenge, and the story, as customers do.
For example, when selling its new Optical LAN technology, Tellabs at first focused on a broad value proposition. The new technology could save customers up to 70% in capital expense, 80% in energy use and 90% in space.
But that value prop was too generic to fit a particular type of customer — a school district chief information officer (CIO).
To the CIO, the whole story boiled down to one outcome: the school’s new Optical LAN would save the equivalent of a teacher’s salary. Good news for the school, the teachers, the students and the taxpayers.
Customers need to hear benefits that fit their context, in their own words. That’s why customer stories are a cornerstone of great content marketing.
Make sure your content is highly readable. The easier your content is to read, the likelier it will get read – at home and abroad. If you do business globally, use simplified global English.
Be consistent with content: publish on a regular frequency. Make sure your topics remain consistent over time so customers know what to expect.
Make your content visual. Visuals command attention in an overcrowded market. Include photos, infographics, diagrams and videos for your customers.
Imagine what Ben Franklin could have done with photos, videos and the Internet!
P.S. A great BtoB marketing event is coming up next week — the annual Business Marketing Association (BMA) Conference. As many as 1,000 marketers are expected, but there’s still room for you. I hope you can join us, and look forward to seeing you there.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.