What is Content Marketing?
To understand content marketing, it's important to understand why content marketing has become so invaluable to the modern sales process. Consumers have changed, and how they research problems has also changed.
First, let's look at the definition of content marketing:
"A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online materials (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services."
As you can see with the above it's a broad term. Almost all marketing could be defined as content marketing, which makes the subject's popularity quite confusing.
There are dozens of stats that show how much content consumers consume in their quest for the ideal product. Even without these figures businesses themselves are starting to notice the importance of a content marketing strategy. Customers are engaging with salespeople having prepared themselves for the conversation by researching options and alternatives. Consumers want to be informed before they make a purchase and this has been made easier by the growth of digital technology.
There are more comparison articles, more influencer opinions, more articles analysing the problem, and more recommendations for solutions now then there ever has been before. This poses a new challenge for salespeople; how they guide the sale when the consumer has already been influenced by others before their interaction?
Brands that can understand, own and create their own value-add content become a resource centre for potential customers, even if those customers were unsure of the company they wanted to buy from. As customers research their problem on websites they are nurtured towards finding a solution that fits. Crafted well, content can do 70% of the work that a salesperson used to do.
The death of the salesman
Content marketing doesn't mean certain death for the salesperson, far from it. Content marketing simply changes the role they play in the purchasing process from someone that sells to a person that guides & answers. Instead of being sold to, consumers now want to be consulted on solutions, they want a trusted partner that can confide their personal goals with so the expert can consult them on the perfect solution based on their needs, and recommend appropriate solutions.
Content marketing is also able to speed up a salesperson's sales process. Instead of answering the same questions and guiding a prospect through the same steps, content; like social media posts, blog articles and online guides, can help answer the customer's questions. This frees up salespeople to target new accounts and add value to existing clients.
Content marketing is like an initial consultation. You're identifying the symptoms, as well as identifying possible pain points, and beginning to scope out a category of solutions. The more content you create, the more information you receive about the pieces potential clients see value in, and this can guide future content strategies. You listen, learn and lead more prospects to your business as a result.
In a famous sketch from the UK comedy series Blackadder, the hero (a term used very lightly) goes to the doctor with an ailment. Without questioning or further consideration a cure is prescribed; leeches applied to the body to suck out the disease. No matter what symptom is mentioned or additional information is imparted the cure is always the same: leeches.
Marketing can become very similar in its approach to solving people's problems. Regardless of what the customer says the business continues, deaf to their needs, and pushes a promotion. Prescribing a product as a solution without attempting to understanding the problem is not what customers need. After all, your product/service may not be the right solution for certain customers and a 'build it and they will come' approach simply doesn't work.
Content marketing has the aded advantage of acting as a screening process for potential prospects, weeding out the bad fit leads your sales team cannot stand being assigned.
Understanding which topics a good fit customer is interested in, how they interact with your social media, and the guides they download, will give you insight into what type of customer they're likely to be. This can help marketing qualify a lead before passing it on to sales, thus increasing the conversion rate of marketing-generated leads.
And if you're curious to see some great examples of content marketing at work why not check out our compilation of 32 enviable content marketing examples.
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