As an expansion stage venture capital firm with business development services, we spend a lot of time working with our portfolio companies on expansion strategies, particularly in the areas of sales and marketing.
We had a forum last week focused on content marketing (a.k.a., inbound marketing), which I would describe simply as consistently offering target prospects, customers and marketing channels (bloggers, key influencers, editors, etc.) content that benefits them.
One of the key points made at the forum is that most companies talk about themselves and most prospective customers only care about what matters to them (btw, this could be generalized, perhaps somewhat cynically, to most people only care about themselves). The net effect is that the messaging and content that is produced by most companies is wasted, as it does not resonate with their targets.
Over time, we have found that this is a difficult issue for most sales and marketing professionals, as it is much easier for them to develop material on features and functions and assemble product descriptions and competitor comparisons than it is to figure out what the targets want to hear/see/read/watch and then develop content to meet those needs (I see the same thing from many companies that are looking for venture capital investment…their presentations don’t nail what the venture capital investors are really interested in).
Some of the other points that came out on what content marketing is all about:
- Deliver valuable, relevant and compelling content to your targets on a regular basis (this will maintain or improve their buying behavior)
- Create and deliver consistent content over time to build your readers…the more consistent and the longer the time, the more your audience will build
- Tell relevant stories…everyone wants to consume stories! Think of customers like readers.
- For B2B content programs, you should end up with multiple content programs each going to an important segment/personas…someone in hospitality is different than someone in IT and, therefore, their interests are different!
- Another angle on this is what are the informational needs of your customers?
- You need to talk about your customer’s needs because they want to hear about themselves and their needs, not you or what you want to talk about.
- Once you have your ideas and content to share, there are plenty of locations to join the conversation or to get found, including Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, your own blog, Slideshare, Youtube, Digg…(the list goes on). The key is to start small (one presenter recommended to just join the conversation by making blog comments as a first step to get into the flow of the conversation), measure your results, and move on from there.
- Ultimately, as you get a better understanding of content marketing and decide that this is an important initiative (hopefully you will!), determine your measurable goals, get the measures in place, and then set up an editorial calendar and make assignments that can help your company get into your content marketing rhythm. Then measure the results and make adjustment based on what is working and what is not working relative to your goals.
- The time has never been better to connect with your target audiences using a content marketing strategy (given the breakdown of traditional media and the emergence of some great new online channels to your targets) and the payoff should be significantly better than using advertising.
- Two books that I highly recommend to anyone interested in this topic are “Get Content Get Customers” and “The New Rules of Marketing and PR“
The bottom line is the subject line…when you develop and distribute content and join the conversation, you need to accurately and positively answer the question: