I recently joined Silverpop’s field marketing team and am focused on B2B marketing and marketing automation best practices, and this is my first blog post.
I intended to write a 'best week ever' piece focusing on key trends in the B2B marketing space for my first post. But the more reading I did over this past week, the more it became obvious that industry leaders are really concentrating on one thing right now – content marketing.
Other topics are being discussed, but not with the same tenacity. So I thought it was good timing to get to the bottom of some of the key questions many are asking right now, including: What is content marketing? Why should I use it? When do I use it? Where do I use it? And how do I create a content marketing strategy?
What is content marketing? First, let’s start with the what. After all, a definition is a great place to start the education process. Many B2B marketers reference Joe Pulizzi and his Junta42 blog for the 'dictionary' version of content marketing. He says “content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Essentially, content marketing is the notion that delivering (through sharing) high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable buyer actions.
Why should you do content marketing? If the why is not obvious, you should probably stop reading ... Seriously though, allow me to confirm your theories. Content marketing is the marketing of tomorrow, today; it's about marketing in the way that B2B buyers now prefer to buy. It's a powerful new discipline. And that's why, as Chris Brogan tells us, it’s simply a better way to go.
We all know the B2B buyer is changing, as my colleague Adam Needles has discussed extensively. He tells us that as marketers, we have to go where B2B buyers are – particularly online. He details in a recent blog post that this, together with other factors such as the increase in peer-exchange of buying information (i.e., the 'Groundswell') and declining availability of traditional media outlets, is what has led to content marketing now occupying a record 32% of average marketing budgets in the US in 2009, according to the Custom Publishing Council. Clearly, your peers are already planning to fit content marketing into their strategy. With 6 in 10 marketers spending more on content marketing in 2010, you should be taking a serious look at it as well.
Another factor to consider: Content is critical to scripting and managing the 'dialogue' between the B2B buyer and vendor that you are trying to architect in your B2B marketing activities – especially via your marketing automation platform. This is why we've talked (in a good way) before on this blog about how content is the 'dirty underbelly' of marketing automation. It's important to understand content marketing and to leverage it as a key element of your demand generation strategy – not only via social mediums such as blogs, but integrated across your inbound and outbound activities, including as part of your lead nurturing programs. This means not only using it to 'power' your dialogue, but also taking cues from the content consumed by your buyers to better assess their buying stage (and to formulate their lead score).
When and where should you do content marketing? The when and where of content marketing are a little more ambiguous. After all, you know your solutions and your audiences best, so the when and where should be a little more obvious than the other questions i.e., you should be in the channels with the information that matters to the buyer you are targeting.
But if you need some assistance, Sonia Simone created a 5-part tutorial to help define content marketing in all arenas – blogging, video, email, white papers, social media, websites, etc. Content drives the Web so you can use it almost anywhere, in any situation.
How do you develop and leverage content marketing? Now for the hardest part, how do you create your content marketing strategy? It is, without a doubt, important to have a strategy. Without one, content is not likely to be found or read, which defeats the purpose altogether.
You need to start small by doing a little research. Understand the goals of your message and who you are speaking to. As Conversation Agent blogger Valeria Maltoni tells us, “Education, entertainment and engagement lead to purchase. Only if they bring the reader along. You need to have a clear path mapped out.” What is the purpose of your content? How does your buyer buy and how does content factor into his/her decision-making process? Once you know this, you can get to creating.
My colleague Adam Needles will be doing an upcoming post on approaching your content marketing strategy, as this discussion is only beginning.
My final advice on your content strategy: Find good people, who are engaging and who understand the questions your buyers have, to create good content in the space best suited to your audience. And keep in mind that you are creating a relationship with your readers/buyers through your content and with any relationship you have, you need to treat it with respect.
What are you doing to jump start your content marketing in 2010? What questions do you still have?