Over the past few years content marketing has been coming into it’s own right as a marketing channel much like digital marketing, social marketing and mobile marketing. Content has been around for for almost as long as we had sales people in the form of customer evidence, testimonials, video and white papers. The Internet has made it easier to distribute content to a wider audience and social media has helped marketers to extend the reach. But it’s not just the tools that will make content so valuable for marketers but how these tools have changed the way our customers behave and make purchase decisions. The empowered customer no longer sits passively in front of the TV or newspaper and magazine consuming advertising. They are taking a more active role in researching their purchase decision. Recommendations from their peers and other trusted sources are becoming as important, or more important, than the company they’re purchasing from.
I love this quote from Clark Kokich, former Razorfish CEO, as a foundation for engaging your customers with content:
“Consumers no longer move neatly from one touch point to the next, from branding to promotion to sales. Instead, they snack on a dizzying array of digital content delivered through a dizzying array of devices. They share ideas about products companies, and brands, with their brand awareness & purchase consideration formed by their peers as by a national branding campaign.”
This ain’t your Father’s customers – they buy differently, consume media differently, get information differently, build trust differently. Understanding your social and digital channels will be important but understanding the dynamic nature of your customer buying behaviors will be golden.
Some thoughts on getting to the essence of content marketing:
- Understand your target customer’s behavior(psychographic & social technographic) – Are your customers engaged online or are they more like traditional consumers? Are they influenced by traditional advertising or by online reviews and peer recommendations? Are they creators, commenters or consumers of online content?
- Re-imagine your sales cycle – it’s no longer a linear path with a clear beginning and end. Create multiple touch points, owned and 3rd party, along the customer journey so that your empowered customer can choose their own path.
- Connect the dots – Provide great content that resonates along the customer touch points and connect it to your customer nurturing and sales cycle.
The tactics we use in content marketing are secondary. Understanding your customer, what influences their buying decision and how they want to learn and buy are an important first step before creating content and determining where to syndicate it.