Content is king in battle to be heard above the noise
One of the buzz words in today's digital marketing age is content marketing. Liz Smyth explains what it is, and clears up a few common misconceptions
Content marketing has come to the fore because of the explosion in information and the difficulty in being heard above the noise of fast moving technology.
Because of the impact of the internet, the marketing and sales mission has changed from finding customers to being found. With the rise of the internet, we've left the world of information scarcity behind and entered one of information abundance.
According to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, five exabytes (or five billion gigabytes) of information were created between the dawn of civilisation and 2003 – "but that much information is now created every two days, and the pace is rapidly increasing".
This has transformed the buying process – and therefore lead generation. Buyers are overwhelmed by all the noise, so they are learning to ignore the messages they don't want to hear, and to independently research what they do want to know.
One of the consequences of this is a growing importance of the contribution marketing can make to sales. Marketing is no longer the poor relation.
According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90 per cent of the way through their buying journey before they contact the vendor, making it difficult for sales to influence the buyer's decisions. Buyers can now delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves. Bulletin boards make us jacks of all trades.
This is why content marketing today is or should be at the core of most companies' lead generation – from SMEs and start-ups to mature companies. A new study (from Curata Inc) found that 71 per cent of US marketers are increasing their content marketing spend in 2014.
Nearer home, the 2013 Content Marketing Report from B2B Marketing in association with Circle Research found that almost three-fifths of respondents have seen content marketing boost sales. Some 86 per cent reported that they view content marketing to be either "critical" or "important".
"Content marketing should be considered a mandatory part of every company's nurturing process," says Curata CMO Michael Gerard, "not just part of the early stages of awareness building."
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as "the 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."
Content marketing can include articles, blogs, customer case studies, ebooks, email, infographics, guides, podcasts, slideshares, surveys, videos and webinars.
At the outset of your content planning, it's important to make a distinction between promotional content and thought leadership. Thought leadership demonstrates a deep understanding of your prospects' and customers' pain points, and guides them toward solutions.
Any vendor can publish feature focused brochures and other product-related content. But the trusted companies – the ones that rise above the noise – are those focused on offering their target audience content, that's compelling, but most of all useful,
Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, highlights two of the most common mistakes that companies make in content marketing.
"Firstly: a lack of formal business strategy around content. Right now, most marketers are filling content buckets, and lack a true business objective – such as revenue, cost savings, or customer loyalty – behind their content initiatives.
"Secondly: patience. Most brands still call content marketing a campaign, which implies there is a stop date. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to take a longer term view of how we communicate with our customers."
Ann Handley, the chief content officer at Marketing Profs agrees. "The biggest mistake is to create content that your boss or client loves, but your customer doesn't."
Such is the importance of winning trust through content marketing that the trend of brands becoming publishers will accelerate. Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute believes that marketing departments will continue their complete transformation into mini publishers.
"Analytics and data will be critical, but knowing more about our customers' consumption habits will create a more complex need for useful content. The majority of journalists will be hired by non-media companies. We will start to see non-media companies buy up smaller, niche content titles in both digital and print form."
In Ireland we are increasingly seeing freelance journalists getting more involved in what they refer to as 'corporate' work. There will still be a role for traditional as well as new media but companies will increasingly become publishers. This will not be salesy brochureware but informative content that prospects, they don't even know yet, are anxious to read or view.
Liz Smyth is the EMEA marketing director at Marketo
Sunday Indo Business