Is content marketing new? | MarketingProfs

Content marketing is not new. Only the term can be considered recent.

The creation of targeted information – about companies, products, services and just about anything else – has been around for generations… under different names. Collateral, sales aids, product literature, brand books…all were old nicknames for what is now lumped together as “content.”

So the seemingly limitless number of articles, social media posts and blogs, podcasts and god knows what else about the supposed nuances of the content marketing discipline reveals one thing: a lack of perspective. This is why students learn (or are expected to learn) history in school, to make them feel like there was a world that existed before they were born.

A look back

When I started my career in marketing, maybe I had an advantage: I had worked as a journalist. I had done both breaking news and investigative reporting; I had to research facts, backgrounds and at least three reliable sources to confirm the validity of what I was about to post.

The investigative stories weren’t easy or quick, most of the time. Good commercial, informative and targeted information usually isn’t either.

There are reasons for this, starting with the most basic intentions: why is this information being developed, who is it for, how will it be offered and what are the expected results.

It’s not a marketing process. It’s not a sales process. It’s a combination of both, and it takes some (if not a lot) discipline. And cooperation. And the commitment to help each other succeed.

It’s a process

From the top, there is the definition. What is the product — the product as a whole, including the physical “thing” or service actually provided, plus support, warranty, accessories, etc. available? What is the target market (B2B companies, B2C customer segments)? Who is the target audience…beyond the end user?

Salespeople are great at determining who is involved in making the purchase decision. Marketers focus on presenting the product/service/brand in the most compelling way. Each is only one third of the equation. The beliefs, expectations and perceptions of prospects or consumers constitute the other third. (And, depending on how what you’re selling is sourced (directly to buyers/consumers or through VARs, distribution partners, or retailers), there may be four parts to the equation.)

You can’t market or sell something very well if you don’t understand literally everything about it and who is involved in buying and using it.

In addition, you must know the competition, whether direct or indirect, and compare your offers.

Defined parameters

Then what is the strategy? What role will information play in educating potential customers and achieving specific goals – for marketing, for sales, and for the business as a whole?

Will the material – the “content” – be used to generate inquiries, fill the pipeline, help qualify leads, overcome objections, differentiate your content from the “other guys”, help with conversion? It could be all of that… but not in one piece of anything.

In B2B, in particular, purchasing decisions are shared and the roles played by people fall into identifiable categories:

  • Initiators – people who perceive a need and start looking for a solution
  • Researchers – those who do the actual investigation to determine suitable products and services
  • Shortlisted – those who narrow down the list of options based on a set of criteria including capabilities, cost, implementation, training, support, etc.
  • Assessors – the qualified employees or consultants who compare the choices on the shortlist
  • Recommenders – those who review ratings and, using criteria established by the company, line of business managers and end users, rank options
  • Decision makers: line of business managers, finance and operations managers, and hopefully a group of end users who will be the ones working with the product on a day-to-day basis
  • Check Writers: The men and women who need to be confident they’re spending the right amount of money to get the best return on investment

Where there are channel partners, value-added resellers, or retailers, there are like-minded groups that determine whether to carry (a) your products, (b) only certain lines or individual products, and ( c) the quantity of stock to be stocked…if applicable.

Specificity

Each of these groups of people is likely to have subgroups. This is especially true among reviewers: whether you’re buying equipment that cuts metal panels for cars or software that provides security for mobile transactions, there’s sure to be…

  • Finance people who want to understand the total cost of ownership and how long it will be in service before it needs to be replaced
  • Maintenance people who will need to know how easy it is to repair or update
  • THISwho wants to review its ease of integration with existing systems
  • Business managers who need to appreciate the effects on productivity and the length of the learning curve
  • end users who can resist any change that is not easy to adapt to or that does not make their job easier

Now the hard truth: every group and subgroup needs its own targeted information. Every piece of content/warranty/call-it-what-you-will should address their top concerns, educate them about the benefits they and their business will get, and make it clear that what you’re offering is profitable. a practical and reliable solution to the problem their company is trying to solve.

“What’s the secret to your suc…” “The timing.” “…stop?”

Add to all of this the timing of each element, and you have another set of criteria to integrate. I once worked with a sales organization that believed in sending prospects anything they could get their hands on. It took time to convince them of the virtues of progressive disclosure: providing specific information to specific people about specific concerns at specific times.

It’s easier to do with marketing automation, but the principle hasn’t changed:

  • Give people what they want, and they’ll give it the attention it deserves.
  • Give them too much, and they might ignore it all.
  • Follow up with information they request or with related content that expands on what they already have, and they’ll appreciate your help.

It’s part of the maturation process, whether it’s done by marketing to create awareness and interest, educate, develop acceptance, and generate leads; or it’s done by sales to support interactions, help persuade others in the buying cycle, overcome objections, or clarify benefits.

And this is only presale.

It’s not over until it’s over

Once the sale is concluded, the real engagement begins. This is when communications should focus on reassuring the customer that they have made the right decision.

Seller must convey its commitment to delivering buyer success, providing the “complete product” components that have helped differentiate its offering from that of competitors, soliciting customer feedback and highlighting the value of that input, and to keep buyers informed about related products and services.

It’s a fascinating business because there’s always something new to consider, someone new to win over, a competitor that’s sure to be a threat. There will also be new media to use, technologies to adopt and processes to change to ensure that you give people the information they need in the form they prefer, when they want it.

Do all of that, and you can call this fucking thing whatever name you want. Personally, I prefer Shirley.

Other MarketingProfs Content Marketing Resources

Five tips for a more personalized B2B content strategy in 2021

About Time: Six Proven Ways to Extract Content from Your Small Business

B2B Content Marketing Report: Benchmarks, Budgets, Trends and COVID-19 Response