Content marketing is the use of marketing collateral in a methodical, consistent and planned way to qualify prospects, keep them engaged until they’re ready to buy, and move them towards a purchase. The key difference between content marketing and what PR firms have always offered is that content marketing is geared towards measurable, short-term results rather than the longer-term “market awareness” or visibility PR traditionally provides.
One way to start getting involved in content marketing is to take a transitional approach, making content marketing part of your ordinary PR activities. This includes steps you’re probably already taking, such as search engine optimization on press releases and other collateral. It also means making sure you have quality follow-up or call-to-action content on your website to keep a prospect engaged once that “thought leadership” article by your CEO appears in an industry publication.
The next step requires the tough work of defining key customer segments (or personas) and the content required to engage them at each stage in your sales cycle. You may already have some of this information you are using to target analysts, reporters, or influential bloggers, or to guide advertising buys. You can add value by using your knowledge of the client and its market to develop a content map aimed at different stages in the buying cycle.
How would this work? Consider a client looking to sell cloud storage to small and medium businesses. For customers just starting to look for such a service, consider basic primers on cloud storage, how much it costs, how the data is secured, etc. For those in the product evaluation stage, you might develop a “what to look for” piece (perhaps repurposed from an existing white paper or data sheet.) And for those ready to purchase, consider a detailed piece explaining how to upload their data, specific questions to ask a cloud storage provider, or “gotchas” to avoid in contracts.
Assuming you have developed your personas, content map and scoring system, and a system to score site visitors based on their “digital body language,” the next step is running the marketing automation software that makes all this happen. This will help you generate incremental revenue through reselling the platform and/or your services and (more importantly) provide insights into customer needs that can improve the your positioning, media outreach and the products and services you offer.
Note, though, that content marketing and marketing automation tools take time to learn, and that monitoring and contributing to the on-line conversation can be a time sink if performed without a plan.
Running through all these steps, of course, is the ongoing creation of the content itself. Whether you do it yourself or hire an agency, the goal is to create quality content that provides valuable information, not just marketing fluff. If your client isn’t on board with that you’ll waste a lot of the effort you put into the other steps of content marketing.