This is a black and white industry.

In a typical RFP, there are a slew of numbers. Percentages, fixed fees, hourly wages, rate schedules, exclusions and more. It’s as black and white as it gets.

So, as I paint the picture of why content marketing is important to the bottom line, I’ll try to be as black and white as possible.

Words matter.

Every company owner wants more leads. But sadly, it’s not point A to point B anymore. Salesperson calls prospect. Converts prospect to buyer. Nope.

Buyers are savvier. It’s marketing’s job to build trust, create demand and help fill the sales funnel. Trust is not black and white.

Gone are the days where we can get traction from cold calling. Think about your own personal buying behavior. I hang up. I don’t have time for cold calls. But when I want to purchase something, I do make time.

I take time to do the front-end work of researching and educating myself, so I don’t have to deal with the potential fallout of making a wrong decision based on slimy sales tactics. I would rather depend on my own research of a subject than someone who calls me randomly, selling me something. I also tend to trust companies that invest in content to educate me, the buyer.

What becomes most important to my buying decision?

Content.

Trust sells. Content marketing is the key to building that trust. This should be the number-one priority of every marketing team in this industry: increase content marketing. Buyer behaviors are changing. Two-plus years of doing most everything digitally has changed the marketing landscape. People are online researching!

Some quick stats:

  • 70 percent of business buyers find content directly on the company’s website.
  • Content marketing was the most popular B2B marketing strategy in 2020.
  • B2B email marketing produces the highest ROI.
  • LinkedIn is the most effective platform for B2B lead generation.
  • 52 percent of B2B buyers say they’re “definitely” more likely to buy from a brand once they’ve read its content.

Because buyers and owners are self-educating and becoming more sophisticated, we must finetune our marketing strategy to be where they are looking.

This is called inbound marketing – creating content that someone will find through research, whether it be on your website, a LinkedIn blog post or in a magazine.

Where are they looking?

  • Association & Industry Events
  • Expert Panels & Industry Resources
  • Online & Print Industry Magazines
  • LinkedIn
  • Email Inbox
  • Company Website

Anywhere that content can be seen, heard and shared is where your prospects are looking.

It goes beyond traditional marketing. Traditional marketing is direct mail, direct email, billboards, one-sheets, flyers and cold calls. They have one static message: “Buy from me. Here’s why.”

Content marketing is a long form answer that addresses customer pain points and provides solutions. It’s white papers, blog posts, articles, press releases, videos and podcasts – where knowledge is centerstage. It’s not “Buy from me. Here’s why.” It’s “Trust me. Here’s why.”

The best marketing teams are made up of in-house and outsourced marketing experts who know your industry. Our jobs should be to curate content from the experts and harness thought leadership and insight from team members across department and roles. Content marketing should not be relegated to those who have free time on their hands or solely to salespeople. A brand and its employees are the subject matter experts. The content creators are the content marketing experts.

Hiring an intern to post on your Facebook page is NOT going to suffice for your “content marketing plan.”

Content marketing should be present at all levels of an organization – from the company executives’ keynote speeches at an industry event, to a salesperson closing a sale by sharing a white paper or blog post article – it all seeks to inform, inspire and reassure target audiences that they are making the right choice.

While it’s very possible to measure ROI of your content marketing plan, it also can be difficult and not nearly as black and white as we may like.

Take paid LinkedIn ads as an example. A user will rarely click a paid ad and immediately convert on the landing page or website. The process may be more gradual. More likely, a user will see a LinkedIn ad, research the company on Google later, read a blog or article and then later begin the buying process. That’s three to four different types of content marketing platforms. If we only measured the value of the LinkedIn ad by the click-through rate and leads generated, we would never run a paid social ad again.

Our target audience for content marketing is not finite and easy to predict. The goal of content marketing shouldn’t be focused only on known potential buyers, but rather on working to build a brand that informs future buyers on problems that they may or may not know they have.

An effective content marketing plan communicates expertise, longevity, flexibility and problem solving. It’s not just about telling a story about history or years of service. It’s about instilling trust in a brand, conveying the DNA of that company, establishing credibility and educating for the future. It’s not black and white. It brands the past and paints the future. In full color.

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