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The skinny on content marketing

What the buzz is all about—and why it matters for B2B

Content marketing refers to communications that educate rather than sell. Articles, checklists, how-to videos, eBooks, podcasts and webinars are popular options. While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding it, content marketing is not a new tactic. For decades marketers have executed custom publishing and thought leadership programs to gain mindshare and build brands through expertise and engagement.

What’s new in content marketing

More channels—and more conversations. Traditional content marketing relied on sizable budgets and distribution through an in-house list or trade media. By default, the largest companies established the biggest voices for their viewpoints.

Today, the explosion of social media platforms and self-publishing tools opens the field to literally everyone. The challenge now is breaking through the deluge of information to reach your target customer. (And, having something valuable to say.)

Faster pace—and faster turnover. Conversations about the issues that affect your buyers now occur 24/7, in real-time, and in short rapid-fire bursts of Tweets and posts. Gone is the luxury of waiting to respond, drafting a lengthy communication or even the guarantee of a focused interaction.

This isn’t an argument for quantity over quality, but a recognition that most online content stays fresh about as long as a carton of milk. Your content must be time-sensitive and your organization able to react quickly to emerging trends and topics.

Five essentials of effective B2B content marketing

Follow these considerations to produce content that not only gets found, but gets results.

1. Individualize it

Forget the bland and faceless corporate voice. Effective content marketing needs a clear personality. It’s more like the transcript of a conversation than the copy in your technical support documentation.

2. Be issue-driven

The fastest way to move your message from “all about us” to compelling educational content is to focus on the problems you solve for your customers. Don’t start with your product and its features; start with the issues the product exists to alleviate.

3. Map it out

In the end, content marketing is all about helping you increase sales and retain customers. Plan your content strategy to align with your sales cycle, targeting the audience segments and stages where you need the most lift.

4. Focus on action

After your audience engages with your content, what do you want them to do next? Develop content with this sequence in mind, and always define a call to action and specific next step.

5. Assign accountability

A steady stream of content involves more than just the marketing department. Clearly delineate goals, schedules and responsibilities to executives, subject matter experts sales, and marketing. Make your support visible and tangible.

The bottom line? Effective content marketing doesn’t look like marketing or feel like selling. Success comes from delivering as a helpful and trusted advisor.

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