Thursday, July 05, 2012

Thinking about content marketing

Content marketing. Is that a new buzz word to tempt unsuspecting clients?

However exciting the new web site looks or a glossy new brochure appeals, the real test is does the content  interest the prospect and contribute to moving that person towards a commitment to purchase. The previous two blogs have discussed the changing role of PR from the traditional press release to the ability  the Internet affords of now being your own publisher. But unless the content published is compelling and valuable it won't do the job. So we talk about content marketing.

At different stages in the buying process, or perhaps in the stages that lead to an actual purchase, a prospect may need to be guided through a sequence of events. There will be prospects who may have identified a problem with something within their area of expertise, but at this stage are unaware of the existence of products or services that can deal with their problems. To give an example a company specialising in instrumentation may already have a solution for people who are experts in other fields such as geology or structural engineering, but are unaware of the products and how to use them and the companies that can supply the tools they don't yet know they need. This can also be the case in new markets where content is required to educate people. This can be a two edged sword, as in educating people you also help open the door to a market they didn't know existed and in turn to your competitors. The well written educational piece will not just explain the technology and applications but in doing so position your company as experts, build credibility and trust. Typical examples of useful content at an initial research stage are White Papers, Guides and 'How To' tips.

Creating awareness is often an essential early step for introducing new customers to the products you have and lead to an interest to learn more and to become more specific in their research to discover what particular products from your range are what they need. At the early interest stage offering telephone support can be very helpful in identifying product options that best meet their application needs. Some prospects might be alarmed at actually talking to a vendor so early in the process, particularly if they have only recently discovered the benefits this class of product appears to offer them. So online selection tools can seem less intimidating and anonymous than getting engaged with a sales person before they have researched other options. At any time that help option needs to be accessible. Not everyone wants to take the time to figure it all out first. Having read a white paper and realised where to go, others may prefer to short circuit the rest of the process and press the help button right away. Others need to be nurtured along the route and directed to content appropriate for that stage. At some time products,  price and availability become important in the decision process. How this information is presented will depend on the nature of the product as to whether it is off-the-shelf for next day delivery, or subject to design and proposal. Content should have made sure prospects know what to expect here.

Writing for totally newcomers to the market as well as repeat customers and regular specifiers who need to get straight to the detail and expect it to be up to date and accurate, will call for different styles and different paths through the web site. And what with multiple communications channels, content marketing has an important role to play.

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