What is the big hoo-hah about “content marketing”? Is it just a buzzword, a fad, a passing fancy? Well – yes, it is a buzzword, but there’s no “just” about it. From cheesy direct marketing letters to sophisticated, amusing TV ads to the classic Burma shave signs, marketing with content is nothing new.

Burma Shave

What’s new are the additions to our bags of marketing content tricks, rather than replacements. We have new formats (e.g. tweets); new environments (e.g. the internet and its many neighborhoods – Facebook, YouTube, et al.); and a new joined-61at-the-hip connection some marketing and sales teams gain through alignment. In the Olde Days marketing came to buyers over the airwaves, in their mailbox, in the magazines and newspapers they read, on the back of the cereal box, and in other generally unasked-for ways. Now that most people proactively research any potential purchase, these motivated likely purchasers discover your content as web pages and downloadable assets in search results, in social media conversations, and as online advertising. The people who find you are by definition more highly qualified than the people you find.

Another welcome new development is the ease of discovering and speaking to target audiences. Rather than buying time for an ad on a TV show watched by 18- to 33-year-old men and wasting money buying exposure to a lot of people outside that demographic, or mailing your offer to a collection of likely zip codes, you can tailor an offer to known interests and activities, and email a personalized message to people who have already raised their hands.

90 Online marketing has ways for you to attract potential buyers, then help them along the buyer’s path with the right content at the right time. You find out what that “right” content is by trial and error in performance. Here seven clues to help you know if your content is “right” and help you make the most of it.

Great marketing content:

  1. Speaks to a targeted audience

This target could be defined by one or many factors. The tighter the filters, the more personalized your content can be, the smarter you look, and the better the fit of your content and offer will be. You do not want to market right-handed gloves to left-handed people.

  1. Fits a specific place in the buying cycle

This is really important. Your content cannot say all things to all people. To people just exploring your category or company, present high-level materials. Be broadly educational. To people looking for a reason to choose one company over another and make a buy, present your most sophisticated vendor comparisons. Limit those pieces of content (papers, podcasts, infographics, whatever) to a tight focus on one spot in the buyer’s journey.

  1. Tells your story with customer-centric examples

It’s not about you. Let that be your new tattoo. It is about your customer. You content becomes believable and fosters trust when it address your buyer’s need – not when it pushes your product. Make your story come alive with stories the buyer can relate to. If they can identify, you begin to seem familiar and helpful. That’s very good.

  1. Uses meaningful imagesmarketing content

  • Articles containing relevant images have an average of 94% more total views than articles without
  • When searching, 60% of consumers are more likely to consider business with an image in search results
  • People process images 60,000x faster than text
  • Make sure to align images with your message and tone. They need to be relevant to the other content.
  1. Has a call-to-action

Your content is ultimately meant to move prospects down the sales funnel and convert them into buyers. Make it easier for the buyer to follow your lead in this dance: Tell the reader clearly what the next step is and how to take it.

  1. Can go beyond the PDF

The format the content is delivered in plays a significant role in how well – or not – it speaks to your prospects. Although PDFs still have a sizable fan base in the B2B space, today’s digital options have essentially blown the doors off the old paradigm, opening a brave new world of opportunities in delivering information.

  1. Can be parsed into additional pieces for optimum use

Build your content as pillars: Big pieces of content that are 1) important to your buyer, and 2) can be parsed out into multiple other pieces. Whatever your initial format for a piece, create additional pieces (in the same format or others), and distribute it across multiple platforms. This does two things:many formats

  • It spreads the cost of content creation our over multiple assets
  • It gives you brand, message, and offer consistency across products and channels.

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Burma Shave photo by mlhradio, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.