We have spent a lot of time lately talking to our customers and prospects about content marketing or content strategies. Content marketing is providing relevant, timely information to a well defined marketplace with the intention of converting interest into opportunities. In a recent post on Copyblogger, Frank Strong proclaims that content marketing is the new branding, and in Forbes, Michael Brenner poses the question, Is Content Marketing the New Advertising?

For me, content is truly the key ingredient in successful online and offline marketing strategies. There are three things to consider when you are putting together a content strategy.

Why is content important?
Google and Bing. Need I say more? When someone searches for a product or service online, content is what ensures “your” product or service ranks highest in search query returns. If you lack relevant content, you can be assured it’s your competitor’s product or service that will be found.

What content is important?
Interesting, useful content that provides solutions to your customers’ problems. An important first step in developing your content strategy is identifying your customers’ interests along with their pain points. Content development and curation is very time consuming, so you want to be sure your content is beneficial to your audience. Creating buyer personas helps further define your readership so you can focus on developing content that is both valuable and relevant to your target market.

For example, a manufacturer of electronic components could focus on:
• How they source comparable parts to provide customers a cost reduction
• Offshore vs. onshore: when to know which is best

A shoe store could focus on:
• Leather shoe care for winter wear
• How to pick the right running shoe

This part of your content strategy is really geared to do two things: 1) position your organization as a subject matter expert, and 2) provide free but useful information to your prospects.

How should you serve up content?
Back to those buyer personas, knowing your target audiences’ preferences and buying behaviors will guide the platforms that are best for your organization. PRweb.com provides a great matrix of content marketing tactics and breaks them down by degree of difficulty.

It is important to remember that buying behaviors are evolving, so regular touch-points and interviews with your buying audience can help you invest in the appropriate mediums.

Content marketing is an opportunity to educate potential buyers about the solutions you provide and the right questions to ask while they are starting to research your product or service. You have started to build a relationship that will make it easier for them to engage with you in the sales process.