content gets marketers and customers on common ground

Let me start by stating that I’m a content marketer. I was also a philosophy major, so bear with me as I dig a little deeper on content marketing.

Content marketing fills the pages of this blog. It is what I live and breathe every day. At some point these two words—”content” and “marketing”—came together to form a single term. And they make a lot of sense together. Why?

Let’s take a look at their definitions.

Con·tent [kon-tent]: Something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.

Mar·ket·ing [mahr-kit-ing]: The activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.

Arguably, the activities that make people aware of products and services are entirely focused on content. After all, content is a vessel for expression, and marketing is the ability to express and broadcast information to your core customer base. But the critical common denominator between content and marketing is really the customer.

Content + Marketing = Customers

We communicate with our customers and potential customers through content every day. And this is by no means a new phenomenon, as Joe Pulizzi reminds us. For years, people have been consuming content and stories from brands. Those pictures and taglines in classic advertisements, the signage in the grocery aisles, packaging on products, whitepapers, infographics, and Vines—it’s all content designed for the express purpose of influencing and “selling” to your target customers.

You might say, “I don’t create content to sell” or “I create thought leadership content.” Selling/pitching is for the reps and the product marketing folks, right?

We content marketers like to think we’re creating content for the greater good. Content that has an original angle. Content with a point of view. All of these things are important, but we need to embrace the fact that all of these attributes should bubble up to a bigger goal.

Selling Through Content

There is only one real reason why we create content: to sell something to our customers. Period.

But this doesn’t mean it has to be a pushy, scream-into-a-megaphone kind of selling. We sell our personal brand, a concept, an opinion, an approach.

Most importantly, we’re selling common ground to our customers. Picture yourself in a room presenting to customers, and they’re nodding their heads in agreement as you talk. You’re all on the same page. Good content delivers that feeling of being on common ground online.

Here is a first-hand example of how this works:

My company, TechTarget, is in the business of helping technology marketers drive demand by targeting technology buyers more efficiently. This isn’t just about selling programs on websites to deliver leads. It’s about finding common ground with our customers and managing expectations around results.

We work with a lot of clients looking to successfully extend their programs into specific international markets. There are a number of challenges that go along with this. Rather than just letting our sales reps manage these challenges at the point of sale, we used content to establish common ground with our customers and better set up both sides for success.

When not directly selling through product-centric content (i.e. product literature, collateral, demos), content is “priming the pump” for sales teams and the company as a whole. For example, consider the “free” advice and best practices you dole out in your blog. Even if that advice is not exactly talking about your business, you give it with the expectation that when that reader is at the point of sale, he or she remembers all the help and guidance you gave , tipping the scales in your favor when it’s time to buy.

This is a pretty easy concept to understand when you are a company that sells goods and services, but the same concept easily applies to consultancies, services organizations, or market experts that are in the business of delivering (or “selling”) opinions and insight.

For all of you who are like me and have gotten shiny new content marketing titles in the last few years, there are a million reasons why content and marketing belong together, but you only need to remember one: your customers.