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Feature article:

What Are You Going to Do About Content?

You’ve heard all the buzz: marketing is no longer about interrupting prospects with your messages (outbound marketing), but luring them with content that means something to them (inbound marketing). Mike Volpe of HubSpot says that today, marketers are publishers. Seth Godin (he of the purple cow and the shiny head) says this kind of marketing is the only kind left.

I’m not quite as apocalyptic as all that, but I do agree with this fundamental premise, especially for B2B marketers: if you want your prospects’ attention, be prepared to offer them something of value in return. If you want earn their trust (and to even BEGIN a sales process, you’ll need it) be sure to create material that establishes your credibility.

So far, so much theory — but what does this mean in practice? What must you DO to make a content strategy work? A few of my thoughts:

Press hot buttons
Pull your head out of your assets (products, services, etc.) and think from the point of view of your prospects: what do they want? What do they fear? What keeps them up at night? What motivates them to get out of bed in the morning? These are the hot buttons you want to press with your content.

Think not of what you should say about your business, but of how you can speak to customer needs. When you provide information and insights your prospects value, they’ll reward you with their confidence.

Dig up your gold
You may not be aware of it, but you’re probably sitting on a treasure trove of quality content material – expertise you’ve accumulated over many years of experience. Every time a nugget of your expertise intersects with a customer need (a hot button), you’ve found great content subject matter.

Line up the people you can tap, including customers who can provide testimonials and/or case study stories, and internal experts who can deliver the goods for white papers, reports and ebooks.

Match formats to needs
Different titles, roles and responsibilities have different content needs. The IT technician who influences a purchasing decision may want a data sheet loaded with specs. But the VP of operations who’ll actually cut the deal might appreciate a case study featuring a company similar to her own. And the CFO who needs to approve the purchase could use an ebook that explores the business rationale behind the technology.

Then there are learning styles. Some people like to read, others prefer to SEE information in graphs, videos or demonstrations. In both substance and style, be sure to match your content formats to your prospects’ preferences.

Seek allies
Even the best content serves no purpose if it sits stranded on your website, neglected and unwanted. To generate interest, you need allies: editors and reporters in traditional media, popular bloggers in your industry, customers who participate on message boards and social media sites. You need to enlist them in your efforts to share your content with the world, which leads us to the next crucial point…

Be a good citizen

If you’ve ever spent time in a LinkedIn special interest group or following an influential blog, you’ve inevitably seen the following: a post from a newcomer who practically stands up and shouts to promote his pet project/offer/webinar/whatever. Does this grandstanding win friends and influence others? No, it just makes people cringe – or seethe.

BEFORE you introduce the world to your content, practice good Web citizenship. Become familiar with the forums/blogs/groups/Twibes in which you’d like to participate. Learn their issues, protocols and rules. Contribute thoughtful, genuinely relevant comments and/or posts. Then and only then might your content be welcomed as an authentic contribution to the ongoing conversation.

Reward content generators
Not all content need come from you; much of it can come from your customers and/or site visitors. But if you want to encourage participation, you should consider a plan for rewarding contributors. At AMA Connect, for example, the site recognizes active members with a point system that can place the most ardent contributors on a site leaderboard.

© 2009 Jonathan Kranz
You may reproduce this article on your website or in your enewsletters as long as you include the following attribution with active links:

Article written by Jonathan Kranz of Kranz Communications, www.kranzcom.com, jonkranz@kranzcom.com.