It's the future of lead generation and sales. It's the solution to all your funnel woes. It's content marketing and if the marketing automation companies are to be believed, it just might cure cancer. That's all well and good, but it's important to remember that doing content marketing right is hard, hard work.
Over the last year, content marketing has become the second-hottest buzzword in B2B marketing (supplanting 'social' but still behind 'mobile'). The logic is sound: buyers no longer rely on vendor brochures for initial research. They do their own information gathering on the Internet, so it behooves vendors to provide useful materials that educate prospects. Content that makes them amenable to the vendor's products and services, that creates a positive impression in the minds of prospects and that allows vendors to capture enough information to get interested parties into the sales funnel.
Here's where the hard work comes in:
- Creating 'useful materials' means generating good educational content. Good as in informative. Educational as in not salesy. SAP's VP of Marketing and Content Strategy puts it well: "Stop acting like a vendor for starters. The biggest challenge for content marketers in any size organization is convincing everyone else that to become a trusted source of content you have to act like a trusted source of content." It's a major shift in mindset for a traditional marketer to produce a major piece of content that isn't a paean to her or his employer.
- 'Useful Materials' means creating more than one material. It takes a lot of content to do content marketing well. A whole lot. Yes, larger pieces can and should be subdivided and repurposed, but one white paper doesn't make you a trusted source. Take Hubspot, for example. Their website includes 157 White Papers and Ebooks available for download. White Papers and Ebooks is just one of 12 sections within Resources. These articles and posts and guides don't write themselves. They don't get created on top of other work. Successful content marketing organizations dedicate significant resources to creating, promoting and measuring the success of their content.
Using content to court customers isn't new. B2B vendors have been writing white papers since time immemorial. But the ease of distribution and marketing workflow automation are leading to new focus on content marketing's potential. That's rightly so, but doing it without putting enough focus or resources behind the content part of the equation is the reason things like this slideshare are so on the money: