Content delivered at the right time will trump any other marketing

sarah mitchellIn this guest post Sarah Mitchell argues content marketing can drive results for brands longer than any other form of marketing.

Debate rages about content marketing but nearly everyone is missing the key point.

While we argue about definitions, effectiveness, and whether content marketing is a trend, one thing remains true. A content marketing strategy based on business objectives produces long-term assets.

Those assets continue to drive profitable outcomes to the business longer than any other form of marketing, advertising, or PR.

The first time I used content marketing as a strategy was in 1996 when I was selling big-ticket mainframe software in Johannesburg. The lifting of apartheid sanctions saw international companies swarm into the previously untapped commercial market of South Africa. I had a multi-million dollar quota and a compensation package largely comprised of commission on face-to-face sales.

I had a lot of confidence about the products I sold due to years of experience using them as a software developer. But I was dealing with zero brand recognition, strong competition, and no useful marketing collateral to back up anything I was saying. I would spend evenings writing content like case studies, newspaper articles and fact sheets. Every piece I developed had the singular goal of helping me close business.

And it worked. I made my quota and so did everyone else on my team.

Why? Because no one makes a decision to spend millions of dollars unless they’re confident it’s good for their business. Content delivered into the right hands at the right time of the sales cycle will trump any advert or marketing brochure.

Executives and budget holders want help making decisions and content is perfectly suited for the task.

Here’s the beauty of content marketing. The next year we crushed our quotas using the same content produced the previous year. The case studies, especially, became instrumental in our sales strategy. We distributed photocopied clippings of opinion pieces published in magazines and newspapers, much like everyone now shares blog posts.

Since then, I’ve used strategic content marketing to grow numerous other businesses, often with no other spend on marketing or advertising. Regardless of the industry and the offering, content marketing works as long as it’s tied to key business objectives. Faulty measurements like engagement, advert impressions and the size of social media communities are not strategic. Even website traffic is worthless if nothing ever converts or moves your customer further along a path of action.

And here’s another thing; one piece of content or a single campaign does not produce a business asset. Content marketing is a slow-burn method of marketing. If you don’t already have an audience, you have to allow time to build one. You also have to create a body of work relevant to that audience. It’s not always the most fun or creative content your audience needs. It’s incredibly hard to create content assets without regular collaboration from company stakeholders. Most everyone saying it doesn’t work simply hasn’t given it enough time or produced content focused on achieving a business goal.

I don’t care if you call it ‘stuff’, mark it as a temporary trend or whine it’s too hard and doesn’t work. Content marketing is hard. The fact remains a documented content marketing strategy focused on business objectives produces long-term business assets. When your clients wake up and realise their marketing spend can move from a business expense to an investment in a long-term asset, you’d better be ready.

If you don’t already know how to implement a strategic content marketing initiative, you’re already in trouble.

  • Sarah Mitchell is the director of content strategy at Lush Digital Media and a co-host of the Brand Newsroom podcast. She tweets at @globalcopywrite.

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