Wednesday, January 30, 2008

content: the next killer app

It's difficult to remember how we did research before internet ubiquity. I vaguely recall spending hours at my friendly neighborhood library digging through something called a card catalogue and pouring over microfiche in search of relevant newspaper or magazing articles. [Any youngins reading this post probably think I'm speaking crazy talk at this point.]

These days research on any topic is merely a click or two away. And with the growing database of user generated content at our fingertips--from written to audio and video--the availability of information from experts and everyday folks continues to grow exponentially. This "content" phenonenon is great for marketers who know how to use it to their advantage.

In my last post I wrote that content is king. I kind of took it for granted that everyone knows what I mean by that. In case I was wrong I'm here to clear up any confusion. Content in this context is essentially information; it is the plethora of articles on any topic under the sun--from how to choose the right environmentally friendly automobile for a family of 22 to which hair growth tonic works the best for middle-aged house cats.

Unfortunately, many marketers mistake marketing materials such as collateral, white papers, case studies, and the like for content. I suppose it is, in a way. But the type of content that packs the most powerful punch are articles, Webcasts, podcasts, and other content that provide information on a subject without any sales or product pitch.

Stop freaking out my marketing minions, this is a GOOD thing. For there will be a perfect time to share those marvelously motivating marketing messages. Once you have helped your audience become knowledgeable--experts even--on your topic du jour as it relates to your product or service, he or she will be ready to be spoon fed your tasty messages.

Perhaps this concept is more easily demonstrated than simply described. I once worked for a software company that provided business intelligence and analytic solutions to large corporations and the government. We weren't the biggest, most recognized name in the business so the challenge we faced was reaching potential customers before our big name competitors did. The question we faced was esentially: how do we find folks when first they discover their problem? Answer: you reach them when they're in the research phase.

So we developed a content Website; one that looked like a magazine and provided articles and other content developed by knowledgeable and reputable sources. Few if any of the articles contained language about our products or company. All related to the business challenges our customers faced that would require them to need the solution we provided.

So my point is this: stop spinning your wheels marketing to minds not ready to hear your message. Instead, use your energy to create content that helps your customer better understand his or her problem. Not only will you reach them when they're ready, but you'll position your company as experts in the field, filling the role as a trusted advisor willing to help to help them solve their challenges.

For those curious about the Website, you can find it here:

Another invaluable resource for this approach can be found at this terrific marketing site:

1 comment:

mbarlow said...

As long as it's timely, relevant and well-crafted, content will always be an essential component of any successful marketing strategy. That being said, the ability to deliver the content when and where it will have the most impact is also critical. What I've noticed is that some marketers place too much emphasis on the content development piece and not enough on the the delivery aspect, while other marketers err in the opposite direction.

Way back in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to work at two companies -- Oxford Health Plans and Peppers & Rogers Group -- where content and delivery were kept in balance long enough to achieve some truly remarkable results.