For businesses that want to differentiate and create a meaningful connection with buyers across the customer lifecycle, content is the answer.
This is especially true with business buyers. According to research from IDC, 56% of the buying cycle is searching for and engaging with content. And according to Forrester, 66% to 90% of the buying cycle is complete before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep.
How? Through information and media buyers find in their search to become educated about solutions.
By no means is the creation of useful and info-taining content a silver bullet on its own. Competition for time and attention is tough and marketers still need to attract that attention through advertising, social media, email, SEO and other amplification tactics. But all those promotion tactics are of little value without meaningful content to send interested buyers to.
Is your brand the best answer for buyers on all relevant channels – and devices?
Now, more than ever, businesses need to be aware that their customers have all new forms of information access and empowerment to publish, creating a different set of behaviors and expectations. Buyers expect to find answers and to engage with what they find – even to participate in content creation for mutual brand and buyer benefit.
Easy access to a variety of content types through an increasing number of devices helps customers seek out answers and that will help them buy.
It’s not difficult to imagine a customer listening to a podcast or watching a video that prompts a search on their mobile phone, then sending a link via email for access from their computer later. That same customer might be served relevant ads on other websites they visit, download educational content and start to receive a series of emails nurturing them to a demo or other pre-transaction engagement.
The question is, does your content marketing make your brand the best answer on all of the relevant channels – and devices? Is your content and distribution creating experiences that complement vs. conflict with each other? (web vs. mobile, organic vs. paid, earned vs. owned).
Evolving expectations means that while customers expect the brands they buy from to provide more information than features and benefits, companies like Chipotle, American Express, RedBull and even companies in the B2B space like LinkedIn, Concur and Dell (clients) are excelling at using content to attract, engage and inspire across the customer and brand relationship from awareness to transaction to retention and advocacy.
Investments in content mean little without developing networks, subscribers and a state of anticipation amongst their target audience. Companies that are successful with content for marketing also pay an equal amount of attention to developing channels of distribution.
As you plan your content dominance, think of content as a product and your target audience as customers paying with their time and attention. If you don’t deliver that information product, you don’t get paid.
The answer is to have a base of distribution channels like email, syndication, customized repurposing, earned, paid and owned media that works in tandem with amplification tactics like SEO, paid search, organic and paid social, retargeting, programmatic ads. But the most powerful channel of distribution and participation might just be the involvement of existing customers and community. Efforts by Coca-Cola and Yoplait are great examples.
Brands that can consistently create high value content that’s easy to find and engage with are able to capture customer mindshare and information loyalty. Becoming the “best answer” wherever customers are looking is one of the most powerful competitive advantages for awareness that a brand can achieve. And it is accomplished through targeted, useful and inspiring content AND channels of distribution to a network of participating subscribers that can’t wait to see what the brand is going to publish next.