When it comes to promoting your company is content marketing the only trick in town? There is so much excitement about content, about ‘inbound’, about social media: does that mean that there is no other way to get your message out? Do we really all have to become avid bloggers, publishers and tweeters if our businesses are going to thrive?
This is the question that had my mind racing in the early hours this morning. It follows a heated panel debate at the Professional Copywriters’ Network conference on Friday that really got me thinking. It woke me up at 5am. It’s evidently a question that deserves serious consideration. We spent months writing a book on content marketing. Hell, we’re peddling this stuff! Are we over-hyping its importance?
Here are a few sleep-deprived thoughts on the subject.
Q: Is content marketing the only way to win business?
- Companies can win business without content. And they do.
- Blogging is not the law. You don’t have to do it. You have choice.
- Some people don’t mind being cold called, or receiving unsolicited emails.
- Referrals will always be a great way to win more business – you can win business purely on the strength of your record and personality.
All true, but when it comes to winning business it’s a tough old world out there. When we speak to our clients and friends we don’t hear stories of people getting significant success from cold calling, or amazing ROI from advertising. It seems that even long trusted networks can’t be relied on to deliver the leads a growing business needs these days.
Whether you are a lone copywriter or a large corporate consultancy the web plays an increasingly important part in a potential buyer’s path to a sale. And the web IS content – whether that’s the information on your website, the snippets you share via social media or articles you post on other sites. Only a very lucky few can afford to ignore the importance of content when it comes to winning business these days.
Q: Does content marketing mean the end of proactive selling?
Content marketing doesn’t replace ‘old school’ sales methods – it adds weight to them.
Your content exists to help you open doors, start conversations and build trust. Sharing valuable content across the web will help you draw in leads, but it goes wider than that. Useful content gives you/your sales team a reason to pick up the phone and speak to a potential client and is the perfect sales follow up. It makes you easier to refer. It makes a conference stand more engaging than a stand full of brochures.
Q: Is content marketing new?
Canny marketers have always shared useful, entertaining, or thought provoking information to encourage people to buy or buy more. Think Lego magazines, Michelin guides, consultancy whitepapers.
This approach isn’t new. It’s just that it has never been easier. The Internet has given us an array of new tools to play with – content managed websites, blogs, YouTube, SlideShare, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Storify – I could go on and on.
Content marketing as it has become known is now more widely accessible and cost effective than ever before.
Q: Does the world need any more content?
A: Yes, if it’s valuable.
Low quality, cynically produced, SEO fodder – we don’t need any more of that. We’re as dubious as the next woman about the outbreak of content farms selling very cheap, poor quality stuff. But if you’re creating something of absolute relevance, or something useful or entertaining then we urge you to keep on keeping on. There’s a clear business reason to produce it and share it. Content that genuinely answers people’s questions, or content that makes you smile, laugh, think – there’s a huge demand for that which we can’t see drying up any time soon.
Q: Is there too much hype about content marketing?
A: Yes, and no.
‘Content Marketing’ is everywhere. Your Twitter streams and LinkedIn feeds are probably clogged with tips and guides on the subject. It’s being heralded as the answer to all our marketing woes. It’s no wonder some are sick to death of it already (we’re getting pretty bored of the term ourselves!). The backlash has started.
Those of us who believe in the power of great content have to talk about it responsibly – just by chucking up a blog and sending out a few tweets you’re not going to suddenly get all the leads you’ve ever dreamed of. It has to be part of a wider system. Success takes time. It takes careful thought and planning, It takes persistence, creativity, great writing, strong leadership, great people – all of these things.
But if content marketing is done well, if it’s truly valuable, then it’s not hype. It makes perfect business sense. And we should shout from the rooftops about it.
It’s not the law
Valuable content is a brilliantly versatile tool in your marketing and business development tool kit. Yes, you can exist without it, but why make your life harder? Your content strategy is a way of getting you from A to B. It is possible to make a cup of tea without boiling a kettle, but why would you want to?
Business development has never been easy. We say use all the brilliant tools you have available to you today to prove your value and help you sell.
But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
I’d really, really welcome your thoughts. It’s important. Off to get some sleep!
Other content you might like:
- Read this post from panelist and copywriter Andy Maslen – Where old skool meets new skool – how to integrate content marketing into your sales machine
- Is outbound selling dead in the age of inbound marketing?
- Bored with content marketing?