Special Guest Post: Why Content Marketing ISN’T A Case Of The Emperor’s New Clothes

The term ‘content marketing’ is a relatively new one, but one that is rapidly gaining traction in B2B marketing. The term itself is a bit of an odd one, and you could be forgiven for being quite cynical about its relevance and pertinence.

Why? Well, because from print ads to SEO, all marketing inherently involves words and pictures – in other words, content – and always has.

What is marketing without content? Probably nothing. So is there anything really new here? Is the whole area just a case of the Emperor’s new clothes?

Learn more about developing your own content strategy in our recent whitepaper, or attend B2Bmarketing.net’s summit event

Unusually for a journalist I’m not going to side with the cynics on this. Of course, content marketing does include many tools and techniques that have been around before, sometimes long before, but it re-contextualises them for a new environment.

Sometimes this involves finding almost completely new uses for them, turning them from ‘nice-to-haves’ into activities that deliver enormous value to the business – and clout to marketing.

Previously tools or techniques like email marketing, whitepapers, videos, blogs etc. typically sat as relatively isolated activities, without being centred around a specific lead orientated activity. Often the objective for content-related activity was simply unspecific ‘branding’ or ‘awareness’ which has value, but in a way that is hard to quantify.

So how has the role of content changed, and what opportunities does it present?

1. Enhanced online visibility
Very simply, most business purchases start with an online search, and good content makes your organisation visible on the search engine results pages. This is important not only at the need-identification stage, but also later on in the process, as other stakeholders become involved.

2. Automated ‘push’ marketing
When used in conjunction with marketing automation tools, content in different formats (including white papers, video, blogs, etc.) can be distributed to specific individuals by email, based on their position in the buying cycle, pushing them gently towards conversion.

3. Social engagement opportunities
Where content marketing ends and social media begins is a very contentions issue, but all forms of content become potential tools for social engagement via platforms such as LinkedIn, YouTube etc.

The implications for B2B marketers are two-fold:

1. Marketing becomes ‘always-on’
Before the digital revolution, marketing was typically focused on seasonal campaigns using traditional media (print, DM, events), with pronounced peaks and troughs of activity. With content marketing, a constant presence most be maintained, with a constant ‘drip-drip’ of activity out to prospects.

2. Brands must become content creators
Effective content marketing requires a coherent, structured content framework, and marketing must take responsibility for developing, managing, delivering and reviewing this.

Both of these implications are significant for marketers, and require them to re-evaluate their skills sets to ensure they are equipped to leverage the opportunities.

Traditional skills and techniques will retain their relevance, but business decision making is only going to become more and more reliant on the Internet, and consequently on content.

Ignoring this transition and hoping it will go away is simply not an option. If you’ve not done so already, I would urge B2B marketers to start thinking about content marketing now, and the steps you need to take leverage the benefits.
Our first B2B Marketing Summit, taking place at the Brewery, London, on June 14th is an excellent opportunity to do this.

There is a seminar stream dedicated to content marketing, as well as ones on social media, lead nurturing and data – delegates can switch between streams, choosing the sessions that are of most interest. For more info on the Summit, go to www.b2bmarketing.net/summit2012 and book early to receive an early bird booking discount.