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Get Started with Content Marketing

If you believe today's marketing pundits, the only way business-to-business service companies can attract new prospects is with content marketing. For a Microsoft partner, content marketing means the creation and delivery of information that educates a prospect on some aspect of the services that the partner delivers. Most partners have plenty of internal knowledge that would make valuable, compelling content -- the challenge is finding the time to create and deliver. 

Why Content Marketing Is Important
Changing buyer behavior is the primary cause for the shift to content marketing. Everyone, including technology and business solution buyers, starts their purchase decisions with an Internet search for information. The ultimate goal of content marketing is for you to supply the information that your prospects are searching for online in a way that positions you as an expert.

Content Marketing for Microsoft Partners
While the term "content marketing" may be new, packaging information to attract prospects is definitely not new to Microsoft partner marketers. Being in the business of information technology has always required the partner marketer to educate prospects about the benefits of adopting technology. Educational seminars, white papers and case studies have always been our core offers. 

Also not new is the huge challenge for partners to find the time to build compelling content. Fortune 500 companies can afford to hire a herd of technical writers to produce mountains of material, but partners have to take consultants off billable work to write competently about the subjects that interest our prospects.

Start with a Plan and Stick with It
As most partners will agree, their Achilles heel in marketing is having a plan to stick to. Seminars are scheduled and e-mails sent as a result of panic when the pipeline is dangerously low. Content marketing is not suited to the one-hit-wonder marketing approach, which makes it a challenging strategy for most partners.

Since content development should be a shared activity, the content marketing plan will give everyone involved a clear understanding of who you are addressing and what message you want to deliver. Include in the plan:

  • Prospect Target Definition: Who are you writing/speaking to? This takes into account the industry, demographics and the problems and risks that motivate your audience's decisions.
  • Desired Outcomes: What action are you trying to motivate? Remember, with content marketing you are trying to educate, but you should educate with your end game in mind.
  • Content Form: How do your prospects like to receive their information? IT folks prefer blogs and white papers, CEOs like case studies. Do a little research on your target.
  • Calendar: If you don't have deadlines, it will not get done.
  • Accountability: If you don't have accountability, it will not get done.

With a minimal amount of planning and lots of accountability, even a small organization can share the load to produce valuable content that will help prospects view your organization as an expert.

No Silver Bullet
While every purchasing decision may start with a search on the internet, in our service-based businesses most final purchasing decisions are made based on relationships. Content marketing should be a part of your marketing strategy, but it is no replacement for person-to-person relationship building. Use content marketing as a tool to attract new prospects, but don't use it as an excuse to avoid personal connections.

Is your organization taking a creative approach to building content? Please tell me about it so we can share the knowledge.

This is the first installment in a new series on content marketing. In the coming weeks, we'll dig deeper into finding and creating content that you can put to work attracting the right prospects to build your business.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 14, 2011 at 11:57 AM