The buzz around content is quite phenomenal. The latest escalation has every company becoming a publisher. Here are some examples:
- Conversational Media’s New Rule: All Brands Are Publishers (Article)
- Looking Ahead of the Curve (Video)
Although I see value in content marketing, I think it is being positioned by those that benefit from the growth in a way that is difficult for many small and mid-sized professional services firms to leverage. In fact, I don’t think most small and mid-sized B2B companies can become even adequate content creators quickly and easily. Also, I don’t believe that as individuals we can consume and act upon an avalanche of content if every company we come in contact with views themselves as a publisher.
Fit Content into Your Business Development
Content marketing needs to be aligned with your company’s business development strategies, objectives, and process. Creating a bunch of content in hopes that it will be so compelling people will beat a path to you and then be so anxious to work with you seems irrational and frankly unachievable for most firms.
What most prospective clients want in order to do business with you are insights and information for them to overcome their challenges. And, they need access to knowledgeable people they can rely on. Put another way, the best way to engage your prospects is to earn their awareness, respect, and trust. I don’t think you accomplish any of these by just cranking out content.
Call me old fashioned, but I still believe the best way to grow your business is with a proactive approach to engaging with your target prospects. Inbound marketing driven by the creation of mounds of content is a passive approach to business development. You create content, you promote it to the world, and you hope it correlates into meaningful conversations with prospects. How about you create content that aligns with and supports your business development process? This way you are sure your target prospects are seeing and consuming the content and you are leveraging it in a proactive manner.
Use Content to Validate
I call this Validation Marketing. Validation marketing is having just enough, good content for each stage of your business development process. Validation marketing helps you cross the three important thresholds within a sales process that you go through with virtually every prospect:
- The first threshold is the initial contact. When you contact a prospect for the first time, you need just enough content on your site, on social media channels, and places like LinkedIn, so when they receive your communication they can determine whether they want to engage with you.
- The second threshold is when the prospect decides you might be able to help with their challenge(s) and engages in a more detailed conversation. At this threshold you have to align content with the dialogue and process you are going through with the prospect. A lack of content at this stage will likely put you in a position of quoting and hoping for business from the prospect.
- The third threshold is when you get to contracting. Don’t take this critical point for granted with regards to content. Given the current environment, a prospect may be primed to do business with you, but you should be leveraging some very specific and targeted content at this point to ensure the sale happens.
My suggestion is to approach content marketing from the perspective of validation marketing. Do what you need to support a proactive business development strategy and leave the volume publishing to media companies.
About Ryan Frederick: Our Guest Blogger
As VP of Marketing & Sales, Ryan oversees marketing, business development and client service for AWH, a mid-sized technology and development company. AWH offers a range of technology consulting and application development for companies large and small. Connect with Ryan via LinkedIn.