A sentiment often expressed in content marketing literature is that it is not about “selling”, rather it is about provision of value.
It is my contention that at its heart, content marketing IS very much about selling. By emphasising content as value as opposed to content as sales, content marketers are implying that at worst sales = spam and at best it is a blunt tool which alienates more than it communicates.
That they should wish to do this is logical: on the Internet you have to engage your audience. Customers are no longer the passive recipients they once were when newspapers and television were the leading marketing mediums. On the Internet they are in control of the content they wish to see. Marketing is no longer about you; it is about meeting the needs of the consumer, offering solutions and helping them make purchasing decisions.
Value is one of those words with a very broad range of meanings. What constitutes value for one person is not necessarily the same for another person. The problem with this is that it offers to many choices and with a surfeit of choice can come confusion, especially deciding how to identify what is or is not useful, or to know what is working and practical.
Rather than talk about value and pretend that we are not selling, I suggest that we acknowledge that selling is core to any content marketing activity and that we use a term such as “customer acquisition”.
It is not only that customer acquisition has a specific meaning. It defines, it categorises, and it directs what we are attempting to achieve. Our job is to create content which engages and assists the consumer to make a decision about what they will or will not purchase. It is also our job to create content which will leave our business top of mind for that consumer so that when the time comes to make that purchase, it is to us they turn, not our competition.
Focus on customer acquisition also aids in developing a better understanding of what actions you want your customers to perform. This in turn gives you a better means of measuring whether or not you achieve your target. This will then facilitate the task of attaching dollar values to certain outcomes – a situation which opens up the possibility of attributing a ROI to your efforts.
It is a crowded space out there. Your competitors are not your only competition. You have to compete with your customers to convince them that what you are offering is indeed worthy of their attention.
This is a tough enough ask at the best of times. Maintaining a focus on your primary objective will not automatically lead to success. But if done well, it will help you identify what works, what does not work and allow you to report on your success in terms that management understand – ROI.