Content Marketing is one of the hot topics that has become part of the language of inbound marketing. It’s essentially a process of using targeted, engaging content to drive your audience to take a specific action.
OK, that's all fine and well, but what does content marketing mean to the Modern MSP? Simply this: compelling content is the cornerstone of any effective marketing campaign, and this is especially true when you’re marketing IT services. So, before you invest any of your precious time, energy, resources, or budget into marketing campaigns, get your mind totally around your Content Marketing strategy.
The “WHY, HOW and WHAT” of Content Marketing
If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, I highly recommend it. It is the clearest and most compelling framework for establishing a value proposition I have found. If you want a brief introduction to the concept, check out this video of Sinek explaining his Start With Why concept. It’s an 18-minute video, but you can get the essence of his concept by viewing the segment from 2:00-5:50. I bring this up because his approach for articulating your value proposition is also a great way to formulate a content marketing strategy to establish thought leadership for your CSB business. The basic premise is that thought leaders don’t sell; they educate, inform and engage with prospective buyers. This is the essence of inbound marketing, which is a more powerful way to build awareness for your company and turn valuable prospects into satisfied, long-term buyers.
A Content Marketing Framework
Just follow Sinek’s simple three-question framework for building your own content marketing strategy. Your inbound marketing assets (website, blog, and social media channels), your outbound marketing programs (webinars, email campaigns, and telemarketing) and your sales enablement resources (presentations, tools, and training) will provide a cohesive and compelling sales and marketing framework for attracting customers, and for building your business. Here is a block diagram I use to illustrate how a well-defined content marketing strategy can provide the foundation and the framework for an integrated solutions marketing engine.
WHY does your audience care about your content?
Your content marketing strategy must address the end goals of your audience, so be sure to describe the amazing outcomes—the business benefits and customer experiences—that can be realized by consuming your content. In the IT services and cloud world, amazing outcomes are in the form of organizational efficiencies and cost savings that result from a better way to deploy, manage, and use technology. Customer experiences are the end-user and buyer benefits to be realized when your approach is followed, versus the alternatives. However, there is a subtle, but critically important distinction to keep in mind. Don’t slip into sales mode and use your marketing content as a veiled sales pitch. Compelling content is about thought leadership. Don’t pontificate about WHY your audience should do business with you. That’s just old-fashioned salesmanship, and this is not a venue for selling, it's about your vision. Remember, thought leaders don’t need to sell. They educate, inform and engage their audience. Do this and you will establish trust and demonstrate leadership. If you are objective, authoritative, and focused on the needs of the customer, buyers will find you, the sales process will have less friction, and your sales team will experience a higher success rate.
"thought leaders don’t need to sell. They educate, inform and engage their audience."
HOW do you create amazing outcomes and experiences?
At the core of your content marketing strategy is HOW these amazing business outcomes and customer experiences are created. This dimension of your content must have real substance. This is your intellectual property, so to speak. How you create amazing outcomes is a result of your best practices and methodologies. It shows that you have thought about, developed, refined, and ultimately perfected the best way to achieve the results your customers value the most. As a thought leader, your role is to share the wealth of those experiences with prospective buyers by educating, informing, and engaging with them. The HOW dimension of your content marketing strategy must “pay off” the expectations set by the WHY dimension. You have successfully raised their curiosity by describing amazing outcomes; now you must satisfy that curiosity with an explanation of how those outcomes will be created. I am not saying give away the store. After all, your intellectual property is how you make money. But you must provide enough value to demonstrate your expertise and repay the reader for the time they invested to read your blog post, or for the email address they provided to request your white paper or attend your webinar.
WHAT are key products, services, or technologies that enable amazing outcomes?
Hand in hand with HOW you create amazing outcomes is explaining WHAT tools you will use to make them happen. As a thought leader, you are describing the role products and services play in creating business outcomes and customer experiences. You are educating your audience about the importance of key product features to various deployment scenarios. You are demystifying complex emerging technologies that profoundly impact their industry segment, whether it’s healthcare, financial services, education, or another sector. You are explaining and justifying the strategy that went into building out your product portfolio. You are an educator because the need for selling products and services has been replaced by an enormous level of trust and credibility established by sharing your vision (WHY) and your expertise (HOW). You are believable because you are a thought leader.
Now it's your turn...
At this point, you should be able to create your own content marketing agenda using the WHY, HOW and WHAT formula. Give it a try and see if you can create your own content marketing calendar for future blog posts, webinars, email campaigns, and sale enablement resources. Your success as a marketer is directly related to your ability to offer valuable content to your audience. Invest the time in making your content marketing strategy as strong and compelling as it can be. It will pay dividends in the form of quality leads, opportunities and customers for your business.