By Michele Linn published November 9, 2010

How to Explain the Value of Content Marketing

Our recent B2B Content Marketing research compared the practices of self-described effective content marketers with those who are less effective.

One of the most striking differences between these groups is the level of executive buy-in. Fewer than 10% of effective marketers who use content marketing have an issue with executive buy-in, but almost a quarter of less effective marketers cite this as a challenge.

So what can a marketer do to educate and justify to their executive team the value of content marketing? In our new series of posts, our CMI contributors will provide you with insights and examples to help you make the case for content marketing in your organization.

First up, they answer the question, “Content marketing can be a new way of thinking for some marketing teams. How would you explain the value of content marketing to a manager or executive who is primarily familiar with traditional advertising approaches?”


Content marketing is thinking about the target audience’s needs first. Even hide-bound execs must instinctively feel this is a good thing. But the real proof, of course, is in the pudding. Show them the data from a content marketing campaign versus a typical product-driven campaign. Then stand back.

- Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)


More than anything, marketers want to engage with customers. One of the disadvantages of traditional advertising was the one-way aspect of the conversation: sales was one of your only measurements to see if engagement was really happening.  With content marketing, you can have a two-way conversation with your customers and use varied tools to measure engagement. Watching your customers interact with your brand makes social media and content marketing fun and exciting.  And, if you see that you’re not getting the results you want, you can quickly change track without a major investment of printing, ad space and production costs.

- Ahava Leibtag (@ahaval)


The value of content marketing lies in the engagement between the customer and your company. Traditional advertising shouts at prospect customers whereas content marketing talks with them. Essentially, it is about the creation and participation in meaningful conversations and development of relationships. Content marketing can benefit your company by increasing sales leads and positioning your company/brand as a thought leader, in addition to increasing the number of visitors to your website.

- Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaksymiw)


Traditional marketing is to gas-guzzling vehicles as content marketing is to retro-fitted, french-fry-grease powered vehicles. At first glance the latter seems fringe and unworkable despite the former’s agreed need to drastically evolve to survive. Like the latter, content marketing entails individual customization, one-to-one conversation, and many-to-one collaboration to work successfully.

(Unlike grease-powered vehicles, the only “stink” comes when you haven’t listened intently enough to understand your audience in the first place, ha!)

- Katie McCaskey (@KatieMcCaskey)


When you’re talking to any level of management about a content marketing strategy, you have to focus on the benefit of word of mouth referrals. Managers, especially C-level decision makers, usually aren’t interested in theories or philosophies. Everyone loves customer testimonials and success stories and knows exactly how powerful they can be. Pitch content marketing as the vehicle for maximizing word of mouth referrals.

The other important point to make is content marketing puts the organization in complete control of their message, especially when using social media. Most managers are attracted to the idea of autonomy.

Sarah Mitchell (@globalcopywrite)


Marketing executives are like most people – they like to learn by examples. Having them engage in the following test will help.

  1. Gather all your marketing content, print and electronic (make printouts) and place them on a conference table.  Include brochures, newsletters, blog posts, reseller information, etc.
  2. Get your marketing executives in a room.
  3. Ask them, “Is our content more about our customers’ pain points or more about us and how great our products or services are?”
  4. Ask them, “Will people share and spread this information in social media?  Will they talk to their colleagues about it?  Will they search for it? Will they become so engaged in it that they will friend or follow you?”

There is nothing wrong with traditional marketing approaches.  In many cases, they still work.  But as each day goes by, traditional marketing is less effective.  It’s harder to buy eyeballs and interest. Today, our “advertising” must be so interesting that people don’t consider it advertising.  That’s where the magic can happen.

- Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe)


Through the use of content marketing, an organization can set themselves apart from their competitors, developing trust and credibility with their online communities. It enables the company to deliver relevant content and build intimate relationships with customers before they even contact them, and long after they buy. Now that’s value!

It’s often helpful when just dipping your toes into this field to try to “think like a publisher” and recognize that if you’ve got a website, blog or even social media accounts where you are pushing out messaging then you already are one.

- Elise Redlin-Cook (@redlincook)


Traditional advertising is the pudding and content marketing is the proof in that pudding.

In other words, we use traditional advertising to make people aware of our brand and, in many ways, to demonstrate the heart of our brand.  It’s the content marketing that can bring living proof of our brand to our customers in the form of video demonstrations and interviews, educational webinars, case studies, white papers, blog insights and advice, and so much more.

This proof is what will keep them coming back to our website and encourage their loyalty to our brand.

- Lisa Petrilli (@LisaPetrilli)


Content Marketing has significant value in a few different ways.  For one, the content you create and distribute on the web has a much longer shelf life at a lower cost then any traditional campaigns you will run.  Each object of content you create can add the the total poll of content that represents your brand and works to get your customers talking back to you.  Over time when your collection of content grows larger, you will notice increases in online traffic and engagement.  A bigger collection attracts more interest.

- Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)


Traditional advertising relies on the push – or outbound – mentality to get messages in front of a target audience. But today’s B2B buyers are tired of being interrupted with one-size-fits-all messages. Fortunately for them, the Internet empowers buyers to search for and consume information that is valuable and relevant, enabling them to ignore the meaningless messages bombarding them at every turn. By embracing the tenets of content marketing, companies can deliver the type of information that prospects are seeking – aligned with their interests, role, industry and place in the buying cycle – and pull buyers to their sites.

- Stephanie Tilton (@stephanietilton)


For people who truly remain stuck in the traditional marketing mentality, I’d use traditional arguments to justify taking a leap on content marketing:  cost, reach, better targeting. First, content marketing can be done at much lower cost and with much lower risk on a campaign-by-campaign basis.  Second, your “circulation” is as wide as the Internet and not limited to the circulation of traditional media so your advertising dollar goes far further (keep in mind you may need to actually explain how social networks really ‘work’ for this argument to gain real traction!  No, I’m not kidding.).  And third, content marketing is a pull, not a push strategy – meaning that the exponentially greater numbers of people receiving your low-cost, low-risk, high-impact message are predisposed positively toward it in a way you’ll never get with traditional advertising.

- Jennifer Watson (@ContextComm)


Have you noticed how many of the traditional advertising methods you’ve relied on for connecting with customers aren’t as effective as they used to be? I have and that’s why I consider content marketing critical.

Content marketing works beautifully with established traditional marketing tools. Even better, though, is that it adds relevance, meaning and dimension to traditional approaches so you engage with potential customers. Content marketing helps your overall marketing work harder for you.

More specifically, content marketing allows you to tell potential customers what you are about; it pre-qualifies customers. Imagine sharing in customer-relevant terms the story behind how you help customers. Imagine building trust and meaningful relationships with them before asking for the sale, before they realize they need you. The result is a richer, deeper and more satisfying business relationship.

Isn’t that worth bringing into your organization?

This post– Digital Visibility: The Reason Behind Content Marketing — adds perspective to this question.

- CB Whittemore (@cbwhittemore)


Content marketing is about timeliness, connection, response and results. It allows businesses to connect with and grow their audience by providing compelling, helpful and purposeful information that their audience is looking for. Content creation and marketing offers a more personal approach to business, and helps build trust, which ultimately creates longer and more meaningful consumer/brand relationships. Brands can also promote their expertise in an industry and become a valuable resource to people that consumers look to for guidance, advice and trusted information on a topic. Unlike traditional advertising that is largely one-sided and disruptive, content marketing creates conversation and empowers both sides with a voice.

- Debbie Williams (@sproutcontent)

Summary

The takeaway? There are a lot of ways to explain the difference between traditional and content marketing, so think about what your management team cares about the most. Compared to traditional marketing, content marketing:

  • Is about the customer, not you
  • Pulls customers in with relevant content instead of one-size fits all blasts
  • Is two-way conversation instead of a monologue (you’re talking to your customers instead of shouting at them)
  • Is more dynamic and easier to change
  • Costs less
  • Reaches wider
  • Involves less risk
  • Has a much longer shelf-life
  • Provides the proof that marketing is working and is easier to measure
  • Maximizes one of your most important assets: word of mouth referrals
  • Happens before and after a sale

And, to take it a step further, here are some of the suggestions on how to show the value of content marketing (stay tuned to the series – more suggestions are coming soon!):

  • Show them data from a successful content marketing campaign.
  • Provide word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Recognize that you are already doing a number of content-marketing-related activities such as your website, blog or social media accounts.

I’d love to get your thoughts. How would you explain the value of content marketing to someone who is new to this concept?  Let us know in the comments!

If you are interested in learning how to educate and justify the importance of content marketing, stay tuned to our posts on Tuesdays. Even better, sign up so to get all of our content marketing how-to articles.

Other posts in this series:


Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • Anonymous

    Only 5 months ago I sold more of a focus on Content Marketing to our Execs. I used all that was mentioned here to peak their interest: lower cost all around (cost of content, cost per lead, etc.), better targeting, more leads to nurture, better tracking and data from campaigns, etc.

    That pushed the door open just long enough for me to convince them to let me publish an Ebook. They had everything to gain from this and nothing to lose.

    Like Nate said – the shelf life on content is, well forever. So I took a snapshot of leads and customers from just 2 weeks and did what Doug said…I just stood back. And it blew them away.

    We’re now merging our traditional and content methods to take a step further and try and add some value to that normally interruptive outbound only approach.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      David – What a great story. As Joe and CB mention, content marketing works well with traditional marketing. I would love to hear how your story progresses!

      • Anonymous

        Michele, I second your comment.

        David, how fantastic! I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

        Best,
        CB

  • http://twitter.com/KatieMcCaskey Katie McCaskey

    Thanks for all the insights. I second Nate Riggs’ comment “A bigger [content] collection attracts more interest.”…Depth does make a difference.

  • http://blog.dcustom.com/ D Custom

    We feel like content marketing humanizes marketing. Humanizing marketing can be quite the culture shock for both consumer and marketer when they’re first introduced to it, so it can take some getting used to for everyone involved. But ultimately its both a refreshing and a rewarding marketing approach.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      The power of storytelling – and making that human connection – is certainly a hallmark of great content marketing. In fact, when we asked our contributors what makes content engaging, this was a key factor. Great addition to this list.

  • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the shout out in your recent article – great summary. And, you’re absolutely right – content marketing is great for SEO. I love your idea about continually updating content – so important!

    Michele

  • http://goresult.in/ Prachi Sharma

    Nice summary, reviewing some of the challenges of content marketing. In the early days of the web, we focused on creating content to appeal to the search engines–top listings were the measure of success. In the next wave, we focused on creating content that motivates the sale or lead generation, and improves conversion rates in a more scientific way. Now we’re finding that what wins the war of words on the web is conversational content, content that connects with readers and prospect customers, content that solves problems, content that engages readers and keeps the coming back for more. It’s an art and science Brian, and you’re clearly in tune!

    http://goresult.in/

  • Steve Squier

    Here’s a tip, especially for local businesses – it’s called day parting. As in, you schedule your ads only to appear during business hours of the day. If you follow customer trends in clicks and conversions by the hour of the day, you’ll notice the peak hours. You can bully out your competitors on bids by focusing on certain times of the day. Make sure you are constantly optimizing based on these trends. You don’t want to miss your customers, but if you’re on a tighter budget, just wait for ‘the right moment’ of the day and bust out the cannons to hit your prospects when they want you most. I have it all managed for me, so no sweat. Simon can set you up to get managed if you’re interested, just call him at 325-446-1507 .