There is a coup in marketing today. It’s been slowly building for the better part of a decade, a new wave of marketing and brand-to-customer communication that doesn’t lean on excessive advertising budgets, untraceable Nielsen ratings or the unethical exploitation of customer data.
With each passing year, these and other factors continue to erode consumers’ trust in businesses. Inauthentic ad campaigns, security breaches and PR snafus from some of the most influential companies in the world largely spoil it for the rest, and the burden falls on marketing and PR departments to earn back customers’ trust.
More and more brands are realizing that the best strategy to address such challenges is to remove themselves from the conversation entirely, and to focus almost exclusively on solving their customers’ problems. When content is useful to the customer, it’s by definition useful to the brand. The opposite is not always true.
Meeting customers where they are—rather than where a brand wants them to be—without focusing on the usual desired marketing outcomes of generating leads and driving sales inevitably does both. Customers aren’t stupid; they realize when they’re being shamelessly marketed to and when a brand is actually trying to help them without requesting something back. And they vastly prefer the latter.
It’s why the content marketing industry is growing at about 16 percent annually, and will be worth more than $400 billion by 2021. It’s quickly graduating from an effective means of communicating with customers to a necessary one. The vast majority of customers in both B2B and B2C industries expect brands to create content, which they consume in large amounts before making a purchasing decision. Market research firm Forrester found that people engage with 11.4 pieces of content before a purchase.
People also place greater trust in brands that create content designed to educate rather than to sell. The 2018 Content Preferences Survey found that 88 percent of B2B purchasers prefer content that is focused more on education than on product specifics.
It’s also crucial to understand that more content does not necessarily mean a better content strategy. The amount of stuff already on the internet can be very overwhelming for customers looking to make a purchase. The real value of content comes in its ability to be repurposed. An op-ed for an industry publication turns into a blog series for the website. A webinar turns into a white paper. A video from an executive turns into a podcast. The best content strategies can be repurposed across channels, optimizing the resources required to create them, minimizing the time required of subject matter experts and creating an echochamber of useful information that can accompany a customer along each stage of the buyer’s journey and each layer of the sales funnel.