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Content Marketing - the Informational Equivalent to a Starbucks Cup of Coffee
How does content marketing provide memorable experiences for customers and prospects? Is it possible that today's prospect not only anticipates an experience, but expects it as well?
You may be thinking that your particular brand or service does not carry with it the expectation of a compelling experience-but can you be sure? Would a well executed influence strategy that includes content marketing have a significant effect on your bottom line? Some very influential business leaders think so.
Webster defines experience as the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation. The "affected by" is the key phrase here since the goal of all marketing is to have such a positive affect on a potential buyer that they are genuinely persuaded to purchase from you rather than someone else. It stands to reason then that if your content marketing efforts provide knowledge that has a direct (and positive) affect on a prospect-you have delivered a memorable experience.
Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz understood this when he founded his company over a decade ago. In his book, Pour Your Heart Into It, he stated"I would say strongly, the success of Starbucks demonstrates the fact we have built an emotional connection with our customers. I think we have a competitive advantage over classic brands in that every day we get to touch and interact with our customers directly."
Schultz knows that direct interaction is more than a physical state. Directly interacting with prospects or customers creates an emotional connection that gives you a competitive advantage. Content marketing is communication at its best. You do not need to have a coffee shop to have direct interaction with buyers-you need only to have coffee shop values; community, trust, inclusion, quality and relevance. Providing honest, relevant and valuable content to your buyers without a heavy sales slant is the informational equivalent of a Starbucks.
I frequent the Starbucks in my neighborhood for business meetings and can say that I do not always buy something (especially if I've been there several times the same day) but I always feel comfortable there. They never look at me from the corner of their eye because I didn't make a purchase-they are perfectly comfortable letting me decide.
Putting it in the buyers hands
Some business leaders are nervous about relinquishing decision making to the buyer. Traditional business models tightly controlled the sales process for the buyer-exerting enormous energy to move them into the next phase. Today's successful business models offer relational links that allow buyers to move at their own pace. Brian Ellefritz, manager of integrated marketing communications for Cisco, a California-based supplier of networking hardware and software that posted over $8.9 billion in sales for the first quarter of 2007 recently said "We no longer tightly control all the different stages of the [lead generation] process. We offer up content, we offer up relationship building tactics and then we sort of trust the customer and the prospect to move through the process a little bit more under their own control-which they're more inclined to do these days."
Clearly Ellefritz understands the importance of experienced-based marketing through content distribution. He also understands that it is more effective to give prospects and customers a reason to lean toward a purchase rather than being pushed toward one. He is wisely content with letting them choose. Today's consumer couldn't agree more.
Closer than you think
No matter the size of your company, you likely have more to offer than you know, even if you need only the help to mine it out and form it into something tangible. Whether a small retail shop or a mature supplier of Super Widgets, you can provide the informational equivalent of a Starbucks to prospects and customers through content marketing.
Allowing a prospect to get acquainted with your company, enjoy some atmosphere (i.e. content) provided with no strings attached, and allowing them to move at their own pace will give you the competitive advantage and brew up new business faster than you can say "double latte, tall, hold the whip cream."
An Industry Expert
At various stages in your career and business life, you may feel the value in positioning yourself as an expert in your particular field. One way to do that is to write about your subject matter and have it published. There are a number of websites and online forums that are constantly seeking new and quality content and, once you get started, the momentum does seem to build quite quickly. I would recommend using one article to start with (as your base content) and send it to various websites for publishing. If writing is not your strength, hire a copywriter to do this for you. Try to build a long-term relationship with the person, so that they get to know you and your style and write better as your 'shadow author'.
Through writing articles I have been able to position my business and myself in such a way that it has opened up new and different opportunities. If you are going to use this strategy, my recommendation is that you will tell as many people as possible.
Michael Orr is CEO of ContentMarketingGroup in Spokane, Washington. CMG helps business leaders increase sales by helping them create, manage and distribute custom content to prospects and customers. They work effectively with start-ups to mature businesses. Michael can be reached at email@example.com or at 509-922-0999.
Article Copyright © 2008 Michael Orr;All Rights Reserved
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