Why is content more important than ever to marketing success?

That’s the question that three marketing experts — Joel Granoff, founder of BeGreeted, Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta 42, and Brian Massey, a "conversion scientist" who produces the Customer Chaos blog — set out to address in a recent webinar.

The group rolled out data showing that 100 billion spam emails and 700 million direct mail pieces — two per person — are being sent out every day in America. Given this blinding array of marketing messages, prospective customers heavily filter them. "It’s more challenging than ever to have strong and powerful communications that reach customers — let alone prospects," notes Granoff.

However, these same individuals also require content "to help them make smarter buying decisions and solve problems," says Pulizzi. "They need relevant, consistent and compelling information."

He notes that "best in class content" builds trust and opens doors. This is the key factor driving what he calls "content marketing" and encouraging marketers to increasingly act as publishers. "Marketing is transforming itself into publishing," he adds, noting that this trend leads to less emphasis on pitches, unsought offers and product-driven spin. "We need to create content that meets the needs of readers. They want great content but don’t care where it comes from."

Interestingly, research suggests that marketing budgets are shifting from the vehicles of communication — consider the minimal distribution costs associated with email — to the development of content. One study from Junta42 and B2B Magazine suggested that as much as 30% of B2B marketing budgets are now devoted to content — a figure that is forecast to rise to 50% within the next few years.

Given Forrester Research’s estimate that 90% of business purchases now
begin online, companies now need relevant content to attract and
develop new customers and retain their existing ones. Companies are competing for placement on Google and limited attention in email in-boxes. 

Unsurprisingly, new roles and activities are emerging. Anecdotal evidence
suggests CMOs are now actively recruiting individuals with journalistic
and editorial backgrounds while most companies increasingly outsource content
development to specialists
.

Massey offered perspective on what it will take to create the relevant and compelling content necessary to get attention, build trust and establish customer confidence. He encouraged marketers to focus on addressing specific customer personas in their content — personas that can be defined based on whether they make decisions emotionally or logically, rapidly or slowly.

In the B2B tech and professional services realm, I would argue that decisions increasingly revolve around logical appeals that address the needs of a decision team. Customers that decide rapidly are considered "competitive" personas, while those who are more deliberate are dubbed "methodical" personas, according to Massey’s schema. Marketers, he contends, should ask themselves: "What are the specific pieces of information that [the prospect] needs to feel comfortable taking action?"

To conclude, Granoff offered four pieces of advice:

  • Select someone to be your publisher or managing editor. Be the media.
  • Start with the reader. Be clear about what they are trying to accomplish.
  • Profile, in writing, the most important visitors to your Web site. Go beyond simple demographics to reflect the personas of your targeted buyers.   
  • Evaluate every communication. Ensure you are providing pointers to the next piece of information necessary to make a decision or solve a problem.