Content marketing. It’s a trend that’s spawned agencies, articles, software, and even the new C-suite position of Chief Content Officer.

Here’s the synopsis for busy B2B execs ready to support and evolve your organization’s program.

Content marketing essentials for B2B

Content marketing refers to communications that educate rather than sell: articles, checklists, how-to videos, whitepapers, and other tools. While social media fuels this recent popularity, content marketing is not a new tactic. For decades marketers have executed custom publishing and thought leadership programs to gain mindshare and build brands through expertise and engagement.

What is new:

More channels—and more conversations:  Traditional content marketing relied on sizable budgets and distribution through an in-house list or trade media. By default, the largest companies established the biggest voices for their viewpoints.

Today, the explosion of social media platforms and self-publishing tools opens the field to literally everyone. The challenge now is breaking through the deluge of information to reach your target customer. (And, having something valuable to say.)

Faster pace—and faster turnover:  Conversations about the issues that affect your buyers now occur 24/7, in real-time, and in short rapid-fire bursts of Tweets and posts. Gone is the luxury of waiting to respond, drafting a lengthy communication, or even the guarantee of a focused interaction.

This isn’t an argument for quantity over quality, but a recognition that most online content stays fresh about as long as a carton of milk. Content marketing strategies and resources must be time sensitive.

Five elements of effective content marketing

Follow these considerations to produce content that not only gets found, but gets results.

(1) Individualize it. Forget the bland and faceless corporate voice. Online content should reflect its author’s personality and be more like the transcript of a conversation than the copy in your technical support documentation.

(2) Be issue-driven. The fastest way to move your message from “all about us” to compelling educational content is to focus on the problems you solve for your customers. Don’t start with your product and its features; start with the issues the product exists to alleviate.

(3) Map it out. In the end, content marketing is all about helping you increase sales and retain customers. So plan your content strategy to align with your sales cycle, targeting the audience segments and stages where you need the most lift.

(4) Focus on action. After your audience engages with your content, what do you want them to do next? Develop content with this sequence in mind, and always define a call to action and next step.

(5) Assign accountability. A steady stream of content involves more than just the marketing department. Clearly delineate goals, schedules, and responsibilities to executives, subject matter experts, sales, and marketing. Make your support visible and tangible.

The bottom line? Effective content marketing doesn’t look or feel like marketing or selling. Success comes from delivering as a helpful, trusted advisor.

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