Mark Amtower

COMMENTARY

Content is king, but cut the BS

Company brochures, business cards are rife with meaningless jargon

If you are looking for empty platitudes, adjectival phrases that sound cool yet mean nothing, you need look no further than the nebulous slogans on many business cards or the mission statements of many companies.

How many times can you “exceed customer expectations” or “deliver 110 percent” and still not have a full pipeline of new business? Company brochures are rife with examples of the meaningless jargon school of marketing.

While I’d love to predict the demise of the “empty promise” school of sloganeering, I am afraid it will linger on like a stink bug.

However, if you, too, are tired of the empty slogan school of marketing, think about this: legitimate content drives traffic because it adds value, and value attracts potential buyers.

It is so simple, and it has been working for so long, that it is usually overlooked because it is not flashy enough. But it works, so let’s look at some recent examples.

Take Carahsoft, a boutique reseller that six years ago was known to only a few. The company is now a legitimate member of the Washington Technology Top 100 (No. 99), and moving up. It has grown organically by selecting key technologies the government wants, then providing the preferred contractual vehicle.

But wait, there’s more.

Carahsoft drives traffic by offering content -- free education to potential buyers and current customers. A key component of Carahsoft’s growth has been webinars: But these are not simply webinars, but value-added webinars because they teach, not sell. Sharing knowledge is a powerful way to sell because it empowers listeners/prospects to make their knowledge base grow and it gives them the ammunition to go to their managers and say why they need this tool.

This is not to imply that Carahsoft would not have grown without webinars, but a strong case can be made that webinars were a major component of that growth.

There are several platforms for content delivery, and you should consider as many as necessary to reach your audience. They include the traditional white paper, a truly informative website, events, direct mail, space ads, e-mail and ezines, webinars, podcasts, video and catalogs.

Yes, even direct mail catalogs can deliver content by offering more than simply product information. CDW-G has mastered this tactic during the past several years by offering catalogs that focus on single technologies such as security. Instead of simply offering the latest products (which are included), there is value-added editorial content on how, where and why the product is used. CDW-G’s growth has been built partially on sharing solid knowledge along the way.

Few understand this as well as Cisco Systems, which has been buying up content delivery companies for several years and uses them as a major marketing tool. The company has a library of webinars that is truly massive.

Good content does not attract the world at large, nor does it need to. But if the content is truly value-added, it can and will attract the key people who are interested in what you have to sell.

What kind of knowledge do you possess that will help you fill your pipeline? Then which content delivery vehicle(s) do you select to deliver the information?

You should be able to answer the first question internally. The answer to the second will involve some research, some customer interviews, and some experiments and lots of patience. But if you want a full pipeline. it's worth it.

Think of it this way: When was the last time you made a purchase predicated on an empty phrase on a business card?

Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Davin

But the article itself sounded like, er, self-serving BS, no?

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 Mike Parkinson

Brilliant article! I couldn't agree more. I trust people/organizations that show me they are focused on helping me and have the knowledge to do so. (Someone once said: Help enough people achieve their goals and your goals will be achieved as well.)

Thu, Feb 10, 2011

I'll throw in another one- eschew meaningless but oh-so-trendy eye candy like the floating social media buttons along the margins. They are bandwidth hogs, and do not play nice with many security perimeters. If your website keeps forcing me to click around error boxes, guess what? The odds of my coming back just went WAY down. If you must have links, plain old static buttons are fine.

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 Marc Hausman http://www.strategicguy.blogspot.com

Mark, An informative (and entertaining) read. And kudos to you for actually citing examples of content marketing in action, rather than just listing a set of best practices and tactics. One area is missing in your article though: social media. This emerging channel of communication is effective when an organization accepts its responsibility to engage with thought leadership and educational content, rather than promotional hype. You can read more at my blog at: http://www.strategicguy.blogspot.com

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 Scott

Content is king ... that is until Net Neutrality ends. Then, the carriers, ISP's and System Integrators will be king as they will be the gatekeepers of the Internet and hold the keys. We'll see how many webinars Carasoft can have without paying a company like AT&T a monthly "webinar" service fee. Or if customer on the other end doesn't pony up some extra cash to get access to the content. Get ready for it folks. It's already happening. We are going back to the days where you have to pay $5.00 / month for each added service (voicemail, call waiting, *69) to a regional baby bell, for very little benefit or value add. Because that's what the Internet will turn into. Particularly in medium to small sized markets, where there is little to no competition for broadband access. And remember, "contract terms and conditions can change at anytime"!! At least that's what our Sprint, Verizon and AT&T bills say!!

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