The Purposes of Content and Conversations

Content has always been key in online marketing. Ask any good email marketer. These days, content is even more important in all forms of interactive marketing. But that does not mean it’s the only thing that matters. Context is important as well. And, though content is crucial it’s how your business and people use it that truly matters. The context within which content is featured, is essential for the impact of the content on conversion, interaction, reach, engagement and in the end sales.

People are increasingly seeking information themselves and use ever more channels to do so. Marketers have to make sure the information and thus content (potential) customers are seeking, is available to them when, where and how they want.

Content also remains key in domains where it has always been crucial such as search engine marketing. And it is of the utmost importance in outbound marketing techniques and of course in email marketing.The context in which content exists is defined by the life cycle of the prospect or customer, his needs, the interaction channels he uses and much more.

Obviously, content is key in social media, social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing, where relevant content has the potential to become a story that gets shared. A social brand is defined by people and stories.

Businesses don’t – only – “produce” and provide valuable and relevant content for the sake of being regarded as a valuable and relevant partner. It’s not just about the brand.

As such, content has no value. Just like we don’t “join conversations” for the sake of these conversations that have no business value as such either (privately they can be fun though but for business they need to be a bit more than that to say the least).

Content only has business value if it is valuable for both your business and the people you create it for. The value of content purely depends on the perception of people so content marketing requires a very good understanding of your customers and prospects. And the content people create can be just as valuable – and sometimes more – for your business. Content is about getting found, sharing but also engaging in what we call conversations nowadays.

The keyword here is relevance or pertinence.

The aim of business, marketing and thus content marketing is simple:

  • Increase profits by generating more revenues (and lowering costs) to be able to better satisfy the customers in the broadest sense (“real” customers, employees, shareholders,…) and to be able to innovate and grow. The road to doing this is tapping into the power of word-of-mouth and thus stories and content, by increasing customer value and loyalty (where content is crucial as well) and by generating leads and nurturing them using, among others, relevant and adapted content.
  • Increase customer satisfaction to keep existing customers, have them buy more and motivate them to share their stories and satisfaction with others, what we call brand advocates sometimes. If the customer satisfaction is really good, we don’t even have to motivate people to do it and get all too obsessed with identifying influencers (although that never hurts…). Ultimately this is the same as increasing profits if you think about it.

Is that all? Yes. All the rest is strategy, planning and obviously looking at the content formats and needs of your prospects and customers, the channels they prefer, the timing and personalization of content in function of pre-defined scenario’s in the case of lead nurturing and the psychological triggers that makes people share content and stories.

Can there be more? Sure: you can go beyond the pure business goals when providing more content and interacting more with user-generated content, for the sake of doing it for others.

The funny thing is that doing this, often results in unexpected business effects. But it requires a mindset that goes beyond the calculated rules of conversion, brand awareness and marketing ROI.

Few businesses have that mindset which is OK: we are in business for a reason.

But you might miss the unexpected if you don’t let go of that reason – and just innovate or provide value for the pure sake of it – now and then.

Originally published here.