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Content Marketing: the costs and benefits

You want better marketing.  You need to drive more leads and close more business.  You may have run traditional marketing campaigns (direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing) or digital programmes such as SEO or Adwords or grown your business through word of mouth.

If you’re considering investing in content marketing, chances are you’ve realised that whatever you’ve been doing until now isn’t giving you the returns you need.

But before you make an investment in yet another kind of marketing snake oil you want to know what it’s going to cost, and what kind of returns you’ll get.  For an introduction to content marketing and how it works, check out our eBook, Essential Content Marketing for Lead Generation free to download from this site.

What Will it Cost?

The answer (you know it’s coming) is – it varies.  It could be a matter of your time and that of your team to develop a content strategy, develop a content plan (who, what, where, when, why?) and write the blog posts, white papers, and other content. If you don’t have the capability in house, consider engaging a specialist marketing service provider like Marketing Fusion J. Simply setting aside the time to blog once a week could be the best way to get started, and only you know how long that might take and what your time is worth!

The beauty of a content marketing approach is that you can adapt it to suit your own budget and resource availability.  Once you start to see results you are more likely to want to invest in more targeted and higher value content, potentially engaging a specialist provider on an on-going basis.  Content marketing is not a “big bang” approach, it should be slow and steady. The investment you make can be spread over time, and you will be able to refine your approach, spending more on what works and less on what doesn’t.

One cost you need to bear in mind is an automation platform to pull it all together.  It is possible to set up content marketing without an automation platform in place, but you’ll have to pull some of the elements together yourself, such as web forms, integration with CRM, e-mail marketing etc.  At the lower end of the scale, with small e-mail volumes (under 20,000 per month) prices start from around £500 per month. Now you will need to dedicate some time and resource to setting the platform up, but once it’s up and running it will take care of a lot of the grunt work for you and save you time effort and a few grey hairs. If you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, use one of the low cost e-mail marketing platforms to get things started and upgrade when the time is right.

So content marketing doesn’t have to cost the earth.  And once you have a plan, and are up and running, it gets easier (and more cost effective).  But what are the benefits?

Content Marketing Benefits

Attract New Audiences

Content Marketing is about solving problems.  It’s about what you KNOW and SHARE not what you sell.  By creating compelling content, that talks directly to the things your prospects need (or want) to know you will ATTRACT new audiences you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.  In doing so, you are opening a dialogue.  Be prepared to attract those who you would not consider to be real prospects.  But these people can become your fans and supporters, helping to create a buzz around your business.  This is where an automation system and some decent lead scoring will come in handy – enabling you to profile and determine where to focus your sales efforts.

Accelerate the Buying Cycle

Content Marketing is not only about attracting new prospects.  This “trusted advisor” approach (which obviously you have to follow through on by offering genuine sound advice) can help and guide your prospects through the buying process.  Giving them all the information they might need to pull together a business case for example, or offering a an evaluation guide can be a useful mid-cycle content and could save your prospect time and effort, speeding up the sales cycle and increasing the likelihood that yours is the solution they will go with.

Improve Customer Loyalty

And once the deal is signed, is everything over?  Do you flick on to the next prospect on the list?  Content marketing can enable you to communicate with your customers, and deliver value over and above that of your customer and professional services teams.  Provide content that your customers might share with their peers and network, and make it easy for them to do so.  And don’t forget that your customers are still prospects for additional services and renewals.  Think about the challenges they may be facing and create content specific to their needs.

A Vehicle for Success  Stories

Your best sales channel should be your existing customers.  They are the ones who should be shouting out loud about.  Getting your customers to talk about their (positive) experiences of working with you; how you addressed their particular challenges and overcame obstacles.  Success stories are the meat of your content strategy, and content marketing is all about getting those stories out there – in as many varieties as you can.  Video, case study, blog, podcast.  Refresh, re-use and re-cycle!

Improve Sales and Marketing Effectiveness

The effectiveness of many of your sales and marketing activities such as lead generation, lead nurturing, sales calls and proposals can be improved tremendously through high value content.  It offers a purpose for the call, a reason to engage that offers true value and not just an excuse.  “I saw this and though of you” should become your mantra.

Sweat the Assets

On a similar note – look around for existing content you can re-purpose.  White papers, sales presentations, conference speeches and even proposals can contain high value content that’s locked away where no-one can see.  Convert a white paper to a series of smaller eBooks. Content can have longevity.  A traditional campaign will have a limited shelf life – when it’s over, the materials you created will typically get shelved.  You should look to refresh your content every so often.  For main content pieces at least once a year.  And then you can re-launch it!

Still Unsure?

So do the benefits of content marketing outweigh the costs?  It depends how well you do it, and how well you follow through on the opportunities created.  The best content marketing in the world won’t help if your product stinks and the support is rubbish. But you should also think about the consequences of not telling “your story”; of not being having a say the conversation.  Chances are, if you don’t someone else will be getting heard above the noise, and it will their voice your prospects are hearing, not yours.

About the Author: Virginia Bray

Virginia Bray

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