Why IT Firms Need Content MarketingBy Howard M. Cohen | Print
What motivates your customers to buy from you? If you're building a quality IT practice the answer is "your smarts"!
IT customers want to engage services from people who know what they're talking about. How do you prove you do? Show off your smarts in content. That's the heart of content marketing, showing customers you have what they want!
Why do customers choose you over your competition?
Seems a simple enough question and certainly one you are enthusiastic about answering. But the answer may not be as simple as you think!
Questions beyond the question
There are a few other questions you need to answer on your way to answering this first one.
What do your customers buy?
Whatever answer popped into your mind first, the always and forever correct answer is “valuable business outcomes.” They may want to change something, improve something, add something, or remove something, but all technology investments anticipate a tangible, quantifiable business outcome in the form of more profit dollars.
What do your customers want?
They want the best, most effective solution at the most reasonable cost, implemented in a superior fashion within budget and on time.
What do your customers look for?
Customers need to know that the professionals they are entrusting their business operations to know very well what they’re doing and that they are more knowledgeable and competent than any of their competitors.
What do you need to show them to earn their trust and their business?
Show them your smarts. Your customers want to go into their project know that you’re their best, most competent choice and fully capable of delivering a superior solution on time and within budget.
How exactly do you “show them your smarts”?
You may be thinking we’ve just slammed into the classic “catch-22” where to show them your smarts you need to be doing something for them. But to be doing something for them, you first have to convince them you have the smarts. That, however, is not the case at all.
The all-time, hands-down best way to show your smarts is to talk to them about what you think is important for them to know. Share your insights, great learnings from your extensive experience. Teach them something they didn’t already know. Impress them with your intellect.
Write for them, or otherwise create content that will vividly demonstrate your superior knowledge of how the technologies you integrate deliver extraordinary business outcomes for the business they’re in.
Content is among the most flexible tools imaginable. You can write short-form, as in a blog of 600-800 words. You can expand on your topic in the form of a 2,500 or so word marketing white paper or go into tremendous depth in a technical version that runs upward of 30 pages. Just don’t swap the two. Marketing messages are brief and to the point.
For the utmost in credibility and motivation, create customer success stories to explain what other customers have sought, what you provided and how well it served them with new benefits and returned handsomely on their investments. Pair that with technical case studies that go into great depth, and you have content to share with both the business decision maker and the technology decision maker as well. Two very different readers with two very different expectation sets.
Dodge the common mistakes
Let’s use the blog to illustrate the biggest mistake many make when leveraging content to go to market.
What is the core purpose of a blog for your readers and customers?
It’s meant to do exactly what we’re talking about here, provide a vehicle for you to demonstrate your “smarts” in written content form. Readers come to your blog expecting to learn something they didn’t know or come to think about things in a new way. That’s the value proposition they come looking for.
Even more important than coming to your blog in the first place is getting those readers to return again and again, because when they do so repeatedly they eventually convert into customers, which is our ultimate goal.
But don’t confuse your blog with news!
Many of your colleagues post excited announcements about their latest new client or awards they’ve received and other accomplishments.
Ask yourself what your reader learns from that? How has it helped them grow and become better at what they do? Answer: It doesn’t. Put your news on your news page and blog posts on your blog. Inform in news, teach in blogs.
Don’t get burned by boilerplate blogs
All too many marketing companies will encourage you to let them produce your blog for you. Ask questions. Are they really talking about your blog, with your content, showing off your smarts? If the monthly fee seems low, it’s a great bet they’re pumping out the same tired content for you that they are for all their other victims. Simply distributing someone else’s content with your name and logo on top of it does nothing for you.
There are no shortcuts here, and there shouldn’t be. This is the heart of really selling your value and your values. Let the content be yours. Have a professional ghostwrite it for you if you’re concerned about the syntax and effectiveness of the writing, but make sure the message is all yours.
What is the core goal of a blog to you?
Think about this carefully. Your goal in publishing a blog is to build a readership that returns again and again. Remember, as those readers consume more of your knowledge, they encounter something they want implemented for them and convert into customers. The bigger your audience, the more potential customers you’re developing!
But wait, that’s not all!
This marketing and messaging strategy of delivering valuable content can do more than simply demonstrate your value in the form of your knowledge. It can also become a powerful lever with which to build your audience even bigger.
Cut through all the noise!
With so many competitors out there declaring their superiority on the web, in email and through social media, it has become totally impossible to rise above all that noise! Don’t even bother trying. You’ll never succeed.
Instead, cut right through the noise by converting your readers into advocates. Encourage them in every way you can find to recommend your informative and valuable content to their associates. Customers, friends, even their own competitors and colleagues. Referral marketing like this is the oldest and still the most effective form of marketing available. Nothing else comes close. Leverage your blog by encouraging your audience to help you grow your audience. Extra bang for your informational buck!
Content marketing can be the most effective, impactful form of marketing if the content all comes from you and consistently demonstrates the quality of your company. Great company, great culture and great content all yield great results.