Content marketing can be a tough sell. You can explain the value of building content for buyer personas and developing an inbound funnel, but the obvious offer-to-purchase relationship and the easy to calculate ROI isn’t there to immediately justify the cost.
In order to see the value in content marketing, you need to look at touchpoints before the moment of decision. Content marketing puts you in front of potential customers earlier on the path to purchase, so you can be sure you are at top of mind when the buying actually happens.
See You at the End of the Road
Direct marketers tend to thrive toward the end of the purchase path (Intent & Decision). You target people that have the right attributes (purchase history, location, industry, search query, etc) and then hit them with an offer. Whether it’s a catalog, an email or ppc ad, your goal is a sale from that offer. This is a bit of a simplification, but your touchpoints all happen late in the game when buying is what the customer is ready to do.
You should never stop marketing and optimizing at this point on the path. But you also need to recognize that many potential customers will never find you if you wait until this point to engage with them.
Meet Them Early and Stay in Touch
HBR research has found that 60% of the purchase decision is made before contacting a supplier. This means potential customers are no longer coming to you to start the process. They are coming when they feel confident that they know what they want and what you offer. This has big implications for marketing because you can no longer trust that you’ll have the opportunity to “win” the business through sales calls and relationship building. Instead, you are getting targeted questions based on hours of research that you’ve got no control over.
Waiting until the decision phase means potential customers come to you with pre-formed impressions. It also exposes you to being undermined by a competitor’s narrative. Worst case scenario, a competitor gets in front of the prospect earlier than you with a great blog post or video, and your company never enters the conversation.
The value of content marketing is that it puts you in front of customer early, so you can build awareness and trust. That trust then carries over as the prospect assesses your product and moves into decision-making. The traffic you gain, the social shares and the downloads payoff by getting more people into your funnel & getting them comfortable with your offering.
This is hard for many companies to get behind because you usually aren’t seeing the conversion happen on the blog posts or social media clicks. But if you look at multi-channel funnels, then you can see how these early touchpoints influence later behavior.