Last week I went to the Content Marketing World Conference in Cleveland, where I was joined by 1700 fellow marketers all who share a passion for the exploding content marketing industry. I also had the honor of presenting a Lunch n Learn session, “It’s not about B2B or B2C, but P2P” about doing business person-to-person, authentically and transparently.
There were some essential common themes that resonated throughout the conference, which I was thrilled to hear over and over again from speakers like Jay Baer and Adele Ravella to LinkedIn’s Jonathan Lister and Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall. But, I think the strongest point, and most valuable one, made by these and others… one that so many (ok most) businesses fail to recognize, is this…
Are you ready?
LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS AND BE USEFUL TO THEM.
Sounds like common sense right? If only for the past, oh 60+ years, companies stopped talking about themselves, and spent millions of dollars and countless hours focusing on what they “think” their customers want... and instead really talked to them, listened to them, and flat-out ASKED them what they want and need, I think there would be a whole lot more happy customers and many more successful companies.
In his opening keynote address, Jay Baer presented a stat that I want everyone in the B2B industry to hear loud and clear: By the time B2B buyers actually reach out to businesses, 70% of the buying decision has already been made.
So, what does that mean?
Every business, no matter the type, size or industry, must focus their marketing efforts on educating, helping, guiding and informing the people they hope to do business with.
How? Creating truly inspiring, one-of-a kind, quality (for goodness sake – quality!), planned out, purposeful content. Content that not only informs, possibly entertains and shares your expertise, but empowers them to make a buying decision… so that they choose YOU to do business with because you have WOW’d them.
I don’t mean WOW in the silly, shocking, who is the most creative wins a prize kind of surprise. But, truly original, completely strategic and relevant to them content. Content that isn’t about YOU, your products or services, but content that really speaks to them, makes an emotional connection, and makes them want to choose you.
We’ve shared this insight before, but it certainly bears repeating: Google’s Zero Moment of Truth revealed that consumers researched and digested 10.4 unique pieces of content in 2012 before making a purchase decision. (up from 3.4 in 2011!).
That means that people want to do their own research about a product, industry, service, or offering, before even talking to someone (a.k.a. a sales person) about buying. They are self-educating and self-serving information, to make their own educated decisions. They don’t want to hear how great you are, but how you can make their life/job better. Period.
At SPROUT Content, we built our business on this foundation from day one over four years ago. And, now, finally, thanks to the many people who have inspired us and pioneered this thinking (thank you Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Ann Handley and many more!) a true marketing revolution is taking place.
Here are some of my favorite words of wisdom from #CMWORLD 2013:
“Your Website has the same boring useless info as your competitor’s.” - Adele Ravella (@BuyerPersona)
"Marketing is Not A Department, the marketing function belongs to all employees.” @bernieborges
"The idea is not to get good at content, it's to get good at content MARKETING." -- @AnnHandley (@MarketingProfs)
“Transparency is the way to gain trust. Run at problems, rather than running away.” @jaybaer
“Content Marketing overtook Digital Marketing as a keyword 2 months ago.” @NickKellet
"Amazing things happen when you listen to the customer." @Mildenhall
Were you at Content Marketing World this year? If so, what made the greatest impact on you? If you weren’t able to join us in Cleveland last week, follow the hashtag #CMWORLD to get a post-event taste of some of the great content conversation that happened during the event.
If you want to learn more from companies who are keeping it real by creating authentic and helpful content, and winning customers as a result, check out our new book Brands In Glass Houses.