Some in B2B industries are just starting to hear about content marketing. As I have defined it, this refers to the process of creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly-defined target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action – in other words, generating sales.
While new to many, content marketing, in one form or another, has actually been around for more than 100 years. It started when the John Deere company launched and distributed a printed magazine, The Furrow , in 1895.
Now most content marketing is online, and it has opened up a number of opportunities for organizations to discuss the features and benefits of their products in an educational – non advertorial – manner with customers and prospective customers.
Today, this form of marketing has become so effective in many industries that it now has a true spokesperson, a champion who has demonstrated how content marketing can turn around a business and make it a success: Marcus Sheridan.
Sheridan and his partner started River Pools, in Warsaw, Virginia, several years ago. According to Sheridan, he and his partner originally viewed themselves as just pool builders. However, the business was struggling for many years “and the thing that saved River Pools came down to a shift in our business philosophy.”
The shift occurred when they no longer viewed themselves as builders but instead as teachers, educators and problem solvers for the pool installation industry. This allowed them to share with customers and prospective customers their extensive knowledge about pools. And if someone had a question about pools, especially the types of pools they installed, Sheridan would answer these questions and share them with all visitors to their website…after all, if one person has this question, there are probably dozens more that are wondering the same thing.
When Sheridan defines content marketing, he does not bring in the sales and marketing opportunities of the concept. Instead, he focuses purely on the educational nature of content marketing, saying it is, “a company’s ability to be the best teachers and problem solvers in the world at what they do …digitally speaking.”
Saving his company was not Sheridan’s only success. News about his use of content marketing to revive his company spread throughout the industry and soon landed him a feature article in The New York Times. The article stated:
“The company had been spending about $250,000 a year on radio, television and pay-per-click advertising. It would now cut the budget to about a tenth of that and focus on generating sales through informational blog posts and videos, what has become known as content marketing.”
As a result of the Times article, Sheridan has begun touring the country discussing the power of content marketing. For all intents and purposes, he is now the spokesperson – the face – for the industry. He proved that it’s not only the big guys like Coca-Cola and GE who can be successful at content marketing. So can a two-man swimming pool business in Virginia.
By Robert Kravitz