Content has been a critical business asset for quite some time. For this reason, PR agencies have become a decisive, strategic partner, who in the times ahead must not only bring manual writing skills, but also a deep understanding of solutions, customer needs and sales processes.

On schedule, it is once again time for the turn of the year: In addition to their media data, publishers and journals send their project topics for the upcoming year. The marketing departments in most companies no longer see themselves as being able to create consistent media projects with their own resources, especially when faced with an excessive flood of information and a general lack of time. Fortunately, there are professional media agencies offering support. These are exclusively specialized in media purchasing and the implementation of cross-media campaigns which deliver carefully devised media plans „using every trick in the book“ – i.e. timely coordinated advertising measures that perfectly adapt common performance values like target group affinity, channel, range and contact density in order to flank paramount marketing goals.

In the past, such advertisement pressure was sufficient to raise brand awareness bit by bit, to communicate new product developments to the market and to make it a little easier for the colleagues from the sales department to convince customers of the strengths of their own solutions, thus increasing sales. In the future, however, pressure is no longer enough in itself to secure a long term market position. In the past few years, according to complaints from leading marketing organizations and advertising gurus, the natural enemy of every marketing manager has been on the rise: advertising fatigue.

The customer becomes a fan

There is a general consensus that the flood of information and the constant exposure to advertisements does generate annoyance and it can no longer be tackled by colorful pictures. In recent years, in order to solve this dilemma, SEO specialists and online advertisers have discovered a promising new way to outwit advertising avoidance and reactance. This pull effect is now being felt in the offline world: content marketing. Formerly regarded as a sub-branch of marketing in the classical domain of PR agencies, the creation of content is now at the center of strategic marketing. According to statements made by leading American soft-drink manufacturers, they now spend more money on content marketing than they do on TV commercials. And, so it seems, with good reason. As representative studies suggest, content-driven measures in regards to brand development, advertising recall and strengthening customer acceptance are superior to traditional forms of advertising in many respects. The customer here should be passively consuming advertisements through the help of content initiatives and appropriate participation factors and become, due to this, a convinced fan or even better yet, a “brand evangelist”.

A third of the marketing budget is invested in content

A recent survey of the US Content Marketing Institute (CMI) of five thousand marketing professionals drew a clear picture of how relevant content is: 88 percent of all companies surveyed invest in content marketing, which accounts for a third of the total budget. The most frequently mentioned advertising goals are sales support and the generation of high quality leads. The most prevalent advertising channels are the commonly used media mix. For 57 percent of marketers, print is a permanent arsenal in the paid-media sector – an increase of five percent compared with the previous year. This is followed by banner advertising. As expected, search engine marketing held the most favorable position with around 66 percent of those in charge using it as the top means for the distribution of branded content. Compared to other years, strong growth was recorded for promoted posts and image material in particular.

The market determines means and content

Content marketing is by all means no all-purpose silver bullet that works with all content in every market. Strategies such as storytelling or other measures which ultimately seek a positive, emotional reaction to brand messages may be appropriate for smartphones, wearables or other commodities with a thrill factor. The stressed data center manager with a 60-hour work week and cost pressures breathing down his neck will be forced, at best, to give a weary smile to such an approach. For him, it’s mainly about avoiding risks. And this here is the real challenge concerning content related measures. This is consistent with contact classes and converging topic areas. Content must stand in relation to the offered solution, but still place the motives of the target group in the foreground at all times.

A deal is a deal

In content marketing, especially now, it is necessary to find a tailor-made, customized approach. Credibility and editorial utility are prerequisites in order for contents to be perceived positively. If the information provided does not match the expectations of the readers, because it is too promotional or does not provide consultative value, the deal „information for contact data“ usually used in content marketing slides rapidly into difficulties. Instead of gaining reputation, there is lasting damage threatening the customer relationship. Intensive cooperation between the public relations agency and the manufacturer is therefore required to continue to fulfill these fundamental quality requirements in content marketing. Direct interfaces to subject experts must be established and an overarching communication and decision-making culture must be created in order to link PR, offline and online marketing as well as sales targets with each other.

Are you still acquiring or are you already waiting?

One of the core tasks of content marketing is lead generation because it ultimately combines marketing goals with sales objectives. Here the trick is, within the scope of the lead nurturing process, to guide potential customers through the various stages of demand generation with appropriate content. Gradually, the intrinsic purchase intentions of potential customers should develop – entirely without advertising print. Here, tact and timing are especially needed. Premature personal contact can be bothersome; thus inhibiting the sale. Contacting customers too late may result in them no longer remembering the recorded content or in them having already satisfied their demand with a competitor. An automated marketing system is the remedy here. Based on landing page user behavior, for example, the state of individual purchase intent can be devised. Subsequently, the prospective buyers are subtly supplied with newsletters containing relevant, specialized articles, trend papers or ebooks which correspond directly to their current purchasing cycle status. If the interested party is engaged with the topic „implementation and configuration“, sales see this as an immediate indication of need and get the green light to establish contact.

Linking in and outbound marketing together in a meaningful way

Content or inbound marketing has turned the basic laws of classical marketing on its head. Instead of print advertising and range, it is now all about convincing people. It is necessary to gradually install a maturing sense of purchase intent until the customer flies right into your arms, so to speak. Despite how promising these approaches are, advertising completely devoid of print does not work. Advertising must build pressure and may interfere from time to time, but not at any price. Contents are the perfect complement to classic outbound measures because they give potential customers the opportunity to take a deep breath and to engage with a product solution in a relaxed way. The willingness, however, to deal with content from a particular vendor must first be created — namely, over conventional outbound activities such as print, banner or email marketing. These are exciting times for marketing departments and media planners. The possibilities of content marketing add an exciting new scale to the clavier of marketing. And only those that hit the right notes in the future will win the race for markets, customers and thought leadership in the mid-term.