What is "content marketing?"
Content marketing uses the publishing of material to achieve your marketing goals. It can be used to support inbound or outbound marketing. Content marketing has become extremely popular because of the web, where it is used primary for inbound marketing. Companies post content that brings visitors to their websites. Because of the growth of the web, sometimes this is the only form of content marketing that you hear about, with some additional references to search engine optimization.
But you can use content marketing to support marketing efforts where getting people to your website is not your first priority. If you are chasing RFPs or looking to close high-touch complex sales, your website might play a minor or even non-existent role. But content marketing can still be extremely valuable for capturing contracts.
How do you use content marketing to win contracts?
Instead of simply being about getting people to your website, content can serve other marketing goals like building trust, influencing RFPs, establishing expertise, demonstrating insight, and convincing the customer that it's worth the effort to get to know your company. Many of the things you need to do to capture a contract can be supported with content marketing.
Content marketing can help you find and qualify leads. It can help you engage leads and give them a reason to want to talk to you. It can give them information they need to decide whether to initiate a procurement. It can give them the information they need to complete their acquisition process, influencing the RFP along the way.
In many ways, content marketing is just practicing relationship marketing in the internet age. Think of it as one side of a virtual conversation where you publish things that contribute to relationship building. It's not about publishing a brochure. It's about having ongoing engagement.
One mistake that people make is to confuse marketing and sales. Marketing is not selling. Marketing brings customers into your sales process. The same is true with content marketing. If you try to sell in the content you are trying to use for marketing, the marketing will fail and the sales will underperform. A brochure is a sales tool and not a marketing tool. Content that engages potential customers and achieves marketing goals, like establishing trust and proving expertise, can bring qualified people into your sales process. But the content that does this can only sell indirectly.
What content marketing can do is build a sales funnel. You can channel your audience into a database, events, or actions. Content marketing is far more sophisticated than putting out a brochure and saying "call me." Content marketing is about giving the customer something that proves you are an asset, so they will choose to come back for more, qualifying themselves along the way. For example:
- A content item can lead to people following you for more;
- Which can lead to people seeing webinar announcements;
- Which can qualify their interests;
- Which can then lead to contacts.
By the time you make contact, you have a relationship, you've earned trust, and you've proven your expertise. If your initial content item tried to sell, it would not be nearly as effective.
The trick to content marketing for capturing contracts is to integrate it into your relationship marketing practices. It's not something separate. It's not a series of printed pieces that you leave behind like brochures and data sheets. It's something you lead with. It's what gives the customer a reason to want to have a relationship with you. And once it opens that door, it still has a role to play because it's how you prove your worth, how you shape the procurement, and ultimately how you close the sale. If you fully integrated it into how you develop business and capture your contracts, then adopting it can improve your competitiveness throughout every phase of the process.
Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY
Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.