You probably already know that the gap between marketing a few years ago and marketing now is a massive one. The sales funnel has become less like a funnel and more like a maze. The role of the marketer is shifting and growing. And the competition for customer attention is fierce.

That’s probably why the companies who are rising to the top of their respective fields and niches—be they small businesses or large—are the storytellers, the companies with personality, the companies that give information away for free.

Goodbye, sell, sell, sell. Hello, helpful content marketing.

Marketers have always known that emotion drives purchase decisions. Certainly it’s also important to have a great product and add unique value to the marketplace. But the final buying decision is also impacted by gut feelings and personal associations. That was the truth back when we bought from mom-and-pop shops on Main Street. And it’s the truth now.

And when it comes to buying anything, nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to. We want to feel like you—the company—care about our needs.

Let me pause and say that again, because I think it’s so key to our success as marketers:

We (the customers) want to feel like you (the company) care about our needs.

So how can a company communicate that it genuinely cares about their customers’ wants and needs when 70% of the sales funnel happens before said customer ever picks up the phone or walks into a store?

You know I’m going to say that the answer is content.

Helpful, personable content communicates care

At every touch point, content can communicate your brand’s personality, uniqueness, and relationship to your customers. Or it can make you sound like a used car salesman and send people running for the hills.

Because online marketing isn’t so different from face-to-face interaction. Listening to people, speaking to their needs, and being authentic and personable still win the day, whether your customers are looking at your face or your newsletter.

How about an example?

Imagine that you walk into your office tomorrow, grab your coffee, and sit down at the desk to find two marketing emails that have arrived in your inbox. Let’s say you signed up for both email lists because you’re trying to find a new CMS for your company website.

You open the first email and discover that it’s a sales pitch for the product. Every paragraph seems to be about them—their company, products, and services. They use a lot of adjectives, but don’t give a lot of real information. You might not be put off by the sales email, since you are shopping for a CMS, but you probably aren’t really excited about it either. Perhaps you file that email away as a reminder to check out their products later. Or perhaps you delete it.

The second email, on the other hand, piques your interest right away. It’s a list of 5 things you should think about when choosing a CMS and it was guest authored by an industry professional you’ve read about before. Now, this is interesting, you think. You read the whole thing and even jot down a note or two. You might also forward the email to the rest of the team involved in making the CMS software decision. And you probably head to the email sender’s website to check out their blog or use what you’ve learned from that email to start to evaluate their software.

So, whose product are you going to look into first? Which company are you more likely to trust with your business? Which company gets you?

I’m willing to wager that the second email sender is going to make more sales than the first, especially if the rest of their content is just as useful and well thought-out.

So, what does this mean for you?

It’s time for a little more homework. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do a content audit specifically focused on the care and usefulness of your content. This audit should include content marketing and social media, your static website, and even your salesperson training materials. Ask yourself, at minimum, these questions:

  • Is this content truly useful to my customers?
  • Does this content communicate that we understand and care about our customers?
  • Is this content consistent with our other content types? Are customer needs being met at every stage in our sales funnel?

If your content is all about sell, sell, sell, it’ll be important to make some changes and create a content plan with customer care at its center.

Have a tip or story from your own content marketing efforts?

As always, we’d love to hear it in the comments below. And if you haven’t already, check out our free eBook on how content drives the buyer down your sales funnel for tips from the pros.

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