Some time ago, a bank president shared with me that his sales team was not using their new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. I asked him why not and he told me that the CRM had over 80 possible fields and was overwhelming to use.
It turns out the sales team simply did not have the time or computer access to use the CRM software correctly. They were only using about 10 percent of the software’s capabilities! Since no one took the time to consult with the team or understand their sales process beforehand, the bank was now locked into a lengthy, expensive CRM contract that was hard to break.
So, how do CRM software and other programs relate to successful content marketing? First, let me take a minute to define content marketing.
Wait… Isn’t Content Marketing Just a Program?
Easy answer? No, but let’s dig a little deeper.
Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable and engaging content with a target audience in order to acquire new audiences or deepen relationships with existing customers.
It’s the vital link between customer awareness, action and sales conversion.
From the conversations I’ve had, it’s a common misconception that content marketing is simply a software program. Although software is a valuable part of managing and tracking the results of content marketing efforts, it’s only one part of the process.
The key to content marketing is to have an ongoing, consistent strategy. When there’s a solid understanding of what makes your audiences tick, producing and delivering engaging content can easily complement your audiences’ natural buying cycles.
Consider this. A prospect has the potential to interact with your earned media (public relations efforts), owned media (blog, newsletters, videos), shared media (social media), and paid media (display ads, advertorials, Google AdWords). This interaction needs to be positive, consistent and well thought-out.
You also need to think about how you want to position your brand.
- Who are your target audiences? Where do they look for information?
- How do you integrate information about your products and services into engaging content?
- What content format will have the most impact? When do you deliver this content?
- How will your sales team interact with and leverage the content to amplify your sales process?
- How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts?
You get the point.
You need to be smart about the content you’re producing to add value to your prospect’s decision-making process. And, it’s important to understand that great content can also exist in a variety of forms — videos, infographics, slide decks, press releases, product demos, e-books, games, case studies.
There is no shortcut to great content. It takes work, dedication, creativity and expertise. The challenge is to select formats that will resonate with your audiences.
By delivering outstanding, crafted content when your audiences are looking for it, you’re better able to address their needs and wants in a positive way at the right time.
It’s about creating a relationship, not a transaction so align your content to their buying cycle, don’t push your sales cycle on them.
When Does Software Come into Play?
There are hundreds of software programs to choose from that can ensure you receive relevant information to make right, ongoing adjustments to your content strategy.
Once you have your strategy and objectives in-hand, you can determine what software needs can be applied to specific tasks or measurements of an ongoing content marketing program. But before you decide if you even need software, you need to set your content marketing goals.
Similar to my earlier CRM example, you shouldn’t start a program without first planning your strategy. A strategy of any kind with only a software program, and no sense of strategy, will produce mediocre results.
Like selecting a CRM, you need to take the time to understand the situation, determine your goals, and what tactics and tools you need to get there.
Content marketing software can deliver and organize content, optimize conversations and measure results, but cannot take the place of a good strategy, relevant and engaging content, and understanding audience segments.
When you’re looking at content marketing for your business, research and strategy will ultimately help you create a roadmap to results. Have a process to develop meaningful content, use that content to enhance your existing marketing efforts, and then evaluate software programs that can help you deliver content and measure success.
This article originally appeared on page 17 in the Aug. 10, 2015 print issue of The Business News as “How is Buying CRM Software Like Content Marketing?”. This article has been modified for this blog.