Making Connections Through Conferences, Content Marketing and…Spam?

April 2017

Funnel_blogI took my place at an empty table in the hope other business people would populate its seats after exiting the bountiful buffet line. The reason for our collective attendance to the recent Department of Defense Northeast Regional Council conference was to have a 15-minute audience with a federal government agency, or a prime enterprise that may be offering subcontracting opportunities to small- and medium-sized businesses—in order that they may fulfill supplier diversity quotas. (Twirling Tiger Media is a certified Women Business Enterprise, or WBE).

Lunch mates quickly occupied the seats and what-do-you-do’s were answered with architect, business developer for a satellite firm, far-and-wide courier service provider, manufacturer of RFID for large industries, cleaning contractor—and in my case, content marketing service provider.

Everyone at the table pitched their company’s goods and services in the hope of making fruitful connections. Stating that Twirling Tiger Media provides content marketing services to B2Bs and B2Cs often needs further explanation to those outside of the marketing world.

“We create engaging and nurturing content to connect your brand to target customers—using compelling words and images. Our writers and graphic designers create blog posts, case studies, success stories, magazines, newsletters…” Our company’s services are best explained in a narrative that illustrates how content marketing elevates a brand’s exposure and value to its customers. “Nothing shows the value of your products and customer service more than a satisfied customer willing to tell the world how you helped transform their processes, procedures or relations like a well-written and -designed success story,” I told the group.

As the table cleared, one person lingered to ask me a pointed question, “What’s the difference between what you offer and the spam that I am inundated with daily?”

Here are some of those differentiators.

I didn’t sign-up for this
We are all annoyed by spam—the splattering of unsolicited email messages aimed at the masses from concealed senders. In contrast, content marketing is original information responsibly distributed to a company’s prospects and customers using acceptable list management practices, such as permission-based subscription tactics as opposed to purchased or rented lists. Done right, companies grow an organic list of quality contacts by offering custom content that interests consumers. In the process, it’s important that companies maintain a good-sender reputation by complying with the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Stand out by offering useful solutions to buyer’s challenges
More buyers are self-educating online, and companies need to respond with content that is unique and useful. The traditional sales funnel has been reconfigured with marketing dominating the stages of customer engagement. By 2020, more than 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any direct human to human interaction.* To answer the demand of useful information for savvy customers, companies need to reframe their strategy from an advertising approach to an informing approach that’s optimized for social media conversations.

Customized content built for a brand
Content marketing is predominately outward-facing content created to attract and acquire new customers. It can be branded content, but it can also be simply brand-relevant content. Examples are white papers, blogs and social media. Custom content is content meant to build an affinity with an existing audience. This content reinforces the brand, communicates the value of products or services and creates new opportunities. It’s branded content and used to maintain engagement with existing customers. Examples are publications and e-newsletters. There is some overlap between content marketing and custom content, but both deliver solutions for engaging and nurturing customers. Today’s marketers lump both types—content marketing and custom content—in the same bucket of content marketing. (Confusing, I realize, but the industry is evolving quickly and the term is used without distinction at times.)

Here are some tips, and our approach as writers with journalism backgrounds (not copywriters), for providing your audience with honest content that is unique and useful:
— Create relevant and authentic narratives through compelling story telling.
— Find and develop a story that resonates with a chosen audience.
— Support the story with facts.

Opt out?
I’m hoping I fully explained to my lunch mate the differences between spam and content marketing, and how they are distributed. Companies use a multitude of ways to capture leads so that they can market to customers, and most do so without annoying them. Ultimately, it’s up to the recipient of the information to decide what’s useful and what they consider spam.

—Maureen

*Gartner and Forrester