Today's blog is a guest post written by Anne Janzer, author of the book Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn. You can read her bio at the end of the article.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about content marketing. Is it merely using content in marketing? (B2B marketers have been doing that for years.) Is it blogging? Native advertising? All of the above?

Before you start creating and distributing content in hopes of driving up sales, step back and take a closer look at what content marketing really is.

It’s not about the content – it’s about strategy

Content marketing is more than simply using content in your marketing. Effective content marketing delivers value to the customer or prospect, meeting their needs while advancing long-term business objectives.

It doesn’t matter exactly what type of content you produce – blogs, papers, website copy, videos. What matters is how you are using the content.

Businesses that jump into content marketing without a well-defined strategy tend to make three common mistakes:

  1. Not delivering adequate value (creating content no one really wants)
  2. Focusing exclusively on the short-term of objective of making a sale
  3. Locking away content rather than freely distributing it

Effective content marketing requires a firm understand of what the audience needs and values. It should be guided by long-term business objectives, beyond simply making a quick sale or getting an email address.

Deliver value from the customer’s perspective

The most common mistake is creating content that meets the business needs or objectives without considering the audience.

Yes, sometimes people do need product-focused content. More often, however, they want to be guided, informed, or even entertained. They want to be more effective in their jobs. They want their lives to be simpler or more fulfilling. It’s hard to address those needs with a data sheet.

To deliver valuable content, you have to truly understand the audience. Content marketers often create buyer personas for this purpose. But buyers are not your only potential market. In a subscription business, for example, you must continue to market to existing customers, so it’s important to stay engaged with your customers.

Take the long view

Every business wants to drive sales, but getting to the sale is often a long process. Companies that spend the time to build a relationship with prospects and customers are generally more successful than those who go for the quick win. One way to build and sustain those relationships is through valuable content.

Content marketing can and should support a wide range of objectives, including:

  • Building an audience (generating awareness)
  • Earning trust and credibility
  • Generating new leads
  • Educating prospects and leads about your solution’s value (lead nurturing)
  • Reminding current customers of the value they are realizing
  • Adding value to the customer relationship, increasing retention (value nurturing)

Set it free

When businesses use content marketing exclusively to generate leads, they often put it behind lead registration forms. By asking people to pay with their data, you limit the reach of the content. Some people will simply click away rather than register. People who like the content are less likely to share it if it’s gated.

Your long-term business objectives are usually better served by widening your reach. You might use one or two pieces of gated content for lead generation, but everything else should be accessible and easy to share. Once you’ve done the work of creating the content, don’t limit its impact.

Download our free guide - 6 Proven Components of a B2B Lead Generation Campaign

Image by Rick Melara, via