Content Marketing is starting to get hot. Is this a short lived trend or a more fundamental shift? Three big numbers make the case that content marketing is here to stay.
That is the estimated number of Americans on the Internet in 2011. It's a little over 78% of the US Population. The global internet population is estimated at over two billion people. The audience is huge and growing. So, now we need to find out what they are doing online...
That is the percentage of Internet users that use the Internet to perform research. Consumers have easy access to more information than ever before. In practice, that means they can inform themselves about your company, products, services, and competitors before they decide to talk to you. Which leads to another important number...
That is the average reduction in online prices across the board according to a recent McKinsey Study. In the United States, it is estimated that the average internet user saves $26/month by doing research and using price comparison sites. Falling prices generally indicate stronger competition and the perception that products are commodities. This most likely translates to offline pricing as well, because many consumers research online and purchase in store. Witness the many "we will match or beat any price guarantees" at big-box retailers. If you are a B2B firm, you are not immune to price pressure driven by buyer research. Don't believe me? Check out sites like Comparz to see your future.
What does this have to do with content marketing?
Today's buyer is more empowered than ever before, but it may actually be harder for him or her to make a good decision. Prices fall when products are perceived as a commodity. Interestingly, that perception can occur both when the buyer is well-informed and when they don't realize what should be important to them.
A marketer that understands the implications of the three big numbers realizes that the way to differentiate online is to inform the buyer—to educate them and help them make a better decision. If you are viewed as a trusted source of information, your prospects will be more likely to choose your offerings over your competition's. If an auction site like eBay feels the need to inform fashion-conscious shoppers with a custom magazine, you need to start thinking about what you can do to educate your prospective customer. The three big numbers represent a fundamental shift in the relationship consumers have with businesses. It is time for you to recognize that by helping consumers make better decisions.
If you are not sure where to start, I recommend starting a business blog. A company blog is usually the hub for most companies content marketing activities. Blogging is a powerful way to provide information in a format that is easy to digest, easy for you to update, and engaging—all things that a buyer appreciates in an age of information abundance.