Content and CRM: How the Content You Share Can Shape Customer RelationshipsThe content you share with customers and potential customers makes an enormous difference in the way prospects see your business and the degree of confidence and trust they have in you, both before and after the sale. The cynics say CRM is about feeding the sales machine, and while this is important, it really sets the stage for what CRM’s really good for --  building relationships and extending the customer lifecycle. Nothing helps in doing this better than sharing knowledge that helps your customers succeed.

My current title is director of content marketing, and for the better part of a decade I've been focusing on CRM. It’s a great confluence of topic and title, because whether businesses are willing to admit it or not, these two areas are inextricably linked. 

Content Marketing is More Than Lead Generation

Smart content marketing does a few valuable things. Traditional marketers may say it generates leads. That’s a gross simplification -- it can generate leads, but it’s useful in other ways that go beyond the tactical.

First off, it can establish your company as experts in your field. When you work in a market where there’s a lot of customer confusion, content marketing offers you a chance to be the company that makes the light bulbs come on over customers’ heads by cutting through the noise. That’s why pieces of content that are explanatory at a basic level -- the 100-level material that’s not that exciting to those within your company -- has a lot of value. It shows you understand what you do, but it also shows you can make it understandable for others.

As your content becomes more technical or more in-depth, you’re building a relationship with the readers or viewers. You don’t do this by selling at them; instead, you arm them with ideas that help them solve their problems. By doing this, you become a trusted partner and a go-to source for advice – even before the customer has purchased from you.

Some say this is a wasted effort if it doesn’t result in leads immediately. My response is that not every reader is going to be ready to buy now -- don’t gum up sales with those “non-leads.” However, they’re likely to buy sometime in the future. If you start building the relationship now, and you prove your expertise, and you help them by sharing knowledge, when they are ready to buy you will already have mindshare. It’s a short game -- some people will investigate you immediately -- but it’s also a long game. And your long game gets better as your library of content grows.

Content for Post-Sale Engagement 

Once you’ve sold to customers, the next objective is to keep them and deepen their relationship with your business, especially if you sell through a subscription model. Content is critical here, too -- it keeps customers engaged with you and your products and makes it less likely that they jump ship.