5 ways content marketing can help you overcome business problems

Steve Goldhaber, founder and CEO of 26 Characters, shares five examples of how companies have used content marketing to tackle business problems.

My advice is - you need to identify the problem that you’re trying to solve. Once you do that, your content strategy usually falls into place. In that spirit, below are five examples of how companies with a business problem managed to solve it with content marketing.

Problem #1: “We have a long sales cycle lasting six to 12 months and it’s hard to stay top of mind”

Sales cycles in the IT space are long, which make staying top of mind pretty challenging. You might think the best way to engage a prospect is to emphasize the value your brand can deliver. But in reality, customers and prospects want more.

In tackling this challenge, Wipro launched an independent, thought leadership content platform called “WOOL” by Wipro (Think 'cool' but with a W). WOOL is a quarterly CXO magazine with a global distribution of 3500 and a digital video series, and the content plays at the intersection of design, trends, technology and innovation.

Not only is the magazine quirky and unconventional, its design is also playful and is given a makeover for every edition, which further reinforces the brand-neutral approach. They’ve secured some well-known insights and perspectives from stalwarts like Barbara Novick, vice-chairperson and co-founder of BlackRock; Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon; Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital; Seth Godin, author and internet marketer, among others.

According to Bianca Ghose, chief storyteller at Wipro: “WOOL brings CXOs a unique perspective on business, society and the future of everything, giving leaders a reason to feel inspired, challenge the status quo or experiment with a new approach. “[WOOL] gives Wipro’s marketing a neutral and insightful edge, and their client partners resources to allow for meaningful customer conversations," she added. "WOOL has become a great conversation starter and relationship builder.”

Problem #2: “Our offering is complex and takes time to explain”

If you sell a complex product or operate in a convoluted industry, using content marketing is a no-brainer. It’s all about helping people. There are various types of content marketing tools to choose from: webinars, whitepapers, case studies etc. Explaining what you do can be a challenge, especially if you’re a large multi-national company that manages multiple divisions.

Johnson Controls stands out to me as a company which uses content marketing to explain its offering effectively, without relying on traditional product and service descriptions. In the insights section of its website, it shows real examples through hands-on case studies. These aren’t your normal soft and feel good case studies. They show hard-hitting facts like how much money their clients saved and what the project cost them.

They even list out every piece of equipment used in the job. This 'no nonsense' look helps people learn about what Johnson Controls is fully capable of doing. I like that it’s all about impact.

Problem #3: “We’re growing a new category that people aren’t familiar with”

When you step into a brand new market, chances are people may not even know what category it belongs to. This was the challenge faced by IBM for their artificial intelligence offering. Many of their prospects thought of AI as a niche technology - this isn’t the case.

Instead, the use cases for AI are everywhere. Because of this, IBM adopted the approach of telling stories of how other companies were applying IBM AI so customers and prospects could understand. This would give them that 'a-ha' moment and make them recognize AI was a tangible thing which they could apply to their respective businesses.

They created a website called IBM Watson AI stories to show real-life examples of how its AI technology has helped companies solve various problems. Each case study clearly outlines specific business challenges, transformations and results, leaving prospects with a much better understanding of how they might be able to apply AI to their own business.

Problem #4: “We're a big company with numerous divisions. How can I create something that shows a ‘united front’ and allows people to drive their own agenda?”

If you’ve ever worked for a large-scale company, you’ll understand that your marketing approach would fall somewhere between “do whatever you want, just make sure you have the right logo” and “wait a second… we’re one company, shouldn’t we act that way?”. There are a couple of different methods to present a unified go-to-market strategy.

Some companies use design to tie everything together. You may hear something in the hallways like: “Just make sure it’s on brand and you’ll be fine” or “is that stock photograph from the central image repository?”. More sophisticated companies use design-plus messaging to tie everything together.

They have message themes or key narratives all mapped out, and each campaign needs to have some kind of connection in return to get it out the door. Another way to drive integration is to use a technology platform to create a unified experience.

Deloitte Insights is an example of how a company used design and a technology platform to establish a united front. The structure of Insights allows multiple divisions (i.e. automotive, higher education, etc) to create content that’s important to them. All they need to do is follow website templates, structure and branding, and they’re good to go.

The depth of the content on this site is impressive. For example, have a look at this article on Strategies for stemming the opioid epidemic. There’re some great interactive charts you can play around with. When you hit the ‘download’ page, an actual report comes up.

This suggests its publishing model actually starts with a division doing its own report. However, it also published on this platform to gain additional exposure and provide a 'one-stop shop' for all things Deloitte.

Problem #5: “Since our product applies to multiple verticals, we need to showcase our versatility”

The challenge for a lot of large companies is how do you show the depth of what you offer? It’s always easy to talk about a high-level brand promise or features. But the key is showcasing your expertise through real examples. Salesforce is a company that totally fits this challenge. Its SaaS solution can be applied to pretty much any industry.

Here’s what they did. It took a rather unique approach using podcasting to showcase the versatility of their product. The Marketing Cloudcast started around two years ago and has since published 115 episodes.

It’s hosted by a variety of Salesforce colleagues, and is positioned as 'The podcast where marketing leaders shoot straight about key trends, technologies and topics in marketing today'. Their podcast is filled with many different topics, showcasing how they can get into specific verticals. Some examples are 'Episode 10 – The anatomy of medical marketing', 'Episode 107 – marketing lessons from the VC world' and 'Episode 13 – The day-to-day life of a social media consultant', just to name a few.