"Hi Adam, I wanted to follow up on the email I sent last week regarding the fantastic services we offer to companies like yours. I'm confident our product will bring you great success, and I'd like to find a half hour on your calendar next week to discuss how great we are. Does 2 p.m. next Friday work?"

I get emails like this every week, and I am sure many of you do as well. I do not have the time to track each one of them, but I would estimate that nine out of 10 email pitches I receive are generic, poorly worded or just plain needy. These messages make the wrong assumption that simply because the vendor contacted me, I am going to make their request a priority and feel compelled to respond.

I am sure that many of the services pitched to me have tremendous value. The problem is: The marketing messages themselves have zero value. I'm a busy guy, and I might have influence or budget to buy their product, but they are not offering anything in exchange for my attention.

In a relationship market like M&A, content marketing and thought leadership are still evolving. Most investment banks and private equity firms play to a few key strengths: their list of deals, roster of professionals and industry expertise. And that makes perfect sense.

If I'm trying to sell my manufacturing company and you have sold 20 of them successfully, that matters. And if the advisory director at one of the bidding PE firms used to run a manufacturing company, that is a distinct advantage.

But what about the seller who isn't ready today, but will be in nine months? What about the buyer who just had a terrible experience with a deal process but needs to put some money to work now?

What value have you provided in your prior communications? What interesting content is available on your website to position yourself versus the competition?

There are some companies who are doing this right within M&A, including investment bank Financial Technology Partners. The company has invested a ton of resources to develop a comprehensive deal database, which it references in some outbound communications and on its website. By making its data available to existing and potential clients, FT Partners has a natural way to engage prospects.

There are also a growing number of companies in this space who have made a real commitment to providing original content, including accounting firm Grant Thornton. Grant Thornton provides original content through 25 e-newsletters that you can sign up for on its website. These are largely topic- or market-driven, and have a non-commercial tone. Most importantly, they give the firm a way to communicate with clients and prospects on a recurring schedule.

If you're already sold on content marketing, that's wonderful. My next question is, how are you determining the return on investment on that investment?

If you're going to host a web seminar, for example, don't be content with simply capturing leads. Take it a step further by doing a lead nurturing program and scoring those leads so you understand which customers are most likely to respond to follow-up communication.

SourceMedia sells lead nurturing programs and offers lead scoring as part of a standard web seminar package. We also provide several other ways to help you realize the benefit of an investment in content. There are also several other ways we can help you realize the benefit of an investment in content.

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