I owe my marriage to content marketing. True, I probably won't use that line when I'm toasting my wife at our upcoming anniversary dinner, but for the readers of this column, the story may help illustrate the importance of content in marketing strategies.

When we first met, my wife wouldn't give me the time of day. We were in school together, so I had ample opportunities to make my pitch, but for almost a year, the deal book on Adam Reinebach went unread. Then God smiled upon me and put us in a German class together. Not only did this give me the opportunity to see her on a consistent basis, but it provided an excuse to connect that posed no immediate threat of romance. I asked if she wanted some help studying. The rest, as they say, is history.

Whether that's a cute story or not is debatable. But it illustrates the important role that content plays in grabbing people's attention. Whether you're trying to get a date or convince a private equity firm to hire your bank for its next deal, there is no better way to stay top of mind than providing useful and relevant content. And at a time when people are blistered with marketing offers via email, social media and even in person - a financial adviser looking for clients recently knocked on my front door - traditional branding efforts simply aren't enough.

If you are new to content marketing, you may need some basic guidance on what forms of content will resonate with your audience. Some of you are sold on content marketing; you just don't know how to get a campaign in motion and may have concerns about cost or compliance. Others have tried content marketing but haven't seen enough ROI to justify continued investment in this channel.

Here are a few recommendations that should be useful no matter where you fall on the content marketing spectrum:

1. Content should be easily found and searched. If you're blogging about a hot sector for M&A or writing client case studies that highlight your firm, make sure that content is optimized for search engines and isn't hidden on your website. Leading with a timely blog that answers a business problem or comments on an industry trend is much more effective than drowning the viewer in product or service information. Also, note that while Google changes its search algorithms constantly, one thing the search engine has rewarded consistently is relevant, original content.

2. It's not a sin to 'gate' some of your content. I don't recommend requiring registration for a blog, but if you're hosting a web seminar or did some extensive analysis in a lengthy white paper, there's nothing wrong with asking for a few pieces of information from the reader. We write and market hundreds of white papers every year, and we're always impressed to see how even high-ranking executives in financial services are willing to provide their information to view relevant content. More importantly, you'll have actual leads that you can follow up with on an individualized basis, plus tangible ROI that you can track.

3.The best content answers a business need. Too often marketers make the mistake of telling stories that give them a forum to talk about all of their wonderful attributes instead of providing content that responds to their audience's hopes and fears. Think about these two headlines that a lender might use in creating a case study: 1. "Bringing Global Capabilities to a Local Business" or 2. "How a Small Retailer Went from Red to Black in Six Months." The first headline focuses on the marketer's global capabilities, but the reader has to go further to determine whether the story even applies to him or her. The second headline focuses on the client's story vs. the marketer and provides more specificity on why the case study is notable.

If you need help in building your content marketing strategy, don't hesitate to call, email or visit our blog at http://sourcemedia.solutions.com.

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