Content Turns Relationships Into Sales

October 5, 2010

This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for

Marketing is becoming more than ever about content.

Companies and agencies are seeking to develop ongoing relationships with consumers that go beyond blasting them with brief, intrusive advertising messages.

Patty Radford Henderson

Last week’s annual summit of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) drove home the point. Speaker after speaker delivered the message that content is king.

And although companies and marketers have more platforms than ever on which to deliver information, it’s the information– not the delivery method– that matters most.

I saw a fascinating presentation on the topic by Patty Radford Henderson, executive director of Magnet 360, a multi-agency Twin Cities marketing collaborative.

Ongoing, engaging content, delivered regularly to consumers, builds relationships and ultimately drives sales, Henderson said– and proceeded to back up her point with richly engaging content of her own.

I talked to her later about the new emphasis on content and how the Internet has brought previously hidden communication to the forefront.

“Before the Internet, communication about the product was happening through the sales staff, or on the product packaging, or in a call center,” Henderson said.

“The Internet facilitated comparison shopping like never before. Now you have a ton of information from the manufacturer to learn all about the product. You can communicate with their sales force, forward recommendations to and from your friends,” she said.

The reason it feels so fresh, she said, is because marketing has been ruled by ad agencies and their brief, urgent pitches.

“Those ads are either an image and a headline, or a TV commercial,” she said. “There’s really no content. It’s a message that’s going to make you aware of the product or think of the product.

“But now the most influential conversations aren’t happening from an ad or a billboard.”

As traditional media falter, companies are stepping up to provide information to consumers– not only about their own products, but about consumer and industry trends, lifestyles, entertainment.

They want to get the consumer on their bus and take them for a ride. The ultimate destination, hopefully, is a sale– but the companies are happy just to have the consumer along for the ride, no matter how long it takes. The more people on the bus, the merrier.

The MIMA Summit, which has become one of the premier interactive gatherings between the coasts, was once again a tremendously useful source of intelligence on the direction of the marketing industry. More than 1,000 people attended the two-day event at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton, said MIMA President Tim Brunelle.

“The intensity of presentations and reactions really blew my mind,” Brunelle said. “For the past nine years, the MIMA Summit has gotten bigger. This year we got deeper.”