Content-marketing is the practice of using information in many forms as a means to get and maintain prospects’ attention over time, with the goal of developing them into interested buyers. The practice has been around a long time. It was not born of the Internet age.

Content-marketing exists is for one reason: to function as an extension of the sales team.

Here’s why. No company has enough salespeople to contact the entire universe of prospects – or to stay in touch with them over time – or to coach them along until they’re open to a purchase consideration. There are a mere 215 selling days in the year to contact, schedule, meet, and close business with prospects. Not enough time to work every lead into a potential buyer.busy salespeople

So sales organizations typically rate and rank their list of prospects based on the likelihood that each will buy. Then they start at the top of the list and work their way down. An invisible cut-off line is drawn to divide the list into those prospects that reps can go after now and those that will have to wait until later. What happens to all the prospects on the “wait until later list?” – they go into the content-marketing bin.

Content-marketing gives organizations the ability to extend their sales-reach – to keep in touch with more prospects than would otherwise be possible; to build interest over time. That’s what people mean when they talk about lead nurturing. They’re really talking about automating the task of staying in touch with prospects who don’t yet qualify for a sales rep’s individual attention until they develop into high priority prospects.

Prospects operate on their own time. They are in control. Today, they may only be comfortable dipping their toe into the water. Perhaps tomorrow – perhaps next month – they’ll decide to wade around a little. Content-marketing coaches prospects along their purchase journey until they’re ready to dive-in.

In addition to developing prospects into potential buyers, content-marketing is useful for salespeople to convert opportunities into deals. When Sales cycles are longer than 30-60 days, it’s very likely that an interest in your product can disappear off the prospect’s radar for a variety of reasons. When that happens, you can either pick up the phone and call or send an email to reengage the prospect. Often, however, the only way to convert an opportunity into a deal is by persistent, relevant follow-up over time. Having informative content like checklists, buyer guides, solution primers, and self-assessment score-cards, is the key to persistent, relevant follow-up.

Content-marketing equals “business development.” It’s the life-line that feeds and nurtures prospects until they have developed into likely buyers. Content-marketing is an integral part of moving prospects through the sales funnel. Content-marketing is a sales function that directly affects revenue. Content-marketing is really content-selling.