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Teaching and Relevance: The Last Mile in Marketing

Teaching Relevance and Trusted Content The Last Mile in Marketing

How is it possible for a sales rep to sell prescription drugs to medical doctors?

That was my question to a pharmaceutical sales rep in my MBA cohort a decade ago.  His answer was straight-forward and to the effect: I’ll never know more about medicine or the human body than a doctor, but I do know more about my product and the science behind it.

His challenge as a sales rep for big pharma boiled down to teaching an already highly educated community. The width of his knowledge was far smaller than that of his clients and prospective customers, but the depth had to be vastly superior – an inch wide, but a mile deep.

He’d never know more about medicine unless he pursued medical school, but he could certainly learn everything he needed to know about his own product and use that knowledge to be a valuable resource.

Teaching, Adding Value and Trust

Mack Collier recently published a well-written blog post that reminded me of this exchange: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Stop Marketing and Start Teaching.  In it he presents several ways teaching, rather than selling, becomes a competitive advantage, a means to add value, and ultimately a path to build trusting and loyal customers.

This notion isn’t new, but it’s earned a second life with the seismic shift in marketing towards content marketing.  No matter whose definition of content marketing we might gravitate towards – there’s a sentiment of teaching, adding value and developing content that is of some utility for a target market in every one.

As Messrs. Pulizzi and Rose often point out, there’s a distinct difference, between content marketing and marketing content. “Increasingly, consumers encounter brands outside of shopping contexts.”

“Increasingly, consumers encounter brands outside of shopping contexts.”

Encountering Brands out of Shopping Context

“Increasingly, consumers encounter brands outside of shopping contexts,” according to JR Little in a Media Post article titled, Content Overload: Are We Creating Clutter?

“On any given day, I see posts of pics, videos, article and stories about things related to travel, shopping, entertainment – you name it. However, often this content has very little to do with a category context like a comparison of product features or capabilities,” he wrote.

No one logs into Facebook in anticipation of seeing sponsored content from a favorite brand.  And yet these are present – right alongside pictures your sister shared from your niece’s prom or you best friend’s family photo from an exotic vacation destination.

Embrace them or not – the common denominator in the 10 Commandments of Content Marketing that Brian Solis published last week is relevance.   Relevance is the content marketing commandment. The moments buyers might be shopping in context fitting for a message generated in a focus group are fleeting.

Mobile:  The Last Mile in Marketing 

Telecom companies have been in a battle for the “last mile” for more than a decade.  We take for granted today we can order telephone services from a cable company and vice-versa, but in that vertical market, it’s been a brutal transformation.  The last mile became a metaphor for the point of connection to the end user – subscribers and recurring revenue.

Marketing is having its last mile now – on mobile devices. The last mile in marketing is the micro-moments between meetings, a (painfully slow) wifi connection at 30,000 feet, or the first thing in the morning as people reach for their phones.  It’s really the only time left marketing has to be relevant – to earn the trust of repeated visitors, to be an educational influence in a buyer’s journey that is increasingly shrinking the role of sales.

Marketers tend to think of struggle for attention in the context of a competitive landscape, but the reality is we compete for attention among a vastly greater ecosystem of content. Teaching, adding value, and relevance are the path forward – the way a pharma sales rep educates a medical doctor – and the depth needs to be vastly superior.

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The Shocking Beef about Feeding the Content Monster

Photo credit:  Flickr, Kool Cats Photography… Long Road (CC BY 2.0)

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