More than 50 years ago, McGraw-Hill created an ad that became legendary in the decades to follow among business-to-business marketers–and among those folks like me who were selling advertising to those skeptical business executives.
As you can see above, the print advertisement featured the ultimate skeptical prospect who says:
Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?
In a single powerful page, McGraw-Hill made the case for business-to-business print advertising. I used this on countless presentations because it makes the point so simply and eloquently with its visual representation of one very hard-nosed customer. He is one tough cookie, who is absolutely not predisposed to accept what you have to say at face value.
Back then, print advertising was the logical solution to pre-sell even your toughest customers. Print advertising worked because your message was integrated into trusted business magazines which targeted exactly the buyers you needed to reach. Business publications were the most trustworthy sources of information that helped buyers make intelligent decisions about the problems that they faced every day.
Today, you face similar realities. You must still try to sell to tough customers within a highly competitive environment. But, you can do it even more effectively and inexpensively than in the heyday of print business-to-business advertising.
The difference between the old world of advertising and today’s world of content marketing is that in 2010, you can fulfill the complete role of a traditional business-to-business publication. That is, you can deliver both the editorial and the advertising components on your website.
You have the opportunity to become your own highly focused business publication online. You can create trusted information products that minimize all the skeptical thoughts that are lurking in the minds of your prospective buyers. Your buyers probably don’t look much like that old McGraw-Hill veteran. But they absolutely share his skepticism when they first visit your website.
Fortunately, because you can create a content rich website inexpensively, you can afford to provide relevant and compelling information that is every bit as engaging and trust building as that provided by print publications that formerly dominated the business-to-business landscape.
Prospective customers in search of answers to their most challenging problems will begin to trust you if you make it obvious that you can provide those answers. Once you have completed that content marketing mission, you can then lead your prospects to in-depth information about your company, its products, its reputation, its customers, and its people.
Why not print out a copy of this old advertisement and past it on your wall as a constant reminder of the unspoken thoughts in the minds of your prospects. It may help keep your content marketing strategy on track by reminding you that the prospects who visit you in search of solutions begin as hard-boiled skeptics in need of transformation.
So, to paraphrase the last line of that wonderful old print ad:
MORAL: Sales start before you connect with your customer–with content marketing.