In the digital era, content is king. No matter what type of product or service your business represents, your potential customers are searching for information to solve a problem or fulfill a desire online. These are savvy shoppers. They look for content that is meaningful and relevant. And more times than not, they find what they are looking for — at least enough information to select who they will contact as a result of what they found in their search.

The question you need to answer is whether or not these prospectors will find what they are looking for at your place of business.

Putting it out there

This is the new age of information sharing. Some industry experts label this as “content creation.” It involves everything from the way your website is written to all other forms of communication such as white papers, blogs, case studies, articles, videos, e-books, press releases, FAQs, tips and newsletters and the list goes on.

The most important components of this new way of communicating include information optimization, placement and relevance. There is even an organization with this specialized focus, the Custom Content Council. It is a big business, and if your business is not on board, it is sure to lose out.

In a poll conducted by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research of CMOs and other senior executives at large and midsize companies in 20 industries on behalf of the Custom Content Council, it found that the average marketing budget allocated to custom content was 20 percent. The top three channels for custom content included websites, e-newsletters and printed newsletters followed by social media (which is a plethora of options including blogs, YouTube, SlideShare, StumbleUpon and the like) and video.

More important was the response from more than 1,000 consumers also surveyed about their attitudes toward custom content. In all cases, the overwhelming majority appreciated custom content, viewed it as a service to customers, believed that companies that provide it are interested in building customer relationships and did not mind that companies were also selling something as long as the information was valuable.

Making custom content work for you

To get started on your custom content journey, take an inventory of the information experts you have within your organization: product managers, engineers, production specialists, research experts, certified professionals, customer service staff, board members and consultants to name a few. Ask your sales team to identify information your customers are looking for when they are searching for a solution provider. Do an Internet search to see what types of information prospectors can already find online and make note of the communication vehicles used to share information.

Make note of directory services that come up in your search results that profile companies like yours. Create a matrix of experts and information customers are seeking and begin to match experts with information.

Then determine the top three ways for you to share information with your intended target audience. Decide how you are going to create this content — in-house or hired out. If the answer is in-house, don’t overlook the importance of what I stated above: optimization, placement and relevancy. You want to make sure that when a prospect is searching for a solution that your company offers, your information has been optimized and effectively placed so that it is found.

And by all means, give them something of value for free. If necessary, and if there is an interest, a prospect will jump through some hurdles to get what they are looking for, but they must first be engaged and trust that what you have might answer their need.

Also of note from the Roper/Content Creation Council poll, a significant proportion of marketers cite using 15 different channels to disseminate information. But, don’t let that stop you from getting the ball rolling. The sooner you get your company into the game, the sooner you will benefit. Start small and work your way up to becoming an information powerhouse.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 21-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 25 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or kborth@greencrest.com, or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

Published in Columbus