One of the major trends in B2B marketing for 2010 will be the continuing growth of content marketing.  A recent study by the Custom Publishing Council found that branded content accounted for 32 percent of the average overall marketing, advertising, and communications budgets in 2009.  According to the CPC, this was the greatest ever proportion of overall marketing/communications funds dedicated to branded content.  The importance of content marketing was further emphasized last week when the Custom Publishing Council announced that it had changed its name to the Custom Content Council.

What is content marketing?  Joe Pulizzi, co-author of Get Content. Get Customers., defines it this way:  "Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action."  The basic idea behind content marketing is to create content that speaks directly to the issues and challenges that potential buyers are facing, and thus provide those buyers a compelling reason to engage with the selling organization.

Content marketing has become a critical discipline because today's B2B buyers are researching buying decisions independently, and they are delaying conversations with salespeople until much later in the buying cycle.  If your company doesn't provide useful and compelling content, potential buyers will simply find it somewhere else.

To understand the importance of content marketing, think of your marketing and sales activities as being part of a process that must in itself create value for customers.  In other words, treat the marketing and sales process as if it is another service that you provide.

And how do marketing and sales create value for potential buyers?  By providing information and tools that help them better understand the problems and challenges they're facing and how those problems and challenges can be addressed.  Content marketing is the vehicle for providing this kind of information.  Therefore, once you treat marketing and sales as a process that must provide real value for prospective buyers, the logic behind content marketing becomes clear and compelling.

You can read more about content marketing here.