Recent posts on this blog have centered around lead nurturing and social media. Mostly because I’ve been talking with many Cisco partners about how lead nurturing and social media fit into a larger marketing strategy. One thing that has become increasingly clear to me through these conversations is that content is the foundation, the enabler, the glue (pick a metaphor) for all marketing regardless of the marketing tactics used. I would go so far to say that the importance of content is magnified today given the myriad of social media tools that allow you to get your story out to the world with the simple click of a mouse.Your content is your differentiator. It can establish you and your company as an expert, a thought leader. Good content, used effectively, can turn your expertise, insight, advice into marketing campaigns that influence people (your target customer) and motivate them to take action. Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency in the UK, calls this content marketing. Here’s why they say you need to do content marketing (and I couldn’t agree more).• Position your company as an expert; a company that understand the important issues• Encourage your audience to consult you; to at least pick your brains• Generate new leads; by asking people to raise their hands and say “I’m interested in this issue too.”• Progress existing leads; move them along your marketing funnel until they’re sales ready (This is lead nurturing.)• Build your database by asking for a few details; the better your content the more willing they will be to share.• Raise awareness; get yourself on the radar screens of the people who matter including prospects, customers, analysts etc.• Contribute to communities making you a good social media citizen instead of a leech.• Give your sales team a reason to engage, so they can add value before and after the sales call.• Boost your search engine performance; used well good content does wonders for search engine optimization.How can you identify the right content to use?You know your markets and the issues and challenges that are top-of-mind for your customers and prospects. Keep in mind this one very important principle. It is not about you, your product/service or your message. It’s about what your target customer cares about. Providing compelling content around a topic that your customer cares about is the only way to motivate them to take an action that will bring them into your marketing and sales funnel.To find what your customers and prospects care about do some of the following:• Have a face-to-face chat with current prospects and customers. Find out what’s on their minds and where you can add value.• Talk with your best internal experts. Your sales teams interact with customers and prospects every day. They know what issues are hot. • Use Google alerts — set up alerts on key terms relevant to your business. It’s easy and it’s free. • Use Twitter search — Discover what people are tweeting using some key words. • Find out what top bloggers are saying — locate bloggers that blog about topics that are relevant to your business. Follow them regularly. • Know your competition — check out your competitors. This will help you effectively position your content.• If you have a blog, pay attention to those that get the most traffic and comments. This can signal a topic/issue that resonates with your target customers. For more ideas on content and it’s importance to marketing, download The Content Marketing ebook from Velocity Partners.