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Why is content king?

Bill Gates almost single-handedly elevated content to the throne, so to speak. In a 1996 essay, he held forth on content's vast potential.

"Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling. Although the gold rush atmosphere today is primarily confined to the United States, I expect it to sweep the world as communications costs come down and a critical mass of localized content becomes available in different countries."

Certainly just saying it—even if Bill Gates was the speaker—doesn't make it so. Even though he was among the first to highlight the importance of content, there are several reasons why content is the centerpiece of today's sales and marketing best practices. Here are four reasons why content is king.

1. Information really is power. Think about it: Giants like Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all share one commonality: Their product is content. A mere handful of years ago, these companies didn't even exist. In a very short time, however, their collective inception and development have created a groundswell of information, a veritable tsunami of data.

Information solves problems, convinces, explains, compares, informs, entertains and on and on. Now that information is at their fingertips, people - your customers included - have an insatiable hunger for it.

2. Content is how people find, identify and remember you. Content is how individuals and businesses create an identity for themselves and stand out in a crowded marketplace. The more valuable the information, the more memorable the differentiation will be.

Technology has made finding information very easy and efficient. As a result, businesses have shifted much of their marketing to online efforts. What's more, providing practical, fresh and highly applicable content is an excellent way to satisfy customers' new demands.

3. Content is wonderfully sharable. Aided by the technology which makes it so effortless, sharing content is now our first nature. Easily passing content around has made it immensely popular—and powerful. By providing stellar content and enabling your sales reps and your customers to share it, you are elevating the credibility of your business and your brand.

4. Content has changed buying behaviors. Since information is so plentiful and so easy to access, customers or prospects automatically factor it into their buying decisions. If you are marketer or sales pro with a product or service to sell, you now have to educate customers, not just list product attributes. Another way to say this is that you have to create and offer the kind of information they want to consume. Everything is about the interplay between content and customer relations.

The extraordinary access to information has made the consumer much smarter and well-informed. They wield information with power and insight to search, sort, sift and evaluate data in the process of making buying decisions. The message should be inescapable to sales persons: Talk less about how great you are and more about how useful you are.

Although Bill Gates was right in 1996, he is even more right in 2014. In the years since his prophetic essay, we have seen the incredible power of the Internet supercharged. In this new age of marketing, content proves every day and in every way its claim to the throne.

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