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We are in the middle of a communication revolution. New technologies are altering the way we interact with each other at a speed of change that is almost impossible to keep up with. Telephone conversations have become as quaint as writing letters.

The millennial generation are ignoring email and communicating almost exclusively by text and message through Facebook and other social media providers. Even in the business world, we're finding that our organizations have become so reliant on emailing, that business can crash to a halt if a server fails or a cable line gets cut.

I believe we're at a change point in our world that is unlike anything we've seen in the last 1,000 years. After Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press, information became available to huge swaths of people who previously had been uneducated and uninformed. The result was the creation of a middle class that is now the foundation of all open and modern civilizations.

The change we're seeing now is achieving the same kind of results. More democratically available information is, in part, responsible for the pressure on repressive Middle Eastern regimes, and causing havoc in China where the government insists on keeping a cork on the information bottle while the contents are finding even simpler ways to leak out to the people.

It is also-at a fundamental level-changing the way we engage and learn. I heard a speaker at a conference ask, "Why do kids have to learn the reasons for the War of 1812 if they can get that information in a heartbeat?" What we learn and how we learn is changing.

The problem for business people is that we want stability and predictability. But the upheaval in communications is causing us to try more and more unproven marketing and communications venues in the hope (fleeting, sometimes) that we can connect with our prospects and move them to action. Consider, for example, the problem of engaging people via email when they are already overburdened with email.

What we've learned here at Modern Trade Communications is that any marketing that gets done via email has to provide value to the recipient in more than just a "hey, look at my great product/service" format. There has to be education and information that is usable at that moment. Otherwise, readers-who already have a cynical eye toward marketing messages-tune out immediately. And they tune out by unsubscribing. Once that happens, you've lost a prospect forever.

So, what do you do? The answer is content marketing. This is a discipline of marketing that uses valuable information to engage prospects on a different level. You leverage your expertise to give knowledge and help to your audience, and through that, you associate and build your brand. Ultimately, you want to create true believers in your product or service because it's through their testimonial and support that you build your business. Content marketing allows you to establish your expertise and build trust with your prospects before they even make a buying decision. Any sales or marketing person will tell you that increased trust from prospects translates into shorter selling cycles and higher margins.

It doesn't matter whether you are sending your information via print or electronic format, positioning your company as a source of expert advice and being a problem solver will make it easier to engage with your prospects. Yes, people want to know about new products, but they want to control that search themselves. It can't be forced on them.

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