MARKETING your business is no longer about “puffing up your chest and saying how brilliant you are”, a leading figure in the field has said.

Sonja Jefferson, author and consultant with Valuable Content Ltd, told an audience in Bournemouth that businesses needed to connect with customers by providing useful content online.

She was guest speaker at the latest You Are the Media Lunch Club, held by Mark Masters of the ID Group at Shelley Manor in Boscombe.

She told of her sales experience in a pre-internet environment, where she discovered that photocopying an interesting magazine article and sending it to a business prospect made them more likely to take her phone calls.

She now runs “pub school” sessions in Bristol where businesses are encouraged to provide useful content and know their customers.

“A lot of people, when it comes to sales, think you should puff up your chest and say how brilliant you are, but I think it’s done too far,” she said.

Boasting of being the best in your field was “not what connects”, she said. “In certain industries, there’s a different approach which is becoming more mainstream,” she added.

She said businesses had to offer useful free content online for customers.

“This thing that’s become content marketing is providing value whether or not people buy from you. The more you do that, the more people will come towards you,” she said.

She added: “There’s lots of content out there. If you define content it’s just information, it’s the blog that you write, it’s the words on your website and it’s the Tweets that you’re putting out. But there’s a big difference between content and valuable content.

“For me, valuable content is something that’s created with a purpose for your business’s central audience.

“It’s about knowing your customer and finding something that’s right for them.”

She said she liked the idea of business manifestos, where companies told people what values they stood for. And she encouraged businesses to create content by thinking about the concerns and complaints of their customers.

“The one thing you can do to really make sure you’re creating something that’s going to connect with people is go out and do some research. Make a telephone call or do like Google did, get your customers in a room and ask them,” she said.

Valuable Content Ltd provides free resources on its website including an online content marketing course created for Tech City’s Digital Business Academy.

Sonja and business partner Sharon Tanton set down their advice in a book, Valuable Content.

“When we wrote a book, we basically took everything we knew and put it in a book. I did wonder about the sense in that but it came back to us in spades,” she said.

The next You Are the Media Lunch Club is on Thursday, March 30, at the Media Lounge in Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, and a You Are the Media Strategy Day is held on Thursday, April 27, at Shelley Theatre.