Doing content marketing right — in a way that positively impacts revenue and growth — is hard and it’s going to get much, much harder.
It’s no secret how marketing is changing. Not long ago, prospects were about 30% down the road to making a purchasing decision before they engaged your sales people. At that point, your sales reps would use brochures, presentations and other materials to lead the prospect the rest of the way. Today, prospects are more likely to be 80% (or more) down the road towards a buying decision before they engage with your sales people.
This means the content you create — for distribution on websites, social media and email campaigns — is critical.
Unfortunately, your customers and prospects are awash in a flood of bad-to-mediocre content — and the volume of redundant, myopic and poorly constructed information is increasing at an alarming rate.
Bad content is simply sales material poorly disguised as content.
So, what’s the effect of all this bad content? Your customers and prospects are going to slam their doors and ignore almost all of it. This doesn’t make content marketing impossible. It just makes it difficult and raises the barrier to entry. Which is good news for those who master it. In our view, mastering requires five things:
1. Exclusive Insight. From a readership and call-to-action perspective, it’s more important to be interesting than right. The content that gets the best acceptance has an element of insight or exploration that rises above a conglomeration of facts — or thinly veiled product information. Think of the “early adopter” curves you’ve seen in books and presentations over the years. The thin part of the bell curve (to the far left of the chart) represents about 3% of the world’s population. They are the innovators and the people who bring new ideas to the world. They probably make up 5-7% of your employee population. Finding those people and bringing their ideas to life is critical. If you can’t find it inside the organization, look at your technology partners, channel partners or universities for possible sources.
2. Audience Perspective. All great content, whether it’s for marketing, education or entertainment purposes — starts with audience empathy. You start by understanding your audiences and what’s important to them, then you draw a line from that point of understanding to your content. That must be your story arc. If you do it the other way — beginning with what you want to say or what you want your audience to believe — it’s incredibly difficult to make the connection.
3. Authoritativeness. People who search for content are generally looking for new ideas and companies or individuals who are authorities in their area. Effective content will always come from a point of knowledge, depth and understanding. It won’t overtly try to persuade, because it comes from a place of confidence.
4. Strategic Intent. Much of the aforementioned bad content is simply sales material poorly disguised as content. It’s fine to mention products, services or technologies where they make sense, but the focus of your content should always be strategic. Your content should solve problems, introduce fresh ideas or propose new lines of thinking. This consideration is almost always met when you adhere to the audience perspective ideas mentioned above.
5. Plagiarism-Free. The flood of bad content surging through your audience’s computers and mobile devices is largely repurposed. You’ve probably seen it yourself — the same stats and infographics repackaged, regurgitated and positioned as “content.” As hard as it is, be sure your content is original. If you do include commonly used stats or trend information, be sure to frame it in a new thought or insight.