Content marketing or corporate vomit — which are you doing?
Content marketing can be a beautiful thing – but too often, it isn’t.
This is content utopia
When done well, it adds utility, guides, empowers, delights, and ultimately leads to sales. It builds and engages a valuable tribe. And it’s relentlessly relevant to them – it doesn’t interrupt. Your tribe look forward to engaging with your content, or the community you created, which they now drive. They would be upset if your content didn’t exist and willingly give you their data. Your content powers an integrated marketing ecosystem, enabling you to fuse push and pull marketing, but in such a way that customers have ‘chosen’ you.
Content is the hero of your personalisation strategy, which is designed for humans, not data points. Your content delivers tangible business outcomes, which are measured and understood across your organisation.
Now let’s be honest, does your content marketing tick each of these boxes, over and over again?
The antithesis of this is corporate vomit
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants and their needs,” Joe Pulizzi said.
I’ve used this quote in just about every content presentation or keynote I’ve delivered.
Unfortunately, too many brands’ content still focusses on themselves, their products, and their services. Whether this is a conscious choice, unintended, or driven by internal pressures is debatable.
However, what’s not disputable is the fact that best content marketing brands have a clearly defined business purpose, which is articulated and extended through content.
And as you’ll see from the examples below, their content is genuinely audience-centric.
Content that doesn’t focus on your tribe is an advertisement. It’s lazy and largely a waste of time, money and effort.
Merging authentic content with your product is a perfect match
Don’t get me wrong; you need to monetise your content, otherwise, it’s not sustainable.
And you should talk about your products and services. But first, you must build trust and relevance.
To do this, you need to understand your tribe’s needs and pain points, and then tailor content and a journey whereby they ultimately want to know how your product solves their problems.
I’ve seen this work time and time again. And it’s pretty simple.
Content and emotion prime the audience, and they’re subsequently more susceptible to buying. And you can tailor the offer, and make your paid media more efficient, based on the data you’ve collected.
Content shock in an attention economy
“There are only so many hours in a day and even if we consume content while we eat, work and drive, there is a theoretical and inviolable limit to consumption, which we are now approaching,” Mark said back in the day.
We’re now well and truly past that limit, and the bulk of content brands create is not seen, which must beg the question of why bother doing it in the first place?
To avoid this, you must make sure you’re producing high-quality content that is truly customer-centric. And you need a sophisticated distribution strategy.
In short, he implores marketers to diagnose multiple data sources to better understand, and become more relevant to, your tribe.
If you want to avoid content oblivion, you must produce content that meets customer’s pain points and queries, and connect with them through a nuanced and data-driven approach.
Build it, and they will come
I was supposed to be writing an article about how to build a killer content marketing strategy. (Sorry Firebrand, I’ve gone a little off-topic!)
But that’s been done to death and to be honest, I feel like we need to take the conversation up a level.
And her article ‘The path to content marketing utopia’ is a tome. It’s detailed, insightful, and pretty much lays out step-by-step how to build a best practice strategy. Read it, save it, and refer to it often!
You’ll note she starts with ‘define your business goals‘. Time and time again, I see this lack of clarity, and it sets you up to fail.
We use the Three C’s methodology to guide organisations to develop a strategy that sits at the nexus of commercial outcomes, customers (identification and needs), and competitors.
I encourage you to replicate this approach as the first step in developing your strategy.
Content should power your marketing ecosystem
Merely producing content and hoping someone will firstly find it, secondly engage with it, and ultimately purchase your product is not content marketing. It’s a tactic – and to be honest, not a very good one.
Sophisticated organisations view content as the glue — the lynchpin of a broader engagement and acquisition strategy – that enables them to build and nurture a profitable audience.
Content marketing is the delivery mechanism to initially engage before driving a predetermined next step from a precise audience or segment.
It complements paid and earned media, but ultimately is designed to migrate users to owned media channels. And the data that this provided – i.e. via EDM sign-ups or Cookies – should make your paid activity more targeted and cost-effective.
A B2B/C content masterclass
This could be a standalone article, so I’m only going to highlight a couple of my content crushes (in no particular order).
- Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line is bloody brilliant on every level. From a quality perspective, they put some media outlets to shame. Similarly, their YouTube channel is without peer – you can easily spend hours on it. And their social media and broader distribution channels are equally impressive.
- I love this quote from GE’s Chief Storyteller, Tomas Kellner: “Content marketing works because it’s about telling stories that are relevant that people want to read… it’s a simple concept.” If you don’t believe him, hit up GE Reports. Their hub connects product like wind turbines, gas turbines and storage batteries to issues like climate change and energy. While you’re there, do yourself a favour and sign up to their EDM GE Brief for a lesson in best practice email nurturing. GE’s primary Instagram page – they have one for most businesses – boasts 400K-plus followers and is worth a look too.
- A little closer to home, I’ve always been a fan of HBF’s Direct Advice for Dads. They are crystal clear who their audience is, and what resonates with them. Engaging with their content feels like you’re talking to a mate about your problems at the pub. It’s unflinchingly honest, as typified by this piece from an alcoholic father. Most brands would not produce the type of content they do – and that’s why most brands fail.
- Think accounting is boring? Try telling that to Xero, a content behemoth. What I like most about the Xero Blog is that it proudly puts the interests of their tribe first. Oh, and they have mastered the art of content-led personalisation and sales enablement. Check out Xero TV. It’s a cracker.
Smaller businesses leading content charge
- It’s important to note you don’t need to be a big blue-chip to excel. TrinityP3, a consulting firm, has less than 50 staff spread across AsiaPac and London. However, their blog houses more than 1000 articles that typify utility-driven thought leadership. They also embrace video and podcasting, among other channels. Oh, and their blog attracts a huge amount of B2B leads, opening doors – physical, reputational and conversational – their competitors can only aspire to. What TrinityP3 lack in size, they more than make up for in quality. And to be honest, a lot of the big end of town could learn a thing or two from them.
- I also want to make an honourable mention to LegalVision; their resource section is first-rate. And if you’re reading this, you know how well Firebrand does content in an otherwise undifferentiated sector.
Tread your own path
Can we all be GE or Patagonia? No. But we can all commit to replicating their quality storytelling and audience-first content.
Each and every piece of content the brands listed above produce adds value – it does not dissipate in the content shock vacuum.
In addition to quality, the other key success factor is to consider the objective of the asset you’re creating within your broader ecosystem. What will it do, when and how?
Once you’ve got that nailed, you can start the journey to content sophistication.
I’ve written several articles that deep-dive on these themes.
At the risk of being gratuitously self-promotional, if you’ve got this far, you may find these yarns helpful as well:
- Is content marketing the emperor’s new clothes?
- Mumbrella360 presentation: ‘Strategy is key to winning at content.’
- Content marketing measurement: Show me the money.
- How to ‘win’ in a saturated content environment.
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