The likely key to content marketing has been discovered; It's probably not what you think.
Remarkably, 95 percent of CEOs whose companies use content marketing as a marketing tactic report they believe it has had no effect on their businesses.
Content marketing is a relatively inexpensive marketing tactic, but regardless of the cost, if you spend any time on any business activity that provides no return to your business, kill it.
Or do it right.
According to content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, of the 5 percent of CEOs who reported a successful content marketing effort, 82 percent of them indicated their success was in creating “proprietary content.” They felt their organizations were the only ones who could have generated the content in the exact way they created it.
As we often state in PositionistView: If you don’t differentiate in business, you’ll die. A differentiating strategy only needs two questions correctly answered: Where should you play and how will you win?
Similarly, differentiated content is achievable if you answer these same questions for your content strategy: What content should we develop (where to play) and how can it make us the single source for its respective insight (how to win)?
Pursuing differentiated content.
George Loewenstein of Carnegie-Mellon University created an information gap theory that states curiosity develops when we feel a gap “between what we know and what we want to know.”
If your content can fill a knowledge gap you find your customers always seem to have, then you can create differentiated content. The content should contain value that previously was evasive to your customer base.
Where to play.
Perhaps the hardest decision to make in business is where to play, so it stands to reason that determining your content topics can be equally difficult. Here are a few tips that might be your missing key to creating differentiated content:
1. Keep it aligned to your position. If you know how your business is differentiated in marketing, sales, operations and/or distribution, then aligning your content to this difference should come natural. While you might have general industry knowledge, resist the temptation to distribute content that could be similarly produced by your competition. A good question to ask, “Can our competition produce this content in this way?” If the answer is no, then you will meet the criteria for differentiated content. If your business is “playing” there, then your content should follow.
2. Look no further than your FAQs. If customers are asking a question frequently enough, a knowledge gap probably exists. As noted above, when you can fill an information gap, your content will be valuable. Your customers are probably providing you relevant topics and they may be coming through your help desk. Mine your FAQs and make sure you answer them with your proprietary spin.
3. Leverage your sales team. Marketers should be aligned with their sales team. If the marketing team is leveraging sales people’s insights correctly, they will discover a wealth of content within the conversations sales is having with your customers. But these conversations are more insightful because they represent the closest mind-of-the-customer perspective available. Regularly engage with sales to see what customers are talking about.
How to win.
Creating the latest viral video sensation or meme might be on your to-do list, but of the trillions of content posts every day, the chances of your content getting hundreds of thousands of shares are infinitesimal. Strive to create content your organization will feel proud to distribute by following these tips:
1. Care about the delivery. No one wants to get into an article to find out the content doesn’t deliver on the headline. If you’ve come up with valuable content following the above tips, don’t miss the opportunity due to poor delivery. You aren’t trying to create clickbait, you are trying to create more customers. Spend sufficient time delivering the content in a way that your users would want to click the share button. Take the extra steps to edit your article for clarity and for where you are sharing it and don’t post it the same way on every platform.
2. Provide value beyond your opinion. Most of us want to know the latest trends, especially in the digital realm. Knowing what’s working (or what isn’t) shortcuts the decision process, requires less testing and saves resources. For instance, the statistics in my introductory statement came from a seminar featuring noted author Joe Pulizzi. Read an eBook, scan the latest Gartner study or do your own valid research and share the stats. Readers love that.
3. Get your video guru involved. A lot of content is better shared audibly or visually. Consider the popular short video-recipes today. Not only does it make the recipe easy to understand and mimic, it provides the visual outcome as the viewer exclaims, “Yum!” While it takes more time and production work, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Try a quick how-to video or market trend summary podcast.
4. Make it emotional. Citing statistics can be credible, but many people won’t actually remember them. Stats catch attention and will be used for a day or a week, but tugging someone’s heart ensures recall. Noted blogger Nicholas Tart suggests, “From a blogging perspective, one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience is to reveal the things you’re not proud of.” We’re not proud that we didn’t come up with this suggestion…In this age of transparency and authenticity, don’t hesitate to share something emotional with your audience.
5. Ask for a response. What do you think of this PositionistView post? Leave a quick comment below. Really! Ask for feedback. It might hurt, but it is one measure of whether someone – anyone – finds your content valuable. It might produce more questions you can answer in another piece of content!
There you have it. The recipe for differentiated content. Stay tuned for the 30-second recipe version.