People think about Content Marketing as if it is something new. Wait — doesn't all marketing consist of content of one sort or another? And hasn’t that been so since the beginning of commerce? So what makes Content Marketing new?
In short, it lies in style of the content that we are creating, and how we are using — or misusing — it. Let me explain.
In its purest form, Content Marketing consists of the creation and distribution of content that’s relevant and valuable to specific target audiences — with the goal of driving profitable customer actions. That is a pretty broad description: almost any marketing piece could fit into this category. But few would call your product brochure “Content Marketing.” So, what is it?
Often, Content Marketing focuses on creating content that will spread far and wide and reach prospective customers wherever they are. This is a respectable goal: Doesn’t everyone want their content to be seen? This content created for its viral potential aims to be remarkable and therefore spreadable.
This content aims to educate as well as entertain. It often contains statistics gathered through surveys. Perhaps it is an infographic, a video, cartoon or maybe a more serious whitepaper or ebook. It may be funny, clever, controversial, absurd, or otherwise news worthy.
Whatever the "hook,” the marketing asset and the content need to represent brand values and deliver that gut feeling that we want the content consumer to have — or it will not deliver to the fullest of its ability. It may even have a negative effect on the brand. This is where many marketers fail.
Another point of failure is when the statistics gathered are not done so in a valid and reliable manner, and in turn misrepresent the truth and proliferate misconceptions. This happens because it is so easy for anyone to create and conduct an online survey and draw conclusions, even when the survey audience may not be an accurate demographic representation of the target audience, and does not include a statistically significant sample size. Surveying is an art and a science.
Here’s the thing: Content Marketing, as a discipline, is often focused on two things: viral reach and short-term marketing KPI’s. The strategy typically favors quantity over quality and often talks about the industry — or something adjacent to the industry — that is of interest to the target audience segment. This differs from traditional marketing content that is painstakingly labored over and typically talks about the brand and its products and services, rather than the industry.
To fully understand Content Marketing we must look at the function of the corporate marketing organization. This differs for B2B and B2C brands — but one constant is the focus on moving marketing KPI's.
These marketing KPI's should be, but are not always, directly correlated to bottom-line business objectives. At times the marketing org becomes narrow-sighted and focuses on hitting short-term goals that are not strongly correlated to bottom-line business objectives. When this happens, the all-important objective of giving true value is often neglected. This results in the marketing department having hit its numbers but at the same time weakening its position and its ability to hit those goals again in the future.
In my opinion, Content Marketing should focus on strengthening the brand position in the hearts and minds of the customer. This means that the marketing org must consider how its content and Content Marketing campaigns affect both the short-term objectives and overall brand strength.
As with almost anything, there is a continuum of quality when it comes to Content Marketing. As a marketer, as a brand, you must apply standards to your content and evaluate every piece in respect to how it measures up to your standards — and delivers — in respect to brand values.
Some brands do not have particularly high standards for their content. They are satisfied with content that meets short-term objectives and they are not concerned with brand lift over time. These brands live day-to-day, week-to-week, and are hyper-focused on the numbers to get a read on their health. While these numbers may give an accurate indication of the current state of health, they are poor indicators of underlying weaknesses that silently take hold — and could cause big problems in the future.
Other brands understand their values and how these values are the foundation of their brand-customer relationships. They relentlessly focus on making sure that every piece of content, every experience, at every touch point, delivers on these values and strengthens their relationships.
As a customer, when you consume such content, you gain knowledge and feel a certain way — the way the brand wants you to feel. And you leave the interaction with a favorable brand impression — one that predisposes you to buy in the future, reinforces your past buying decisions, and reinforces the likelihood that you will recommend the brand’s products and services to others.
Everyone seems to be riding the Content Marketing train. This creates a big demand for statistics. These statistics are generated, put out there on the social internet, picked up by others, added into those others own content, quoted, spread. And this cycle repeats.
When the info is valid and reliable, value is injected into the market. When the info is not valid and unreliable, misinformation is injected into the market, and this damages our understanding and ability to excel.
As a marketer, when you create statistics, make sure they are valid and reliable. You owe this to yourselves, and you owe this to your customers. As a content consumer, look at the methodology behind the statistics and make sure they accurately represent what they say they do.
If we all keep doing this, our understanding will grow and the discipline of Content Marketing will mature. This will enable marketing orgs to continually hit their goals and will deliver greater value to consumers.
Until next time, Happy Marketing!
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