Too many companies seem more committed to broadcasting their own view of the world than they are with making connections with customers.
Even though it is widely understood that content marketing – blogs, guides, infographics, games, interactive microsites, videos and the like – is important, too few companies focus on genuine customer engagement.
You only need to look at the Sponsored hashtags that litter Twitter that get breathless interaction from the brands that fund them, and precious little from anyone else to see that the veneer of engagement is not enough
Consider too the videos that tick along with triple digit view, or the branded-to-within-an-inch-of-life infographics that say little and are seen less.
Not all content marketing is created equal – but that shouldn’t deter those who are committed to getting it right and making content about customers rather than colleagues.
The imitation of content marketing
Creating content and shipping it out via all the usual channels appears like content marketing – but’s not. It’s the imitation of a content marketing strategy.
An unappetising self-aggrandising marketing message is just as unappetising and self-aggrandising if it is served up in a social media feed, interactive game or white paper as it is should it come from a salesperson or conventional ad.
The absence of content in content strategy that results in too many businesses spending time and money on underperforming pieces of landfill content that is at best ignored or at worst, actively resented by potential customers.
So – what can you do to get into the habit of creating ‘real’ content that resonates?
1. Accept that knowing the customer is more than a cliché
Only through really (truly) understanding the multiple audiences that comprise your potential customer base can you create content worth consuming.
The brutal truth is that most potential clients have no reason to care about what your company does or how you would like to work with them.
However, by truly getting to grips with their pain points, topics of interest, ambitions, joys, hopes and fears, you stand a good chance of being able to join up what you want to communicate, with what they want to hear about.
Content marketing can bridge customer self-interest with your business goals – but it’s up to you to put in the research and effort to make it happen.
2. Put brand to one side
Over-reliance on brand goodwill is often the root cause of lazy content. In some cases, marketers working for major brands may be able to get away with some uninspiring content, but they’ll forever undercut their success by doing so.
Worse still is when brands think they are widely known and loved by potential customers, but are not nearly as visible as they think. In these circumstances, underwhelming content has even less chance to make an impact – with managers perplexed as to why.
The answer is to put brand to one side and consider – is your concept strong enough, in and of itself? If it legitimately newsworthy, entertaining and/or informative, even if a complete unknown company was to produce it?
Self-criticism, discipline and rigour are essential to maintain quality and ensure that content can stand on its own two feet.
3. Be the best – habitually
Customers respond to excellence. A mixed bag of content pieces, released erratically, does not suggest excellence and does nothing to build your brand as a known, reliable and appealing entity.
By producing content that rests heavily on your own expertise and perspectives, perhaps using data that only you have access to, you can stand apart from the pack – and deliver it with enthusiasm, mapped to what you know customers, influencers and the media have an appetite for.
Content marketing works best as a continuous commitment that builds up layers of recognition, affiliation and interest over time – so have a robust, integrated content plan that leaves you in a much better place six months from now.
By following these principles you’ll quickly get into the habit of producing high quality content that serves your business purposes – and seeing the results in terms of web traffic, media visibility and more.