Content marketing is the rage. And it’s a topic worth discussing: how do companies use content that is inherently not sales or marketing oriented to entice consumers to become customers, and ideally, more profitable customers? Unfortunately, it is a conversation that marketers are having with one another and that means the content marketing conversation—productive conversation about how each company can and should create and deliver content—is already over. Here’s why:
- Content marketing is not a natural extension of social media. The buzz around content marketing is being driven by social media practitioners who need new content. Most organizations have already established decent sized communities on multiple social platforms and the early metrics measuring social practitioner success (community setup and membership) are no longer relevant. Companies have shifted their focus towards sentiment and engagement (and actually shifting it towards revenue generation) and the content being delivered by most organizations isn’t moving these metrics in a positive direction. Social media analysts who are expert at repurposing sales and marketing content (combined with holiday posts, company events, and cat videos) are now at a loss as to what to do. The answer is better content, but digital marketers typically lack the business experience and savvy of their traditional counterparts and don’t know what that more powerful content looks like.
- Marketers can’t create content that breaks the mold. Traditional marketers, as opposed to digital marketers who often have experience setting up and using social platforms, have also joined in the content marketing discussion and are trying to create better content. The problem is that the majority aren’t well equipped to do so. They understand the role of marketing as an extension of sales, but not how to satisfy the new demands of social consumers who value a coupon more than another cleverly disguised sales-oriented post. Marketers can’t create this non-sales or marketing-oriented content because they too don’t have the necessary business, product, or services experience that will impress today’s most savvy consumers—consumers that I call social consumers.
- Marketers don’t want to give up the limelight. Marketers, especially today’s digital marketers, are at the center of the conversation between their company and their customers and prospects, often having greater presence than sales or customer services. They are understandably reluctant to accept that they can’t create the content today’s social consumers seek; that someone else can and might be better at having that meaningful conversation than they are. In truth, these practitioners don’t actually have to give up the limelight, but they do need to be willing to share it—they must connect experts who can deliver truly valuable content directly to consumers. Consumers respect communications that come from subject matter experts significantly more than they do anyone within sales or marketing.
What can companies do to achieve the content marketing ideal? Here’s what needs to change:
- A better definition of content (content that addresses the earlier question). Here’s mine: content that shows consumers how your company’s products or services actually can be used in new, creative, or inventive ways that consumers haven’t thought of to make their life better, easier, or more fun—or maybe all three.
- Stop thinking like a marketer. If you saw it, this type of content would make you, as a consumer, really stop and take note. And like it or not, repurposed sales or marketing content simply will not meet this need. It is deep content created by subject matter experts—experts in how your company’s products or services are used to help consumers in these tangible ways: R&D engineers, product managers, operations personnel, customer service agents, or even sometimes sales people. Get out there and talk to them; they need to be part of the content marketing conversation.
- Act as a “content conduit” not a content creator. Many of the subject matter experts within your organization actually won’t want to be part of this conversation. Therefore marketers should be what I call a content conduit. Draw the unique insight out of these experts, and make it easy for them to communicate what problems consumers are having and how they are solving them, and what the most progressive uses of your company’s products and services are. Forget about selling to your consumers—at least for a percentage of the content you deliver—and just share this information with them. Show consumers you are trying to help them—for free.
- This is what today’s social consumers want. They not only want this better content, but they want to be connected to a company that cares enough about them to share it. They will reward you for it with improved sentiment, greater engagement, loyalty, and even revenue. And if you as a marketer—traditional or digital—show your company that you can increase these tangible results for your company, you too will be rewarded.
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