If you’ve been noticing your content is increasingly ignored, you’re not alone. The sheer growth of content production from individuals and brands is mind-numbing. By the time you finish reading this post, a zillion other content pieces will be fighting for your attention (for proof, check out this scary-fun visualization of blog posts per day). And while all of this new content is literally flooding our screens, the one commodity that can’t be manufactured is time. In fact, despite all of their tech, most business professionals believe they have less time for research and learning than ever before.
So, what’s a savvy marketer to do? The first step is to recognize you have a problem, and not the one you think. You don’t have a content problem—you have a strategy problem. I’m going to take a guess that your content strategy includes being recognized as a thought leader, addressing customers’ stated pain points and delivering your content at a steady cadence. This formula that’s accepted by most as “best practices” is unfortunately leading you into a buzzsaw of sameness. If you’re still with me, let’s go through these one by one, or you can jump to the end where I offer a new checklist for your strategically-inspired content.
Thought Leadership: Being Known as Smart Isn’t Bankable
While the notion that thought leadership isn’t a good thing took me by surprise, Gartner analyst Brent Adamson makes a strong case against this “best practice” in his book “The Challenger Customer.” Actually, he calls it a trap. In storytelling parlance, establishing your intellectual chops is simply making yourself the hero of your own story—an approach that rarely has mass appeal. Thought leadership is simply too broad a notion to lead to a cohesive, compelling and remarkable body of content. Real leadership is letting others be the hero.
Stated Pain Points: Avoid Turning Your Solution into a Commodity
Again, I must credit Adamson for making the case that if you’re just addressing customers’ stated pain points, you’re setting yourself up for a race to the bottom with direct competitors in a commoditized market. The alternative is to present a problem that uniquely leads to your solution. Adamson points to a dental toolmaker who educated dentists on the high cost of hygienist absenteeism due to heavy tools—a problem they readily could solve with their lighter, cordless tools.
Steady Cadence: A Slave to the Content Calendar
On the surface, content calendars seem perfectly harmless, if not helpful. After all, why not organize your content flow and apply specific deadlines, especially when you have an ABM campaign waiting in the wings? But if the tail ends up wagging the dog and you don’t have the time and resources to put out remarkable content, your content will be for the dogs. While perfect may be the enemy of good, lots of okay content isn’t good enough anymore—it simply won’t cut through.
Unique Strategy = Unique Content
For argument’s sake, let’s boil down the goal of all marketing to getting someone to “rethink their drink.” That rethinking could be as practical as asking folks to buy a Whopper instead of a Big Mac because the former is broiled, not fried. Or it could be as emotive as suggesting that owners of Apple products live more creative, fulfilling lives. In the best of situations, the rethinking comes with a unique frame of reference (Starbucks: the comfy place between home and work; Hubspot: the new world of inbound marketing).
A New Content Checklist
Assuming you’re still with me and agree that a unique brand strategy is more likely to lead to unique content, here’s a quick checklist to consider for your content strategy moving forward.
- Insight-driven: Make sure your content strategy leads back to a brand strategy that helps your prospects “rethink their drink.” If you don’t have this insight, find one fast!
- Proprietary: Don’t recycle content you find on Google. A research study like Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer is an amazing example of proprietary content that ties back to the overall brand strategy.
- Additive: No piece of content should be an island. Instead, all of the pieces, regardless of channel, should add to the collective brand story.
- Sharable: One quick litmus test for the quality of your content is how much employees, customers and prospects share it. Sharing is caring.
- Enabling: For B2B brands with long sales cycles, content should enable your brand champions to help sell your product/service to their internal buying committees. This is where things like calculators, simulators, benchmarks and diagnostic tools really help.
- Remarkable: Last but not least, hold your content to a very high standard by asking yourself if you’d share this content with your board of directors. As author Jay Baer puts it in his provocative new book “Talk Triggers,” “same is lame.”
Agree? Disagree? Want to add to this list? Let me know what you think.